Maid, Mother, Magdalene, Crone

I've found myself thinking about the annual spiritual retreat that St. James Anglican holds at Canterbury Hills—I've been fortunate over the years to attend several of these weekends, spent with a community of powerful, wise, supportive women who are equally happy to rub your feet, hold you while you sob, and high-five you when you master a difficult belly-dancing move.

They're Anglicans—in name, anyway—but the spirituality of the group and the opportunities for communion with the Divine (however you define that) that they offer go far, far beyond denomination, dogma, and deity.  

One thing that these women are absolute wonders at is celebrating being female, at all stages of the journey, and they often make reference to the archetypal stages of a woman's life: Maid, Mother, and Crone—especially Crone, as many of the women who attend the retreat are past their child-bearing and rearing years.

Those three archetypes are powerful, universal -- and never fail to leave me feeling a little left out.

Where do I fit? Nowhere.

I'm certainly not a Maiden -- the smile lines around my eyes attest to that. I have a little too much worldly knowledge (and a little too much familiarity with the opposite sex) to ever recapture the blissful ignorance of virginity, and I'm perfectly happy with that.

I'm not a Mother, either, although this is probably where I SHOULD fit. I skirt the boundaries of motherhood sometimes, sort of -- I do have young people in my life whom I cherish dearly. But the real, honest-to-god pleasure and pain of having borne and raised children of my own isn't part of my particular narrative.

I'm also not a Crone -- yet. I have great hopes of being wise enough to not mind being one, either, but I'm not at that stage -- yet. I still rage against the inevitability of aging, and haven't yet gained the peace that will -- hopefully --accompany many more years of experience.

One archetype we explored at the last weekend I was at, though, actually resonated with me -- and that was the Magdalene. This is a riff on the Whore -- the fourth, albeit somewhat less iconic, female archetype. Believe it or not, I found a comforting familiarity in the figure who, in the Roman Catholic tradition, has been identified with prostitutes, wastrels and layabouts.

Rest assured, I don't see myself as a whore (although, to be frank, that role sounds like a lot more fun than any of the other ones). Not exactly.

Progressive views of the Magdalene see her as a symbol of women's agency and vision, someone willing to buck the conventional and sacrifice the traditional values of hearth and family in the search for wisdom and truth. 

Well, alrighty then. I can get with that.

As I've found myself kind of veering off the traditional life path of marriage-kids-house, I've felt a little disconnected from the grander human narrative a little. There aren't a lot of child-free female archetypes -- there are goddesses, sure, but they're a little harder to relate to.

Sheesh, even Game of Thrones has a whole theology partly based on the whole Maid-Mother-Crone trinity.

Fine. I'll be a Magdalene. It feels nice to fit somewhere.


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