Questioning the maiden/mother/crone archetype

Greta_Garbo_in_Queen_ChristinaI’m going to say up front that while the maiden/mother/crone archetype has its applications in mythology, I am a bit jealous that the men get “to do” archetypes in Wicca while women get “to be” archetypes. ((Boys, only you get penis envy. Women get privilege envy.)) As a woman who is definitely too old for the maiden phase, who expressly refuses to bear children and who is far from menopause, I feel vaguely excluded – or like I’m being pressured to get knocked up, and that I won’t have “value” or be “part of the club” unless I do. (This requirement for membership makes it less appealing, not moreso, at least to me.)

Men get certain things like “hunter” and “sage” although “father” and “wise old man” work their ways in somewhere. But women seem to be classified solely by their fertility except in the rare cases of traditions that include “priestess” and “warrioress.” What would be the word for a woman who is fertile, but refuses? Not a Lilith, because she didn’t refuse – oh no, she really didn’t.

Not a maiden. Maidens are considered chaste; refusal includes to some extent sex, or at least intimates an absence of sexual experience.

I’m tempted to draw from a modern archetype, such as Greta Garbo, just because children were not something sexually active women really had a choice about until the advent of birth control. A woman who clearly enjoyed her life in a constructive manner, and left a powerful legacy that involved creations other than children. I like that – a Garbo. All the same I’ll search for some mythological term, but she’s who I’ll have in mind.


  1. Ali

    These recent posts are reminding me a lot of Emma Restall Orr’s book Kissing the Hag–if you haven’t read it, I think you’d really enjoy it. I certainly didn’t agree with everything she says, but she explores far more archetypes than the maiden/mother/crone triad (including Whore, Bitch, Witch, and Old Bag) and examines even the familiar archetypes in ways that reveal their complexity and their meaning even for those who, for instance, are not and do not wish to be literal mothers or literal virgins, etc.

  2. Post

    I’ll have to see if my library carries that book! While I’m 15 years behind on my reading list, I’ll see if I can squeeze that one in!

  3. Mariah/Caelesti

    I’ve heard a lot of women complain about those roles too.
    I’d argue with the assumption that the Maiden is necessarily chaste- it just means young unmarried woman- carefree of family/career responsibilities (virgin originally meant that as well)
    In any case, it sounds poetic enough for ritual but even if we visualize deity in such a manner, why do we need to fit into the same roles?

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