Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Danu, Crones and Discernment

The long days and short nights bring a whirl of external activities. Shortly before Summer Solstice, on 18th June, was the feast of the goddess Danu, for whom I have a special devotion. I consider her the local goddess since it is said that her tribe, the Tuatha dé Danaan, landed in what became known as Erin, in the mountain bounding the parish I live in. I think of Danu as the Crone of Crones, the Grandmother Goddess over all. Over a period of spiritual discernment I perceived her as matron over what I call The Age of the Crone.

Slieve Anieran, or the Iron Mountain, overlooks Ballinagleragh and Drumshambo in County Leitrim, and it is atop this mountain it is said their ships of silver and gold landed. But they burnt their boats and stayed until they disappeared into the sídh after the Second Battle of Moytura when the Milesians defeated them. The Bronze Age had truly arrived I suppose. Perhaps this was when Danu's feast day was on the wane and Solstice celebrations came to the fore. The Grand Old Woman, the gift giver, began to be less valued. New gods and goddesses came to be worshipped.

But she is still very present in the land, in our rivers and our memory. She may be the Great Mother when you look her up. However, I experience her as the Great Grandmother. The oldest and wisest crone of all. She is the abundant donater. In that respect, she is the great matron of those who are in the age of retirement or semi-retirement.  While we do have our ailments and may need naps to steward our energy levels, there is still a great deal we can contribute.

The Age of the Crone is one where we can donate our time, wisdom, and what energy we have to spare. Our great gift is having the long view. Like Hekate, we can see the past, know the present, and have very firm hunches about the future. The word donation is derived from Danu's name after all! It's all about the flow of plenty.

Yet I also suspect that Danu, the gift giver, would have us sharpen our discernment. Discernment is that keenest ingredient in any cornucopia.  In this uncertain age, discernment is often in short supply. Anger, contempt, suffering: all these we see in abundance. But discernment is like the reaper who winnows out the chaff and retains the kernal of truth and wisdom. Discernment is a gift for perceiving the need from desire, the suffering in the outbursts of hatred, the self-service in caring gestures.

Danu is the river of life. She is also the river of love that will smooth the stoney bed, re-shaping them. She is the matron of the wildlife who live from and in the river's habitat.  They, too, play a part in changing its course over time. The otters and beavers, the rats and trout, the lone heron swooping through Her glen - these are her Beautiful People, too. The moss and lichen are all part of the trophic cascade that is community. So, too, are we Her Shining Ones.


Let it Flow! The wisdom and discernment of Danu, may She bestow these gifts to us all.

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Tagged in: crone Danu discernment flow
Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert Wednesday, 28 June 2017

    This is very beautiful and I really liked the part about discernment. It made me tik, and appreciate the ability hat develops over time as a result o training the mind to look without judgement and see without prejudice,or is it the other way around? Regardless, thanks from one crone to another. Blessed be.

  • Andrew
    Andrew Saturday, 01 July 2017

    I've always thought of the defeat of the Tuatha as the coming of the Iron Age because of the Fae hatred of iron. The Tuatha retreated to the hills/mounds and where do the Fae live...?

  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith Saturday, 01 July 2017

    The Iron Age is a bit of a late comer at 700BC. It isn't that the Fae hate iron. They need iron to break ties irrevocably with a particular plane. It was probably why they were drawn to Slieve Anieran to leave their four cities in the first place. And the retreat from the Second Battle of Moytura tracks through Lough Arrow to Lough Allen, right smack by Arigna (iron mines) and their homeplace at Slieve Anieran. Knowing the relic landscape as I do it feels intuitively that Moytura took place during the Bronze Age. The dé Danaan were said to have magical (superior) weapons and may even have brought the technology with them. They were defeated when the Milesians had a spy to steal their secrets.

  • Andrew
    Andrew Saturday, 01 July 2017

    But isn't iron considered deadly to the Fae, or at least allergic to it?

    There is also contention as to when Celts (Milesians, being the last) arrived in Ireland.
    " They were defeated when the Milesians had a spy to steal their secrets."
    Of course they would say that. Can't admit that they were in fact beaten by superior technology.

    Interestingly considering that the Danube was likely named after Danu the people who took the her belief to Ireland may have come from the Orkney Islands via Belgium (the Orkney vole's closest living relatives are from Belgium, and Orkney has the oldest stone circles in the UK and Ireland) putting the origin of the Tuatha in the Neolithic.

    From there it looks like we have expansion of people and ideas into the rest of the British isles.

    "The Early and the Middle Neolithic also saw the construction of large megalithic tombs across the British Isles. Because they housed the bodies of the dead, these tombs have typically been considered by archaeologists to be a possible indication of ancestor veneration by those who constructed them. Such Neolithic tombs are common across much of western Europe, from Iberia to Scandinavia, and they were therefore likely brought to the British Isles along with, or roughly concurrent to, the introduction of farming.[15] A widely held theory amongst archaeologists is that these megalithic tombs were intentionally made to resemble the long timber houses which had been constructed by Neolithic farming peoples in the Danube basin from circa 4800 BCE.[16]"

  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith Tuesday, 11 July 2017

    It is all grist to the story mill. Since it is pre-history there is neither propaganda or any written record. Just the stones and our imagination to do with them what it will.

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