Crone Archetype

Learn all about the crone archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Magician archetype.

What is the Crone Archetype?

The word crone brings to mind a number of largely negative images.

We may imagine them to be a haggard, witch-like old women, ugly and cackling in a slightly mad manner whilst living in a decrepit hovel. Or we may picture them as a woman of distasteful habits.

Perhaps a woman long past her prime in life and no longer capable of producing children, who has become resentful and bitter as a result. She may be a jealous old woman, resentful of the younger women who she believes are living the life she should have but is now too old to have access to.

History of the Crone

The ancient archetype of the Crone can be traced back to the Middle East, Balkans, Scandinavia and Ancient Greece.  For example, in Norse mythology the God Thor wrestled the crone Elli.

However, the word ‘crone’ only entered the English language in approximately 1390. It was derived from the Anglo-French word ‘carogne’ (an insult), which itself was derived from the Old North French ‘charogne’ or ‘caroigne’, meaning a disagreeable woman (or literally “carrion”).

In folklore of this type the crone is representative of a disagreeable old woman who may have a malicious and sinister nature. This type of crone may also exhibit supernatural and magical capabilities, either for helpful or obstructive purposes.

The Crone in Modern Culture

However, the more common Crone archetype in modern culture is one of a wise woman. In this context the word crone is said to derive from another more positive origin, with crone coming from crown, indicating wisdom emanating from the head.

In modern society the crone archetype has come to be associated with the bleeding phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle and with the menopausal phase of her life, rather than the older phase of life more associated with the ‘Wise Woman’ archetype to which the crone is linked.

Crone Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • This link with the menstrual cycle and menopause has led the Crone archetype to be associated with loss of fertility, external beauty and activity as well as with the aging process.
  • The archetype can bring with it pain, tiredness or lethargy, loss of body function and the need for the individual to slow down.
  • It can also bring emotional sensitivity, depression, moodiness, introspection and disorientation.
  • These signals, while negative and problematic for both the individual and those around them, are symbolic of a form of renewal and transformation through which the individual is going.
  • Despite this, the Crone archetype is also associated with the aging process and the ability of the woman, as she ages, to accept the process of death and renewal in her life and embrace the new starts which such processes offer.
  • As she ages she gains new wisdom and maturity through experience, including through the experience of the menstrual cycle, and becomes increasingly in tune with her body.
  • She understands the natural timing of things and how to use this best to her advantage.
  • She has gained the advantage of becoming less susceptible to the problems which trouble the youthful women of the world, such as parenthood, the difficulties of relationships, societal pressure to look beautiful, career and other forms of peer pressure.
  • With age and maturity she has greater freedom to live her life in the way that she wants to, not restrained by the wants and needs of anybody else.

Crone Archetype & Bolen

Jean Shinoda Bolen has written much good material on the Crone archetype and the period of life which it represents. Bolen is a a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst who developed her thinking when coming into her own late 50s.

Bolen has linked key female mythical figures in early Greek culture, Roman culture, Asian culture and Indian cultures to the archetype in order to draw inferences.

She believes that that a developed crone lets go of what should have, could have or might have been in her life and, in doing so, is able to joyfully develop her life from what is.  As such she is not resentful or a blamer.

She is accepting of the cards the world has dealt her, learns from life’s challenges and hardships. She celebrates the gifts and joys which the world has given her.

Accepting the concept

In order to foster the Crone archetype within them an individual must learn to accept who they are and what they want in life.

They must learn to say no to people and to do the things which bring them enjoyment in life. They must be willing to express the things that anger and outrage them in a constructive manner, respecting the emotions and passions which they feel. They must be willing to forgive others and also themselves. They must be willing to commit time to self-examination and reflection.

Given the time and effort cultivating the archetype requires it is rarely possible to effectively develop it during the period of life when engaged actively in one’s career or raising children.

Crone Archetype Examples

An example of the Crone archetype comes from Slavic folklore in the form of Baba Yaga, a supernatural being who appears as a deformed old woman.

Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wielding a pestle, and lives deep in the forest in a hut standing on chicken legs. Baba Yaga may help or hinder others.

She often plays a maternal role. However, her depictions vary greatly from child-eating monster, to helping a protagonist find his missing bride.

Further Reading

Further reading on the crone archetype includes:

  • The Power of the Crone: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype: 2 Audio CD – Audiobook by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power Paperback – by Barbara G. Walker
  • Mother’s Underground Magazine. “Crone, Issue #12”
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