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In folklore, a crone is an old woman who may be disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. The Crone is also an archetypal figure, 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, particularly Wicca in which she symbolizes the Dark Goddess, the dark of the moon, the end of a cycle; together with the Mother and the Maiden she represents part of the circle of life. In New Age and feminist spiritual circles, a "Croning" is a ritual rite of passage into an era of wisdom, freedom, and personal power.
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).
In the local folklore of Somerset in southwest 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. 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.
In Cuban traditional folklore old women often appear as helpful characters, as in the tale of the sick man who can't 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".
- Black Annis
- Fairy godmother
- La Befana
- Queen (Snow White)
- Sea witch
- The Witch (fairy tale)
- Wicked fairy godmother
- Barnhart, Robert K. (1995) The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-270084-7
- Jane Chance, Tolkien and the Invention of Myth (University Press of Kentucky, 2004), pp. 153–154 online.
- Roy G. Willis, World Mythology (Macmillan, 1993), p. 209 online.
- Katherine Mary Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1967, 1989), p. 41 online.
- J.F. Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Highlands Orally Collected (London, 1890), vol. 1, pp. 237–240 online, full text downloadable.
- Why Are Old Women Often the Face of Evil in Fairy Tales and Folklore? NPR, October 28, 2015