From her book, The Queen of My Self: Women
Stepping into Sovereignty in Mid Life
(Marlowe & Co./Avalon Publishing May 2004)
Although I have been passionately devoted to the Many Splendored
Goddess in her complex multiplicity for more than thirty years
now, I am not a believer in the Triple Goddess paradigm. It
has never resonated with me because it belies what I believe
to be the true nature of nature. The Triple Goddess in her
tripartite phases is widely understood to represent the complete
cyclical wholeness of life. She Who is Three is likened to
the moon, the tides, and the seasons, whose mutability She
mirrors. And therein, lies the rub.
I am sorry, but thirty years of researching, teaching, and
writing about Celestially Auspicious Occasions -- the cycles
of the cosmos and the earthly seasons, and the multi-cultural
ritual expressions that they inspire -- I can state unequivocally
that the moon has four quarters, not three, and that there
are, as well, four seasons in the year.
For millennia, the three faces of the Triple Goddess have,
in fact, accurately reflected the stages of women’s
lives -- the developing youth, the nurturing mother and the
wise old woman. She still corresponds with the real life expectancy
and experience of most women in the world even today who live
pretty much as they always have. The reality of their existence
dictates that they grow quickly through girlhood into early
and prolonged maternity then, if they are lucky enough to
survive multiple childbirths and general poverty, they pass
through menopause directly into old age.
Photographs of my own grandmother when she was younger than
I am now, picture a matronly looking lady with the Old Worldly
stately countenance of a grandmother, a bubby, an abuela --
a full decade before I was born. Part of her elderly appearance
is purely the style of the period, the rest a reflection of
her hard life and times.
While certainly there is still much to learn from these models,
the old triple-header construct is no longer all-inclusive.
It doesn’t include a description of my life or the lives
of other contemporary women in their middle years living in
modern developed countries. It does not address our issues
and needs, nor does it embrace our unique and unprecedented
position in society. It does not even recognize our existence.
The old stereotypes simply do not apply to us.
We have outgrown our tenure as Maidens and as Mothers, yet
old age no longer follows immediately after menopause, which
is why so many midlife women don’t see ourselves (yet)
as Crones. Where is the authentic archetype for us? There
are now, for the first time in herstory and history combined,
entire multi-national generations of women for whom the Triple
Goddess paradigm no longer resonates. For us -- nearly 50
million climacteric women in the United States alone -- the
tri-level ideal is flawed.
Folk tales and historical documents featuring positive depictions
of powerful middle age female figures are few and far between.
There is no codified body of literature to which we can turn
for affirmative examples of profound and potent midlife. Real
life role models are sparse, as well, although there certainly
have always been, in every society, notable and remarkable
exceptions — powerful middle aged women who were rulers,
adventurers, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, spiritual
leaders -- mature, glamorous, and courageous sheroes of all
stripes. The popular media has typically portrayed menopausal
women as over-the-hill, overwrought, flakes or furies, completely
undesirable in either case.
So who are we supposed to be? And who can teach us how? We
occupy a truly unique position, poised on the brink of uncharted
waters. This extended and vigorous midlife period which we
are now beginning to experience is largely unaccounted for
in myth and archetype for the simple reason that such longevity
has never before occurred for the great masses of women as
a whole. We desperately need a new body of role models, examples,
and teachers to encourage us as we explore the unfamiliar
terrain of our changing lives and create new and joyful ways
of being in charge of our own destiny.
it is time for a change of paradigm. Which is as it should
be. Life is about nothing if not change, which is, after all,
the greatest teaching of the cyclical Goddess. Her power and
inspiration lies in Her infinite flexibility, Her adept adaptability,
Her unbounded ability to always, always, always change. The
Great Goddess, supreme mistress of the art of tranceformation
will surely respond to the changes in our lives and times
by enlarging the vision of Her Self to include Her fourth
dimension -- and ours. The Great Goodess is, even now, beginning
to expand to include us in Her archetypal embrace.
In the absence of a traditional mythic example to spur me
on and sustain me through my midlife changes, I perceived
the need to invent one. So I formulated a fourth stage of
development that would place me after the Mother and before
the Crone in a newly defined continuum of Womanhood, thus
providing me and other women of my generation with a recognizable
role model for our middle years: The Four Fold Goddess: The
Maiden, the Mother, The Queen and the Crone.
My construct of the four stages of a woman’s life is
a much more accurate description of the current Way of Womanhood.
Her four periods of growth and transformation resonate deeply
with contemporary women. And they seem so natural, somehow.
They are in complete metaphoric alignment with the pervasive
way that peoples have always ordered existence into Four Quarters.
The Four Quarters of the Moon, the Four Seasons of the Year,
the Four Solstices and Equinoxes, the Four Elements, the Four
Cardinal Directions of the Earth, the Four Periods of the
Is this hubris? Who am I to challenge an archetype that has
been so powerful for so many for so long? Well, I am in fact,
a proud member of the pioneering Sixties Generation, and consequently,
I have a certain modest amount of experience in rebelling
against the status quo of old archetypes and striving to replace
them with new, more inclusive and relevant ones. Our generation
has demonstrated time and again that it is possible to create
our own characters, compose our own scripts, and author the
sagas of our own lives. We are our own role models. Bereft
of affirming depictions of our lives, today’s women-of-a-certain-age
are more than ready, willing, and perfectly capable of creating
The mythic model that I envision is recognizably like me,
like us. Not yet old, yet no longer young, she stands in her
proper place -- after the Mother and before the Crone -- in
No Woman’s Land. She plants her flag and claims her
space in this previously uncharted midlife territory. Still
active and sexy, vital with the enthusiasm and energy of youth,
she is tempered with the hard earned experience and leavening
attitudes of age.
