The changing faces of female power
Loved this essay! I wish there was an outlet for the wisdom of mothers and crones--right now the only women anyone wants to hear from are the maidens! But women have so much wisdom to share from which the world would benefit. There's a little book I'm currently reading called "Maiden, Mother, Crone" by DJ Conway that you might like (https://www.amazon.com/Maiden-Mother-Crone-Reality-Goddess/dp/0875421717/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=conway+maiden+mother&qid=1626440361&sr=8-1 ).
Some are reclaiming "crone," too: Here is a blogger who goes by the moniker Crone, explaining why she is using that name: https://www.squaretwo.org/ldcrone/Post1_2_2021.html
And here's a description of the painting she uses on her site, which is very striking: https://www.squaretwo.org/ldcrone/Post1_3_2021.html
In my experience, there is a woman left out of the Maiden, Mother and Crone formula. She's the Warrior. She is the strong, gender nonconforming radical lesbian feminist. She's the one who saved my life when I was a Maiden. I salute her here and now.
I have spoken to many older women who I dignified with the term matriarch, only to have them turn around and tell me how much they love the term crone. Whilst lots of older women feel sad that they are invisible, others treat invisibility as a superpower (heck so does pop culture). No one says no to granny - she can do as she pleases.
This is a great post, although I would add that I think “sex positive” or “girl boss” ideals also undercut the archetype of the Maiden. I have recently been reading about life cycle archetypes and I really like the descriptions of the Maiden Arc by K.M. Weiland and Kim Hudson. According to these writers, the archetype of a Maiden is about overcoming dependence on childhood authority figures and learning to tell the difference between predatory and protective suitors. While the Maiden necessarily transforms her social world from within, the Hero has greater lassitude for rushing forth protecting the social world from without. This acknowledges that even in earlier stages of life young women are less typical than young men to fulfill the the Hero archetype, given women’s physical, financial, or interpersonal constraints.
“Sex postive” and “girl boss” ideals occur to me as alternate ways in which young women are controlled by society, not as reflections of budding personal power or the ability to distinguish between false and true love. After all, what is the Girlboss but a rebranding of Cinderella, doing all the work and having no time for relationships? Or the Cool Girl, if not Bluebeard’s bride, ignoring all the red flags?
I suspect at one of the reason many young women today are angered and frightened with regards to the Mother archetype is that many feel they haven't successfully fulfilled the Maiden Arc, obtaining a measure of control over their decisions and selecting from choices including some in their interests.
I do agree that ignoring the progression of this archetype into later archetypes has helped to get to this point. A life stage shouldn’t be just about posing forever in one frozen state, but about transforming and growing up.
I truly appreciate your essay, Mary. However, I would like to clarify a bit of female history. In Medieval times and in other eras, women had choices besides marriage and the convents. While social conventions strongly promoted the idea that women marry either a man or marry Christ, a significant number of maidens, who grew up in their parent's homes, never left.
Young people were generally associated with their parent’s family business, be it farm or craft or trade. Otherwise, they would apprentice in a trade and spend the later part of childhood in the home/business of a master.
The word “spinster, ” (one who spins cloth) was used to describe a woman who, in many cases, never left her parent’s home, never married and never entered the nunnery. A percentage of maidens who entered the convent, departed later for a secular life. Some married. Others remained single.
In the Middle Ages, some women took religious vows but lived independently, in cities or in the country, alone or in small groups with other women.
Given the advanced educational opportunities available in the convent, some women were able to leave monastic life with a broad array of skills that allowed them to live successful independent lives. Most women who entered the convent were high born or had aristocratic sponsors.
In the past, divisions of labor were far more sex specific, although there are many accounts of females, particularly lowborn girls and maidens learning “male” trades.
Young girls and boys were strongly indoctrinated into the culture, religion and the family and work duties of their times. However, there we're always those, of both sexes, who defied convention and lived independent lives, either openly or secretly.
Excellent! This piece is in close conversation with Amy Laura Hall's book, 'Conceiving Parenthood,' a work that consolidated my own antipathy to the myth of progress.
crystals and woo-woo terms was my exact experience looking into neopaganism and my disappointment was immense. i was quite interested from a cycles of life perspective with how they defined these rites of passage but they end up talking like a bunch of new age fruit cakes about vibrations, auras, and energy.
can we just appreciate what we have in front of our eyes? isn't that good enough? i'm not about treating spirituality as literal truth or getting into the supernatural and the superstitious. i guess i'm stuck with harry potter (but also your essay which does a nice job).
A book that changed how I perceive the arc of "maiden, mother, matriarch" was Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset which won the 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Penguin Classics translation is the best. Even though the novel is set in the 1300s in Norway, I was surprised by how much I could relate to Kristin's struggles and growth. I would highly recommend for anyone who wants to read a novel that can convey deeper truths better than a work of nonfiction can explain.
Previously I'd mentioned you reminding me of natural truths.
Now I admit to never seeing this, intuitively or consciously.
There's still 3 of your past essays to read, so there's more to look forward to short term.
Still, I can't wait for your next essay which I'll assume will be in about 2 weeks.
You brought tears to my eyes... <3
As a 54-year-old person who chose not to have children and who has always resisted cages and categorization, I appreciate this essay. I don't feel the need to reclaim any of these categorizations, as I don't identify with any of them in the first place.
Love it. I think the Crone is powerful because she is less dependent on the relationships that Mothers need so dearly. She's the Maiden 2.0, unencumbered. In that sense, I think the Mother is the hiccup in the life cycle. I wonder though about women who do not have children... do they go from Maiden to Crone? But Crone is really about the liberation from childrearing.