by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, in Buffalo, New York
Maiden, Mother & Crone Archetypes for Mental Health
You don’t have to be a neopaganist to appreciate the beauty of the ancient archetypes of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Each life phase has its own role and responsibilities, and each is valued equally.
The innocent and energetic maiden explores life with young eyes. It’s a time of firsts: first period, love interest, dreams, and passions. This age is marked by curiosity about almost everything. It’s a time of discovery, early exploration of the self, and choosing initial life paths.
The mother archetype does not just refer to women who give birth or choose to adopt. This age is marked by a deepening awareness of maternal, loving, giving, feminine energy. This nurturing can appear in creative endeavors, parenting, social connections, and learning. It has a vibrancy and strong forward-moving energy. Perimenopause occurs in the latter part of this phase. Here, the tasks are sharing knowledge, mentoring, greater or lesser community involvement, and reflecting on the past, present, and future.
The crone archetype is notable for the way it integrates what has preceded it. Physically, it is marked by menopause. While physical energy may have waned, there is a trove of life experience on which to draw. New possibilities include more time for introspection, greater self-confidence, stillness, greater interest in meditation, and a newfound appreciation of the simplest pleasures.
It can also be a time of grieving — not just of the aging process, itself, but of other losses as well. This allows space to let go of past patterns, roles, and dreams that may no longer be possible. The greatest gift of the crone is feeling freer and safer to be oneself.
Engaging with These Archetypes
By embracing each stage as you progress through life, you inhabit your truest self and prepare for the next phase.
While no life transition is especially easy to navigate, women entering the third age have a particularly difficult time in our culture as we are bombarded by messages that say we should stay young. Exactly the opposite advice that would help us move forward.
As with most life decisions, there are no cookie-cutter answers about how to live in each phase. One woman’s choices might be completely wrong for another. The hard part of continuing to evolve into your unique self is deeply listening to your own inner guides. Of course, they sometimes pepper you with conflicting messages, but if you’re patient and willing to wait, the path becomes clear.
Want help making peace with your life or support as you make hard decisions? Search for a therapist who can help.
Reflections on Cronehood
I was sitting in the park yesterday, the paradigm of a little old lady on a bench, and I felt an incredible sense of freedom. With no pressure to be physically appealing to anybody and not looking for anyone to complete me, I felt fully myself. It was a glorious experience. Embracing my cronehood. Who knew?
Every single thing I have ever been led to believe about being an old woman evaporated in that moment. I felt seen. People smiled at me, and one young man sat with me to chat for a little while.
I like to remind myself that Yoda and ET weren’t beautiful, yet they were wise, loving, and fully present — not to mention respected and loved.
In my younger years, I enjoyed many aspects of the maiden and mother roles. Now, it’s time to take off those mantles and allow this stage to unfold. I have no interest in chasing a youth that at 68 is truly behind me. And what is “young at heart” anyway? I want to be wise, compassionate, generous, and kind at heart. I couldn’t give a rat’s meow about being or looking young. I want to be what I am: an old woman.
It’s hard, though. The media show me pictures of women my age who — through all sorts of machinations — look a lot younger. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be vibrant and healthy, but I can be those things at 68 and look my age. I don’t want to be young again. Been there, done that. What’s interesting is discovering this third age. I love sharing my experience of 45+ years as a holistic psychotherapist.
Life Wisdom for the Crone
Someone very wise once said to me that if I were comfortable with my choices, the chances are other people would be, too. Not only have I found that to be true, but by living my most authentic life I give people a cosmic permission slip to live theirs.
We all need examples of what’s possible. Thankfully, I have seen other older women do their own thing and find it incredibly inspiring. I can only hope my ways will inspire people to feel good about their choices, even when they go against the prevailing societal tides.
This third age can be a fertile time full of discovery. That may manifest as trying new things externally, plumbing your own depths, or a combination of both.
For many women, it might entail long periods of rest. Even though that can feel “unproductive,” it may prove to be just the peaceful, healing break your body-mind-spirit needs.
Aging with Awareness and Self-Compassion
Like an old injury that still might be seen in a faint scar on your body, some things naturally lessen over time. Other issues, like childhood trauma, keep paying emotional dividends. It’s never too late to get good therapy. You can evolve until you drop the body.
One of the biggest challenges in life is fully accepting whatever stage you’re in and allowing the present to unfold with new possibilities. This process can happen as we grow out of things naturally and organically, or through therapy.
When it comes to entering the crone age and swimming against the tide of our youth-oriented culture, that may entail a conscious, concerted effort to be your true self. This is never easy. It’s even more challenging when you’re aging in an age-denying society where media bombards you 24 hours a day. Still, it can be done. The effort is worth the reward of authenticity. In addition, you can be a beacon to younger people by showing them what it means to age with some measure of grace and acceptance.
Of course, it’s also important to be honest about the challenges of aging, just as it is to be present with the tasks of maidenhood and motherhood. No stage is easy, but by navigating them with awareness and not hiding behind a facade of everything being all good all the time, we can support each other in a new compassionate way.
Finding a therapist who can help you navigate the challenges of life’s bumps, twists, and turns can be incredibly helpful to embracing the stage you’re in. Search for therapists in your area, then narrow your search using the filters on the left of your search results. If you’re looking for help with accepting your cronehood, you might use the Common Specialties filter, selecting All other issues > Aging and Geriatric Issues to see your options.
© Copyright 2021 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC in Buffalo, NY
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.