Women's interest

On Finding Myself Middle Aged With No Role Model I Could Relate To Because I Am Not A Crone

For millennia, the three faces of the Triple Goddess have, in fact, accurately reflected the stages of women’s lives

by Donna Henes

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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 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.

Photographs of my own grandmother when she was younger than I am now, picture a matronly looking lady with the Old Worldly stately countenance of a grandmother, a bubby, an abuela — a full decade before I was born. Part of her elderly appearance is purely the style of the period, the rest a reflection of her hard life and times.

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.

Folk tales and historical documents featuring positive depictions of powerful middle age female figures are few and far between. There is no codified body of literature to which we can turn for affirmative examples of profound and potent midlife. Real life role models are sparse, as well, although there certainly have always been, in every society, notable and remarkable exceptions — powerful middle aged women who were rulers, adventurers, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, spiritual leaders — mature, glamorous, and courageous sheroes of all stripes. The popular media has typically portrayed menopausal women as over-the-hill, overwrought, flakes or furies, completely undesirable in either case. So who are we supposed to be? And who can teach us how?

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 tranceformation 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. The Great Goodess is, even now, beginning to expand to include us 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.

My construct of the four stages of a woman’s life is a much more accurate description of the current Way of Womanhood. Her four periods of growth and transformation resonate deeply with contemporary women. 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.

Is this hubris? Who am I to challenge an archetype that has been so powerful for so many for so long? 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 archetypes 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 women-of-a-certain-age are more than ready, willing, and perfectly capable of creating our own.

The mythic model 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 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 earned experience and leavening attitudes of age.

She has been forced to face and overcome obstacles and hard lessons including her own shadow, and in so doing, has outgrown the boundaries of her old self. Agitated with 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. She is the Queen of Her Self, the mature monarch, the sole sovereign of Her own life and destiny. Here, finally, is an archetype that fits.

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 her self, and it celebrates the physical, emotional, and spiritual rewards of doing so. Becoming a Queen is not automatic, nor is it instantaneous. As Simone de Beauvoir said, “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.”

The Queen bursts forth from adversity and previous constraints, actual or imagined, to become a proficient player in the game plan of Her choice. 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. 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.

Once on her throne and crowned, the Queen glows golden with confidence, competence, and grace. She is fully aroused and takes great pleasure in the feelings of freedom, elation and wellbeing that come from personal empowerment. 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 process and consequences of transformation.

Another gift of self-enfranchisement is the potent and extremely liberating sexuality of the Queen. 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 power palpable in her very presence. Her desire reaches the boiling point and her inhibitions melt in the heat of Her renewed passion for life.

It was through my own 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 and reconfiguring, by struggling to mourn and then release what was irrevocably lost, I was trying to recover my own misplaced vitality, interest, and energy after the long hard painful years of my disconcerting midlife changes.

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 all of the inner and outer realms of my own domain. By the time I reached 53 or so, I knew myself to be the uncontested mistress of my own fate. Miraculously, it seemed, I had succeeded in turning my midlife crisis into my diamond-encrusted crowning achievement. Surely I was a Queen, and not a Crone. I was the Queen of My Self.

When I first began conceptualizing the Queen, I dreamt of a ceremonial crowning. My dreamtime punster made herself proud as she at once confirmed my passage as through the birth canal into a new life, and acknowledged my newly earned sovereign station — both in a single, concise, and vivid image. In this Crowning Ceremony, I ascended the throne of my passion and power and pledged myself to my Self. Always aware of the promise of that dramatic nocturnal ordination, I have worn my crown of self-confidence ever since. The more I think about the Queen, the more I become her. And the more Queenly I become, the more I desire to be in the company of other Queens.

DONNA HENES, Urban Shaman, has been a contemporary ceremonialist for 30+ years. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, is the author of The Queen of My Self,The Moon Watcher’s Companion, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles, and Celebrations, Dressing Our Wounds In Warm Clothes and the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology, the Matriarchy, & Me. She also publishes the highly acclaimed quarterly journal, Always In Season: Living in Sync with the Cycles. In addition to teaching and lecturing worldwide, she maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, New York, Mama Donna’s Tea Garden And Healing Haven, where she works with individuals and groups to create personally relevant rituals for all of life’s transitions.

For information about upcoming events and services and a complimentary copy of Always in Season contact:

Mama Donna’s Tea Garden & Healing Haven
P.O. Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, New York, NY 11238-0403

Email: CityShaman@aol.com


The Book of Goddesses and The Mythic Art of Kris Waldherr

Celebrations of the Divine Feminine

by Diane Saarinen

Late in October, I learned that there would be a Goddess art exhibit opening that would be held on October 28 at the New York Open Center with artist Kris Waldherr.  I immediately made plans to attend, particularly after reading the following from the artist’s statement: “I believe that the stories of the goddesses and other divine women featured in this exhibition transcend religion, race or background.  They express the commonalities of women throughout history and around the globe.  Most importantly, they reveal the strengths, beauties and powers that all women possess — and our innate connection to the Divine Feminine.”

The evening was off to an auspicious start when it was revealed that the taxi I hailed to arrive at the gallery was driven by none other than New York’s own infamous matchmaking cabbie.  What luck!  What fun!  However, as I was not in the need for matchmaking services, I simply sat back and listened to tales of successful matches made.  But I digress…

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As the Goddess gallery show also served as the Open Center’s Halloween party, I noticed many guests dressed in costume among the attractively framed and matted glorious goddess representations.  I spied a tall, willowy blonde clad in evening gown and organza shawl who markedly resembled some of the figures in the artwork and realized this must be the artist — and writer — Kris Waldherr herself.  (Waldherr is very much a writer; this showing of her art also doubled as a book release party for the Tenth Anniversary Edition of her wildly popular text, The Book of Goddesses).  Waldherr also has the interesting family history of having a maternal grandmother who was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and was rumored to have been born with the second sight.  And in her spare time, she plays cello in the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra!

I started by asking Kris a few questions:

NAJ:  How does it feel to be surrounded by your many works of art up here tonight?

KW:  I’m glad to share my art with people outside the context of a book, so the paintings can be seen as they were originally created.  As an artist who works in publishing, I’ve learned to accept that my paintings aren’t going to look the same when they’re printed — there’s always some details which are lost, some colors which don’t reproduce exactly.  I’ve also enjoyed organizing the show — so much so that I want to share it outside of New York City.  Right now, I’m working on having the show travel to other galleries around the country.

NAJ:  And what it feel like to have the tenth year anniversary edition of The Book of Goddesses out?

KW:  My two main emotions are amazement that it’s been ten years since the first edition was published — where has the time gone? — and pleasure at having The Book of Goddesses back in print, and in such a deluxe version.  Abrams (the publisher) really did such a gorgeous job printing it.  I especially love the gold ink on the cover, and gold Isis insignia on the binding.  It’s much more of a book that the original edition, both in terms of expanded content and because of the beauty of the production.

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I drank in the beautiful art at the show, all of which can be seen in the catalogue, Celebration of the Divine Feminine: The Mythic Art of Kris Waldherr.  “Mythic art” sums this up aptly; if you are enchanted by myth, particularly where strong female characters — who may be mortal, and who may be divine — are at the center, the art will speak to you.  Recurring themes include the myth Danae, daughter of a Roman king named Acrisius, who was foretold that one of Danae’s offspring would kill him, and the tale of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter who was kidnapped by the god of the underworld, Hades.

Some of the images in the artwork are also seen in Waldherr’s Lover’s Path Tarot.  But the prolific Waldherr taxes my abilities of a reviewer to include my thoughts on this deck in this article.  Hint — suffice it to say that I consult this deck regularly, and the link I provide gains you access to an online oracle featuring this deck.

Now to The Book of Goddesses.  This gift book features 100 goddesses, all depicted in art and in words.  The book is broken up into the fabulous feminine deities that oversee love, motherhood, creativity, strength and transformations.  Those looking for a dose of inspiration need look no farther than the pages of this text.  Already a classic, it has been improved on with the additional goddesses and the fine-tuning of the presentation of the graphics.  Truly, it seems all cultures are represented and I even came across a Finnish house goddess I had never heard of — Haltia — as well as another Scandinavian goddess, this time a birth deity, who sorta bore my last name: Sar-Akka (note — akka means “hag” in Finnish).

All in all, a completely delightful evening was had in the company of a charming woman, with the souvenirs of two decidedly lovely books.

