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Baba Yaga (right), of Slavic folklore, is a crone.

In folklore, a crone is an old woman who may be characterized as disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructive. The Crone is also an archetypal figure or a Wise Woman. As a character type, the crone shares characteristics with the hag. The word became further specialized as the third aspect of the Triple Goddess popularized by Robert Graves and subsequently in some forms of neopaganism. In Wicca, the crone symbolizes the Dark Goddess, the dark side of the moon, the end of a cycle; together with the Mother Crone, the Light Goddess and the Crone Maiden, Day Goddess, she represents part of the circle of life. The Handsome Warlock or Beautiful Witch, good or bad may change a Crone or Hag to normal looks, appearance if so desired.[1][2]

In feminism

In feminist spiritual circles, a "Croning" is a ritual rite of passage into an era of wisdom, freedom, and personal power.[3]

According to scholar Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the Crone is "the one who sees far, who looks into the spaces between the worlds and can literally see what is coming, what has been, and what is now and what underlies and stands behind many things. [...] The Crone represents the ability to see, more than just with one’s eyes alone, but to see with the heart’s eyes, with the soul’s eyes, through the eyes of the creative force and the animating force of the psyche."[4]

In patriarchal societies

As a social construct, the crone, along with many other female monsters is present in many patriarchal societies to warn of the nature of women. The crone highlights the importance of beauty and youth among women, and how older and elderly women are no longer desirable, often turned bitter and evil in their old age. In media, the crone often acts out of jealousy, luring young pretty women into bad situations, such as seen in the tale Snow White.[5]


As a noun, crone entered the English language around the year 1390, deriving from the Anglo-French word carogne (an insult), itself deriving from the Old North French charogne, caroigne, meaning a disagreeable woman (literally meaning "carrion"). Prior to the entrance of the word into English, the surname Hopcrone is recorded (around 1323–1324).[6]

In more modern usage, crone is also defined as a "woman who is venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom."[7]

Clarissa Pinkola Estes suggests that the word crone may derive from the word crown (or, la corona). While a crown is known as a circlet that goes around the head and establishes one’s authority as a leader, "before this understanding, the crown, la corona, was understood to mean the halo of light around a person’s body. La corona was considered to shine more brightly when a person was clear, filled with love and justice."[4] Thus, Estes suggests, the Crone is one who reflects this enhanced degree of clarity and in/sight.


In Norse myth, Thor wrestles the crone Elli who personifies old age.[8]

The Slavic witch Baba Yaga is a crone and liminal guardian to the Otherworld.[9] Baba Yaga was once a kind fairy, but eventually became evil and cannibalistic. She lives in a hut surrounded by the bones of her victims, one which can only be entered by magic. Anyone who tried entering, would find themselves dead.[10]

In the local folklore of Somerset in South West England, the Woman of the Mist is said to appear sometimes as a crone gathering sticks; sightings of her were reported as late as the 1950s.[11] In the Scottish Highlands tale "The Poor Brother and the Rich", a crone refuses to stay buried, until her son-in-law provides a generous wake, after which he becomes as wealthy as his more fortunate brother.[12]

In Cuban traditional folklore old women often appear as helpful characters, as in the tale of the sick man who cannot get well until he meets an old woman who advises him to wear the tunic of a man who is truly happy. According to writer Alma Flor Ada, "They tend to be the ones who keep the family together, who pass on the traditions, who know the remedies that would cure the different illnesses".[13]

See also


  1. ^ Roberts, Jeanne Addison (2003). "The Crone in English Renaissance Drama". Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England. 15: 116–137. JSTOR 24322658.
  2. ^ Parker, Nancy Ann (2009). The mythical and mortal Crone: Recollecting and reclaiming the sacred regeneratrix (Thesis). ProQuest 858604053.[page needed]
  3. ^ Payerle, Margaret (2016). "The Croning Ceremony". The Journal of Traditions & Beliefs. 3 (1).
  4. ^ a b Estes, Clarissa Pinkola (2011). The Power of the Crone: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype (Audiobook on CD). Sounds True. ISBN 978-1-60407-432-1. OCLC 800011416.
  5. ^ Santos, Cristina; Allan A., Jonathan (2016). "WOMEN, MONSTROUS". In Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew (ed.). The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Routledge. pp. 612–616. ISBN 978-1-317-04426-0.
  6. ^ Barnhart, Robert K. (1995). Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-270084-1.[page needed]
  7. ^ "crone". The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins Publishers. 2022.
  8. ^ Chance, Jane (2004). Tolkien and the Invention of Myth. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 153–154. ISBN 978-0-8131-2963-1.
  9. ^ Willis, Roy G. (1993). World Mythology. Macmillan. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-8050-2701-3.
  10. ^ Bane, Theresa (2020). Encyclopedia of Mythological Objects. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-7688-3.[page needed]
  11. ^ Briggs, Katharine Mary (2002). "Forgotten Gods and nature spirits". The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. Psychology Press. pp. 48–57. ISBN 978-0-415-28601-5.
  12. ^ Campbell, John Francis, ed. (1890). "The Poor Brother and the Rich". Popular Tales of the West Highlands: Orally Collected. A. Gardner. pp. 237–243. hdl:2027/mdp.39015024662390. OCLC 609004831.
  13. ^ Blair, Elizabeth (28 October 2015). "Why Are Old Women Often The Face Of Evil In Fairy Tales And Folklore?". National Public Radio.