Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CELTIC HALLOWEEN: THE SAMHAIN CRONE


"Samhain Goddess: The Crone" by
Arwens Grace (Angela Jayne Barnett)

Our modern-day Halloween celebration comes from the ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain (SOW-en). October 31 was the Celtic New Year's Eve, the end of the year. This is the time of the season which the Crone rules.

The Crone is one aspect of the triple Goddess, made up of Maiden, and Mother and Crone. Essayist Christina Aubin says it is the Crone who "opens the Western gate for those who have departed to travel into Summerland. She rules areas of death and regeneration, occult sciences, healing, and the wisdom of the ages . . . . We use the Crone to assist us in transition from one life to the next, leaving one level of our existence and entering the next. This brings us into the Womb of the Mother to assist us in being reborn once again. For it is through Her Wisdom and guidance we learn lessons from experience past and begin life anew from the wisdom gained."



"Goddess of the Western Isles" by Iain  Lowe

According to Iain Lowe, artist of the painting shown above, The Goddess of the Western Isles is "a deity of great wisdom and mystery, one of the most ancient of forms of the Goddess in our islands. She is the guardian and mistress of the underworld. It is through Her that we must pass to seek rebirth after death. She has great power but also much love and understanding. We feel her touch when the wind blows from the northwest, hear her voice in the waves of the western ocean. She has a secret name, is a changer of shape, her power is greatest at Samhain. To love her is to discover a profound sense of the real beauty in the mystery of the wheel of the seasons, creation and the great Goddess."


"Crone Goddess" by Wendy Andrew

The Crone is known by many names. To the ancient Greeks, she was Hecate. With her black cloak whipping about her and her black dogs beside her, Hecate's territory was the wild night and the crossroads. She can manifest with three heads - lioness, mare and dog.

Cerridwen, "the bent white one", is a Welsh Crone Goddess. Cerridwen's name shows she's a moon-goddess. This Crone keeps the cauldron of inspiration and transformation. Into the cauldron the Crone throws many things, to mix and stew and come out changed.


"The Crone" by Lora Craig-Gaddis

"The Crone is a symbol of inherent wisdom that comes from experience. She has lived through love, sorrow, hope, and fear, coming out of it all a wise and confident spirit. Through these experiences she has learned the secrets of life and death and of the mysteries beyond this world. She has tasted death itself and watched those she loved make the journey before her. It is through her mourning that she faces death, grows to understand it, and becomes the gatekeeper between worlds...." ~ Lee Hutchings from Crone Wisdom Artwork by Lora-Craig Gaddis.



"Hecate" by Wendy Andrew

To the Irish and Scottish Celts, she was known as the Cailleach, the divine hag. She was described as having a blue-black face, one eye in the middle of her brow, and protruding teeth. In partnership with the goddess Brighid, the Cailleach is seen as a seasonal deity or spirit, ruling the winter months between Samhain and Beltane, while Brighid rules the summer months. Some interpretations have the Cailleach and Brighid as two faces of the same goddess, while others describe the Cailleach as turning to stone on Beltane and reverting back to humanoid form on Samhain.

According to writer Miriam Harline, the crone most closely connected with Samhain is the Scottish Carline wife, the "Old Woman." On Samhain Eve, Scots farmers made a Carline wife from the last stalk of harvested wheat and displayed her at each household in the neighborhood to protect from evil spirits. She is the ruler of winter and its storms, the keeper of the fires at home and in the smithy, the protectress of the forest and its animals.


Artist Uncredited

Whatever name she is known by, the crone is often portrayed with several symbols. As I mentioned before, she is often seen with a cauldron, a traditional accoutrement of crones. She is also often portrayed with one or more of her familiars, like an owl, a crow or a cat. A guardian of sacred thresholds, she also spins, weaves, and cuts our life threads.  Because of this, she is sometimes depicted as a spider or represented by a web.

The Crone is the Grandmother, the Old One, the Earth Mother, the Wise One we turn to when we need advice. She teaches us that sometimes we must let go in order to move on.