The Book of Goddesses:
A Celebration of the Divine Feminine
by Kris Waldherr
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2006
162 pp., $22.50

A Celebration of the Divine Feminine:
The Mythic Art of Kris Waldherr

by Kris Waldherr
Art and Words Editions, 2006
75 pp., $25 (available only at kriswaldherr.com)


The Jill Principle

A Woman’s Guide to Healing Your Spirit After Divorce or Breakup

By Michele Germain, LCSW

When I first received The Jill Principle from Llewellyn Publications to review, I thought it was a change from the usual material they published.  After all, this was in the “self-help/relationships” genre, and Llewellyn specializes in the New Age market.  However, just a little way into reading the book, I realized that divorce and breakups can have spiritual repercussions.

I should clarify the title first — The Jill Principle has another subtitle that states: Moving from the Tumble of Divorce to Life at the Top of the Hill.  This book is about picking up the pieces and finding oneself back on the top.  Divorce is one such event that can actually result in one becoming out of tune with oneself.  As the author states, “It’s my belief that a crisis is an attempt by the natural laws of the universe to effect change and bring us back into harmony with ourselves.  While I also believe inner growth and harmony can take place without a painful crisis, the fact is most of us are so out of touch with our real selves that it requires a crisis to force us to take a closer look at what needs to be changed.”

The author, a licensed clinical social worker, draws on her own story of divorce as well as the stories of women in her practice to illustrate the various ways one can respond to a breakup, with disbelief, shock, and a myriad of other reactions.  In the section on grieving, many exercises are given to facilitate healing.  But then, the real work begins — getting back in touch with one’s body at first, and then with the mind.  “Divorce or major breakup forces us to drop our dependences and find our worth and value within,” the author states.  Germain is a bioenergetic analyst and she provides methods to get over the hurt and loss.

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The exercises are clear and well-written.  I believe many can be followed in situations other than divorce, for example, if one feels they have gotten out of sync and needs to fully inhabit their body in the case of vague physical complaints such as the ones the author experienced as a reaction to her breakup.  There are some references to connecting with the “inner child,” — a concept I find a bit dated, but that is just my take on that theme and it does not diminish from what is taught.

All in all, this is a thought-provoking and practical book on finding one’s personal power and becoming spiritually whole after the trauma of a divorce.  I found this a satisfying alternative from Llewellyn’s usual offerings, and hope they continue with more spiritual self-help books in this vein.

The Jill Principle: A Woman’s Guide to Healing Your Spirit After Divorce or Breakup

By Michele Germain, LCSW
Llewellyn Publications, 2006
194 pps, $12.95

Review by Diane Saarinen


The Women’s Book of Empowerment

323 Affirmations That Change Everyday Problems into Moments of Potential

by Charlene M. Proctor, PhD

The Women’s Book of Empowerment is a book of affirmations for problems and challenges that women, in particular, face.  Within its pages, affirmations are given for balance between work and family; to help the reader become stronger in the face of adversity; and even a whole section on corporate stress in the 9-to-5 world.

Despite the fact that the publisher is called The Goddess Network Press, Proctor refers to the spark of the divine as the “God-self.”  The author also points out that men can use this book as well.  Throughout, Proctor offers wisdom — assuring the reader that she’s gone through every situation in this book, which is a considerable amount of experience!  She also serves as a cheerleader:  “You are brave for being on this planet during such difficult times.  Remember, your soul chose to be here to test your human capabilities to make change in the most arduous circumstances.”

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The author states that “some of my ideas will give you a chuckle,” and that is indeed what happened when I saw the affirmation for “Haunted Hotel Rooms” under the “Vacation” section.  Yes, as we all know, vacations can sometimes be more stressful than we can count on, but a haunted hotel room?  I happen to know a few folks (myself included), that would pay good money for that experience!  And I must say it never occurred to me to do an affirmation for when a household appliance breaks down.

Having said that, Proctor writes in a refreshing style and addresses a whole gamut of life circumstance with aplomb and moxie.  The situations, just as in life, may be as relatively inconsequential as “Entertaining” to as serious as “A Death in the Family.”  There is even an affirmation for a bad hair day!  All of these are meant to change thinking from the negative to the proactive, with the result of changing your view on life.  Some situations are unavoidable, but Proctor teaches us that our reactions can be within our control, and challenges can be seen as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.

The Women’s Book of Empowerment:
323 Affirmations That Change Everyday Problems into Moments of Potential

by Charlene M. Proctor, PhD
The Goddess Network Press, 2005
389 pp., $16.95

Review by Diane Saarinen