Maiden, Mother, Crone: My Body and My Spirituality
By Bonnie Ratliff on February 16, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
I follow a Pagan spiritual path. There are many ways to be Pagan, but to me it means that I find what feeds my soul in the Earth and her rhythms. This may or may not apply to you, but I think that what I am about to say applies to all women, regardless of religion or lack thereof.
In many Earth-based religions, we speak of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. These three phases of life are revered in such philosophy, each just as important and no less beautiful than the next. This is relevant to you because you will be all three of these in your life. Well, some of you won't literally be mothers and others won't birth the children they mother, but you will be of the age that this refers to, and chances are you will mother someone at some point; a friend who needs a hug, an elderly parent, or maybe a child in your neighborhood who needs a better role model. In this article, when I refer to “Mothers,” know that it does not have anything much to do with your genetic offspring, and everything to do with women in between young and old. Regardless of what your uterus does, you will still pass through these phases of maturity on your way to Cronehood.
These three phases of a woman's life are relevant to every woman, they reflect our self-esteem and how women are viewed in our culture. It is vital that we face these phases head-on and lovingly, because the fact is that our society only honors the Maiden phase. Mothers and Crones are expected to look and act like Maidens. Which I feel is a loss, because with Motherhood and Cronehood come wisdom and, frankly, I'd rather have wisdom than perky breasts.
The Maiden is young. Her body is unscarred. She is innocent and carefree. She does not yet understand mortality, perhaps does not see how deeply her actions affect the world around her. She is full of hope and joy and looks forward to her future. She is beautiful. In many ways she is like an empty cup waiting to be filled. My own maidenhood was frantic and unsafe-feeling. I was young and ready for Life, but unprepared for it and utterly blind as to the path ahead of me. My mind felt rather like the delta of a river, facing many directions at once and flowing headfirst down all of them. I enjoyed my youth and I have many very fond memories of it, many nights I'd like to relive if I ever become unstuck in time like Billy Pilgrim, but the life itself I would never trade for the peace at heart and the wisdom I've gained by growing older.
For me, Motherhood hit me hard. It opened my mind from the entrapment of my disordered upbringing and I was able to see clearly for the first time ever. Motherhood gave me a sense of mortality in that I knew how valuable life was, and I cherished it all the more. It led me to the path that gave me back my self-worth, it helped me to find ME. In living for my children -– in living for another person -– I re-evaluated what I wanted for them and applied it to myself. When faced with a dilemma or when I am in a place of self-hatred, I often consider what I would tell my children in my spot, and then I say it to myself. Loving, supportive friends are not unlike mothers in some ways, and by being a loving and supportive friend, you are mothering someone, and effectively learning how to treat yourself in the process. Mothering my children and being mothered by my friends has taught me how to mother myself, and that has helped me grow so that I can help others.
I have not yet reached Cronehood, but I look forward to it. One of my grandmother's favorite stories to tell was of the time when I was very small and told her that gray hair was the most beautiful hair of all. I remember this moment and what I was really saying was that she was most beautiful to me for just being who she was. For loving me. In high school, my boyfriend's mother snapped at me that someday I'd worry about wrinkles and gray hair, and I can honestly say all these years later that I do not worry about it (and only slightly out of spite). I want wrinkles full of laughter, I want gray hairs full of wisdom, I want bones filled with knowledge of the Earth, and I want a heart able to love more freely than ever.
The problem with growing older in this society is that it's not worth much in terms of dollars spent. No one makes money from allowing hair to turn gray, but keeping it dyed is extremely profitable. Unfortunately, that means that self-esteem has got to go -– people who love the way they look no matter what aren't going to spend millions of dollars every year to hold onto their Maidenhood. Naomi Wolf wrote an entire book about this called The Beauty Myth; frankly, I think it should be required reading for all women. In it, she speaks of how women are required to work three “shifts” just to be accepted, and that each time we make progress in one area -– the vote for instance –- we lose ground in another.
Two hundred years ago, women were valued for their childbearing and housekeeping skills. When we moved into the workforce, this job still remained ours for the most part; most men did not take up their equal share of housework. As we gained equality in the workforce, we began to realize we also had to look beautiful all of the time, so while we were managing our homes and having successful careers, we also had to spend time and money on our hair, make-up, clothing, manicures, exercise, diet foods, plastic surgery and everything else that goes into this idea of what Women Need to Look Like.
All of this is bullshit. Women should be valued for their wisdom. For their endurance. For their laughter. For their beauty –- in every form. Our “jobs” as women should be to love others and guide them in their own growth, to laugh and help others also laugh, and to teach the world that Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Regardless of your personal spiritual path, this applies to you. God wants you to know His creation is reflected in you. The goddess wants you to feel her beauty in you as she dances with you in Life. Learning to not only accept each phase of womanhood as you enter it, but also to embrace it is a part of spiritual growth. Loving yourself as you are, as you were Created, as you relate to others in your life and as you take up your place as guide for those younger than you, is a blessing and a responsibility. Maiden, Mother and Crone, you are beautiful. Always.
More Own Your Beauty on BlogHer
- "You're Pretty Old."
- No Longer Playing the Big Girl
- Dear Body: Just When I Was Beginning to Like You
Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.
Bonnie blogs at The Shape of a Mother.
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