"The Crone" tarot card by Michele-lee Phelan

In myth the Crone is often seen as something to be feared. From Panthea, Journeys with the Goddess: "She is a representation of death and its mysteries. Things that are unknown are always feared, thus we work to know the Crone; to understand her wisdom and beckon her to impart the mysteries upon us. We surrender our fear and ignorance to the Crone and let her strike these overpowering influences down as a stalk of wheat with her shining sickle." -


Artist Uncredited

"Season of the Crone"
Poem by Gerina Dunwitch

Crone of Samhain's spellbound cold,
in Her cauldron of black are told
secrets ancient, truths and tales:
mystery Her light unveils.


She is wisdom, She is changes:
time and space She rearranges.
In Her hands, the card of Death,
for transformation is Her breath.


Crone of Samhain, Grandmother wise,
look into Her gargoyle eyes.
Let Her lessons teach you well:
life is but a magick spell.


Artist Uncredited

According to Susan Ann Stauffer, "A Crone is an older woman who has learned to walk in her own truth, in her own way, having gained her strength by acknowledging the power and wisdom of the totality of her experience. She is 'a wise old woman.' As a woman moves past youth and midlife into old age she consciously takes on the mantle of Crone - a woman who celebrates her survivorship, willingly choosing to continue forward in life with all the gusto she can muster. A Crone is a woman burnished bright by an inner fire that sharpens both her wit and her intensity, her passion and her power." 

Crone tarot card by Mickie Mueller

The modern version of The Crone is the mean, ugly old witch flying on a broom stick across the moon. With her cackling laugh, her stringy gray hair, hairy chin and warts, she frightens children everywhere.
After all, isn't she the Hag with the poison apple?

Writer Scott Cunningham suggests we look at the "ugly" Witch figures as symbols of the Crone: "See the blackness of the clothing as the blackness of the sky during the waning moon. See the hat as a symbol of her life: as the Maiden at its brim, as the Mother at its midpoint, and finally as the Crone at its top. See the broom, if any, as a symbol of the Crone's ability to travel backward in time to retrieve of experience. Her white hair represents the moon. The cat is her companion, a minion of the night.


"Most importantly, see within that face—however disfigured it may seem to be—her determination and fire, her caring for her children, and the wisdom and strength that she's acquired. If it's green, see it as the green of the Earth, the coming fertility of the Maiden and the Mother that she'll bear anew at the first quarter of the moon."

Yes, our new Halloween symbol should be The Crone, the Great Grandmother of us all. We salute her wisdom and experience, her calm and her grace, her steadfastness and her love. Though she is near the end of her life at this close of the Celtic year, this Samhain Season, she has much to give and teach us.


"Cerridwen" by Morgaine du Mer

9 comments:

rox said...

I loved this post !
Thanks !

sarah said...

beautiful post julie! thanks for sharing! i have to say of the three phases of the goddess, crone is my favorite!
i know, weird huh... i think it's because of how much i loved my great grandmother! i adored her in every way and i clung to her every word, every story, every bit of wisdom!
maybe it's because i have been a maiden, i have been a mother and now i can't wait to be old and wise...
to be it and do it is one thing, but to live through it and learn from it is another!
i love all these images! thanks again!...blessings....s....

lila said...

Wonderful post!
I enjoyed all the illustrations, too!
I am a crone now myself with a crow for a totem! I hope I am becoming wise in part of my journey. Thank you Julie for this post!
I saw on the weather this morning that snow may be flying up your way!

Riverbird said...

I love this time of year. Thanks for your post, Julie.

Mary said...

Love this post Julie. Never thought I'd want to consider being a crone, however ready these words makes me realize I am one and that's not so bad!

Hope you are well and happy dear.
Hugs - Mary

Fiona said...

This is a lovely blog with so much to read. I am also a big Celts fan. Unfortunately there is not much history on the celts, as it was all trashed. However, whatever I can find to read about them I find intrigueing.

Laurie said...

Hi Julie,
I love reading about this kind of stuff.
Hope you have a wonderful Halloween ~

Robin Larkspur said...

Great post on the Crone...very informative, and some things I did not know. I loved all the art!.Thanks so much!

Celestial Elf said...

Greetings and thank you for the lovely Post,
I thought that you might like my machinima film of
The Song Of Amergin, A Samhain Story,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aZsoPRqWqw
Blessed Be By Stone and Star,
Celestial Elf ~