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The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power

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A probing account of the honored place of older women in ancient matriarchal societies restores to contemporary women an energizing symbol of self-value, power, and respect.

191 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1986

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About the author

Barbara G. Walker

39 books104 followers
Barbara Walker studied journalism at the University of Pennsylvania and then took a reporting job at the Washington Star in DC. During her work as a reporter, she became increasingly interested in feminism and women's issues.

Her writing career has been split between knitting instruction books, produced in the late 1960s through the mid-80s; and women's studies and mythology books, produced from the 1980s through the early 21st C.

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5 stars
150 (45%)
4 stars
105 (31%)
3 stars
56 (17%)
2 stars
10 (3%)
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8 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews
Profile Image for etherealfire.
1,210 reviews208 followers
February 17, 2014
An eye-opener with some uncomfortable unavoidable truths about western religions, patriarchy and imbalance.
Profile Image for J.T.K. Gibbs.
453 reviews
July 4, 2018
A book to savor, read, reread, and learn from over and over again. So much information and inspiration! I bought this when I was mothering 3 young children and learned much from it. Now, in my own Crone years, there is much more to learn and a new perspective.
Profile Image for Karen.
843 reviews122 followers
September 8, 2014
I applaud Walker for the extensive reading she's done in anthropology, archetype psychology and history, but I find her arguments too extreme. Even the most basic reciting of facts are put into a narrative that is extremely negative towards all men through all history. While I do agree that societies benefit when the power of women is acknowledged and celebrated, I don't want an inversion of the hierarchy.

Take for example the following paragraph that lists strengths mature women possess but only as embedded in a narrative of how these strengths are extinguished:

"Patriarchal men wishes woman to continue playing the part of the unpaid, but tirelessly devoted, nurturer, long after its biological foundation has crumbled, and after he ceases to grant her even the specious significance of a sex object. One reason is that patriarchal man must deny woman the essential later-life functions she naturally assumed in prepartriachal societies: healer, judge, wise-woman, arbiter of ethical and moral law, owner of the sacred lore, mediator between the realms of flesh and spirit, and--most of all--the functions of the Crone: funeraray priestess and Death Mother, controlling the circumstances of death as she controlled those of birth. In their anxiety to deny the Crone archetype through religious imagery, patriarchal societies even denies the fact of death itself" (p. 32).

Reading this book was making me want to kick my husband and son out of the house. I had to stop reading it. I wish it gave even a TINY bit of space to a vision of co-operation between the genders.

I would have enjoyed the book more if I had received more description of these roles (healer, judge, wise-woman, etc.) and less description on how and why men throughout each era have suppressed these gifts. Ironically, the book suppresses them too by using the "language of the father" by doing a ton of scholarly argument about their absence. I learn much more about crone wisdom from storytelling. I read 3 chapters in their entirety and skimmed the rest. I'll read some folktales that feature strong women as a way to learn more about the powers of the crone.

Here are the chapter titles:

Introduction (a lot about the distortion and suppression of the triple goddess: mother, maiden and crone).
The Lost Crone (an overview of how society is missing out)
The Wise Crone (specific cultural examples of goddesses and other wise archetypes and how patriarchies suppressed them)
The Terrible Crone
The Crone and the Cauldron
The Crone Turns Witch
The Doomsday Crone
The Future Crone

1,917 reviews11 followers
August 13, 2013
Walker does a most creditable job of covering woman's role throughout history. First and foremost this is feminist literature. Remembering the author's viewpoint, it is a fascinating depiction of women's place in society. From pagan priestesses to today's independent competitive worker, the reader finds much to support her own beliefs. She emphasizes, too, the different natures of females and males. Many men, may find the book troubling but it behooves us to read writing that supports admiration of the aging whether those individuals be female or male.

Taking that in consideration, one can read the author's comments, views and historical references with respect to one's own. I truly enjoyed the author's take on the "crone" and how its negative connotations may have evolved. However, I found the description of this book all too brief. If you recall: "A probing account of the honored place of older women in ancient matriarchal societies restores to contemporary women an energizing symbol of self-value, power, and respect." There is much more to examine including the history of the woman's role in our culture.

The author uses references from history, the Bible, and today's society as she defines the crone. She questions the existence of a God who gave his son so that man may be absolved of sin while the religion centered about him insists that no man is without sin and must strive to be absolved of it. Inconsistencies such as this are cited from various religions as she outlines how women are treated by those who often practice the religions.

Society today usually views the crone as an aged woman to be tossed aside failing to recognize that those who have lived so long have much wisdom and experience to share with younger people. Walker further urges women of the future to take their true place the world as equals along side men. I concur. Women are as skilled at living as men and I, too, urge women of today and the future to take their true place as equals along side men. I concur. Women are as skilled at living as men as their male counterparts and the crone has much to teach us. May we learn from her wisdom.

