Who Am I Now?
Although I have been passionately devoted to the Many Splendored Goddess in Her complex multiplicity for more than thirty years now, I am not a believer in the Triple Goddess paradigm. It has never resonated with me because it belies what I believe to be the true nature of nature. The Triple Goddess in Her tripartite phases is widely understood to represent the complete cyclical wholeness of life. She Who is Three is likened to the moon, the tides, and the seasons, whose mutability She mirrors. And therein, lies the rub.
I am sorry, but thirty-five years of researching, teaching, and writing about Celestially Auspicious Occasions — the cycles of the cosmos and the Earthly seasons, and the multi-cultural ritual expressions that they inspire — I can state unequivocally that the moon has four quarters, not three, and that there are, as well, four seasons in the year.
For millennia, the three faces of the Triple Goddess have, in fact, accurately reflected the stages of women’s lives — the developing youth, the nurturing mother and the wise old woman. She still corresponds with the real life expectancy and experience of most women in the world even today who live pretty much as they always have. The reality of their existence dictates that they grow quickly through girlhood into early and prolonged maternity, then if they are lucky enough to survive multiple childbirths and general poverty, they pass through menopause directly into old age.
While certainly there is still much to learn from these models, the old triple-header construct is no longer all-inclusive. It doesn’t include a description of my life or the lives of other contemporary women in their middle years living in modern developed countries. It does not address our issues and needs, nor does it embrace our unique and unprecedented position in society. It does not even recognize our existence. The old stereotypes simply do not apply to us.
We have outgrown our tenure as Maidens and as Mothers, yet old age no longer follows immediately after menopause, which is why so many midlife women don’t see ourselves (yet) as Crones. Where is the authentic archetype for us? There are now, for the first time in herstory and history combined, entire multi-national generations of women for whom the Triple Goddess paradigm no longer resonates. For us — nearly 60 million climacteric women in the United States alone — the tri-level ideal is flawed.
We occupy a truly unique position, poised on the brink of uncharted waters. This extended and vigorous midlife period which we are now beginning to experience is largely unaccounted for in myth and archetype for the simple reason that such longevity has never before occurred for the great masses of women as a whole. We desperately need a new body of role models, examples, and teachers to encourage us as we explore the unfamiliar terrain of our changing lives and create new and joyful ways of being in charge of our own destiny.
Clearly it is time for a change of paradigm. Which is as it should be. Life is about nothing if not change, which is, after all, the greatest teaching of the cyclical Goddess. Her power and inspiration lies in Her infinite flexibility, Her adept adaptability, Her unbounded ability to always, always, always change. The Great Goddess, supreme mistress of the art of transformation will surely respond to the changes in our lives and times by enlarging the vision of Her Self to include Her fourth dimension — and ours — in Her archetypal embrace.
In the absence of a traditional mythic example to spur me on and sustain me through my midlife changes, I perceived the need to invent one. So I formulated a fourth stage of development that would place me after the Mother and before the Crone in a newly defined continuum of Womanhood, thus providing me and other women of my generation with a recognizable role model for our middle years: The Four Fold Goddess: The Maiden, The Mother, The Queen and The Crone.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.