In ancient paganism, the word Crone denoted an elder priestess or tribal matriarch; a cognate word is "crown," the symbol of a leader. The word was made pejorative when the Christian Church redefined all elder priestesses of the old religion as malevolent witches. Similarly, the word "hag" was once derived from Greek hagia—a holy woman—and also became a Christianized term for a witch.
Viewed as an underworld deity who cared for the dead, the Goddess as Crone ruled autumnal harvest festivals, when the spirits of dead ancestors could visit their descendants and share in the harvest feast. Among the Celts, the well-known "death's head at the feast" used to be an actual skull of an ancestor, set at the table to receive offerings, often with a candle set within it, to simulate the warmth of life and the light of vision.