When Maiden, Mother, Crone isn’t right…

My latest blog for SageWoman…


After having spent a lovely weekend in Glastonbury with a dear friend, I noticed that there is a lot of focus on the triumvirate of Maiden, Mother and Crone. Walk into any shop and you will find this triple goddess littering shelves, books about these aspects and people talking about where they are in relation to Her.

This triple goddess, however, leaves me a bit cold. Childless by choice, I have no relationship with the Mother aspect of Her, and absolutely no desire for one.  Yet is seemed to be constantly thrown in front of me – at a certain age, we should be entering our Mother phase. My little inner anarchist said bollocks to that.

Firstly, I’ve always had difficulty with a triple goddess, reflected in the phases of the moon for, as everyone knows, there are four phases – waxing, full, waning and new or dark moon.  So, a triple goddess of the moon makes no sense for me personally, though it may work for others.

Secondly, there are many women out there who can identify with my choice of not bearing any children and for whom the phase of motherhood may seem out of place.  I understand that the term motherhood may have many different meanings – you can give birth to ideas, or nurture your own environment. However, to me the term mother has always been a literal one. It is partly why I don’t believe in an all-loving Mother Goddess.  I have a physical mother and no need for a metaphysical one.  My deities of nature do not have the usual aspects of motherhood instilled within them. They simply are what they are, whether that is wind and rain, fog or mist, love, anger and fear, time and tides, floods and drought.

So what is a person to do when bombarded by this triple goddess? It seems taken for granted that everyone identifies with such, especially women. This is not the case. Perhaps we need to find something else that works for us individually.

I considered over the weekend how to change the triumvirate of Maiden, Mother and Crone.  Some ideas that I have considered are Maiden, Priestess, Queen and Crone – and the aspect of Mother could easily fit into one of two categories there should the need arise.  This would also seem to fit in with the phases of the moon – Maiden as the growing, waxing moon, Priestess in the fullness of her power, Queen as we journey into the wisdom of sovereignty with our maturation, and Crone as we delve deep into the darkness and journey towards the winter of our lives.  This feels easier for me, without adding pressure of having to procreate to fit into one of her aspects.

I have heard of people replacing the Mother with Warrior, or Amazon, but this does not sit right with me.  As a Druid I am dedicated to peace, working to create peace in the world through empathy and compassion, using the Bardic arts that I am graced with, as well as the Ovatic gift of vision.

Perhaps I take this just a little too literally, a little too seriously.  As a woman who has made the decision not to have children however, I feel that it is sometimes necessary to redefine the boundaries of what we currently hold to be our personal truths in our ever-changing society.  I feel this is even more necessary in our spiritual worldviews. For me, religion should be an ever-evolving thing, growing with the person and with the society, holding a sacred relationship to our past while looking towards our ancestors of the future.

16 thoughts on “When Maiden, Mother, Crone isn’t right…

  1. I agree fully with you about the 4 phases of the moon, that’s one thing that’s always confused me about the triple moon goddess.
    As a woman who has no child – and might never have one – however, I have felt a mother before: to my cat, to my business, to projects and ideas… or to myself as well as I undergo transformation. Giving birth is a powerful metaphor many go through even without procreating.
    This said, I can understand it doesn’t speak to you… however, for you to feel as if “it’s thrown constantly in your face” brings me to ask why? Why do you feel so strongly about this? What does it tells you about yourself?
    Life is a mirror that speaks about our own inner journey…

    • Hi Marie!

      It was simply an overload at Glastonbury, with all the triple goddess imagery everywhere this weekend. Why do I feel strongly about this? Possibly because I feel the need for the times to be a-changin’, for the voices who are silent to perhaps be heard… x

  2. You’re not alone in disliking the maiden, mother, crone view of Goddesses. To me it is too limiting. If a deity doesn’t have a physical humanoid form then why should we force them into one. If they choose to trigger a form of a mature woman one day in my mind , the next they might be a half rotting crone. Neither image conveys the reality of what that being is. I don’t want to be seen as just a mother, a daughter, or a lover so why on earth would I try and fit my gods into a limited view?

    • Yes Pauline – a lot of women are sharing that same exact point of view with me since I posted this. No one likes to be pigeon-holed. We are a myriad of things, we are legion… x

  3. As a woman who is childless by choice, I appreciate your sentiment! I do think it is absolutely valid to consider the birthing and nurturing of one’s ideas and creative endeavors synonymous with the mother aspect, but I also understand how hard it is to hang on to that when you feel like the rest of the world is taking it literally and maybe even eyeing you askance wondering why you haven’t embraced that aspect of their divinity (which they might assume is your divinity too).
    Of course there is not much you can do about what may seem to you a narrow interpretation of a multi-faceted archetype – besides maybe wear blinders while at Glastonbury! Most people are going to go what’s easy and makes sense for them and that seems to be the Maiden-Mother-Crone, though I should hope that anyone who looks deeper will see that those are the broadest possible descriptors of what is a very complex, layered concept.
    My preferred way of thinking about the triple goddess is as Learning-Doing-Being. In the broadest sense those concepts may correlate to chronological age, but really if we are living a full life then we are experiencing all of those states, every day. That’s simply my interpretation though, your mileage may (and should!) vary.

  4. My wife and I are childfree by choice too, and we both get really fed up of the ‘motherhood’ emphasis and fertility/childbirth fetishisation in much of modern, Wiccan-influenced paganism. I suppose it’s easy to ignore it, but coming from a strict Catholic background that equally restricted women’s roles and emphasised reproduction, it feels stifling at times. If it works for some people, great, but I do agree that alternatives need to be out there for those of us who just don’t get it.

  5. Jane Ellen Harrison said that the Goddess was originally 2–mother and daughter–life giving birth to life … that has always made more sense to me. The 3-ness always seemed forced. Though I do not have children, the connection of the generations makes sense to me. I also do very much feel I am “mother” to my animals and that “mothering” which to me means expressing care, concern, and generosity for life is a way of being that should be the model for us all–and that means boys and men too–all the time.

  6. I say, “Maiden, Maker, Crone”

    You can build human beings or you can build a career where you can build community or you can build a movement where you can build whatever you like, but it’s the phase of creation and nurturing so whatever you pursue.

  7. I can resonate with the four words you use, also childless by choice, I have found the mother aspect didn’t fit – creating something other than a person is not the same as mothering. It fits well with the four phases of the moon. Thank you for this post, Joanna. Sorry to have missed you when you were so close in Glastonbury . . . maybe next time.

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