Features and Occasionals

Reclaiming the Crone

By Naomi Silverstone

Celebrating the passion and power of older women.

Circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong. — Sark

There is a moment in life when this thought may arise: I am aging, I am not young anymore. Perhaps this insight comes as we experience physical decline, or face the death of a parent. It may come from something as seemingly ordinary as receiving a notice for AARP membership or a Medicare card.

The renowned poet, Rumi, describes this as “the moment when I no longer take this ‘I’ for granted.” Although our youth-oriented culture and increased lifespan encourage us to postpone our awareness of age and the aging process, inevitably, something will arise that says, “Wake up!” At which point we may chose to take a deep breath and look around for fellow travelers on this journey of unexpected turbulence.

So, it was that, 25 years ago, a golden cadre of women in Salt Lake City decided to create a “gathering” that would support women as they entered this fierce landscape of age. Led by Shauna Adix, founding director of the University of Utah’s Women’s Resource Center, and Ann Kreilkamp, editor of the magazine Crone Chronicles, this group created Crones Counsel, a gathering of women reclaiming the archetype of The Crone – the truth-teller, the wisdom-keeper, the tradition-bearer, the culture-guardian, who by the sheer power of her being has the power and vision to guide and mentor in the wise ways of woman.

Today, Crones Counsel is a national organization whose members gather annually to experience the passion and power of older women. This October, Crones Counsel returns to Salt Lake City for its 25th Anniversary Celebration.

Susan Ann Stauffer was one of the women in attendance at that first gathering in 1992. “I had not known what to expect, but I certainly did not realize that my entire way of looking at women, at life, and aging was to be transformed,” recalls Stauffer. “There were women from all walks of life—teachers, healers, dancers, mothers, soap makers, herbalists, financial advisors, counselors. They were telling their stories – their truth, their dreams, their wishes and hopes and challenges and disappointments. They were sharing the distillate of their life experience honestly in front of a roomful of women who were really listening. By sharing what they had learned along the way, they were making sense of their lives. I had never, ever, in my life seen women take off their masks like I saw women do in those four days.”

Traditionally, Counsel participants honor the community that hosts the Gathering by supporting a local cause. Those attending this year’s Gathering may, if they choose, in the spirit of paying it forward, contribute to Women of Tomorrow, a group that supports refugee students through the University of Utah’s Women’s Resource Center.

However and whenever it happens, there is no doubt about it, aging takes courage. No matter what our age, the transitions of aging, require us to change and adapt. The last stage—elderhood—requires even more from us. It requires us to re-vision the aging process. Will we age gracefully or with fear? Will we continue to grow and learn or do we contract in despair over all we have lost?

“Aging is our last hurrah,” says Stauffer. “It is fierce and it requires everything we have to live it well. The archetype of the Crone represents all of this – the fierceness, the terror, the loss, the joy, the triumph, the survivorship of old age—without apology.”

— Naomi Silverstone

(Susan Ann Stauffer contributed to this story.)


25th anniversary of the Crones Counsel

October 4-8

U of U Guest House and Conference Center

Women of all ages are invited.

Information: CronesCounsel.org

Paula Ashcraft, ashcraft.paula@yahoo.com

Naomi Silverstone, naomisilver@earthlink.net

This article was originally published on September 2, 2017.