Throughout recorded history, no portrayal of a woman has been demonized more than that of the hag or crone. She is the projected embodiment of everything patriarchal society resists and condemns. As a result, she is one manifestation of the collective Jungian shadow of our society, in which the things we are taught to fear and avoid take form. Just like the Jungian shadow self, the hag needs to be confronted, embraced, and integrated within ourselves and our society, as she holds the crucial medicine that will heal our global soul-sickness as a species. This mission is more important now than ever before.
The condemnation of the hag surpasses that of the “sinful” yet youthful sexual temptress, sorceress, and nymph archetypes. This is because, as an elderly woman without any children and living alone without a husband, she has seemingly failed to fulfill the patriarchal demand that a woman’s role in life is to bear and raise children. She has failed to fulfill the demands to be subservient to others around her, to not want for herself, to be silent, to have her life’s worth measured by a man she is bound to, to be uneducated, to be less than.
She is sometimes vilified as monstress, demoness, and sinner; at other times as child devourer, soul stealer, murderess, madwoman. But always she is called wicked. The hag’s priorities are not those of society around her nor of the roles they dictate for her. She flies via broom, distaff, cauldron, or sometimes a goat through the night sky against a full moon, not giving a flying fuck whether her life, appearance, or desirability is palatable to male appetites.
Sometimes her face is shockingly green like the wisdom of the plant realm and like the color of prosperity — such prosperity that endangered the lives of women, as they were historically killed and tried as Witches for owning land and wealth without a husband. Sometimes her face is frighteningly blue, like the expanse of the midnight sky without limitations or constraints, like the psychic and astral depths of the oceans, or like the immense power of speech. She not only has a voice but uses it as she damn well pleases, a cardinal sin in a society influenced by religious texts demanding that a woman be silent — to be seen and not heard. In fact, she doesn’t just use her booming and shrill voice, she cackles, reveling in her own “wickedness” and taking pure delight in it.
The hag lives life on her own terms and plays by her own rules, preferring the companionship of familiars and plants over that of those with weak minds and wills. Relegated to a powerless position in life, the hag doesn’t live idly until her time is over — she demands the power that was denied to her and is willing to take it back. She is an educated woman in both traditional and esoteric knowledge. She studies the stars in the sky, communes with the spirits, and learns the forbidden arts of magic to heal and curse, to destroy and transform. No one decides what her truth is; she is in charge of that.
Not only has she taken a bite from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, but it is also the main ingredient in her recipe for apple pie. The hag dwells in our bloodstream as the ancestral memories of our own elders who have come before us. She lives in our souls as memories of when we were once elders ourselves. She lives in our collective consciousness as myths, folklore, fairy tales, and even modern media. She demands attention and will use cunning and trickery or any means necessary to assist her in her goals. She holds stories that need to be heard, truths that need to be understood, and lessons that need to be learned. Unlike that of her male counterpart, the archetype of the old sage and wizened man, her knowledge is seen as dangerous, wild, heretical.
Her mere existence is a harsh reminder that death comes for us all, that beauty fades and our bodies break down — an idea that we as a society are programmed to ignore and try to prevent as long as we possibly can. We are detached from the death process, the destruction of the Earth, how we treat animals, our elders, and ourselves — and will do almost anything to avoid these realities. The hag stands in stark contrast to this willful ignorance, being a mirror of these things about ourselves, our world, and fatality that we don’t want to look at but need to.
Yet if you learn to confront and befriend the hag, you will find that she is also the wise crone, the adoptive grandmother, the caretaker of the misfits and the lost, the protectress of the woods and even of nature herself. The hag is the goddess herself. She understands what truly matters in life and that sometimes we need to break arbitrary societal rules to live within our own sovereignty and protect what really matters. She holds a memory of times past, times we have forgotten — a memory of who we once were, how the Earth once was — and thereby holds the keys to paradise lost, and sometimes contempt for how far we have strayed.
In this book, Danielle Dulsky challenges us to confront and befriend the hag, urging us to find that crone within ourselves regardless of our gender, to honor her as a goddess, to unlock the mystery of her cackling and revelry, her severity and mercy, her poison and her healing salve. Thus, Danielle serves as bardess, storyteller, and guide through the forbidden forests of our own psyches and souls. She does it in a fashion that only she herself could do, in an immensely beautiful poetic language that creates a landscape in which the hag not only is able to exist but can gladly thrive without being watered down and without diminishing the nature of who she is and what she stands for. This is seasoned with practical and insightful guidance, rituals, and meditations that enable us to ground and empower the wisdom we glean in these pages.
I invite you to savor this enchanting brew of stories and spells; Danielle’s work is a rare and potent balm for the modern soul: bold, exquisite, empowering, and healing in its concoction and execution. Seasons of Moon and Flame is an exceptional achievement and an essential read for anyone seeking to honor the mysteries of one of the most powerful archetypes in both modern Witchcraft and folkloric Witchcraft — that of the wild crone. It is a key addition to the libraries of all Witches and the Witchcurious alike.