After reading this one, the term of crone has come to mean wise woman to me - one who has lived a long life with much experience to share with younger people - men and women alike.
Profile Image for Alison .
143 reviews12 followers
August 23, 2009
EXCELLENT BOOK. A must read for anyone interested in pre-Christian religions, the transition from a matriarchal to a patriarchal cosmogenic worldview, the persecution of half the human race (the "fairer" sex), and the reclamation of the value of woman beyond her "sexual and maternal functions". Walker is a true scholar and feminist. My mind was dazzled by her brilliance like diamonds; at once hard enough to cut the glass ceiling while infinitely illuminating. Dig in and discover a world that will not be delivered to your doorstep; one you must seek to find. Let Barbara Walker be your guide. She will provoke you, perhaps anger you, likely validate you, and certainly educate you. And if you don't believe her, check out her six page bibliogragraphy, fine print.
Profile Image for Anne-Julia.
37 reviews
December 28, 2017
An incredibly powerful and empowering read about woman's true nature in the universe. It's not about letting ego get in the way, but about replacing our male-dominated warmongering leaders with a more instinctive, peaceful, earth-centric and intelligent way of living. I get where some might thinks it's a bit of a male-basher. But instead of looking at it in this way, see it as a reminder of how we as women can find our voice and hold a stronger presence in the peace and truth of this world.
Profile Image for Claire.
117 reviews7 followers
April 4, 2014
This book had some good points to make, but the pervasive "males are the enemy" attitude was off- putting. Also some of the scholarship was outdated, like the nine million Burning Times figure. However, the psychology of the fear of death and the ways people have evolved to address it was fascinating. I'm glad I read it, but I probably won't read it again.
Profile Image for Carla.
453 reviews3 followers
September 27, 2018
A book not to be read lightly.

All women, if they live long enough, become the Crone, The Wise Woman, who passes on Her knowledge and wisdom to those around her. Unlike the youth oriented society of today, past ages recognized the importance of taking care of and listening to those older than ourselves. They learned and passed on the knowledge available to them from those who had lived it.
Profile Image for C.J. Prince.
Author 4 books20 followers
February 1, 2009
This is simply a must read for women growing into wisdom. Highly researched and full of opportunities for contemplation.
Profile Image for Kim Adamache.
24 reviews
April 22, 2013
Great read that will shatter what you know about religious beliefs. Many clues to the feminist movement that erupted in the 1970's and a reminder of the significance of a woman's "mature" years.
537 reviews85 followers
October 4, 2019
This book is for people who are interested in mythology and symbolic concepts of older women. It covers Judeo-Christian images and Hindu images and bits of other cultures from long long ago. It has nothing about the current age and doesn't try to compare the past to the present. It just reviews these past concepts and images.
Profile Image for Savannah.
11 reviews1 follower
November 16, 2019
I'm completely turned off by the lack of focus on women, and rather, the impulsive infatuation with the "big bad male". It's a disservice, really, because there are some beautiful passages written within.
Profile Image for Antoinette.
422 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2022
Barbara Walker explores the Crone throughout history and prehistory in all her important roles and explains how she was transformed into the Witch by patriarchal society. Well researched and well written.
Profile Image for John Hedrick.
58 reviews16 followers
August 10, 2016
I picked up this book hoping to read some inspiring observations concerning the forgotten and overlooked power of older women on society.

I was sorely disappointed.

Despite the description, "A probing account of the honored place of older women in ancient matriarchal societies restores to contemporary women an energizing symbol of self-value, power, and respect.", the first two chapters of the book spend more time ax-grinding against the church specifically and against men in general then it does saying anything empowering about women.

The text was littered with vague assertions and generalities, like this one: "Many men still have the vague unconscious impression that if a husband dies, his wife's support system has somehow failed him, and she is to blame.". (Seriously!? Most men secretly blame wives when their husbands die?)

I finally had to wonder if I ever did get to any passages about the true power of women, if they would be as equally nonacademic and insubstantial as the one above about men suggests.

