From Goddess to Hag: The Demonization of the Crone
A primary symbol of Halloween is the bulb-nosed, black-clad, eat-your-children-for-breakfast old witch. You’ll recognize her by her pointy hat, broom (besom), cauldron, and black cat. She’s depicted as one of two extremes: a belittling crone caricature or a fierce embodiment of dark magic. Neither image reflects her true origins.
Many cultures throughout the world once revered the triple Goddess. She manifested in three aspects: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. These archetypes matched the phases of the moon, the cycles of a woman’s life, and the Earth’s annual seasons. Halloween and its Celtic precursor Samhain (SOW-en) follow the abundant harvest period of the Mother and mark the fallow season of the Crone.
Before the Christian Church redefined and demonized the Divine Feminine and Her followers, the Crone, a word derived from “crown,” symbolized tribal leadership and/or a priestess in the old religion. The word “hag” derived from the Greek hagia, meant holy woman. The Crone was a Wisdom Keeper, tribal elder, medicine woman, Grandmother, and sage. She is the waning moon and the Gateway to Death. Her cauldron is the vessel of rebirth. Her broom (besom) sweeps away the negative past. Her black cape symbolizes the darkness of long winter nights, death, and the Otherworld. Although a pointy hat has replaced her crown, the hat symbolizes the cone of power witches raise when they perform magic.
The Crone in the Teen Wytche Saga
The archetype of the crone/witch first appears in Spell Check in the guise of math teacher Madrun Ravenwood. Teen Evie O’Reilly encounters the witch in a metaphysical store:
The door opened, and a bone-chilling wind preceded a frizzy-haired woman with a bad dye job and a worse scowl. The New Age CD playing on the sound system skipped. A sour, evil smell scythed through the incense-laden air. I clutched the topaz and slipped my other hand around my mother’s arm. Mom drew herself erect. Her green cat eyes glittered and narrowed.
In Spell For Sophia (November 2014, Astraea Press), a teen runaway finds temporary sanctuary with an aged voodoo priestess:
When we reached the porch, a wiry old woman dressed in an ankle-length African garment held open the front door. “Thanks, Grand-mère,” Breaux said.
His grandmother raised one hand, palm facing us like a stop sign. We halted. The woman supporting my side — presumably Breaux’s mother, Miss Wanda — protested. “The girl needs to fill her belly.”
The older woman ignored her, clasped my hand before I could wriggle free, and rotated my palm skyward. The colorful beads in her silver cornrows clacked together as she bent over my hand and examined it. Her scent — spicy incense, magnolias, and dark secrets — seeped into my pores. She shook her head and mumbled something I didn’t quite catch, and then she touched her fingertip to a line on my palm. With a jolt, my life flashed before me like a movie stuck on rewind. I drew back, trying to escape the worst parts.
Copyright 2014 by Ariella Moon
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