? Maiden-Mother-Crone: Third Face of Goddess Archetype Reveals Wisdom of Age

Maiden-Mother-Crone: Third Face of Goddess Archetype Reveals Wisdom of Age

The revitalization of the crone symbolism of the Maiden-Mother-Crone goddess archetype started as early as the 1970s and has captured the imaginations of some women.

The crone is the third face of the Triple Goddes. Becvar (2005) calls the aged wise woman archetype "often the most feared and least understood of the three aspects of the Goddess" (p. 20).
maiden-mother-crone Triple Goddess woman archetype

October inaugurates an appropriate season to consider the meaning of the crone for contemporary women.

Crone's Journey From Revered to Revile

It's time to give the boot to the wicked witch with warty nose of Halloween imagery, which is the nadir of this goddess symbol.

This is where the once-valued meaning of the third face of the Maiden-Mother-Crone ended up. From this profoundly ageist low point, older women are emerging to transform social understanding of aging.

The dying of the old year and, in many places vegetation, continues through November and December. This month, Archetype of the Month investigates the contemporary recuperation of the wise women dimension of Maiden-Mother-Crone.

November discusses healing uses of Jungian archetypal characters, including the crone. December explores how women are using croning rituals to celebrate this special stage of our lives.

How the Valued Wise Woman Became the Evil Witch

Bevcar (2005) traces the historical evolution of how we interpret the meaning of the word crone. She defines the meaning of each of the three faces of the goddess: Maiden-Mother-Crone.

The maiden signifies youthful enthusiasm, the mother is creation and nurturance, and the crone confronts the mysteries of death and achieving final wholeness.

This quest for wholeness is a pivotal concern of Jungian psychology.

Carbon-Dating Confirms Era of Goddess Worship

It's no surprise that our male-dominated patriarchal society, that objectifies and even obsesses over youthful beauty, marginalized the crones as the old hags who appear as witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the many folktales that survive as children’s stories even today.

Williams (1997) asserts, "We now know (thanks to sophisticated radiocarbon dating methods and to the work of archaeologists like Maria Gimbutas) that for the period extending from approximately 30,000 B.C. to 1500 B.C. humanity's spiritual -- and earthly -- life revolved around the worship of the Great Goddess in all her myriad forms" (no page numbers).

Bevcar explains, "Once the era of goddess worship passed, women in the final stage of life — those representing the third face of the Goddess — lost their place of honor. Through the ages they often were misconstrued at best, and at worst reviled as hags or witches" (p. 20).

Contemporary Society Denies Aging

Our society does its best to truncate the meaning of Maiden-Mother-Crone and even pretends that the third trimester of life does not exist.

Our mass-scale social denial of the cycle of aging -- its positives as well as its drawbacks -- include anti-aging forumulas, cosmetic surgery, and the warehousing of society's oldest citizens in nursing homes where they need not be seen by the rest of us.

Women's quest to find new designs for living has created renewed interest in goddess-lore. From this has emerged inquiry into how older women can find meaning, wisdom, and wholeness in our later years.

Wisdom Is Our Learning Imperative

Bevcar reflects on the principles and values that guide her understanding of wisdom. Rensenbrink (2004) also reflects deeply on what wisdom means. He speculates that wisdom is a "learning imperative" of the third-trimester of our lives.

Similarly Barbara Hannah, a student of Jung, comments that Jung believed the first 40 years of life are for gaining experiences and the last 40 are for making sense of them.

Maureen Evans (1998) writes that modern times allow older women freedom that they did not enjoy hundreds of years ago – if they even survived to old age. Remembering the true meanings of the Maiden-Mother-Crone archetype can help us chart our paths to wisdom and wholeness.

Today's Crones Break Old Molds and Stereotypes

Evans' words support the Fashion After 50 philosophy of women and aging.

Today's crone can enjoy a new freedom that she never had as a younger woman -- the freedom to act in a way that, when she was young, may have been considered outrageous.

"If tongues wag when she has lunch with a younger man, will she blush for shame? Not likely. If she chooses to pierce her ears three or four times, need she self-conscious? I think not.”

She adds, "As modern Crones, the women of my generation must make a conscious effort to break the stereotype that has plagued the older woman for thousands of years and strive to make a difference to the world around us as only Wise Women can."

With Gratitude to These Sources

Bevcar, D. S. (2005). Tracking the archetype of the wise woman/crone. ReVision, 28(1), 20-23. Accessed using EBSCO.

Evans, M. (1998, Jan./Feb.) Crone pending. Natural Life magazine, n.p. Accessed using EBSCO.

Rensenbrink, J. (2004.). Wisdom and the learning imperative. Dialogue and Universalism, no. 3-4, 199-206. Accessed using EBSCO.

Williams, V. (1997, July). The crone: A woman for all seasons. Body Mind Spirit Magazine, 16,(3), n.p. Accessed using EBSCO.

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