Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

A life-long lover of the moon, I live in a constant state of lunar awareness and I attend to the process of my life and living in conscious accordance with the cycle of its four phases. It has long troubled me that so many Triple Goddess models leave out one element, direction, season, or moon phase entirely, and I yearned for the full range of inspiration that can only be offered by an all-encompassing Goddess of Four Quarters.

I searched and researched for Four-Fold Goddess and found that though not common, even fairly rare, there have been a few Goddesses over time who have embodied four phases of being.

Anat or Anata, was the Great Goddess of the ancient Levant, the area now occupied by Israel, Transjordan and Syria. She had four separate aspects: Warrior, Mother, Virgin and Wanton.

Terrible as a war deity, she was regarded as a just and benevolent goddess of beauty, sexuality, and of the fertility of crops, animals, and men. Her grace and beauty were considered epitome of perfection.

Although she is regarded as the mother of gods, she is most commonly referred to as Virgin or Maiden. She is sometimes called Wanton, in reference to her putative lust for sexual intercourse and the bloodshed of war. Her other names include Mother of all Nations, Virgin Mistress of the Gods, Wet Nurse, Lady, Strength of Life, Anat the Destroyer and Lady of the Mountain.

Isis, the Egyptian Mistress of the Four Elements, stands at the center of all existence where Her quadruple energies project through space and time to intersect at that precise point where life is created. 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. But Isis ruled all of the forces of nature, including fire, fall, and the waning moon. The Four-Fold Goddess of Eternal Return is the turning of the wheel of life, and She is also the road beneath the wheel.

I am all that

Is, was or

Ever will be.

-Words of Isis inscribed on the Temple at Sais, Egypt

The Old Religion of tribal Italy also featured an all-encompassing four-aspected lunar goddess called Tana. As the new moon, She was Diana, the virginal Maiden Goddess, adventurous and daring. As the full moon, She was the Great Round Mother Losna. As the waning moon, She was Manea, the Goddess of the Night Spirits and the departing souls. And as the dark moon She was Umbrea, Goddess of the Underworld, keeper of shadows and secrets and all things hidden.

The Aztecs worshipped a four-part moon goddess as well, called Tlazolteotl, also known as Ixcuina. When the moon was new and waxing, She appeared as a young, brilliant, enticing maiden who was perhaps a bit cruel. When the moon was full, She became a sensuous young woman who loved excitement and lusty pleasures. The waning moon brought Her priestess aspect to the fore. This was Her time to forgive transgressions and bestow blessings of fertility and bounty. As the old dark moon, She was a monster who stole fortunes and ruined lovers.

Hecate, honored as the Greek Triple Goddess, was also called Hecate of the Crossroads, for Her role as the divine crossing guard, leading the newly departed souls across the boundary that separates life from death. A crossroad indicates two intersecting paths creating four corners, four quarters. Although Hecate, who is associated with the moon, is usually depicted as three-faced: one face looking straight ahead, full front, flanked by two faces in profile, each facing outward. But we can easily imagine Her fourth face looking backward, and thus rendered invisible by the other three — just like the dark fourth phase of the moon when it hides its face from us.

We know the moon has four phases. They are called quarters, after all. So it stands to reason that any self-respecting Moon Goddess must represent the moon in the completeness of its cycle, just as She must stand for us in ours.

*****

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 thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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 thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

What is an archetype? The literal definition of archetype is “the original pattern or model from which all things of a similar kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; a prototype. Archetype also refers to an ideal example of a category, the quintessence of a class.”

In Jungian psychology, an archetype is an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience, which is present in the individual unconscious. An archetype is an image-idea, a stylized pattern that we carry within our psyche, a mythic model that guides our development and gives direction and meaning to our lives.

The Triple Goddess — The Maiden, the Mother and The Crone — offers women a role model for their developing youth, for their creative, nurturing years, and for their old age. But these archetypes don’t include me or other women in our middle years. They do not address our issues and needs. They do not even recognize our existence.

The old stereotypes simply do not apply to us. We haven’t been Maidens in decades, we are no longer Mother material, and we are definitely not old Crones. We women of a certain age who are excluded from the tripartite paradigm also need a model with which to identify.

We need a larger-than-life archetypal framework to help us to elevate our personal aging process to legendary proportions. A mythological mirror of our own midlife experience, so that when we look into its depths, we can see a clear reflection of our own potential.

When I could not find a role model within the Triple Goddess archetype to describe my life as a midlife woman, I created my own. Was this hubris? Who am I to conceive an archetype? Well, I am in fact, a proud member of the pioneering Sixties Generation, and consequently, I have a certain modest amount of experience in rebelling against the status quo of old systems and beliefs and striving to replace them with new, more inclusive and relevant ones.

Our generation has demonstrated time and again that it is possible to create our own characters, compose our own scripts, and author the sagas of our own lives. We are our own role models. Bereft of affirming depictions of our lives, today’s midlife women are more than ready, willing, and perfectly capable of creating our own.

Each one of us has a story, a myth, a legend to create — and to live. The shamanic assumption from which I operate is that every person has her own mission in this lifetime: her own path, her own dreams, her own symbols and sensibilities, her own visions and designs, her own way of learning, her own personalized hard-won lessons. That every one of us must figure out for ourselves the fullest, richest, most effective, ethical and satisfying way in which to do it; and moreover, that each and every one of us possesses the wisdom, the power and the response-ability to make it so.

In our search for new archetypes, we look to the past for grounding, look to the future for courage, look to each other for inspiration and support, and look to ourselves for the answers.

What is your vision of an ideal role model to guide you along the path of your life?

*****

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 thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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 multinational 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 thequeenofmyself@aol.com.