The Crone, Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power

Barbara G. Walker
Harper Collins, 1985

UnknownMy guess is if ten people read this book five would think it was totally ridiculous, three would call it boring, and two would feel differing degrees of enlightenment. The Crone as a title “conjures” up a wrinkled old woman, probably smelly, and not too bright. A woman who is disposable and forgettable.

Which speaks to the point of Walker’s book. She knows that’s how

The Hindu goddess Kali is usually quite fearsome.

The Hindu goddess Kali is usually quite fearsome.

women beyond the age of a young man’s fantasies are stereotyped. In 1985 it was worse. At least now there is Hilary Clinton, Judi Dench, Christiane Amanpour, and Meg Whitman, which only starts the list. Walker’s last sentences declare the need for the emergence of female strength, intelligence, and wisdom before the doomsday she saw coming with modern warfare:

“Women, who have suffered so much at the hands of patriarchal

Walker certainly doesn't look like an anarchist.

Walker certainly doesn’t look like an anarchist.

mythmakers, need no longer pretend not to understand their motives. God can’t, but women can call man to account for his gynocidal, genocidal behavior.”

This nonfiction book culls from myth, religion, and culture in the style of Joseph Campbell. Her premise is that world cultures were originally matrilineal and therefore primarily based on wisdom, reason, and goodwill toward future generations and earth. Through time the male use of power and ability to thrive on a “we” vs. “them” mentality resulted in the domination of women and other men.

The Japanese Datsueba has a grandmotherly look.

The Japanese Datsueba has a grandmotherly look.

Walker cites history that is acknowledged although not often written with the same slant as she gives it. She states she is an atheist, but explains the world through its religions, universal symbols, and collective consciousness. The chapters of the book’s outline explain the traditional roles of the crone as powerful and wise in her trinity as creator, preserver, and destroyer. She takes small bits of archeological findings and ancient texts, dusts them of patriarchal interpretation, and presents much of history as male questing to overrule feminine values.

The Catholic Church’s Inquisition and justification of burning at the stake of millions of old women is suggested as the lowest point

I think the Greek Hera, wife of the philandering Zeus and protector of the family had an especially difficult time.

I think the Greek Hera, wife of the philandering Zeus and protector of the family had an especially difficult time.

of female subjugation. From there it appears women may slowly be rising again, although by 1985, Walker didn’t see it as happening fast enough. From the view of 2014, I would agree. Walker does not suggest women should regain domination over men. What she seems to encourage is a tradition that wishes, “if only God could get his spouse back.”

The Russian Baba Yaga is a personal favorite because she seemed to have a sense of humor. This is a painting by Ivan Bilbin in 1902.

The Russian Baba Yaga is a personal favorite because she seemed to have a sense of humor, though not in this painting by Ivan Bilbin in 1902.

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9 Responses to The Crone, Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    You have more than sufficiently intrigued me with this one. I’m heading to my library’s website to put this on hold right now. Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. It’s an enjoyable read and a great little idea starter for writing plots!

  3. I agree with Carrie. I can’t wait to look this book up. Chances are I’ll pick up a copy but not get to it as quickly as I’d like. Still, I want to read this.
    Idea starter you say? All the more reason to push this to the top of my reading list.
    Thank you, Rebecca, for your honest review. 😉

  4. Thank you for liking the review. Archetypes like the crone and myths are always good for strong character building. Another one I have (and I’m sure there are many others) is The Hero Within by Carol S. Pearson. It’s easy reading and suggests human dilemma in almost every other paragraph. P.S. I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip.

  5. ibdesignsusa says:

    I nominated you for the Team Member Readership Award and wanted you to know. I understand if you don’t accept awards or don’t wish to do this. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you and for your visits to my blog!

  6. victualling says:

    Interesting! Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was a crone. She looked sweet but suspected everyone of wickedness. It’s too bad she was such a wooden character who betrayed the author’s deep cynicism about humanity, but I think she is an archetype. TV’s Jessica Fletcher fell into the same category, though more upbeat.

    • Now that you say that, I agree. Miss Marple is an archetype. But I think all females become crones at a certain point in life–whether they are a “good witch or a bad witch” as Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz is individual. Thanks for commenting!

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