The question of if and when one is a Crone has fascinated me for a long time. I’ve had many a Pagan tell me that a year and a day after menopause is the moment one becomes a Crone. Well, that would have had me Croning at age 46! I wasn’t ready then, nor was I a decade later. Now, as I approach my sixties (along with others in my Coven), I am beginning to feel a little more of the understanding and wisdom—I now know for certain—I lacked, at age 46. In fact, I have long been of the opinion that all stages of human development are organic in nature and, thus, are as unique and individual as our DNA. However, there are, in my opinion, eight specific Ages we go through during the course of a lifetime. I call them, “The Ages”! and, as I said, there are eight of them. Let me explain…
But, before I get into the specifics, let me first say that there are no lines of demarkation. In fact, this is the very reason I do not specify any particular age or milestone at any particular time—because we are all so different—but, I’ll get back to that a little later. For now, here are, The Ages:
1. The Age of Innocence
- Akin to Imbolc on the Wheel of the Year
- We are all born innocent—a blank slate, if you will.
- Our very survival depends on those who care for and nurture us.
- Our needs are basic and, for the most part, quite demanding.
- Our understanding of the world around us is basic and quite limited. At first!
- But, as we begin to recognize voices and faces and the touch and smell of our family/caregivers, etc., the first blush of the light of our future personalities begins to shine.
2. The Age of Development
- Akin to the Spring Equinox on the Wheel of the Year.
- At this stage of our lives, we begin to develop rudimentary skills, such as, for instance, walking and talking, riding a bicycle or operating a pedal car. This Age lasts, for many of us, through the time when we learn to count, read, or write.
- We begin to develop a sense of self.
- Also, a stronger bond with family and loved ones.
- Formal schooling often begins during this Age.
- Our personality is being developed now; along with our nature.
- Skills we began to learn in the Age of Innocence are honing and we are adding new skills daily and, often, at a rapid pace.
3. The Age of Understanding
- Akin to Beltane on the Wheel of the Year.
- Somewhere around puberty, we begin to understand things differently and independently.
- Hormones run wild and, quite often, so do we!
- We begin to understand things we simply “believed” in the prior Ages. (Santa Claus looks different to us now, for example.)
- This is a time when we are more apt to begin the process of separating from those who parented us and identifying with a peer group.
- We are often very idealistic and, frequently, the first stirrings of the fire of idealism kindle within us.
- This is a time of awakening sexuality and an early understanding of matters related to it.
- The seeds of our future self are beginning to germinate now.
4. The Age of Energy
- Akin to Litha on the Wheel of the Year.
- Now begins the long, hot, “Summer season” of our lives. We often raise children, have a career, make a home for ourselves, build a business—or, do all that—and more, at once! This is the time when we tend to be acquiring things—such as cars, houses, families, and experience.
- We come, at this time of our lives, into full bloom—character-wise, personality-wise, skills-wise—in short, in a multitude of ways.
- We often make, follow through with and/or finalize decisions about matters such as parenting, marriage, career or vocation.
5. The Age of Wisdom
- Akin to Lughnasadh on the Wheel of the Year
- This is the time when we begin to see signs of our own burgeoning wisdom.
- Now, the fruits of our labors in the prior Ages are becoming apparent to us.
- We often become “the voice of reason,” or are seen as the “glue” in a group; such as family or friends.
- When we reach this Age, we have the benefit of a great deal of hindsight… and, for many of us, we can also see, with a great deal of clarity, either what we are facing in the final three Ages or, simply that we have only two living Ages left—even if we don’t think of it that way!
6. The Age of Mortality
- Akin the Autumnal Equinox on the Wheel of the Year.
- Now is the time we acknowledge and face our own mortality.
- By this Age, we have seen our fair share of death—in all forms—either personally, from loved ones, or impersonally, to those we did not know.. From those who perished young, or succumbed to sickness, accident, war, or even murder or suicide.
- Loved ones are often becoming more important to us than things, possessions, or even petty differences—the tendency is, to become more mellow in this Age.
- The Age of Energy is well behind us now. The fire is not out, but it is waning.
- If we have not already done so, we often make out our Wills or make our final wishes known in some way.
7. The Age of Simplicity
- Akin to Samhain on the Wheel of the Year.
- The time of our lives when we, perforce or by choice, tend to scale back and simplify.
- Perhaps we go into Assisted Living, a nursing home, or just a smaller home. Maybe we sell our home and rent. Whatever makes maintenance and upkeep easier on us and/or everyone else.
- This is the Autumn of our lives… the time when things are falling away slowly but surely and we are drifting, as would a leaf from a tree, toward the—inevitable—end of our lives.
8. The Age of Mystery
- Akin to Yule on the Wheel of the Year.
- Just about everyone has an opinion as to what happens to us when we die. Thus, I refer to death as the Age of Mystery—it is the final season of our lives.
The lovely and, sometimes confounding, thing about The Ages is how fluid and individualized they are. One can be in more than one Age, in more then one aspect of one’s own lifetime or development at once, for instance. We all live and die at different times and at different stages of our development and, the circumstances of our lives often impact the nature of our development along the way. An example of this would be a severely abused child. While the child may grow up all the way into the Age of Wisdom, a part of them may be “stuck” in their youth, never having had their (healthy) Age of Development fully realized. Similarly, their Age of Understanding may have been warped by unhealthy experiences, which, in turn, will impact all the subsequent Ages if not addressed and resolved successfully.
So you see, we all of us, with no exceptions, enter and leave different Ages at different times in our lives and, sometimes, even go back to re-visit a prior age or, even remain in a given age while simultaneously moving on to the next one. Why is this? We are all individuals. Wonderfully complex, complicated, and whimsical individuals who live according to free will, not specific timelines or rules!
Now, this may be a little interesting, but, in a practical sense, how does it help us? Well, here are a few things to keep in mind…
- Just because a person may be old enough to be in a certain Age, does not mean they are magically and automatically there! (e.g. A young person may have reached puberty, but this does not mean they have sufficient self understanding to immediately and safely become sexually active.)
- Ages can—and usually do—overlap. However, as much as one can, of course, see a need to simplify and do so, in, say, the Age of Understanding, the likelihood that one is doing so for the same reasons one would in the age of Ages of Wisdom, Mortality, or Simplicity is slim at best.
- It can sometimes be helpful to remind ourselves that not every Crone or Sage is wise and not every Maiden or Youngman is foolish! It is a wise Pagan who takes note of the Age someone may be in, but does so while holding stereotypes or judgements at bay.
- I have said it before, but it always bears repeating: Ignore the “Judge Not” crowd! Judge people, situations, and circumstances—even making snap judgements where appropriate. (Failure to heed this, could one day, cost you big—up to or including your life.) But, never judge harshly, with bigotry, or malice.
- Celebrate every Age for the wisdom it holds.
- If you look down your nose on what you perceive to be a prior Age, you are not in the Age you think you are.
So, in what Age are you? Personally, I am a burgeoning Crone, in my Age of Wisdom—who can see the Ages of Mortality and Simplicity all too clearly!