In Praise of Crones

By Geila Rajaee

When people say the word ‘crone’ the imagery isn’t always the most positive but the crone is the archetypal figure of the wise woman and not just the ‘scary lady’ from fairy tales (no matter what Disney or the Brother’s Grimm say…). We all have women (or a woman) in our lives that lives into this image of a wise and, at times, quiet leader and spiritual guide.

As I have reflected on women who have impacted me during my lifetime, I consider my grandmothers. Both are women of deep, resonate faith who lived years beyond their husband, raised strong and independent children, and who challenged others when challenge needed to happen. And in truth, both of these women are so different and yet so similar. My maternal grandmother (or grandma, as we called her), grew up Free Methodist, did outreach in Detroit in the 50’s and 60’s, and had a wit to match her Irish heritage. On the other hand, my paternal grandmother (or mamani, in Farsi), grew up and is a devout Muslim, who pesters her children to make alms to the poor daily and shares a welcoming, graceful spirit that epitomizes the hospitality found in Persian culture.

While visiting my mamani in Iran last year, a knock came to the door in the early-ish morning hours from a young Afghani refugee. The previous evening we had an elaborate meal with far too many dishes for our guests to eat and instead of disposing of the food or letting it spoil, my grandmother made arrangements for this young woman to come and receive the left overs. It wasn’t extravagant but you could tell that this small gesture made an impact and was appreciated. I asked myself as I watched this interchange, how many times have you thrown out food after a meal or party while people have gone hungry? I admit that I felt a sense of shame with my own carelessness but also a renewed vigor to be a good steward of even some of the most elemental of my resources.

With my grandma, I was able to learn what it means to sit beside someone as they experienced the last days and hours of her life. She spoke into my life the possibility of being in ministry like no one else could have… and specifically into the type of work that I do today. Often I think of the words that I wrote while sitting vigil at her bedside as she died, “death isn’t so scary when you hold her hand.” Although she gave me innumerable gifts (thank you for the curly black hair!), she also gave me the opportunity to sit and befriend death in a way that took away some of the sting.

We all have crones in our lives who teach us what it means to be faithful, loving, patient and, eventually, wise ourselves.

Although they only met once in their lifetimes, I think these women both offered an opportunity to find common ground in a world filled with disagreements… and in truth, each of them provide a guiding light to my professional practice. They are my wise women, my crones, who help me listen more closely to my life and the way that I choose to live it. Am I living my faith in real and tangible ways? How do I care for others or respect them with the way that I spend my money? Am I being open and gracious to the strangers that I meet?

I know that even though they likely wouldn’t expect it, I am grateful that each of their faithfulness has spoken into my life in meaningful ways. They are my crones, my wise women who have guided me to a more faithful, honest life.


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