In today’s blog we’re going to look at the idea of the ‘Triple Goddess’ archetype of ‘Maiden, Mother, Crone’ as represented in mythology and in certain Pagan and Spiritual traditions. Generally interpreted as being based around the phases of the moon and the female reproductive cycle, how relevant is this archetype today and is it truly representative of a woman’s journey through life in today’s world? Buckle up, we’re going to go a bit feminist on you as we explore each stage, whilst offering you some health and wellbeing advice at the same time.
First, time for a history lesson! The concept of a single goddess representing a three-fold aspect is primarily a modern one and was popularised by the folklorist Robert Graves. In his work, ‘The White Goddess’, Graves theorised that if we looked back at the mythology of various European cultures, you would often find an archetypical triad of goddesses or ‘Triple-Goddess’ present in their traditions. Although much of Graves’ work has been discredited, the concept is still alive and well today and popularised in media and modern religions.
Why Triple Goddess and not, Triple God, you ask? Well, in a world that has seemed to be almost wholly patriarchal throughout the centuries, I guess you are right to ask the question. We reckon that the concept of ‘Maiden, Mother, Crone’ and linking the archetype to the cycles of the moon was just another way for men to frame women as being ‘other’ or ‘different’ from themselves and therefore not equal. It’s also kind of a lame way for them to constantly remind us that we get periods and are only deemed useful for reproductive purposes (told you we would get a bit feminist).
Speaking of feminism, if we look at it from another point of view, some forms of feminist spirituality view the ‘Maiden, Mother, Crone’ archetype as a prime example of society’s treatment of women. We revere the youth, beauty and innocence of the Maiden, we honour and hold the Mother in high-esteem but we revile and ignore the aged Crone. Essentially, once our reproductive usefulness is over, women are seen as ‘less’. Culturally, many women are now trying to empower and reclaim the title of ‘Crone’ in the same way that the gay community has reclaimed “queer” as a word to be proud of.
So, what does all this mean for the modern woman? Well, we’re going to explore each stage of womanhood and look at whether any of the typical descriptions still hold weight, how they’ve changed and how we can stay fit and healthy through the different stages of our lives. So we’re giving you three things….get it? Right, we’ll stop trying to be clever now and get on with it.
Young, innocent and full of optimism, the Maiden is often thought of as virginal due to her perceived pure state of mind. She represents the youthful phase of a woman’s life; beauty, potential and new life. In the cycles of nature , she is associated with Spring, dawn, sunrise and the crescent-to-waxing phase of the Moon.
In reality, young women see their bodies going through many changes both inside and out. Fuelled by hormones, emotions run high along with a growing desire for independence. Body shapes change, acne and hair start sprouting and the menstrual cycle kicks in for 50 odd years of unbridled inconvenience. With the rise of social media, academic competitiveness and concerns about the future, stress levels inevitably increase.
At this early stage in life, it’s important for young women to learn how to manage and reduce stress through practices like mindfulness, meditation and regular exercise. Healthy eating is also important for growth and development. In order for our bodies to grow and develop properly, we need a varied and balanced diet that provides us with lots of nutrients to help us balance our moods and maintain our energy levels. Establishing an early understanding of the benefits of eating right and exercising can set you on the right path for life. Studies show that staying healthy in your late teens and twenties can help to lower the risk of heart disease in middle age.
Whilst some of the descriptions of the Maiden can seem quite sexist and wishy-washy, the idea of the Maiden as being full of potential and optimism is quite empowering. We believe that it’s the word ‘maiden’ itself that causes us to feel a bit ‘blah’ about this perceived archetype as we associate it with the weak damsel in distress featured in many a fairy story.
The embodiment of nurturing, the Mother is revered for her ability to create life. She is inherently feminine and maternal, providing care and support for all those around her. She prioritises the needs of others before herself and is strongly associated with adulthood and responsibility. In the cycle of nature she represents the Summer, the full Moon and ovulation (bit ‘on the nose’ if you ask us).
The motherhood stage of a woman’s life has probably undergone the most change in the modern world. Today, women are expected to do it all – not only are we responsible for child-rearing, there is now an expectation that women go out to work and develop their own careers. We personally know a few women who are perceived as ‘less’ for choosing to stay at home and look after their children. Women now have societal pressure placed upon them to have successful careers, the perfect family, a picture-perfect home, excellent social circle and a life straight out of an advert. It’s too much.
