The Maiden, Mother, Crone (MMC) archetype is taking a beating in many circles of modern witchcraft. Some scholarly witches call out the MMC as perhaps the earliest device of the patriarchy to keep women in their place, primarily by entrapping women in the duties motherhood and then rendering them worthless as they age beyond fertility.
Others attribute its ubiquitous stamp on feminine divine practice to the growth and popularity of Wiccan witchcraft, wherein the Triple Goddess-MMC archetype is the patron goddess.
In her Patheos article, Why I Absolutely Despise the “Maiden, Mother Crone” Model, author Scarlet Magdalene sources the Triple Goddess-MMC to a poetic work of author Robert Graves, The White Goddess. Magdalene presents a good argument for stepping away from reducing women to their sexuality and fertility. While I fully respect her (or anybody’s) right to embrace or reject beliefs in their personal gnosis, I believe hers in an example of the increasingly myopic view of MMC.
I encounter even more indictments across my social media feeds, laying blame on the Mother aspect for excluding all women not mothers—those who bypass any and all aspects of motherhood or nurturing by choice, and those who are unable to conceive and give birth, or become traditional mothers through any means.
Equally as often, I bump up against detractors of the MMC who dislike the Crone archetype. One such is my respected mentor, Cyndi Brannen, Patheos author of Keeping Her Keys, and the book of the same name, as well as PhD, founder and Administrator of the Mystery School. Brannen admits to having a strong aversion to the Crone archetype.
“I’ve often wondered why the wise woman of the trio is labelled “crone” rather than the more appropriate title of “matron.” Cyndi Brannen
Why All The Shade Being Thrown at Crone?
The Crone Archetype, a study conducted at St. Catherine’s University, Minneapolis, Minnesota, describes the crone as “a pre-existent form in the collective unconscious that embodies instinctive ways of channeling wisdom, inner knowing, and intuition, guiding us through the transition of life, and going inward to bring forth the light for transformation.”
I ﬁnd it particularly interesting to note that the description includes a metaphor for giving birth, as turning inward and bringing forth light and transformation, despite modern ideation that the crone is barren.
By bringing forth light from the darkness (new information) and transformation (new interpretations of, or applications for old information) Crone is a visionary leader on our earthly path, a guide through the shadows of our psyche, and a priestess of the spiritual realms. Her experience has been hard won, not only by way of mistakes, but the vagaries of chaos—slings and arrows, and all that jazz.
Many witches resist Crone because of her appearance, and a belief that this elder aspect of the MMC is another attempt to push women of age into a box of invisibility where they are no longer of value in a youth and beauty focused society. The Crone is past her time, beyond her expiration date, unworthy of the male gaze and, ultimately, unfuckable (a standard brilliantly and bitingly revealed in this comedy sketch, by Amy Schumer).
Consider the relative lack of protests for the Maiden aspect. This glaring absence of fault ﬁnding with the one archetype of the MMC that focuses on youth, vibrancy and beauty and sexuality apart from motherhood, is a much more telling commentary of ageism in our modern culture than the Triple Goddess-MMC could ever be.
It is not the Patriarchy, nor the modern, narrow deﬁnitions of beauty that are responsible for usurping Crone’s power and authority. Rather, I believe, it’s the very eschewing of her ageless beauty by modern women. Their fear and revulsion of the Crone is a self perpetuating catch-22, they are reinforcing the single Crone aspect they most fear, and the single one they cannot escape —natural aging.
“When women resonate or activate the crone archetypal image they tap into the psyche to reclaim primordial images and receive the power within them that honors older women.” The Crone Archetype: Women Reclaim Their Authentic Self by Resonating with Crone Images Joanne Sienko Ott
It’s time to reclaim our power and sovereignty as Crone, and by extension as Maiden and Mother too—fully actuated and sovereign unto ourselves regardless of our age, choices, or inescapable circumstances. Only when we understand there is power in each of the archetypes (and all the aspects of each) to manifest our desires, can we claim our full power.
Overcoming the Fear of Becoming Crone
I see the MMC archetype as a simple mnemonic devise to help us remember the primary attributes of the Triple Goddess. Triple Goddess is the header, Maiden, Mother, and Crone are the subheads. They do not tell the entire story. MMC roughly marks out the broadest stages of a woman’s life (beyond her infancy and childhood) embarking into and moving through her autonomy and sovereignty. Within each stage of MMC are all the roles of women.
I doubt any of us are living the ideal of the feminine divine archetype as fully actualized woman, but that’s the thing about archetypes, they are the idealized. The many archetypical roles of women throughout their lifetimes are not strictly relegated to a single age or stage of the MMC paradigm, but can and do merge and ﬂow through all, as illustrated by the word cloud above in the above table.
As Maiden, woman is passionate and engaged in everything life has to offer—certainly not limited to physical and/or emotional love. She is curious, open to and willing to receive all of life’s experiences offered to her. She pursues her life with—well, a passion. Within this archetype may be the warrior, the lover, the healer, the leader and more, but each pursuit will be governed by the passion, vigor, youth, freedom, impulse and exuberance of the Maiden.
The Mother as an archetype is not relegated to giving birth, or otherwise fulﬁlling what we understand today as the traditional mothering role, caring for and nurturing children. Mother deﬁnes a period of creativity. After having explored all her youthful experiences, she now has an opportunity to create that which she desires, not run about looking for it—or worse, sit around dreaming and hoping for it.
And while the Mother aspect is about marshaling your knowledge and experience to create the life you desire, with or without the beneﬁt of children, you do not have to be either a mother or genetically feminine. All of us, regardless of gender identity, generate creative energy when manifest that which we desire. We embrace nurturing when we carry an encompassing and unconditional love in our hearts for what we’ve created.
Further, the mother has not discarded the Maiden nor left behind her youthful aspects. The Mother carries the Maiden within. Take it from a past 60-year-old woman, daughter of a matriarchal line that lives well into their 90s still in possession of all their faculties, living in their own homes, many of them single and independent women—we all agree that we still feel like the Maiden in our thoughts, despite the aging of our bodies.
Finally, we come to the Crone. She is quite simply, a woman of great experience. She’s had the opportunity to pursue what she wanted. She learned how to create what she desires, and she has learned how to lose it without losing herself. She strived beyond her challenges, thrived despite hardships, and continued to learn and grow through it all. She suffers no fools yet embraces those willing to learn, with an equal measure of compassion and exaction. She takes no shit, and has no care of who may or may not like her.
Embrace, Don’t Erase
Sadly, I ﬁnd there is little respect for the Crone and her earned wisdom in our modern world, even among witches. I don’t see it as an inherent ﬂaw with the crone archetype or even in its possibly patriarchal inception. Rather the persistent resistance to the crone aspects by a younger, youth-centric society is erasing the Crone and her value.
In cultures and societies that have historically revere age, advice given from a Crone or Sage is always to be accepted with quiet rectitude, demonstrating respect for the elder and gratitude for their advice, even if the advice is not followed. Interestingly, in many Native American cultures all elders are grandparents to all the tribe whether they produced their own children or not. Their experience and wisdom is considered vital to the tribes unity.
As long as we are alive in the mortal vessel, growing older is inevitable. Aging is life itself the unfolding of the mystery of the cauldron—birth, death, and rebirth. Only when we embrace the MMC archetype in all of its many aspects, and understand that it is far less about rigid parameters and age, and more so about honoring the cycle of life, will we truly awaken the divine within and be able to claim our power as sovereign witches throughout the journey.