Maiden / Mother / Crone Schema – They don’t always fit!

Going off of my recent post of deities being more than their archetypes, I figured I should also cover the maiden / mother / crone schematic (henceforth shortened to MMC), and why deities don’t always pigeonhole easy, and why they even shouldn’t necessarily.

The MMC schema is popular among eclectic Wiccans, neo-pagans, New Age types, and for those who have trouble sifting through the sands of Internet information. It is commonly represented by the symbol ‘ )O( ‘, with ‘)’ being the waxing moon becoming full, like a girl reaching puberty and becoming a woman. The ‘O’ is the woman herself, now a mother with children and giving all one’s wise council. The ‘(‘ is the waning moon, where the female has become old, her children grown, and she is a wise old woman.

The Maiden is associated with youth, growth, springtime and naivete. She is a young girl not too aware of the world around her, because she is too busy picking flowers and enjoying the carefree world of girlhood. This is often explicitly related to the girl being a virgin. Deities included in the maiden scheme are Persephone and Artemis, and if one follows the virginity definition, then many other deities come in as well, like Hestia and Athena.

Here’s where the pigeonholing starts to fall apart – it’s far too based on virginity, and virginity and it’s loss hardly has huge profound impact on many women. For example: Artemis is a huntress who is said to have a coven of women following her about in the hunt, traditionally a man’s sport. She is wild and untamed, unbound. She may be young, but she is not naive. She consciously chooses to swear off women, meaning she is locked off from the mother and crone aspect of her life. Yet she is a goddess of childbirth! She aided her mother in giving birth to her twin brother Apollo. Athena is the goddess of knowledge, and of tactical combat in war. She is also hardly naive; she is a virgin, but she is asked for aid when one needs a critical piece of information, and she gives very wise council.

The Mother, as you might guess, is an archetypal woman who has given birth and is now enjoying her womanhood, and loving her children. The Mother is oftentimes cut off from what made her a mother in the first place: her sexuality.     This is completely awkward; why deny what led to the thing you revere? Many housewives and mothers enjoy sex with their husbands (or other men) as a part of a happy, healthy relationships. Humans were pretty much built to have sex, and even enjoy it, so sexuality should not be kept seperate from grown, mature women. Common mother deities include Hera, Demeter, and ‘almighty goddess we all once worshipped’ (My feelings on this will be a different post).

The mother is all about that title, and that title alone, which may be decently okay for Demeter, and the AGWAOW, but Hera hardly fits. She is too busy dealing with her husband, doling out punishments and as a goddess of marriage, she has plenty of reason to be upset. Spend a brief moment reading the story of Hephaesteus’ birth. He is not attractive, so much that Hera throws him off Olympus! Hardly archetypal mother behaviour. Demeter, on the other hand, did not become a mother by choice. In the myths, yes, Demeter’s beloved daughter Persephone was a daughter of rape, and when Persephone is taken by Hades into the underworld, Demeter flips out.  Things stop growing, so much that the humans begin to starve, and Zeus has to step in and work out an agreement via Hermes to get some time for Demeter with Persephone. So, half the year, or a third of the year depending on the myth, Demeter is daughterless, meaning she has no Persephone to mother.

The Crone is one of the original reasons I contemplated writing a post on the MMC schema. Many neopagans associate Hekate ( heh – cate, not heh – cuh – tay! I’m still training my brain to the new pronounciation, too. ) with the Crone, who is an older wise woman who has long ago hit menopause, who’s children are fully grown and she is often a deity of death, witchcraft and decay. She is the grandmother guiding her children, now with children of their own, how to raise them and has enjoyed the fruits of her labor, now reflecting on them.

Crone deities include the previously listed Hecate, along with Kali, an Indian goddess, and Sumerian goddess Erishkegal. Erishkegal is the governer of the Sumerian underworld, Attalu, and she alone passes laws upon the deceased. One occasion, she falls in love with Nergal, who is alive, and as such he cannot stay in Attalu. Nergal came bearing food from a feast among the living, and Erishkegal basically throws a (to modify a quote from “American Dad”) tantrum the likes of which no mall has ever seen. She threatens the other gods to bring all of the deceased back to life if she doesn’t get to have Nergal. Hardly the dignified behavior of a mature, elder woman. Hekate was the inspiration for all of this post – many people nowadays draw her as an old woman, and put her as the crone with Persephone the maiden and Demeter the Mother, and yet… in all ancient Greek depictions of her from around the time when she was worshipped widely, she is depicted as a perfectly young woman. She is, also primarily in many of the myths, a complete virgin. Only in some regional variations of myths does she have the children Circe or Scylla attributed to her.

So, really, you don’t have to try to force the gods and goddesses of the world into archetypal psychology that they don’t fit; it’s kind of like believing all young people listen to crappy rap music, or that all Asians know how to do a pedicure. (Though not really racism, you get what I mean I think.)

Considering doing something for the man side of MMC, or gender duality. Do tell me what you think!
<3, Lily

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