Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saga and Crone

“…the word saga has been translated out of its original meaning, which was ‘She-Who-Speaks,’ that is, an oracular priestess, such as were formerly associated with sacred poetry. The literal meaning of saga was ‘female sage.’ The written sagas of Scandinavia were originally sacred histories kept by female sagas or ‘sayers,’ who knew how to write them in runic script."

”Barbara G. Walker, The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power  **

I've never liked the term "Crone" as it's used to speak of women in the third phase of life, although I like, of course, the meanings that are currently re-associated with it (Maiden, Mother, Crone).  But part of my dislike of the word has to do with the meanings that were associated with it in the past.  

Here's what wikipedia has to say about the word:
"The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman who is usually disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, and her proximity to death places her in contact with occult wisdom. As a character type, the crone shares characteristics with the hag.  The word "crone" is a less common synonym for "old woman," and is more likely to appear in reference to traditional narratives than in contemporary everyday usage.The word became further specialized as the third aspect of the Triple Goddess popularized by Robert Graves and subsequently in some forms of neopaganism."  
"Saga" is a Scandinavian word that means "a long, ancestral or heroic story".  I've been thinking that I prefer to use this word to "crone".  A long, wise story, woven into the threads of many stories.  I like that much better. 

According to mythologist Barbara Walker, Saga also means "She Who Speaks". Similar to the masculine "Sage", a Saga is a wise old woman, a female mentor and teacher. Similar, but not, to my mind, quite the same in it's meanings, and that is because of the context of "story" that imbues the word and its origins.   She-Who-Speaks is the potent teller of story, because she embodies a long, interwoven, generational, story - a Saga.  In pre-literate cultures, the Saga and the Sage held a thread that was woven through many lives into the past, and her/his long  memory was the precious gift that kept the stories and knowledge alive.  

So the next time I attend a 50th  birthday party for a woman, I'll say:  "You're becoming a Saga".   

**(Quote is taken from the website of The SAGA Centre for Studies in Autobiography, Gender, and Age, University of British Columbia )


Gail said...

Our Circle holds Croning Rituals for the Sisters who reach the age of Wisdom. I appreciate your preference for certain words over others. Saga seems to fit! Gail

T said...

Perfect. I've always disliked the word crone, too.

Lauren said...

Thanks! I wish I had been able to have a croning ritual.........
but now I see that I need to re-invent myself as a saga. I like the storytelling component.