Book Review: Hidden Passages, Tales to Honor the Crones

I had the pleasure of reviewing Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones by Vila Spiderhawk as part of her Pump Up Your Book virtual tour

About Hidden Passages
Brimming with hope and beautifully written, these eight stories of women helping women and girls through the challenges and transitions of life will surprise you with every turn of the page. In the opening tale of Mima Po, a young girl overcomes her fear of a woman who is markedly different than the other women in the girl’s community. Gossiping women whisper that Mima Po is odd, perhaps a witch casting mysterious spells and incantations. Children are frightened of her, but little Kathleen is more intrigued than she is frightened, and she overcomes her fear to befriend the elderly woman, who turns out to be Czechoslovakian rather than demonic. The older woman teaches the girl something of her own beliefs and perspective, and the girl learns to “see with her heart.”
In Passages, a girl moves through a rites of passage into womanhood, both symbolic and literal, among her tribe of watching women, bonding with the other women as well as with the feminine in nature, bonding with the divine, and erasing boundaries between all.
In a trilogy of tales, Maiden, Mother, Crone, we see the passages of the girl-child, the adult woman who is her mother, and of the elderly woman, the grandmother. Each has her own unique perspective to offer the others.
Nanu’s Story illustrates the life-giving force in women, the biological drive, the unfaltering love of mother for child, unchangeable even by death. The woman, Tichu, is a kind of mother of all, teaching survival skills and passing on her wisdom to those who will accept it. Her femininity is lush and full, in all senses of the word, and she knows a pride in herself from which the modern woman could learn much.
Gita’s Journey delves deeper still into the mother-child connection, exploring the process of grief when one is lost to the other, from the deepest and darkest shadows of despair into the eventual light of acceptance.
Lavinia is something of a ghost story of women, where the reader wonders at times who is living and who is not.
What all these tales have in common, aside from the story of various life passages traveled by women over time and various cultures, is a language that is as vivid and rich as these women in their femininity. The author combines all the gentle kindness that is woman, unabashedly emotional, with the enduring strength and time-won wisdom that earns a woman the proud designation of “crone.” SpiderHawk makes a feminist statement in each one of her tales without being abrasive or didactic or challenging. Her women, her crones, simply are as they are, and by spending time with them in these tales, we realize ourselves enriched by the gentle strength of their distinctly feminine presence.
These are women as women should be: unafraid of living, unafraid of expressing their femininity, unafraid of aging, unafraid of facing up to their own fears and weaknesses and transforming them into strengths, unafraid to confront those who would deny them their place, simply – unafraid. We should all wish to be such terrific crones.

My Review

This book is a must read in my mind - the stories are an exploration of what it means to be a woman and transcend time, space and worlds to delve deeply into your soul.  My favorite story was the first one - the tale spoke to me of overcoming stereotypes, objections and small-mindedness to find true value in human beings and shared the sameness of womanhood despite what others would see as obvious differences that should keep people apart.

The other story that spoke directly to me was that of Tichu in Nanu's story - a woman who braved many hardships and risked significantly to bring learning and health to her people and choice to the women in her tribe.   This is a tale of courage and selflessness that is beautifully written.

All of the stories have wonderful messages for girls, women and crones of all ages, and it also reinforced for me, the importance of collecting memories and stories from all generations to celebrate the lives of family, of women and of self.

If you have a hard to buy for woman on your holiday list, one who loves reading, than this is the book you should get for her!  

About Vila Spider Hawk

Vila SpiderHawk, author of Hidden Passages: Tales To Honor The Cronesand her husband share a log home of their design in the woods of Pennsylvania where they live with their five cats and enjoy frequent visits with their many woodland friends. SpiderHawk is an avid gardener and a gourmet vegan cook.
Vila is taking a different view on the aging of womankind. Hidden Passages is a collection of tales, some of which are interconnected, others which stand alone, all of which deal with women who are finding or already using the wisdom acquired from years of life experience.
Perhaps it is my own “crone years” creeping up on me, but there seems to be a healthy change in how we look at women in and beyond their midlife years. In a youth-obsessed society, at least in the United States, so much of the current dictates point towards a Quixotic pursuit of the impossible, that is, finding the fountain of youth through plastic and cosmetic surgery, an endless array of surely useless creams and lotions, Botox shots and facial peels, diets that lead to eating disorders, and a general wave of ensuing self-esteem problems. Someone is getting rich. No one, however, is getting any younger.
You can find Vila at
Vila was also kind enough to share her insights with me on Friday, you can read the short interview here