In an old picture of Native American’s negotiating land treaties with the United States government, a row of old native woman are seen standing behind the men. These were the elder women, or grandmothers and they were there because the men would never make a decision about the land without the members of the tribe who spoke for the earth. The Native American men were said to have asked the government representatives, “Where are your grandmothers?”
I love this story because it shows that older woman at one time had a valuable place in community. For indigenous people, that tradition is still prevalent and the grandmothers are still respected and valued, but in modern society, the old woman is invisible to the youth centric population of today.
Why is it important now that the grandmothers of the world be once again seen and heard? Well let’s go back a bit and see why western society relegated them to the background in the first place.
First, let’s talk about the triple Goddess archetype. An archetype is a pattern of behaviours that represent a characteristic of the universal collective consciousness. We all carry in us many different archetypal characters and use them consciously and unconsciously to operate out in the world. They help us understand situations and then react in manors that come out in our personality. We may bring out the child archetype when we feel like life is unfair to us or we may inhabit the warrior archetype when we decide on defending our position in a unsuitable situation.
The triple Goddess embodies the energy of the maiden, mother and crone archetypes. The maiden being the youthful unmarried woman, the mother, as the nurturer of life, and the crone as the wise healer. In truth, these are the three main aspects that have traditionally represented the different stages a woman’s life but in todays world of youth and beauty, the maiden is over represented and the crone grossly under represented, creating an imbalance in the collective energy of our world.
For millennia, the energy of the world has been male dominated. As societies began to organise in the dark ages and the church and state became the overall ruling law, the wise old crone was seen as a threat. Where as before, each community would look to the elder women of the village as a source for healing, wisdom and even the governing rules of the collective, but as the power changed to a more centralized body (church and state) the people’s loyalty needed to be diverted to the new, masculine rule of law.
It first started in the 1100’s when the universities of higher learning began and women were forbidden to attend. Now males could be seen as the most knowledgeable and educated in medicine, law, philosophy and history. Then came the witch hunts that lasted from the 1450’s to the 1750’s where it is estimated that up 100,000 woman were executed. The majority of them being the old healers of the villages. Is it any wonder the crone archetype faded into the background?
Now fast forward to the 1960’s and the one invention that shifted the balance of female energy towards the maiden; the birth control pill. Up until then, woman did not have that level of control over their own bodies. If you wanted to explore your sexual side while your hormones raged before the pill came on the market, you did so with the real chance of losing your maiden status and going straight onto the mother archetype.
Woman now had choice in their lives. They could choose to be independent, get educated, travel, have many sexual partners, and live life on their own terms. This helped fuel the free love, hippy era and then eventually, the woman’s liberation movement of the 70’s when woman finally started to demand equal rights within society.
As woman’s personal power increased and the glass ceilings of male dominated roles shattered in the 80’s and 90’s, a hedonistic time emerged of great technological advances that saw huge financial independence and voracious consumer buying power along with a whole generation of youth, who were raised to believe that they could be or do anything, and fueled with the ability to harness the world via the world wide web.
The turn of century saw this youthful energy begin to understand the consequences of decades of consumption and the damage created to the earth by our selfish ways and so this maiden energy has shifted to (hopefully) a gentler, kinder outlook. We have seen a rise in metaphysical interests and a return to ancient practises such as meditation and yoga as now being trendy along with, ironically, the emerging popularity of witchcraft and other earth based beliefs. We see saving the environment as no longer just a fringe cause, but a world wide need for necessary and urgent action, and we see a large population demanding better governance from our leaders. But what we haven’t seen is the guidance from the crone female energy. Where are the grandmothers of the earth?
So back to the question, why is it now so important that the grandmothers of the world be once again seen and heard?
The answer is two fold. First, let’s look at who the grandmothers of today are. The majority of them are from the baby boomer generation (1946 – 1964). This was the mass birth rate explosion of the post world war two era that brought us forward into an age of affluence. This is the group that created the youthful experimental hippies and the woman’s liberation movement. They were the ones who broke the glass ceilings and gave birth to the generation X’ers and some the generation Y’s who are now the maidens and mothers of today, and they are in part, responsible for the world we currently live in.
Today’s grandmothers reside in two worlds: they grew up in, and so have a real memory of the pre-computer world when life was simpler. Where families, including both mom and dad sat down for dinner every night and business was done face to face in good faith, but they also reside in the world of today where life is much more complicated and business can be done almost exclusively virtually and nuclear sciences, not nuclear families are changing the landscape for society. These grandmothers carry the memories and wisdom of what was and what is, but also, as with age, they are developing the intuition to see into the future and what can be.
The second important factor to consider is that we are now entering the age of Aquarius. An time of peace and understanding. We are just coming out of the Piscean age. Two thousand years of time dominated by hierarchy and power where we needed to believe in something outside of ourselves. Now we are beginning to understand that the power we seek is inside ourselves and not through and by other people or political or religious ideologies. We are now living in the age of information. Knowledge is available to everyone, anytime, anywhere; we no longer need others to think for us. But in order to live in peace and understanding in this age of knowing, we will need a kind, loving and wise energy to shepherd us through the old age to the new one. We need a grandmotherly hand.
The earth is crying out for balance but her feminine energy is not whole enough yet to balance out the aggressive and angry male energy swirling over the land. Nature needs the calming influence of the wise old woman for she nurtures us all. Her many experiences have taught her how to be patient, her long life has shown her to live within the cycles and seasons of life. She has seen it all and has developed a wise outlook because she has learned to understand our true human nature. She teaches, and disciplines with sternness and practicality but slathers it with a heavy dose of love and warmth for all. She knows when it’s time to play, when to offer care and when to admonish her wayward charges. It’s time for her to show up once again and take her rightful place to complete the female archetype.
Mother nature is embodying the energy of the grandmother right now by giving the world a time out. She is showing us the consequences of our human folly. We have dallied in the youthful fields too long. We have not nurtured our only home with mothering energy and now she is showing that we must change our ways or suffer from the karmic laws of cause and effect. But she is being wise in her approach. She is allowing us to see for ourselves what we have done. She is allowing us to learn because she knows that wisdom never comes with out learning from the lesson first, and for humans to survive, we must learn the lessons mother nature is offering.
Now more than ever, mankind needs its grandmothers. We need to be collectively embraced in loving arms and shown a kinder, gentler way. We need to learn once again to be part of the whole and rebalance our energies into one of cooperation and not domination.
To get back into a harmony where the world thrives once more for every living creature who inhabits the planet, the human race needs to respect the wisdom that the wise old women bring and the feminine balance they contribute to the whole.
So listen to your grandmother, she knows the way forward. Pay her the respect she deserves. She has much to offer and will generously offer up her vast knowledge and sage advice along with a great big hug, kiss on the cheek and if we are really good, a sweet treat. Because all grandmothers understand that just like every child is unique, there is more than one way to heal the soul of the world.
The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power by Barbara Walker, published by Harper and Row, 1985
Other Crone Confidence blog post on this theme: