The Crone: A Spiritual Perspective of Menopause
by Dr. Susan Gregg
As I explored my own femininity, I had no problem with the spiritual stages of the Maiden or the Mother, but I avoided thinking about old age and the Crone stage. I remember the first time I heard the word "crone." I immediately had a vision of a very old woman with a hooked nose and a hairy wart on her chin. There was absolutely no room in that vision for the dignity, wisdom, and grace actually embodied in that stage of our evolution.
When I was a young girl, my father sat me down one day and told me my mother would be a little crazy for the next few years, so I should be nice to her. Those were the only words ever spoken in my family about menopause. As I approached menopause many years later, I could feel my body going through changes and I knew I was entering another phase of my life.
After some inner exploration, I realized I equated menopause with a time of emotional instability and physical discomfort. I also realized that view was prevalent in our society; even the medical community used the disease model when they treated menopause. Women in countries where this prejudice doesn't exist seem to have fewer uncomfortable symptoms during menopause.
In the Native American tradition, menopause is viewed as a passage -- an extraordinary journey into wisdom, beauty, and grace that comes only with age. When viewed from this perspective, menopause becomes something to celebrate. When we stop bleeding monthly, we aren't losing our womanhood -- we are holding on to our power, retaining our wisdom.
Once we enter this stage of our life we can no longer swallow our truth, and we can no longer ignore our wants and needs. Our bodies won't let us. The fire of our being rises to the surface and pushes us to proclaim our truth. Menopause signals a time of change and change we must.
As we move into the Crone energy, we can no longer ignore our inner world; it takes on a new meaning and a degree of importance. The Crone is the wise woman, the one who sees beyond the surface into the depths. She is deeply connected to her spiritual essence and to the wisdom that resides there. The Crone has a deep internal beauty that only comes with age, a gentleness and acceptance that comes from knowing and loving herself. The Mother must put others' needs first, she must put aside her own wants and needs to provide for her family. The Crone must put herself first. She must learn to listen to her own inner wisdom and above all else, honor that wisdom.
Becoming the Crone can be a hard transition; it is a time when spirituality becomes our primary focus. It is a time we must go within. Any unresolved issues come roaring up to the surface of our consciousness. But as soon as we make a commitment to ourselves and our inner growth, the transition becomes easier; we know what we need to do and how to do it.
For many people in our society, aging is shameful -- something to be avoided at any cost. Youth is highly regarded while our aged are often locked away in nursing homes. They certainly aren't honored for their wisdom. Menopause, the arrival of wrinkles, the sagging of our breasts -- these are all events to be celebrated, not viewed with horror or fixed by the surgeon's blade.
These are signs we are getting older, that we are moving into a time where we are the trusted elders of our society, where the wisdom of our years can provide us with comfort and strength.
As I studied women's faces, I realized I like the deep grooves that give an old woman's face character. Some women develop a gentleness and a beauty which seems to radiate from within them while others look tired and worn-out. Eventually I realized I feared the truth. As I looked at older women, I could see the passage of time imprinted on their bodies. Their bodies carried the truth, and they could no longer lie to themselves or the world about how they felt about themselves. If they loved themselves and treated themselves with dignity and respect, it showed clearly in their bodies and in their faces. If they had spent most of their lives ignoring themselves, that showed as well. And that frightened me. What would my face and body show?
I made a choice; I decided to face any unexplored demons, to redouble my inner exploration. I wanted to be an old woman whose face showed kindness, love, and wisdom. Menopause brought me that gift.
I enjoy ceremonies; I find they add a depth and a richness to my life. As you approach that phase of your life, have a party, invite your friends and celebrate becoming the Crone. Create a ceremony, and claim your power, wisdom, and strength. Taking time for yourself each day to go within makes the process so much easier. Love yourself and explore the gifts of this new phase of your life.
There are many excellent books on menopause. I really enjoyed Lynn Andrews' book Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds. Christiane Northrup's Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom is another excellent book; she uses a holistic approach to women's issues as a whole. Even though not specifically about menopause, I also recommend Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss.
Celebrate the changes in your life and in your body. No matter where you are in your process, embrace it, embrace yourself, love your process. It is yours and yours alone, so you may as well enjoy it.
Dr. Susan Gregg has been living and working in Hawaii for the past seven years as a counselor, helping people to transform their lives. She is a published author, Toltec Master, and Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy.