I am not a Crone. I was not a Crone on my 50th birthday. I was not a Crone when my periods were officially declared over after thirteen months of no shows. I was not a Crone at my second Saturn return at the age of 56 or thereabouts. Nor am I a Crone today in my mere 60s. Remember, 70 is the new 50. I have another decade or two before I retire my throne for a rocking chair or theater tickets or bingo chips. It is way too early for me to rest on my laurels, I haven’t even planted them all yet.
When I deny my Cronedom it is not because I am afraid of aging. Trust me. I want to be the oldest women who ever lived and savor every last minute of life. I want to live to be 100 (and I want to know that I am 100)! And that’s not so farfetched. One in 50 people are living to 100 these days and the odds get better every year. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the average age of menopause was 48 and the average life expectancy for women was 52. Today, according to Dr. Christiane Northrup, if a woman reaches her fifties without any chronic disease, she has every right to expect to live well into her nineties.
But I am not old yet. And I am certainly not as wise as I hope to be when I do grow up to be a Crone. Don’t get me wrong. I am smart as hell. But true wisdom is different. It comes from experiencing life consciously and deeply over time, with enough time elapsed for reflection, overview, and perspective. I am still punching in my hours of learning, earning every minute of my experience. After decades of service in my Mother years, now it is my turn to be active, out there, in charge of my own life, and influential in the world. This is my Queen stage of life. I rule!
Someday I will be an awesome Crone. But I am not yet ready, not capable, not worthy. Nor are the other 60 million women in the United States who are somewhere in the midst of their midlife changes. 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 new 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 at home in our own skin and in charge of our own destiny.
Where do we fit in the Triple Goddess paradigm? We haven’t been Maidens in ages. We are no longer Mother material, and we are not yet ready to be Crones. So who are we supposed to be right now? The Triple Goddess archetype 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.
Archetype refers to the universal description of a type. The Triple Goddess leaves out the biggest single population group in Western developed countries, making it decidedly not universal. Clearly it is time for a change of paradigm. Which is as it should be. Life is about nothing if not change. This is the greatest teaching of the Goddess, after all. Her power and inspiration lies in Her cyclical nature, Her infinite flexibility, Her adept adaptability, Her unbounded ability to always and forever change. The Great Goddess, Supreme Mistress of Change, transformation artist extraordinaire, 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.
When I hit 50 and was nowhere near being a Crone, I felt the need to invent a new mythic example that I could relate and aspire to, one that would spur me on and sustain me through my midlife changes. 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 Queen. And so the Triple Goddess grew to become The Four-Fold Goddess: The Maiden, the Mother, The Queen, and the Crone.
My construct of the four stages of a woman’s life is a much more accurate description of the current Way of Womanhood, which resonates deeply with contemporary women. Plus, the four periods of growth and change are in complete metaphoric alignment with the pervasive way that peoples have always ordered existence into Four Parts: 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-Fold Goddess honors the entire inclusive range of existence.
Is this hubris? Who am I to deconstruct an archetype that has been so meaningful for so many for so long? Who am I not to? I am a proud member of the pioneering Sixties Generation, and consequently, I have a wealth of experience in rebelling against the status quo of old, outdated archetypes and striving to replace them with new, more relevant ones. Our Baby Boom generation has demonstrated again and again over the decades that it is not only possible, but it is necessary to create our own characters, compose our own scripts, and author the sagas of our own lives. Bereft of affirming depictions of our lives, today’s women-of-a-certain-age are more than ready, willing, and are perfectly able to invent our own. We are our own best role models.
The Queen paradigm promotes a new understanding of what it might mean to be a middle-aged woman today who accepts complete responsibility for and to herself, and it celebrates the physical, emotional, and spiritual rewards of doing so. The Queen mythic model of maturity that I envision is recognizably like me, like us. Not yet old, yet no longer young, She stands in Her proper place — after the Mother and before the Crone — in No Woman’s Land. She plants Her feet and Her flag, and claims Her space in this previously uncharted midlife territory. Still active and sexy, vital with the enthusiasm and energy of youth, She is tempered with the hard-learned experience and leavening attitudes of age.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Her own past, She has been forced to face and overcome difficult lessons and obstacles including Her own shadow, and in so doing, has outgrown the boundaries of Her old Self. The Queen bursts forth from adversity and previous constraints, actual or imagined, to become a proficient player in the game plan of Her own choosing. The Queen does not invite hard times and trouble, but She chooses to use them well. Actualized, organized, efficient, self-sufficient, competent, ethical, and fair, the Queen has struggled for and earned Her authority and respect.
Agitated by the unessential and restless for authenticity, She sheds all attachment to the opinions of others and accepts complete responsibility and control for Her own care, feeding, and fulfillment. Determined and firmly centered on Her own two feet, She dares to climb, step after step, with nascent surety into the heady realm of Her own highest majesty. She is the Queen of Her Self, the mature monarch, the sole sovereign of Her own life. Here, finally, is an archetype that fits.
Once on Her throne and crowned, the Queen glows golden with confidence, competence, and grace. She is fully engaged and takes great pleasure in the feelings of freedom, elation, and wellbeing that come from personal empowerment. Shining from the inside out, Her attractiveness and attraction is rooted deeply in Her self-actualization, self-worth, and inner strength. She exudes a primal excitement, Her purpose, passion, and power palpable in Her very presence. This thrilling post-menopausal period of vitality, renewed energy, enhanced self-esteem, optimism, and enthusiasm comes to us in direct proportion to the intensity of our own conscious, conscientious engagement in the struggle for self-enfranchisement.
It was through my own complicated process of coming of age that I conceived of the Queen as the missing link in the chain of life for modern women in the here-to-fore incomplete Triple Goddess archetype. Through my own intentions and concerted efforts, by constantly questioning, reevaluating, and reconfiguring, I reinvented my Self in the image of the woman who I had always hoped someday to be. Through striving to acknowledge, mourn, and then release what was irrevocably lost, I was ultimately able to recover my own misplaced vitality, interest, and energy after the long, hard, painful years of my disconcerting midlife changes and all of the hard knocks, bad news, and terrible truths that I had had to overcome in the fiery process.
All of my internal work eventually paid off. By the time I was 53 and my periods over for good, I knew myself to be the uncontested mistress of my own fate. Finally, completely Self-realized, I was ready and able, and for the first time in my life, I was actually willing to reign; to accept the responsibility for the truth and complete consequences of my own dreams, decisions, and actions. I was a maturing monarch prepared to regulate and rule all of the inner and outer realms of my own domain. Surely I was a Queen, and not a Crone. I was and am and intend forevermore to be the Queen of me.
As long as I live, I will have control over
my being — you find the spirit of Caesar in me.
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 email@example.com.