Evil stepmothers have nothing on these ladies. The crone or old woman is the most fearsome part of many cultures because she has seen and done it all. She is the grandmother who may also be a sorceress, a witch, a hag. She no longer has the beauty of youth, and she suffers no fools. Having brought her children into the world, she can and does take them out. Here are seven of my favorites, from several traditions.
Asase Yaa (Ashanti West African) : She represents the womb of the earth from whom we are all birthed and will return to at our death. The Akan people of West Africa regard Asase Yaa as Mother Earth, the earth goddess of fertility and the upholder of truth. When a member of the Akan tribe wants to prove his credibility, he touches his lips to the soil. A farmer must ask her permission to plough a field. Asase Yaa is very powerful, though no temples are dedicated to her, instead she is worshipped in the fields. Another tradition holds that because Thursday is reserved as Asase Yaa’s day, the Akan generally abstain from tilling the land on that day. Her favoured people are workers in the fields, her animal is the goat, and planet Jupiter is her symbol.
Baubo (Greek) : A bawdy Goddess crone< who makes Demeter laugh after Persephone is abducted by exposing herself, in a ritual gesture called anasyrma (“lifting of skirts”). A set of statuettes from Priene<, a Greek city on the west coast of Asia Minor, are usually identified as “>Baubo figurines, representing the female body as the face in the lower part of the abdomen. Some folks believe she is a very ancient goddess of the forest and of food like acorns and wild pigs,but later reduced to a servant or nurse. Read more in The Metamorphosis of Baubo: Myths of Woman’s Sexual Energy
From then on, Baubo has been celebrated as a symbol of bawdy female humor and is usually depicted as a face just above the vagina with two chubby legs, causing ruckus with no underpants and making everybody laugh. She is the one and only vulvic clown! Baubo’s attitude is shut up and laugh, make fun of yourself.
A similar story is told of the Japansese goddess, Ama No Uzumi, who brought the sun goddess Amaterasu back out of hiding.
Coatlicue (Aztec), also known as Teteoinan (also transcribed Teteo Inan), “The Mother of Gods” (Classical Nahuatl:Cōhuātlīcue [koːwaːˈt͡ɬiːkʷe], Tēteô īnnān), is the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon, stars, and Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. She is also known as Toci (Tocî, “our grandmother”) and Cihuacoatl(Cihuācōhuātl, “the lady of the serpent”), the patron of women who die in childbirth
She is represented as a woman wearing a skirt of writhing snakes and a necklace made of human hearts, hands, and skulls. Her feet and hands are adorned with claws and her breasts are depicted as hanging flaccid from pregnancy. Her face is formed by two facing serpents (after her head was cut off and the blood spurt forth from her neck in the form of two gigantic serpents),referring to the myth that she was sacrificed during the beginning of the present creation.
Most Aztec artistic representations of this goddess emphasize her deadly side, because Earth, as well as loving mother, is the insatiable monster that consumes everything that lives. She represents the devouring mother, in whom both the womb and the grave exist.
Kali (Indian) : Goddess of destruction and rebirth. A similar story is told of her and Sekhmet, whose destruction of the humankind was halted with many gallons of red-tinted beer. This Hindu goddess is associated with empowerment, shakti, which becomes available to a person who is able to transcend the ego. Shiva and Kali grant liberation by removing the illusion of the ego. Thus we are the eternal I AM and not the body.
The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Since Shiva is called Kāla—the eternal time—Kālī, his consort, also means “Time” or “Death” (as in time has come). Hence, Kāli is the Goddess of Time and Change. Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilator of evil forces still has some influence.
Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also revered as Bhavatārini (literally “redeemer of the universe”). Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess.Kālī is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. Shiva lies in the path of Kali, whose foot on Shiva subdues her anger.
Cailleach Bear (Celtic): The hag and destroyer Goddess who ruled over disease, death, wisdom, seasonal rites and weather magic. The Neolithic goddess Cailleach, known variously as the “blue hag”, the “Bear goddess” and “Boar goddess”, “owl faced”, and “ancient woman”, has survived through the ages. Coming from the continent, Her worship spread to the British Isles early after the recession of the glaciers. The proto-Celtic peoples honored Cailleach and blended Her varying aspects, creating images invoking both love and terror. The various names that Cailleach has been worshipped in lend a clue to Her wide spread worship: Boi, Bui, Cally Berry, Caillech Bherri, Cailliach, Cailliaech, Carline, Digde, Dige, Dirra, Dirri, Duineach, Hag of Beara, Mala Liath, Mag-Moullach, Scotia, and Nicnevin.
Cailleach in modern Gaelic means ‘old wife’, but interestingly, it originally meant a ‘veiled one’ (from caille, a veil). In all her various Goddess forms, Cailleach is seen as a Crone Goddess who embodies winter. She is sometimes depicted as an old hag with the teeth of a wild bear and boar’s tusks or else is depicted as a one-eyed giantess who leaps from peak to peak, wielding Her magical white rod and blasting the vegetation with frost. Cailleach’s white rod, or slachdan, made of birch, bramble, willow or broom, is a Druidic rod, which gives Her power over the weather and the elements. The Cailleach displays several traits befitting the personification of Winter: she herds deer, she fights Spring, and her staff freezes the ground.
Cailleach is also a goddess who governs dreams and inner realities. She is the goddess of the sacred hill, the Sidhe, and the place where we enter into the hidden realm of the Fey and spirit beings. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods. Sacred stones, the bones of the earth, are Her special haunts. Cailleach is connected to the ‘bean sidhe’ or banshee (which means ‘supernatural woman’) who are the wild women of the Fey.
Grandmother Spiderwoman (Native American -many traditions) : An old wise woman who gave humankind the sun and fire. This story is quoted from the book by Paula Gunn Allen called Grandmothers of The Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook.
She was a great wise woman, whose powers are beyond imagining. It is the power of thought, we say, but not the kind of thought people do all the time. It is the power that creates all that is, and it is the power of all that is.
In that place where she was alone and complete with her power, she thought about her power, how it sang to her, how she dreamed from it, how she wished to have someone to share the songdream with her. Not because she was lonely, but because the power’s song was so complete, she wished for there to be others who could also know it. She knew this was the power’s wish just as it was hers. For she and her power were together and of one mind. They were two, but they were the same thing.
Badb: (Irish) A shape shifting warrior Goddess who symbolizes the cycles of life and death, wisdom and inspiration. She was also regularly depicted as an active participant in warfare; indeed, the battlefield was sometimes referred to as “the garden of the Badb”.During the First Battle of Mag Tuired, Badb—along with her sisters, Macha and Morrígan—fights on the side of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Using their magic, the three sisters incite fear and confusion among the Fir Bolg army, conjuring “compact clouds of mist and a furious rain of fire” and allowing their enemies “neither rest nor stay for three days and nights”. Badb plays a similar role in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, terrorising and disorienting the forces of Queen Medb and causing many to fall on their own weapons. She would often take the form of a screaming raven or crow, striking fear into those who heard her,and could also be heard as a voice among the corpses on a battlefield.