The Snow Queen and Madonna with Child Are Two Incarnations of the Winter Mother Female Archetyp

The faces of the Winter Mother are the Snow Queen and Mary swaddling the infant Jesus.

Snow Queen type mask and Madonna statue mother archetype

The Snow Queen seduces boy-children and turns them into ice sculptures, forever frozen in the beauty of youth.

She also incarnates as the Ice Maiden, an image of forever virginal womanliness -- frigid, perfect, and unattainable.

Colloquially, she is as pure as the driven snow.

Perfection Is Depicted As Frozen, Cold

Purity as frigidity is mirrored in sculpture and masks of the frozen feminine.

The masks of Carnivale translate ice crystals and snowflakes into bejeweled and feathered art on faces as frozen in perfection as that of the Snow Queen. Snowflake Compared with Madonna Statue in Rosette, Notre Dame Cathedral

Snowflake compared with Madonna Statue in Rosette at Notre Dame Cathedral

Mary, by contrast, is depicted with the the luminescence of the young mother, beatified by birth and holding the incarnation of innocence in her arms.

The image at left shows a Madonna statue in a rosette at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, completed by an image of a snowflake. Beneath the surface of the human and captivating images of the Virgin Mary we may find references to the Snow Queen or Ice Maiden.

The Snow Queen and Virgin Mary are the progenitors of perfected images.

The Snow Queen preserves youth and innocence of boyhood by freezing it in time.

The Madonna preserves the idealized vision of mother and infant boy for all eternity by transcending time. She embodies the purity of virginity, even after giving birth, with the warmth of motherhood.

The Snow Queen Embodies Our Culture's Fear of Aging

The Ice Queen is usually depicted with pale hair – white or white-blond.

This is the hair of the crone, but our youth-obsessed culture has excised this from contemporary images.

The Ice Queen must be beautiful, and only youth is beautiful in our time.

The Ice Queen, the archetype of winter, would by rights be aged -- for Winter is the old year dying, the last season before the concupiscence of nature for fulfillment starts anew.

More appropriately, the feminine archetype of the winter mother should be a mature woman of wisdom.

Madonna sculpture contrasted with beautiful masked woman, Venice carnivale. Istock photos may not be copied
At right, a Madonna against blue sky, typical heaven image, and crowned with stars. Contrast this with Venice carnivale mask of frozen beauty.

The Madonna completes the immanence by giving birth to the son of the old year, who will grow and flourish through spring.

The great Medieval master painters often depicted the Assumption into Heaven of the Virgin Mary.

Mythic Meaning of the Assumption

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Assumption is is the legend of the ascension of Mary's pure body into heaven after her death. She is routinely shown surrounded by white clouds, sometimes with a crown of stars.

The photos above depict a striking visual relationship between the stars that crown the Virgin mother and the snowflakes that cling in the form of glitter to the eyelashes and hair of an ice queen at Venice carnivale.

This is one of the dialectics encountered by womanhood -- we must be pure, but to be pure puts a woman at risk of being untouchable, cold, sexually frigid and, ultimately, a bitch.

The archetype of the Winter Mother, expressed in the images of Snow Queen (Ice Maiden) and Virgin Madonna, offers opportunities for observation and self-reflection in the Winter of our lives.

Every good Christmas story, it has been said, is about new life springing from death.

Winter's death is different from the desolation of drought, in which life withers and turns to dust. Instead, life hibernates amidst in the sparkling diamonds of ice.

Mother Winter Authors Hope

Winter gives us hope of the birth and rebirth to come. One of Gordon, Lord Byron's most famous poems expresses the sweet inaccessibly of the Winter Mother's untouchable purity.

She walks in beauty, like the night

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.

Reference: Poem retrieved Dec. 25, 2009, from Francis G. Pelgrave (1875), The Golden Treasury, Great Books Online at

What's Next in This Article Series?

Candlemas ritual woman reading by candlelight rainbow photo swirling female dancer
Mother Light
Hope & the Feminine
Mother Rain
Spring Dance

A fun way for your women's group to explore archetypes may be a workshop using the PMAI ARchetypes Quiz and Activities, which I've been certified to administer. Now these archetypes are a little different than what I'm doing here; they are a lot more traditional in their imagery and approach.

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If you live in or near South Florida, you may be interested in the high-quality programs at the Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida.

These pages, however, are my own ideas and interpretations and not always tightly related to the writing of Carl G. Jung. Like Estelle Lauter, I believe we benefit by expanding meanings rather than reifying constricting images.

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