Most of the women we know in this phase of their lives are stressed, exhausted and overcompensating. Then there are those who get to this stage in life who have either decided not to have children or who aren’t able to conceive. Society judges them in a whole different way for placing their own needs above others and they are often perceived as domineering, selfish and career-orientated when the truth is they are also struggling to juggle the expectations of all those around them.
For women at this stage in life, it’s important to prioritise self-care – it’s not selfish, it’s survival. Take some time out for yourself regularly and look after your needs. You can still be nurturing but you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time. The importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise is still valid in this life stage too but you may need to start taking additional supplements to balance your hormones and keep your energy levels up.
The Mother archetype is still valid to a point but the expectation that all of the ‘caring and nurturing’ should be done by the woman alone is just ridiculous. It takes two to tango and these days men are expected to step up to the plate as much as women. In this modern world, women in the ‘Mother’ phase of their lives need a little support too and can’t be expected to care about everything, all the time.
Yes, we’ve sneaked in an extra stage into the female life journey here. Many people now incorporate a fourth female archetype into the stages of womanhood and by God, is she our favourite. The Wild Woman or Enchantress represents the freedom of the adventurer. She is bold, confident and experienced. She takes risks, she does what she wants and she goes her own way. In the cycle of nature she represents the Autumn and the Waning Moon.
Being a modern concept, it’s natural to feel akin to the Wild Woman. She represents the stage of a woman’s life where the children are old enough to look after themselves and the focus is back on our own interests and desires. We start to rediscover our dreams and take that leap of faith in a brand new interest or experience. Studies show that we are at our most creative and do our most outstanding work at this age. Unfortunately, this is also the stage in our lives where perimenopause and then menopause rears it’s ugly head and our emotions run high as we deal with fluctuating hormones, night sweats, insomnia and a barrage of other unpleasant symptoms.
At this stage in your life, it’s important once again to prioritise self-care and utilise mindfulness techniques to help you with the changes that your body is going through. Some women opt for HRT whilst others choose to use supplements to help regulate their hormones. Adopting new sleep routines or helpful techniques is also a priority as our sleep cycles are interrupted and start to change with our bodies. CBT or counselling sessions can also be helpful with coming to terms with the changes that you are going through.
Personally, if we were going to keep any archetype, it would be the Wild Woman. It’s only recently in modern media that we have seen more films about women embracing adventure as shown in movies such as ‘Wild’ and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. We’re quite capable of having our own experiences without ending up in a relationship or being rescued by a man. Actually, we don’t know of any women who need to be rescued these days – it’s more the other way around!
Lastly, we have the Crone. Unfortunately, society has conditioned us to conjure up the image of some kind of evil hag when we think of this word but it really could not be further from the truth. The Crone represents the post-childbearing years and governs aging, endings, prophecy and finally, death. She is closely associated with Winter and darkness and the Moon’s dark phase.
In reality, women in the Crone stage of their lives today are still expected to provide nurture and care to those around them. From looking after grandchildren to helping partners and relatives, the idea of an older woman merely representing aging is frankly, laughable. Women at this stage in their lives do often have to deal with many health problems though from arthritis to diabetes to cardiovascular problems. However, the good news is that studies suggest psychological wellbeing peaks at 82 as there are more opportunities to spend time with friends and family and try new things.
However, social isolation and loneliness are still a very real concern for older women so it’s important to maintain ties with organisations and clubs and stay active in your community. Meditation and mindfulness practices have also been shown to boost creativity and mental clarity and help protect against age-related cognitive decline. It has also shown to be helpful with pain management, circulation and feelings of loneliness.
The passage of time is inevitable, but not always welcome. The archetype of the Crone is badly in need of a rebrand or a reclaiming of the term ‘crone’. The way we treat our elderly in the Western world is frankly appalling and we don’t need this old stereotype in the way. Our ‘Wise Women’ should be honoured and revered – far more than the ‘Mother’ in my opinion. It’s experience that counts and we can only learn to move forward by embracing the knowledge and wisdom of our past.
So, what do you reckon? Do you think the archetype still holds up or has the modern woman gone beyond the need to be classified and pigeonholed? Personally, we think the idea of women being worshipped can only be a good thing but the descriptions and naming conventions are in need of a major overhaul. Life for the modern woman is tough and it’s only getting tougher, so make sure that you are taking good care of yourself and the women in your lives. Until next time, we’re off to smash the patriarchy…