"As a crone, in the autumn of my life, I have outgrown the childish antics of patriarchal lies to get its way. I can no longer be fooled by a story that dismisses what I can see, experience, and feel before my very eyes and heart as the life and death cycles unfold around and within me. I am here, expressing and celebrating the wisdom garnered from a well-lived life cycle on this never-ending journey that is now in the autumn season of another incarnation."
The Crone Initiation: Women Speak on the Menopause Journey
Over the last two years, I’ve been on a descending spiral journey; at first, it felt like another death and rebirth cycle, another journey with Innana into the underworld to be stripped bare, worked over, cleansed and cleared, and then reborn anew. This was good; it was familiar; I had walked the path into the underworld with her many times before, so when the darkness descended, I wasn’t frightened because I thought, like all those times before, I would rise like a phoenix once the journey was done and the lessons integrated… but the rebirth didn’t come as it had all those times before, I’ve just gone deeper and deeper into this labyrinthine descent becoming less and less recognisable to myself with every passing portal. This time the Gala will not soothe Ereshkigal; this time, she has not let me go, and so in the underworld, I’ve remained, spiralling ever deeper as my physical body riles against the life being drained from its bones, as my blood thickens and turns black, as the colour seeps from my hair and the moisture from my skin.
Slowly it dawned on me that this descent was not like the others; the many journeys I’ve made with Inanna to her sister's underworldly realm were merely a sort of training exercise for what is to come in this leg of the Feminine way.
We live in a social structure that does not prepare us for the many times we will make the journeys of descent, whether in our maidenhood with the medicine of Persephone or in our years of Motherly Queendom with Inanna, it does not honour nor understand the nature and power of our Feminine Cycles nor does it teach us how to move with these cycles in a way that honours the magick of each phase. Most of us learn the ability to move through the cycles of birth, death and rebirth through trial and error, and often like myself, we learn these lessons alone as so few of us in our Western cultural construct have a Feminine support structure that is not utterly entrenched in internalised patriarchy and the wounds of the collective feminine pain body to support us, we definitely are not taught that, at some point, the rebirth will not come, and I don’t mean physical death, I mean the truth about what awaits us as we journey into and through menopause and the death and well honestly I don’t have the right words for it, because what follows it is not a rebirth, I do not feel in any way the way I had all those other times when I could feel myself rising from the dead reborn, renewed, revitalised, changed in many ways, but always stronger and somehow more capable than before, more “myself” than before.
This time that has not happened. I don’t recognise the being that looks back at me in the mirror.
She frightens me, but at the same time, I feel this deep sadness and pity at the sight of her because she is, for all intents and purposes, in this patriarchal social structure, either invisible or a monster. And yes, that shows me my own deeply entrenched internalised patriarchy, which frightens me even more than the unrecognisable face looking back at me.
It is hard not to fight against this, not to rile against the proverbial dying of the light; it’s frightening not to know what comes next because we have forgotten what the true journey and power of the Crone looks like, what it entails when it is fully embraced and embodied.
I have always made sense of all the journeys of my life through the myths and stories of the women who guided me through each stage, Lilith, La Loba, Isis, Nepthys, Sekhmet, Hathor, Inanna, Ereshkigal, Ixchel, Hecate, Diana, Persephone, Mary Magdalene, Mother Mary etc. the list goes on and on…
But none of them can walk this part of the journey with me. The time has come to walk with the monsters and hags, to drop into the deep wells of Feminine rage, repression, resentment, suppression, and denial, to walk with those parts of the Feminine consigned to oblivion or invisibility.
The time has come to merge with Medusa and reclaim the monster within. To make peace with the Crone and embrace the wisdom of the Hag.
There are many initiations that we are prepared for, the ones that, even in our broken disembodied social structure, are still perceived as having value; the journeys into maidenhood and motherhood, we are taught that those carry a purpose in our wounded social structures that the maiden is a plaything, a source of fascination and stimulation, a source of energy and fun, aesthetically pleasing, full of potential to be harnessed and not disruptive to the status quo. The mother is valued for her service, whether she bares children or not. Those that have initiated into the wisdom of the mother are seen to be of use through their ability to be of service, whether in their own homes, community or workplace, the mother understands and is able to practice self-sacrifice, and this ability in our patriarchal structure is mined and extracted as if it is a precious ore. Because it is, this social structure has largely been built and is still maintained on the backs of women who sacrifice everything they are to the needs or desires of their families, communities, cultures etc.