Sorry, but I couldn't bring myself to finish this one.
Profile Image for Allyson Shaw.
Author 10 books48 followers
March 30, 2018
Essential reading for all who walk an esoteric path, self-proclaimed witches or anyone seeking a feminist perspective on the new witch-wave. Of course this predates the current wave by a good 30 years, but much of the writing here seems almost prophetic. The breadth-less scholarship is not without some faults, and the urgency must be understood in the context of thousands of years of silencing of women's spirituality, wisdom and experience. There is much essentialist gender stuff here that is a product of its time, but it reveals to me why so many young women are now working with ancient symbols, reviving them in the (popular) imagination. It is important work. As an emerging crone, I am grateful this work was written so I understand my role as a resistant visionary in this patriarchal culture.
Profile Image for Jessie.
49 reviews9 followers
April 22, 2023
Chock-a-block full of heavily researched & cited descriptions of ancient goddess-based belief systems. Exploration on how we have arrived to the place societally where we have no reverence for women in their tertiary phase of life (hags). Read it!
Profile Image for Susan.
94 reviews3 followers
Want to read
January 8, 2010
I read this book when it was about 30 years old and loved it. I'm re-reading it to see if it stood the test of time. Will elaborate when I'm finished.
Profile Image for Lynda.
2,331 reviews110 followers
June 26, 2009
I love this book. I joyfully call myself "a crone".
Profile Image for Jenny.
2 reviews
December 3, 2022
This book provides some reprieve for the jaded Shrew of a woman. Old ladies talk. It is wonderful to see many inner womanly frustrations come together on paper by Barbara G Walker's mind. This book I wouldn't recommend to stict Black and White thinkers as I can often be, or even young "feminists" who often get caught up in not needing a man at all. Men are useful and amazing creatures. I see this book as more of a reminded on how to tune myself to continue to be my best for the women AND men in my life. Women go through a lot, much unseen, their daughters and mothers their true friends in a healthy setup. In today's world, hunkering down with a male leaves many womanly needs unmet if she doesn't learn how to build her tribe. The most power we have is within our homes, cultivating empathy for the men and children, making magic for them to recycle. Hate greed and power; but hating the man and discrediting all his invisible and unseen efforts and sacrifice is not the answer either in today's world. This book can inspire much within a woman, but beware of black and white thinking that men are enemies. They have a place at our table, a role to fill. Valuable and special are they too, with inner battles they very often do not speak out loud (example, being the one in the family that has to make the tough call to end an ill family members life- we don't often talk about this, its a hush in families, but many men have had to in war and in family, and they have few to no outlets for that burden. Or men who endure much verbal abuse of women to be there for her, through her cycles of mood and life goals, on standby to her whims. Do not forget The Man, dear Daughters.
116 reviews
February 28, 2021
The premise of this book is that from 'ordinary human experience is strained through the mythmaking filter of collective unconscious'. The Crone, who represents death as the gateway to rebirth is absent from the patriarchal religions of our modern day, replaced by the model of a linear existence that continues into infinity. The new religion of patriarchy is the root of the demise of human civilization. This exploration of the forgotten archetype of the Crone, the resulting demonizing of old women (the millions of women killed in the witch hunts by the Christian church) gives a compelling argument for looking again at the history of religion and rethinking the male perspective of God as Father, Son, Holy Ghost, with the remembrance of the Goddess, Maiden, Mother, Crone.
Profile Image for Carlos.
2,045 reviews63 followers
May 12, 2020
This book was wholly based on a mythological approach that I find utterly unconvincing, that of assuming similar themes in different cultures to mean a window into a world-spanning pre-historic culture. Walker scours the world’s mythology for any goddesses that could possibly be linked, through the most spurious etymologies possible, and then proceeds to build her argument for a pre-historic era of matriarchically-guided bliss. While she does have some interesting discussions about the highly recurrent link in myths between post-menopausal women and the underworld, her insistence on leaning into the most tenuous links between cultures was more than I could bear.
December 27, 2020
If you are interested in world religions and how men and women relate to this, I would recommend fully. If you cannot grasp a feminine deity or non-patriarchal religion or society, then pass on this book

I loved this book and gave a great detail of how everything fits I to each other. This is something I needed to read now and at my time in life. This does not go I to Crone living or the like but more into how it relates to all aspects of life.
Profile Image for Anita.
17 reviews
July 22, 2022
This book challenged me to expand my worldviews around feminism, patriarchy, religion and mythology. The author did a good job of supporting her message with well-researched mythology and ancient religions. I found the content comforting and affirming. The end felt a little forced and too generalized, but that didn’t take away from the overall value I received from this book. Only read this if you have an open mind and are ready to consider your hard-line beliefs and step into growth.
October 8, 2017
This was a great read with a lot of interesting points. One has to ignore the dated use of "primitive" when the author describes other cultures. I found a used copy in a new age store, and read it within a few days. The author may be a bit repetitive at times, but overall it is an empowering read about age and wisdom among women.
Profile Image for Heidi .
2 reviews
August 21, 2021
Excellent examination of women’s invaluable societal roles and unique gifts to mankind before The Church and Christianity /patriarchy snuffed them out ... should be required reading in all women’s studies curriculum.
208 reviews
July 9, 2022
Thought-provoking, with some powerful ideas hidden among pages of dubious history, speculation, and generalizations. I liked it, but would only recommend it with many grains of salt and only to the exact right audience.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews

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