After spending three weeks in Mountjoy women’s prison Teresa Treacy, of Clonmore, is home. Her crime, her refusal to comply with High Court orders to allow power lines on her property which would, and did, ruin the beauty of the landscape, destroying tall trees. This act of courage and defiance has made this 65 year old woman a cause celebre in Ireland.
For me, Teresa symbolises the uncompromising Crone energy we must draw from our bellies if we are to live authentic lives in challenging times. I believe that in order to cross the threshold into the realm of the Crone, we as women, (and those men who have integrated the Feminine energy,) must experience a rite of passage, so that we may enter the sacred centre of the web of our lives, to learn what real Love is. Illness, divorce, death of a child or a partner, retrenchment, prison – tsunami times of intense physical or emotional suffering when the loss of our old identity becomes a psychic death. Times when we feel like utterly alone, floating in a fathomless ocean… no direction home.
How does it feel ?
Aw, how does it feel ?
To be on your own ?
With no direction home ?
Like a complete unknown ?
Like a rolling stone ? sang Dylan.
I saw an interview with 74 year old activist and feminist Jane Fonda. Breasts like Barbie’s, face taut, impossibly white, perfect teeth. She seemed brittle, very fragile, unmothered. Still hungry, unable to embrace the energy and quiet assurance of the mature feminine or the fierce wisdom of The Crone. The initiation into the wise woman archetype or Crone (which means “corona” meaning “crown”,) lacks ritual and celebration in a world where we worship at the altar of youth. Change is never easy. Most of us lack the support of community, or the mentorship of mature women to guide us over the crossroads through the dark forests and dangerous pathways. Mature Women to shake us firmly from our torpor, when we prick our fingers on the spindles and fall “asleep”. Our conversations are a timorous lament of our loss of youth. We sprinkle conversations with self-depreciating remarks – saggy breasts, stretch marks, flabby arms. We self-harm in our desperate attempts to stay sweet sixteen foolishly falling for the folly of Botox, HRT, face lifts.
Hollow-eyed beggars, starving for the crumbs of love. We’ve been fighting our bodies all our lives. Marion Woodman describes the Crone cycle as a time of Crossroad, where we come eventually, to a place of deep surrender. “After a lifetime of trying to improve herself in order to become a “perfect” daughter, wife and mother, a woman’s “surrender” to herself just as she is, becomes like bathing in the refreshing water in the pool of her soul. Grounded in her connection with her inner wisdom, she now lives from her own authority.”
And so, through illness, loss, the inevitability of our own death, we stumble or are pulled with ferocity into the liminal landscape of the Crone. She is uncompromising. The giver and taker of life. She demands as payment for crossing the threshold, precious gifts hidden in the challenges that crucify. These are times when we may also glimpse the white butterfly of new possibility. As we integrate our aloneness and despair into new learning, we plant it back into a world that looks the same outwardly, though we have changed irrevocably. Says Marion Woodman, “periods of renunciation are the initiations in life when we realise God is not running a day care centre.”
Goddess is a word that has lost its currency. This powerful archetype has been prostituted to sell perfume, bath oil, and deodorant. It’s bandied about as a term of endearment. Goddess, like Woman, has been made infantile, pretty-in-pink, static, always smiling, naively youthful. But, there is not only one goddess. She has, for eons, appeared in three: Maiden, Mother, and Crone; and she takes many forms. In a civilization as flatlined as ours, she lives still as the Fairy Godmother, the Woman of the Mist, Baba Yaga, the Cailleach. She is the dark moon, the cruel winter, the fierce, wise Mother of All. The Crone courageously embraces her values, her truth, and her beauty. She caresses the silver riverbeds that lattice her belly and her thighs, sees the eyes that stare back at her in the mirror, and says, yes! She works through those who have not pricked their fingers on the spindle and fallen asleep.
There is an old story, told by Lame Deer, a Lakota Elder. It speaks of the importance of injury. When we die, we meet an old hag in the Underworld. She will eat our scars, and then allow us to continue on our journey. If you have none, she will eat your eyes instead. This suggests to me, the value of inner sight, as we die in various ways on our journeys. It is in our scars, the fractures in our hearts, our wrinkles, our stretch marks, as Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
So there will come a time when we must stand in the fire, like Teresa Treacy of Clonmore. We must speak our truth quietly, with assurance. We must persistently mine the metaphors in our lives. Dig deep, chew the cud of our dreams and savour the delicious sweetness. Stir the cauldron of our darkest emotions. And when we have prepared, and are ready, the Crone will appear. She will take our hand, and lead us back to the Garden.
Well, then can I roam beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel myself a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, said maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden. Joni Mitchell, Woodstock.
Love the Crone, and listen to the original sounds of the Beatles: