It’s spring break in Florida and we’ve been at the beach with our children and grandchildren. This special time with my youngest loved ones has reminded me of my grandmothers and prompted me to write about how older women are currently viewed.
My grandmothers were not famous or brilliant or unusually talented. They were no different from other small-town, mid-western women of their generation; as teachers, they were perhaps a tad more well-educated than some, a little less sophisticated than others. They were not particularly insightful about themselves or wise in the ways of the world, but despite their learned preferences for masculine values and a masculine God, deep within the rich sub-stratas of their feminine grounds dwelled strong archetypal Queens with impeccable integrity; fiercely nurturing Earth Mothers whose alignment with the rhythms of nature taught them how to care for their families; Wisewomen with wonderful imaginations, understanding hearts, and respect for mystery; and beautiful Beloveds who knew their true worth to their families, friends, and God. Because my grandmothers loved me, they shared their wisdom and passions with me.
The lives of many, if not most of us were touched and shaped in important ways by the elder women in our families or neighborhoods. Yet, as a society, we rarely give credit to the crones or sing their praises in any public way. Indeed, in the West where youth is worshiped, the older a woman gets, the less visible she becomes. Respect for the Goddess archetype in her aspect as Crone may have disappeared from the Western world, but she remains a reality within the psyche. Many people who carefully attend to their inner life report experiencing significant encounters with wise old women, especially in dreams, but also in waking fantasies and visions. Jungians interpret these as important indications of the ego’s willingness to accept the guidance of the unconscious feminine.
The tenth dream I recorded after making the life-changing decision to take my inner life seriously indicated that I was beginning to understand the significance of the feminine unconscious. Here is an important part of that dream:
Dream # 10A: Gifts From the Crones. I am visiting a foreign, forbidden place, like a kibbutz. I feel guilty and afraid and know I will have to sneak out illegally. Dorene [a wise and admired professor friend in waking life who is married to a Jewish man] is working here. I have brought gifts for her. She is accompanied by three or four older women, grandmothers perhaps. They are sitting cross-legged on the floor dressed in flowing, earth-colored, ethnic-looking clothes. Plump and solid, with heads wrapped in turbans fashioned from natural fibers, they seem serene and benevolent. To my delight, they hold out gifts for me — small, loosely woven bags overflowing with sweet-smelling herbs and spices. I say their gifts to me are so much better than mine to them and know it to be true. I look forward to using them in the future. I want to avoid the guards at the check point at the train station, so I leave by sneaking in the back door of a dark theater and crawling through on my hands and knees. I am nervous about this surreptitious avoidance of the authorities, but full of confident, decisive energy.
Although I didn’t understand the full import of the dream at the time, today it seems very clear. Next time I’ll share my associations with it. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear yours!