She has been forced to face and overcome obstacles and hard
lessons including her own shadow, and in so doing, has outgrown
the boundaries of her old self. Agitated with the unessential
and restless for authenticity, She sheds all attachment to
the opinions of others and accepts complete responsibility
and control for her own care, feeding, and fulfillment. She
is the Queen of Her Self, the mature monarch, the sole sovereign
of Her own life and destiny. Here, finally, is an archetype
The Queen paradigm promotes a new understanding of what it
might mean to be a middle-aged woman today who accepts complete
responsibility for and to her self, and it celebrates the
physical, emotional, and spiritual rewards of doing so. Becoming
a Queen is not automatic, nor is it instantaneous. As Simone
de Beauvoir said, “One is not born a woman, one becomes
The Queen bursts forth from adversity and previous constraints,
actual or imagined, to become a proficient player in the game
plan of Her choice. The Queen does not invite hard times and
trouble, but She chooses to use them well. Actualized, organized,
efficient, self-sufficient, competent, ethical, and fair,
the Queen has struggled for and earned Her authority and respect.
Determined and firmly centered on Her own two feet, She dares
to climb, step after step, with nascent surety into the heady
realm of Her own highest majesty.
Once on her throne and crowned, the Queen glows golden with
confidence, competence, and grace. She is fully aroused and
takes great pleasure in the feelings of freedom, elation and
wellbeing that come from personal empowerment. This thrilling
post-menopausal period of vitality, renewed energy, enhanced
self-esteem, optimism, and enthusiasm comes to us in direct
proportion to the intensity of our own conscious, conscientious
engagement in the process and consequences of transformation.
Another gift of self-enfranchisement is the potent and extremely
liberating sexuality of the Queen. Shining from the inside
out, Her attractiveness and attraction is rooted deeply in
Her self-actualization, self-worth, and inner strength. She
exudes a primal excitement, Her power palpable in her very
presence. Her desire reaches the boiling point and her inhibitions
melt in the heat of Her renewed passion for life.
was through my own process of coming of age that I conceived
of the Queen as the missing link in the chain of life for
modern women in the here-to-fore incomplete Triple Goddess
archetype. Through my own intentions and concerted efforts,
by constantly questioning and reconfiguring, by struggling
to mourn and then release what was irrevocably lost, I was
trying to recover my own misplaced vitality, interest, and
energy after the long hard painful years of my disconcerting
Finally completely self-realized, I was ready and able, and
for the first time in my life, I was actually willing to reign;
to accept the responsibility for the truth and complete consequences
of my own dreams, decisions, and actions. I was a maturing
monarch prepared to regulate all of the inner and outer realms
of my own domain. By the time I reached 53 or so, I knew myself
to be the uncontested mistress of my own fate. Miraculously,
it seemed, I had succeeded in turning my midlife crisis into
my diamond-encrusted crowning achievement. Surely I was a
Queen, and not a Crone. I was the Queen of My Self.
When I first began conceptualizing the Queen, I dreamt of
a ceremonial crowning. My dreamtime punster made herself proud
as she at once confirmed my passage as through the birth canal
into a new life, and acknowledged my newly earned sovereign
station -- both in a single, concise, and vivid image. In
this Crowning Ceremony, I ascended the throne of my passion
and power and pledged myself to my Self. Always aware of the
promise of that dramatic nocturnal ordination, I have worn
my crown of self-confidence ever since. The more I think about
the Queen, the more I become her. And the more Queenly I become,
the more I desire to be in the company of other Queens.
"As long as I live, I will have control over
my being -- you find the spirit of Caesar in me."
Italian painter, 1593-1652
Long Live the Queens!
Donna Henes, Urban Shaman, is a contemporary ceremonialist
specializing in multi-cultural ritual celebration of the cycles
of the seasons and the seasons of our lives.
is the author of The Queen of My Self, The Moon
Watcher's Companion, Celestially Auspicious Occasions,
and Dressing Our Wounds In Warm Clothes, as well
as the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy &
Me. She is also the editor and publisher of the highly acclaimed
quarterly journal, Always In Season: Living In Sync with
In 1982, she composed the first (and to this date, the only)
satellite peace message in space: "chants for peace *
chance for peace."
Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, has offered lectures,
workshops, circles, and celebrations worldwide for 30 years.
She is the director of Mama Donna’s Tea Garden &
Healing Haven, a ceremonial center, ritual consultancy and
spirit shop in Exotic Brooklyn, New York. For further information,
a list of services and publications, a calendar of upcoming
events and a complimentary issue of Always in Season: Living
in Sync with the Cycles.
Henes will be teaching the workshop
Queen of Myself : Women Stepping Into Sovereignty in Mid Life
September 12th 2004 at the Wise Woman Center
For registrations, contact:
Susun Weed and The Wise Woman Center
PO Box 64 Woodstock NY 12498
Or register online at www.ashtreepublishing.com
Click here to send an
email for more info.
MAMA DONNA'S TEA GARDEN AND HEALING HAVEN
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, NY 11238-0403