This heroine’s journey has, of course, evolved; even in my own lifetime, I have seen and continue to see how we have shifted to a more liberated feminine, there is absolutely something moving in the collective womb space of women, a Dragon reawakening, but she has only just begun to stir, and we are not quite ready to truly accept that everything we have believed, the complete inversion of the truth we were fed and raised on was a blatant lie and all of humanity has been in a Stockholm syndrome-like hase for at least the last 5000 years running to our abuser for safety and fearing the forces that could birth us into freedom.
That freedom certainly has not reached the shores of the Crone just yet.
I hate to admit it, but facing this initiation has me truly terrified, not because I am frightened of getting old or dying, but because I have to face the truth that for all my perceived liberation, for all the work I have done in my life to reawaken the Sacred Feminine within me and walk the Left Hand Rose path, I was not ready to meet the monster within.
The grief, rage, sorrow and pain she holds in her bones have been too much for me to bear, and I crumble before her. When I try and face her lovingly, with the compassion I thought I had integrated through all those many journeys through the underworld, she turns me into a dithering mess, and I am utterly annihilated and unprepared. All the lessons I learned and the wisdom I believed I had gathered turned to dust, and I am once again no more than a frightened little girl. Which would have been fine if I was still able to run into the beingness of the maiden or mother, but of those doors, the former is firmly shut and locked forevermore inaccessible, and the latter has also since closed, although I can wrench it open and try to squeeze myself back into the form of the mother, it just feels false now, like so many dresses that no longer fit this monstrous form. And so I find myself in a kind of purgatory.
It’s taken me the last two years of sitting in the darkness of the underworld to realise that this time I am not coming back up again, that there is no journey back into the light…. Well, not in the way I was used to; this journey is not about a return to the light after a dark night of the soul. This one is about learning to see in the dark.
What I experienced first was the sense of becoming invisible; now, don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t, for me anyway, a negative experience at first. To be honest, becoming invisible, especially to the “male gaze”, has been fucking delightful…. However, the invisibility didn’t end there, I found myself disappearing like I was becoming a spectre in my own life, suddenly no longer able nor having the energy or life force to fully occupy this body, but because I do still occupy this body it has become heavier, denser, like some rebellion against disappearing it is taking up as much space as it possibly can. Trust me to fucking rebel, even when I don’t actually want to; it is simply in my nature. Some women will go through the disappearing act of this journey and become slighter, lighter, or even emaciated, but not me, my body doesn’t play that way. She is full but full of what I don’t know; it is no longer a life force or a place of pleasure or play; it is a monstrous thing full with a power that I don’t yet understand and one that our social structures definitely has not allocated any space for.
I don’t recognise the woman in the mirror, I don’t know how to walk in her shoes and where before, I always found guidance in the myths and archetypes that came before me; this time, I feel strangely alone, and yet I know I am not. Every woman makes this journey; some of us, like me, do it a little earlier than we would’ve liked, so perhaps that is why it is so challenging to accept and navigate this death and not quite rebirth cycle, why I know I am happy to be in the darkness but I haven’t quite learned yet how to see clearly in the depths of this Crone Cave.
I apologise for my rambling, I promise there is a point, and for the women who are currently being initiated into these same dark caverns of Feminine wisdom, you will get it, and to those of you that still have a ways to go, perhaps more of us sharing about our journeys will create a clearer map for your own.
So let me get to the point.
I am coming to terms with the fact that I will not be moving through another ascent; I will not rise again. Instead, my journey will continue now to take me deeper and deeper down into the caverns of the Old’uns, to the Dragon Mothers and the monsters within, and I have to be ready and willing to release my attachment to everything I am still clinging to, to the false narratives of a wounded masculine/feminine construct that cannot walk this next part of the journey with me.
I have to embrace the parts of myself that frighten me the most, the parts I’ve been taught are unlovable, unacceptable and unnecessary or, more importantly, downright dangerous. I don’t mean simply the physical changes, of which there are many; I mean more so the changes in my internal landscape and how that internal world is expressed externally.
Going through this change, this journey from Mother to Crone in one's early 40s brings unexpected challenges. All I want is to retreat into the complex internal landscape that is unfolding within me, I want to move deeper into these wisdom caves that are opening to me. My sight, intuition and precognition have never been clearer, my Feminine medicine never stronger, but in a cruel twist of fate, I don’t feel the energy or even the ability to push through the veil of invisibility to share it with anyone. My work is more powerful now than it has ever been, but it feels like I am too deep within the caves of the underworld to birth it into the light, and I have not yet learned how to truly spin the webs of this medicine out into the world. So, for now, all I can do is share about the journey as best I can, and perhaps, as the weaving of words has done for me so many times before; the answer will be somewhere in this word web.
