Croning and Sagehood by our Hellenic Witch Starlitenergies...
Croning and Saging are rites of passage for women and men, respectively, who are entering into their older years. Generally speaking, a woman enters her crone stage around the time when she begins menopause. Saging for men would also occur sometime around the mid-50’s or retirement. This rite marks the time when one can enjoy the fruit’s of one’s labour, and perhaps be considered an honoured elder of their community, passing on knowledge to others. Croning and saging sit in the North West of the Wheel of the Year, and correspond to Samhain.
People very rarely made it to what we consider old age therefore women rarely made it to menopause in ancient times. But the woman was fairly regularly made a widow at quite a young age. If you think about they married in their teens, while the men have to wait until their thirties. Aristotle seemed to think menopause happened around the age of 40. Uh-oh! There is very little written about it and in reality more value was placed on the younger woman having babies in ancient times.
In Ancient Greece, taking up the role of priest was fairly easy, but to be a priestess women needed to be infertile, a virgin or beyond the menopause.
Some think that the elder women renewed their virginity (this usually meant remaining abstinent from sex for a few weeks) and were therefore able to reach a level of purity within ritual which was hugely important to the ancients. Elder women would have a bigger role to play in some festivals especially the Chthonia – a festival of the dead; in fact a lot of older women were given roles of assisting the dead to the afterlife. They were even the chance to become a ritual slaughterer typically a male thing. In fact it’s generally agreed that these wise women were freed from the constraints their gender put on them in their youth and mother phases all together because the men no longer saw them as a threat… little did they know eh?!
The males continued on, no one really paid attention to them when their hair started greying and things started to make their way south, but the women who didn’t become priestesses were suddenly “cold and dry”, “weak and wretched” and usually cast out of the community. This I believe is where some people get the notion that Hekate is a crone and it’s only bent over crinkled old women who are witches. Hekate is a guardian of witches; witches in ancient times were mostly these cast out older women… makes sense to me! And all the while the males were celebrated as leaders, priests, heads of households, and military heroes right up until they died.
OK let’s face it, the girls in Ancient Greece were treated pretty badly they were seen as inferior and at child bearing age they were simply vessels of procreation. It seems that it was only when they were seen as “useless” to the male driven world that they got a little bit of power and notoriety.