Through myth, for thousands of years, women's lives have been represented in three life stages, Maiden, Mother, and Crone. These three stages of life were reflected in the goddesses of ancient cultures. Their mythologies were a direct reflection of the life experiences of the women from that culture. The problems and misadventures of the goddesses reflected universal experiences of living life as a woman.
The three-part metaphor well-represented women's lives until something new began to emerge around the year 1900. Since then, an entirely new life stage has emerged in women's lives and it's potentially the most powerful of all.
The average white woman's lifespan in the year 1900 was 48.7 years, and the average lifespan of non-white women was 33.5 years. Most women did not survive past menopause!
By 2011 a white women's life span had increased by fifty-eight percent and the life span of women of color had grown by one hundred and twenty-nine percent. This has created a new stage of life for women, potentially lasting another 20-25 years, enfolding within it perimenopause, midlife, menopause, and post-menopause.
This is significant because, Boomer and Late Boomer women are the first generations of women to live collectively past menopause and midlife, in the history of humanity.
What are the possibilities for women in this stage of life, where 70 is the new 50? What would, can, or will women do with another 25 years of life when their bodies, minds, and spirit make a return to their essential selves? What could 87 million American women working together accomplish? Anything we set our minds and hearts to. And I say, just in time!
Over thousands of years, the deep fundamental unity of the archetypal feminine has remained unchanged. The idea of the goddess and the divinity of the feminine has not changed. Early understanding of the goddess was a unity; Gaia, for example. The next evolution was a duality, like Demeter and Kore. Then came the triple forms such as the 3 Fates, triple Hera, and
the threefold Hecate.
The current acceptance of Maiden, Mother, and Crone is also due to its adoption and revival by neopaganism and spiritual feminism of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
Our longer life span has left women without a mythic metaphor for this new life stage. Or even worse, trying to stretch the crone down into the '50s!
It is clear that women's lives have expanded into four mythic stages. The expansion is during the ages of 45-70, creating a new stage that I name Regency. Regency does not negate the triple Goddess, rather it includes and embraces it within a four-fold form that I define as Maiden, Householder, Regent, and Wise Woman.
Maiden is as it ever was, a metaphor for the one-in-self innocence of life before menses and the bloom of sexuality. For the second stage, which is traditionally known as "Mother," I prefer the term, Householder. It is more inclusive of all women, including those who do not have children, and it encompasses a broader array of lifestyles. For the final stage, I prefer Wise Woman, as many women perceive it as less pejorative than the term Crone.
Regency invites women to continue to grow while acknowledging the processes of aging that unfold during two powerful life transformations, menopause, and midlife. It's a metaphor that encourages creativity, engagement, and productivity in the twenty to thirty years of living, on the journey toward the Wise Woman.
Regency engages with the gift of time; mythic and real—that other generations have not experienced. After thousands of years of being conscripted to old age at menopause, women now have Regency to actively seek to grow into the Wise Woman, to mature into their most authentic selves, utilizing all the experience and wisdom they have garnered in their lives.
Living through all the stages of our lives, women undergo enormous changes, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. How we chose to understand and approach these changes can fundamentally move us closer to our authentic fulfilled selves or trap us in stagnation.
This new 4 part metaphor embraces the longer lifespan and still vital potential of millions of women who are recreating themselves and their lives through their perimenopause, midlife, and menopause transitions.
If women are the metaphoric embodiments of the Goddess in the flesh; if we are living metaphors of the Goddess' creative power as womb and tomb; if we are living metaphors of the cycle of the seasons, as personified in the seasons of a life, then it is fundamental that the metaphors of the goddess have expanded right along with us. We are the Goddess and she is us. Women cannot separate themselves from the Goddess anymore than the Goddess can separate herself from women. As Jane Ellen Harrison writes, "The Matriarchal Goddesses reflect the life of women, not women the life of the goddesses."
The Goddess' metaphors have transformed in the past, have done so again, and will always continue to reflect the lives of women. We are the lucky ladies to be living together into a historic first! We are now firmly situated in a four-stage mythic metaphor, Maiden, Householder, Regent, and Wise Woman.
The four-fold goddess is one expression of the new emerging mythos that may, hopefully, find its full expression in the balancing of the masculine and feminine attributes within the human psyche and the world.