What I am coming to understand is that I have a choice, remain invisible or embrace the monster and embody her fully.
Of course, just like all the feared and reviled feminine monsters of myth, they are not the ones we should fear, as we were taught to fear the witches but not the men who burnt them we have been taught to fear the journey into and embodiment of the Crone. So as I walk this path, I keep feeling the presence of the “monsters”, these Holy Hags, call me home and embrace me in their mangled distorted bodies, and their wisdom begins to unravel and tell a very different tale to the one we’ve been led to believe.
"The beheading of Medusa, icon of Wisdom, may be understood as a story of dismemberment of the Female Metaphor/Goddess.
The hera's journey today is to go against the patriarchal injunction and look Medusa straight on."
-Glenys Livingstone, Ph.D.
I am coming to understand that my true task during this part of the underworld journey is to finally unravel and cut the patriarchal cords still feeding on my Sacred Feminine life force, it is the path of true unbecoming, the severing of every lie held up by the false light of the wounded masculine / wounded feminine patriarchal consensus construct built on fear and the continued ravaging and rape of the Feminine, the pillaging and mining of our collective feminine life birthing power and that of the Goddess and the Earth herself.
"If Medusa's talents are to freeze male violence and warfare and stop the androcracy in its tracks, then her converse role as nurturer, rewilder and sustainer of the living green world must equally be in play. Undulating across the land like magnetic lines of earth-emergent serpentine delight, the Medusa mythos inspires us to rage against the machine and to never, ever forget our bond to the Ancestral mothers and their sacred legacy of love." -Pegi Eyers
This journey with the monsters is rewilding me, they are teaching me to move beneath the surface of the noise of our social structures, teaching me how to move in the silence of invisibility to weave with the Great Serpentine ancestors, with the Spider Grandmothers that weave all of creation into being and hold the lines between darkness and light. This velvety primordial feminine cave beneath the surface of our consensus reality, this place of creation from where all things have the potential to be birthed into being when woven with love and untangled from fear and abuse.
Here the monsters gather, the Old’uns, the Dragon Mothers, here beneath the surface in the darkness, the Hags and Bog Witches laugh unabated at the lunacy of it all, at the struggling maidens desperately trying to climb a fictional ladder of ascension into the light when all they truly need to do is to let go and allow themselves to fall into the warm embrace of the Earth and the underworld where they will all gather one day soon as the Feminine continues to weave the world into being.
I am once more being educated, schooled and initiated into a deeper understanding of how fundamentally inverted and false our consensus reality is at this time and how, if we are to dream a new way or as I’ve said many times before and will continue to, to remember and reweave an old and more sacred life-affirming way into being then those of us that are journeying into the Crone Caves have to do so more consciously and actively sever ourselves and every cord that attaches our souls to the current death cult of patriarchal dystopia.
"The patriarchal God has only one commandment:
Punish life for being what it is.
The Goddess also has only one commandment:
Love life, for it is what it is.'
-Monica Sjoo & Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother
The grandmothers and monsters of this Sacred Feminine underworld are reminding me of this one and only commandment to Love life, for it is what it is, and when it is birthed and woven from Love and not fear, what it is, is unfathomably extraordinary and infinitely adaptable.
What I am learning, through my own disappearing from and invisibility in the world around me, is that I no longer oppose patriarchal religious or social structures I simply don’t believe they’ve ever served any valid purpose, and, therefore, I negate their existence. I understand that to oppose something is to maintain it. So this negation is part of the maturity that is arising through my journey towards the Crone Caves, I no longer need to stand against something that I can simply disappear from and, in that disappearance, render it inert.
"I finally understand why older women were treated with such disdain by society and why so many lost their lives in ancient times. If you can't label something, you can't control it, and if you can't control it, it must be dangerous." -Arlene Bailey
I have not figured it out yet, I am only beginning to embrace this merging with Medusa and severing of the last remaining feeding tubes of internalised patriarchy suckling at my life force and distorting my reality. But having woven these words, I am feeling a bubbling hag-like laughter at the base of my being, reminding me that I like it in the dark, I always have, I know it’s the birthplace of all things truly sacred and being initiated into these caves is a gift like no other.