Goddesses in the Dust: Samhain, the Crone and the Crescent Moon

Unearthing the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
A modern trio of goddesses cast their shadows (Photo courtesy of Emily Shaw)

Fertility goddess, ca. 4000 B.C. 
Minoan Snake Goddess, ca. 1600 B.C.
Ever since I was a young girl, I have loved this time of year. Fall is best - the smell of new books at school, the chill of night air through the bedroom window, the brush of leaves on their way to join the warm earth.

This is the season when the veil thins, a celebration known in the Celtic calendar as Samhain, the root of our modern celebration of Halloween. At this time of year, when the nights grow longer than the days, we enter the time of the Underworld, of the death of seasons, of the darkest time of the year. 

To honor the seasons such as Samhain in the Celtic culture, dolls are made, often out of cornhusk, clay or fabric. The raised arm motif, a gesture of invoking power in the world of spirit, has been repeated in goddess images spanning eras and many different cultures. Over time the symbol has reappeared in different forms, morphing alternatively to appear as horns or antlers, symbolizing fertility and the goddess of the hunt, or as the crescent moon, representing the waning phases of the lunar orb, the seasons and the life cycle itself. 
Pompeian Fresco, Naples Archaeological Museum
Many in our culture respond to the shortened days and lengthening nights as a death, a negative and reminder that all this too shall pass. Yet the deeper meaning is found in the realization that energy is drawing down and inward only to be recasted in the Crone's cauldron - the magical place of death and rebirth that all nature experiences.
Horns of Consecration, Palace of Knossos, Crete
The tradition of costume-wearing is rooted in mumming or souling, when individuals dressed in costume to confuse or 'trick' the spirits that were thought to be out these nights mingling with the living and hoping to find a body to inhabit. 
Me as a little devil, in my own Halloween interpretation of a horned goddess...
Many Goddesses are associated with this time of year when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is thinnest. Persephone, of course, is known as Queen of the Underworld, who is abducted by the God of Hell and over time learns to see in the darkness and guide souls between worlds. Yet her mother, Demeter, Goddess of Grain, who searches for her missing daughter is also known as the Dark Mother. It is she who lets nothing grow during her mourning, which symbolizes the winter season, until her daughter is returned. But the Goddess most representing Samhain is Hecate, the Crone of the Persephone-Demeter triple Goddess myth. Hecate is associated with witches, ghosts and the spirit world, as well as the waning crescent phase of the moon. Samhain is the time of year in which the crone aspect of the Goddess reigns. 

Perhaps Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Woman Who Run with the Wolves, describes the power of the crone, and this phase of life, the best:

Dear brave souls, I warmly invite you to come be at the fireside with me and the Dangerous Old Woman and the Power of the Crone. Who is the crone? She is the most dangerous, the most radical, the most revolutionary woman in existence. Whether in fairy tales or in consensual reality, the old one goes where she want to and she acts as she wishes; she lives as she chooses. And this is all as it should be. And no one can stop her. 

Nor ought they try.

On the eve of Samhain, I will light a candle to acknowledge this sacred night, the entrance into the dark side of the seasons. A time for rest, for renewal, a time of year to look inward and honor your spiritual self. A time to honor all seasons of a woman's life, but in particular the elders of the female tribe: Hecate, the Grandmother, the Wise Woman, 

and the Crone.

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