For so long I’ve been wandering in the maiden stage, but now I am a mother, to myself, since I’ve made hard decisions to loosen or cut ties with people who have not always acted in my best interest in their attached and, at least to me, manipulative ways; I have long felt a mother to whatever group of students I have the honor of guiding; and I moonlight as a card reader/astrological guide where I feel I can nurture and provide compassionate advice to those who desire a connection from the universe. The way I practice is that I allow my empathy and research about ourselves to encounter the client’s own internal wisdom. There is not anything that qualifies me to be a teacher or reader any more than anyone else. We are all guru to each other when we listen closely.
I am not sure why I have never wanted to be a mother of a child. Not-wanting has felt very natural to me. Now that I have put some distance between myself and my own mother, her voice and so her desires are not so much hovering over me. I feel free and good about my decisions, about following the path that is normal for me.
But what I really love about the four phases of the feminine way – maiden, mother, maga, and crone — is that we do not necessarily need to always identify with the stage that aligns with our age or any rites of passage. I remember going to a goddess ceremony in California where we could speak from any of the perspectives we felt aligned with that at the time and explain why.
In a blog post entitled “The Spiritual Practice of Menstruation” that you can read on Moonsong.com.au, the writer explains that we can see, for example, this cycle as “a cycle within a cycle,” where each week, some women might feel they are in a different place. [Edit 6/24/19 – I should have also credited Jane Hardwicke Collings – The Four Phase Feminine Way as well as the glorious Mama Donna Henes who discussed Maga as Queen on our very own FAR in 2013, which I only became aware of today! I’m not sure the Moonsong page is accessible anymore. Thanks!]. Her explanations help me so much understand why, for instance, I may feel completely different in terms of my desire for, say, a lover on week two (high creative-sexual-physical phase/summer/mother energy) than week four (less available emotionally to others; turning inward/winter/crone energy). Of course, we may mother and crone in various ways as well. I just like the idea of identifying with a stage that I desire to fulfill and experiment with.
Each stage sounds equally beautiful to me:
The maiden stage might be a little more indulgent, vulnerable, needing or wanting a mother or a nurturing energy to provide or take care of her at times, but with the balance of allowing for space so she can be alone and attend to her own development and discoveries. It is a time for envisioning and making plans, experimenting with possibilities for navigating one’s world in the healthiest way.
The mother stage might be a time for more focused action, putting plans into gear, generating energy and making and settling into decisions about relationships and family. To me, being in this stage, it feels like finally growing up, letting go of the frivolity and carefree spirit I used to more consistantly entertain, and taking the initiative and control over what I can, being a little more fearless. It feels like putting the pieces I’ve gathered into place. This time in Europe I feel more centered and less frazzled than even three years ago when I was traveling. I feel like I am making better decisions.
Maga, according to Sylvia Keepers and the author of the blog, explains Maga is “the feminine version of Magus – the wise man, magician.” Perhaps it is a time of established confidence and contribution to community, outside just the family or individual state of being. It might even be time for a second or first career, if she dedicated herself to being there for her children during the mother stage.
The crone might be a time of contemplation, gardening, gathering with other crones, reflecting on life and being the one to give guidance to the community. According to the author of the blog, “the Grandmothers of times past held the final say on matters such as war. If this were still the case, the world might be in a different place now.” I love that.
I understand, though, that this may be a very privileged outlook that only those of us outside war or extreme poverty might have. Having time and space to self-reflect and create ritual for rites of passage in our lives might be a luxury for women who struggle at all ages simply to survive. On the other hand, perhaps it is presumptuous of me to suggest that not all women can do this regardless of circumstances. I’m not really sure because I realize my viewpoint is quite limited.
But we all are connected to the universe, and so like the cycles of the moon, we may benefit being aware of the ebb and flow of our own internal tides if we can and want, in each phase, being compassionate and patient with ourselves and others. The next full moon is on August 26. If at all possible, let those of us who can, and so desire, step outside into the night and look up, noticing what might be revealed, what might be healed.
Elisabeth S., Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches online composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a chapbook of poetry and traveling through Iceland, Spain, and Ireland.