Croning is a celebratory rite of passage, once most common in Wiccan religions, that commemorates a women’s passage into the third phase of her life, usually when she is post-menopausal. Instead of desperately trying to hide her age, a woman who participates in a croning ceremony celebrates her age, her acquired wisdom, and the transition from being the creator of life as mother, to being a guide and respected member of her community. Though this ceremony was first practiced in Wicca, and resembles some ceremonies of earlier native religions, it is now popular for women of many different religious faiths to have such a ceremony. Traditional religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam may not be involved in the ceremonies, but references from biblical text may celebrate the history of the crone and a woman’s passage.
In Wiccan ceremony, a circle of women tends to celebrate croning of a new person, calling on spirits to be present as a woman is honored. This is usually followed by speeches by the woman’s friends which tell about the way she has shown wisdom, and sharing special moments of her life thus far. Chanting, singing, or drumming can be part of the ceremony. When the ceremony is finished, spirits called upon are asked to depart, and the party begins, with celebration through food, drink and music.
Women of other religious backgrounds may have very simple croning parties or quite elaborate ones. All focus on the importance of the female wise woman in the culture, and they may be timed to coincide with a significant birth date, like a 50th birthday for instance. Men and women may both be present, and the croning ceremony may be elaborate, with a woman passing through arches, stepping onto a chair, or receiving the prayers and good wishes of fellow crones. Again, people may be called upon to share their memories of the “crone” and the way in which she has attained “cronedom” through wisdom.
Other ceremonies are quite simple. A woman, might, with just a few friends have a croning party where she is welcomed into the fold of her wise women friends and where they share their good wishes for her future. The attitude expressed in croning is often quite opposed to the “Hollywood” American attitude that women need to hide or disclaim their age. Instead it specifically welcomes the special gifts that a woman of a certain age has attained through life experience.
The crone in literature is mentioned with great frequency. Virtually no hero or heroine makes it through a hero’s journey without encountering the crone, who frequently works as a guide or as a challenge to the hero. Getting past the crone, or accepting her aid usually advances a hero on his journey, and in Jungian or Campbell’s terms, furthers his process of individuation to become a whole and psychologically healthy self.
Such literature is a reflection of the essential wisdom and importance of older women, who unfortunately may be marginalized in especially American culture. Croning allows women to restate and recognize their importance. It may perhaps be key in helping to realign ideas about the valuable place of the older woman in modern society.