Tag - Donna Henes

The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife

With a modern woman’s life span increasing, perhaps we are too quick to Crone ladies at age 50

By Donna Henes
Monarch Press, 2005
211 pp., $16.95

[ad name=”Rectangle Text AdSense”]

In The Queen of My Self: Stepping Into Sovereignty in Midlife, Donna Henes boldly and audaciously – as any Queen worth her salt would do – challenges the popular paradigm of the three phases in a woman’s life, that of Maiden, Mother, Crone. She very sensibly argues that with a modern woman’s life span increasing, perhaps we are too quick to Crone ladies at age 50. This refers to the current trend in the Goddess community to honor women who have hit this milestone birthday – the half century mark – with a ritual/coming-out party which pays homage to the celebrant’s status. Henes is all for celebrating a woman’s midlife achievements. However, she suggests a new archetype be introduced (instead of jumping the gun to “crone”), and that is of “the Queen.”

Henes speaks about her own experience in approaching her 50th birthday and her hesitancy in being croned. “How could I,” she writes “in all honesty and any modesty, claim the mantle of the Crone while a mere middle-ager? That would be like saying that someone who is in their twenties is as smart and as practiced as I am.” The author points out that just as there are four seasons, perhaps there are four phases in a woman’s lifetime, with Queen representing what would be autumn, and winter reflecting the true Crone.

Incredibly generous and honest in her personal saga, Henes shares her own experience during the Mother aspect of her life, where she confronted and lived with much tragedy. She even refers to one period as being “in the hospice zone.” Having come to terms with losses that sapped her very essence in her forties, Henes found herself experiencing a renewed vigor and a respect for the sacredness of life in her early 50s.

Punctuated with thought-provoking quotes throughout, such as “You take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame” (Erica Jong), the book also features segments entitled “The Queen Suggests” – just in case you are firmly entrenched in midlife and are not experiencing the self-confidence and independence that Henes vehemently believes is your sovereign right. Some suggestions are for your coronation or crowning ceremony, and others are breathing exercises to connect to your Kundalini energy which is suspected to be unleashed with the hot flashes of menopause. The author even gives feng shui advice – I did not know that your kitchen stove represents the central furnace of the self. Henes points out that most folks use only the same one or two burners, and suggests lighting all four at once, even for a moment, to ensure that you are “cooking on all four burners.”

Written in a tone which is reminiscent of a wise girlfriend encouraging you to take on life, Henes also made me laugh out loud several times. As I seemed to need bifocals the exact day I turned 40, I related to this: “Now, I love the fact that we lose our vision and our youthful beauty at the same time. What we can’t see can’t hurt us. It is a brilliant kindness to our vanity that reinforces in me the belief that God is surely a Goddess.” Throughout, the author has been there and done that. The Queen of My Self: Stepping Into Sovereignty in Midlife serves as the motivation for women in midlife to ascend to their thrones. Surely with the experiences garnered by a 50th birthday, every woman deserves that right.

Review by Diane Saarinen


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

[ad name=”Rectangle Text AdSense”]

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


A Question of Cleansing Personal Pollution

Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more.

*Ask Your Mama™, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spirituality and Didn’t Know Who to Ask™

by ©Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

Dear Mama Donna,

I am looking for a fresh start in my life. Everything around me has gotten messy and confusing and completely disgusting. This is on every level in my life — body, mind, spirit, and home. I am sure that this is all a reflection of some pollution within myself. I feel like I need a deep spiritual cleansing, so that I can put the things that surround me in order. How can I purify myself?

A total mess in Maine

Dear Ms. Mess

Purification by water is by far the most widespread cleansing technique. How about bathing in a salt bath to wash away any memories, emotions, blockages, or resistances that might interfere with your most positive motives and stand in the way of your moving forward? Once you are free from any impurities of heart and mind, you can then anoint yourself with fragrant oils to enhance your intentions of freshness and order.

There are innumerable other scouring agents besides water. Fire is frequently used, combined with water as in the Inipi, the traditional Native American sweat lodge, or a banya, or, the steam sauna used in Russia and Scandinavia. During the annual Hindu Festival of Agni, worshippers pass their hands over flames to obtain a state of purity. Peasants in Northern Europe still leap over bonfires to ceremonially cleanse themselves.

