The Queen of My Self

Contrary to the assumptions of many women, the Triple Goddess model is not universal, nor is it really historical. In fact, the so-called ancient paradigm that enjoys so much popularity today is actually not quite as old as I am!

The age-related Triple Goddess was first articulated in so many words by Robert Graves, a classical scholar, mythographer and poet who in his 1948 study, The White Goddess, synthesized the nine most important early Greeks goddesses into three main types.

“As Goddess of the Underworld,” he writes, “she was concerned with Birth, Procreation and Death. As Goddess of the Earth she was concerned with the three seasons of Spring, Summer and Winter: she animated trees and plants and ruled all living creatures. As Goddess of the Sky she was the Moon in her three phases.”

Summing up the paradigm, he concludes, “As the New Moon or Spring, she was girl; as the Full Moon or Summer, she was woman; as the Old Moon or Winter, she was hag.”

Robert Graves’s Triple Goddess is associated only with the three elements of earth, air, and water, the three seasons of spring, summer, and winter, and just three phases of the moon — waxing, full, and dark.

Now wait a minute! Where is autumn? The leaves don’t just get crumbly and brown and fall off the trees at the end of summer. First they turn brilliant colors, a fabulous display of gorgeous glory before they disappear into winter. Does that not describe midlife women, who are more stunning and sturdy now than ever we were as young maidens?

And what about the waning moon? Where is that, Mr. Graves? While it might be tempting to think of the waning moon as getting smaller, weaker, dimmer, I prefer to relate to the waning stage as reducing, refining, condensing, like fine wine or rich broth. Less water and more juice.

He also compares the Maiden with air, the Mother with Earth and the Crone with water. Fire, any one? If women in our mid years are not about fire, we are not about anything. Our bodies are burning up alive. Our passions are rekindled. And our patience is fried. To a crisp!

During the past half century, Graves’s definition of three age-identified aspects of a Triple Goddess has worked its way thoroughly into today’s huge and diverse Goddess and New Age movements where it has been wholeheartedly embraced. But now there is an alternative — a Four- Fold Goddess whose four periods of growth and transformation resonate deeply with contemporary women.

Four, not the trinity, is considered the holy number in most Earth-honoring cultures. In numerology, four represents the generating virtue, the source from which all combinations are possible. It has long been a number of completion, stability and solidity, considered a perfect number, the root of all things.

My new construct of the four stages of a woman’s life — Maiden, Mother, Queen and Crone is a much more accurate description of the current Way of Womanhood. And they seem so natural, somehow. They are in complete metaphoric alignment with the pervasive way that peoples have always ordered existence into Four Quarters. The four quarters of the moon, the four seasons of the year, the four solstices and equinoxes, the four elements, the four cardinal directions of the Earth, the four periods of the day, the four suits of the tarot. When all four aspects are joined, the Goddess is complete: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And so are we.

Four-Fold Correspondences

Maiden                  Mother            Queen              Crone

Waxing Moon          Full Moon        Waning Moon     Dark Moon

Spring                        Summer             Autumn                Winter

Water                          Earth                     Fire                      Air

East                              South                     West                   North

Dawn                        Noon                        Sunset                Midnight


Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus