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.


  1. You mentioned some symbols appear across cultures and time, and I'm in awe of this phenomenon. Perhaps, we are still conducting harvest ceremonies, thinking similar thoughts across the world right now, and do not realize it.
    I just finished a post on harvesting and connecting to the earth in growing food, and how this type of work satisfies so much more than any other. Are we all contemplating our status in the world at this time? Are we realizing that time is short, that what needs preserving must be preserved, including stories and myths?

    1. i think so, rosaria. these symbols are present in all of us, whether we realize it or not, what jung called the collective unconscious, the archetypes span cultures and time and i believe they persist because we need our stories and myths. with the droughts of the summer and storms of winter, we are all of us forced to contemplate our relationship to mother earth.

  2. It seems like it is getting harder to be a crone nowadays as older women move into "senior" facilities (and facilities is what they are, rather than real homes). I see women my age being sedated and sedating themselves because they've been told medication is an answer and with this sedating comes a loss of sense of self and motivation. Of course there are still lively spritely happy women but I don't see them as the norm in my neighborhood. Personally, my striving is to be the crone, and it's good to hear you mention her here along side the goddesses.
    Thanks Amanda.

    1. you bring up a serious and very sad consequence of our modern age, rubye. it does seem to be harder to grow old these days, as aging is seen as a negative in our culture. with all our focus on externals such as appearance, older woman feel forced to make themselves look younger instead of feeling supported to celebrate whatever age they happen to be. and while antidepressants and similar medications are warranted and useful in many cases, more often than not it is being used as a panacea by people who feel they have no other option to heal, doctors who are disconnected from the human spirit and drug companies whose sole purpose is to turn a profit. this constitutes a bad spiral and the only way out is for women to start to regain their own power, come together to support one another and celebrate - instead of solely their external appearance - their creative power and wisdom, regardless of shape, size or age.

  3. The story of the maiden, the mother and the crone is the story of nearly every woman. The imagery is powerful and the parallels are frighteningly obvious. Unfortunately, as Rubye Jack said, the modern world has relegated the crone, the wise woman to senior facilities. Whereas in truth, it is to the crone to whom we should all turn. I love that description of the crone that you have included. May we all be radical, dangerous crones ;)

  4. Sister - I so remember that little devil costume you wore in Andover, the rattan chair and the ottoman. Notice the huge snow drifts in the backyard? What shall you be this Hallowed Eve?

    For me, I am some sort of witch, having found a gorgeous tall bejeweled black hat and now I wonder which witch should I be? Locasta, Glinda or Princess Ozma? Tonight my group of miracle crones gather to embrace our wiseness and play with our alter identities.

    Ladies -if you don't have a women's group for spiritual support, I suggest you start one. Wise crones in leadership is what the world needs now.

    1. if you can believe it i still have the rattan chair!! (albeit in two pieces currently waiting repair ;)

      good advice, sister - like jean shinoda bolen's book the millionth circle, all women should come together for spiritual support - and wise crones in leadership is truly what the world needs now.

  5. everything reapets in the history and now we celebrate 1st of November...
    here is already more winter than fall:)

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  6. Hi Amanda..beautiful tribute..and i agree I love this time of year..it is my most favorite season..and walking through the mists of this veil is most magical! I always enjoy your sharings..for i hold the same things sacred in my heart as well..blessings to you..beautiful photos..sweet little devil photo too ha ha!Crone magic is upon us..enjoy!
    Happy Samhain..

  7. Amanda, I relished this post. That first image of the trio of goddesses was like an invitation and all of your words that followed gave so much. All I can think are the words, 'a time for silence.'

    There is so much that is sacred when the veil thins. I am seeking not to miss what should not be missed, and this, too, is my prayer for you.

    Goddess bless, amazing, wise, glorious woman. Good Samhain to you.

    I absolutely love that picture of you as teeny, horned goddess. May you always remain reaching into that world which we both know to be true, and revere daily with our art and our hearts.

  8. Fascinating Amanda, hadn't heard of Samhain before (my ignorance is showing), so I thank you for the invitation to expand and travel...

    I can only shake my head and wonder : why on earth did we let go of so much wisdom, and trade it in for the idiocy of "modern" life ???

    Washing machines and TVs when we could be contemplating goddess figures with raised arms. I know where I would rather be.

    Like Bruce Cockburn said in one of his fine songs, something to the effect of "We are hooked on Everest, how do we get off of this ?"

    Take care, and thanks for stopping by...

    1. i've not heard of bruce cockburn (now my ignorance is showing!) but i will look up this song. thanks, owen.

  9. Ah, the crone — wise, sometimes malicious. Yet Samhein dawns on us, eventually. Time to wrap things up for the year and rest, if one is in tune with nature. (Especially if one is a Bear, and understands how important it is to hibernate.)

    From ghoulies, and ghosties, and long-leggity beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us.

    1. r-bear - you are right, the crone has both aspects, she can be wise as well as malicious, showing her dark mother energies. you know more than most, as a bear, this is the time to wrap things up and rest. happy hibernation!

  10. Wonderful. I come from a tradition in my family of appreciating the coming on of age, but I hadn't understood the crone and didn't embrace her until after 50. If crones ruled the world (in an intentional triple balance honoring the three goddesses), imagine where we'd be now.

    My word verification: reerBoo :)

    1. i think the crone appears as fearful until we begin to understand what she truly represents - a certain freedom and release that comes with age and wisdom. yes, imagine a world ruled by this kind of energy. it happened before and will again, as the deeper cycles are turning as we speak. now is the time for women to come together and help birth that new age.

      love your word veri!!

  11. I love how you tied your statue to Celtic art and Halloween. Especially that bit about costumes tricking the spirits. Cheers to the crone! Thanks, my daughter appreciated your comments on my post.

  12. Oh my, Amanda, I loved your post... so different from all other halloween posts.

  13. Dear Amanda, this was well put, what a lovely tale of the esoteric. It has alway intrigued me too, the darkness and the twilight and the barren landscape carry a gentle feel of melancholy, moving into tranquility, which appeals to me.;)
    Have a wonderful weekend,

  14. There's nothing better than hanging w/the old crones! Oh how I relish those moments. (And I quite like the dark side, too. :))
    I just love seeing what you're up to, Amanda, with your Godesses in the Dust. It's fascinating. I didn't study Greek mythology and history was not one of my favorite subjects in high school, but I'm so interested in it now. Wish I'd paid more attention back then. Fortunately, I have you to catch me up! :)

    Have you heard of Anaïs Mitchell's Hadestown? It's a fabulous, how shall I say, rock opera?--the story is that of Orpheus, Eurydice and Persephone only set in a modern day apocalypse. It's great to listen to in the car... driving over to the dark side. ;)

  15. As usual, I do not only enjoy your posts but also all the thoughtful comments, and your replies. Not much to be added, except, I`m in that crone fellowship! And love my freedom, and occasional maliciousness.
    I am still waiting for your book to come, Amanda!

  16. "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."

    i am more at home in this 42 year old woman's body then i have ever been. i look forward to the climb toward even more freedom:)

    (your photo of you as a devil - ohmygod, i'd gobble you up no matter your evil stripes or your goodness:)



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