Clay, adobe, sand, silica, soil, loam, loess, mud, peat, dirt, dust, terra cotta the multi-palletted, richly-hued flesh of Mother Earth Herself, has long been considered to be a sacred substance, a sacrament to be used in blessings and prayers. The ancient Greeks used to place a lump of dirt on their head to seal an oath, rather like placing their hand on a bible and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. Russian farmers continued this practice into the twentieth century, making any promise in the honored name of Mati-Syra-Zemlya, “Moist Mother Earth.” Try taking a mud bath. Wallow in the slime, then feel all your cares and troubles wash away with the rinse water.

Incense, smudge, tobacco, and other highly scented herbs and resins are often burnt to produce fragrant smoke to blow away any impurities. You can “wash” from head to toe in the holy smoke of camphor, frankincense, myrrh, sage, cedar, or copal, which are all used for their purification powers. Afterward, you can “rinse” in the smoke of sweet grass, which invites the sweet spirits into your life.

Ashes, charcoal, dirt, sap, sandalwood paste, pigment, paint, peppers, sagebrush, oil, and dung are among the cleansers commonly applied to the skin; employed as a dry bath. The Nubians of Africa rub themselves with the sacred ash of burnt leaves from an acacia tree before every rite of passage in their lives. Similarly, Catholics are anointed on Ash Wednesday with ash obtained from burning the palm fronds that had decorated the Church on the previous Palm Sunday. This ritual begins Lent, the 40-day cleansing period preceding the annual vernal Passion of death and resurrection.

Why not make a list of all of the parts of your life that you feel have grown stale — your beliefs, habits, orientation, and practices? All the parts you describe as “messy and confusing and completely disgusting.” It is these qualities that you want to release and transform. Burn the list in a pot. Use the ash to bless your intention for a new beginning, cleansed  of all that has slowed your spiritual growth. Mix the ash with water to create ink and inscribe your affirmation to be open to change.

There is a wonderful Mayan shamanic ceremony that does much the same thing. You will need an Uncrossing Ball. (These are made from copal and other natural bits and pieces and are available through Mama Donna’s Spirit Shop.) Hold it in your hand and put into it with your intentions all that crosses you, blocks you, stands in the way of your best self.  You then wrap it in cloth and smash it to bits with a stone or hammer. Burn all the pieces one by one with the clear intention to release them. When the final piece is burned, you are completely cleansed and free of any negativity.

In addition to cleansing our selves, people have always taken special care to clean and maintain the temples, churches, synagogues, cemeteries, groves, and shrines, in which our prayers are said and our spirits fed. Don’t forget to cleanse and bless the sanctuary where you will live a more tidy life. If a man’s home is his castle, surely it is a woman’s shrine.

Best blessings on your new world order,

xxMama Donna

*Send your questions about seasons, cycles, celebrations, ceremonies and spirit to Mama Donna at: CityShaman@aol.com

Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, ritual expert, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than 100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD, an acclaimed Ezine and writes for The Huffington Post and UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she offers intuitive tarot readings and spiritual counseling, and works with individuals, groups, institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.


A Question of Claiming Time

Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more.

Ask Your Mama, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spirituality and Didn’t Know Who to Ask

by Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

Dear Mama Donna,

I think rituals are very important, and I feel their lack in my own life very strongly. But the fact is that I can never seem to find the time to actually plan special ceremonies. I am always too busy, too tired. I would appreciate some advice.

Time Deprived and Pooped in New York City

Dear Typical New Yorker,

In a culture, which defines itself in terms of clocks and dollars, (and the Big Apple is certainly the epicenter of such consciousness) it is difficult to claim the time and mental space to devote to an occupation that results in no visible product. Non-product and nonproductive are definitely not the same thing, however.

We may think of ritual, ceremony, contemplation, and meditation as not doing anything, but down time is not negative, it is not not doing something. What we are doing when we step off of the rat race treadmill is resting, reflecting, ruminating, regenerating, rejoicing, receiving, re-sourcing; re-centering, and renewing our energy, our essential spiritual selves.

Nor is sacred activity a luxury. When we carve out a niche in our busy lives to do the sorts of things that feed our souls; when we establish an integrated, ongoing ritual practice, we produce beauty, order, harmony, reverence, patience, introspection, connection, understanding, and appreciation, which enriches everything else that we do. Ceremonial observance adds lucid layers — depth, dimension, drama, and distinction — to our lives, making the ordinary seem special, and the special, extraordinary.

Perhaps your idea of what a proper ritual should consist of is too daunting. If you imagine that ceremonial practice must be complex, complicated, ornate, and overly organized, you are confusing a ritualistic concept with actual ritual. All that is truly necessary for effective and transformational ritual is a well-conceived, honest, and sincere intention, and the willingness to pay attention to the process.

Even the smallest, most mundane and profane moments of our lives can be potently sacred, if we honor them as such. The trick is to treat dailiness in a consciously celebratory manner. Those precious few quiet minutes in bed before we propel ourselves up and out into the day; the last sleepy moments at night before we fall to sleep; the precious stolen hours of quality time that we share with family and friends; time spent in the bath, in the garden, with a good book, even doing domestic routines; can all feel like holy rituals if you perform them with a concentrated ceremonial intention. Our resolution for sanctity makes it so. Concentration = consecration.

By making the time, by taking the time, by taking our time, and honoring all our times, we bless ourselves and endow ourselves with depth and enduring meaning. We consecrate our very lives, and celebrate the continuously wondrous miracle of our living.

Meals, for instance can certainly be more than the mere rushed intake of calories, nutrients, television news, and bickering. A normal supper on any average evening can be one of life’s most agreeable ceremonies if we establish a comfortable, leisurely, aesthetically pleasing, emotionally safe environment in which to enjoy food and convivial company even — especially — if it is “only” that of our own.

When my mother died, I inherited my grandmother’s set of turn-of-the-century hand-painted china. I have always loved those dishes. They evoke fond memories of Gramma’s excellent Jewish cooking and her unconditional love for me. They recall a complete smorgasbord of rich and heady sensual childhood recollections.

To this day, when I eat from them I can hear my grandfather’s gruff benediction as he swallowed down his customary pre-meal shot of medicinal schnapps. I can see the giant blue spruce outside of her Detroit dining room window, and smell the lilac bushes that surrounded her tiny house. I can feel the fine stitches on her immaculate embroidered table clothes, and my little brother kicking me under the table.

When Gramma died, my mother took the enormous set home with her to Cleveland. She wrapped each piece carefully, lovingly, in tissue paper and put the whole thing, covered in layers of protective plastic, away for use only on special occasions. For a while we enjoyed them at holiday  suppers and other celebratory occasions when they were filled with company-only extravagances like black olives and pickled watermelon rinds.

But as time passed and the family dispersed, special occasions became rare. I didn’t see those dishes for years, and I coveted them. Now that they are mine, I, too, cherish them and use them only for very special occasions. Every Meal. Every Day. I am careful with them, to be sure, but I use them. If I break one occasionally, I feel bad about it for a second, then put the pieces on the soil of my potted plants where their colorful pattern continues to cheer me. If there are none left by the time I die, so be it. One less find for the Antiques Road Show.

The art of approaching all areas of life with the same dedicated, detailed, devotion that one would apply to an important ritual event is endlessly affirming. I think of this mind set as altared sense-ability. The process, the conscious and conscientious practice, of living a seamless ceremonial existence. The finely tuned craft of making every single detail matter and every precious second truly count. It is this constant presence in the present that ultimately nourishes and energizes us.

With ritual in our mind, any time is sacred, and any place, a sanctuary. When we allow ourselves to claim the psychic space and set aside the valuable time for creative ceremony — when we assume the entitlement, the ability, and the authority to do so — we are able to tranceform our perceptions, our perspectives, our passions, our experience, our expectations, and, in the process, our entire reality.

Seize the day!

Mama Donna

*Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more. *Send your questions about seasons, cycles, celebrations, ceremonies and spirit to Mama Donna at: CityShaman@aol.com

Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, ritual expert, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than 100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD, an acclaimed Ezine and writes for The Huffington Post and UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups, institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.





Watch her videos:


Follow her on Twitter:


Connect with her on Facebook:


Read her on the Huffington Post:


Read her on Beliefnet: