Maiden, Mother, Who?

Neopaganism is chock full, loaded to the gills, filled to the brim (can I get a few more references for "there's a lot of this stuff in here"?) with allusions to a Great Triple Goddess. The Fabulous MMC is in the building. Can I get a what what?!

So, I'm in the middle of writing this fabulous new article and show centered on the modern Maiden, Mother, Crone archetype and whether we can truly relate to Her in all her many aspects if we haven't/cannot/don't wish to become one of those three things. Inspired largely by an email received for my joint show Inciting A Brewhaha, a listener asked how to relate to the Goddess when she isn't a mother. I've dealt with the issue of relating to myth before in the episode Inciting A Gay Riot, but I think the topic deserves revisiting.

Here I am, however, crowdsourcing feedback before you've even had a chance to hear or read what I have to say on the subject. Be that as it may, here's my question:

What are your thoughts on the Maiden/Mother/Crone Goddess archetype?

I'd love it so much if you'd leave your thoughts in the comments below so that everyone can join in on the fun. Do you find it hard to relate to these three? Are they too constricting? Too open? Do they apply to every person? Woman? Do they have to? Does the idea of a deity with multiple personality disorder keep you up at night?

Answer these and many more questions in the comments below!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte


  1. First I want to say that not all pagans relate to the MMC archetype. It has never been part of my own beliefs to focus on a single Goddess (or as a good friend used to say, one Goddess many facets), but I think many who come from Christian backgrounds do find the concept more comfortable. It can work as a transition from a single god to a single goddess, especially for women who feel empowered by the whole thing.

    But like I said, that's not me. So when thinking of the MMC, the goddesses I associate with are all different - not part of a single whole beyond being from the same pantheon. And just as you would have friends of different ages that you share things with and who can teach you or remind you about things, that's how the MMC concept works for me.

  2. I find it really interesting how different people struggle with different aspects of the MMC metaphor of the life/psyche/spiritual cycle. I think it says a lot about us individually and culturally, and may in fact be an important tool for the challenges of each stage in and of itself.

    For example, when I was a teenager, I absolutely HATED the Maiden ideal because of the the connotation I felt it held regarding so-called sexual purity (virginity), and pitiful naiveté. It made me feel patronized, ignored, and powerless. Now, having gone through that youthful stage, I now view the Maiden as a symbol of life, freshness, and boundless vigor. She is as an archetype of beginnings, and endless possibility. She reminds me that new ventures and opportunities are best met with new eyes, fresh ideas, an un-jaded attitude and an open heart.

    Many people struggle with the Mother, especially those os us who choose to be child-free. We tend to get hung-up on the literal meaning, and the cultural ideas of motherhood. However, I think the Mother really represents wisdom and experience. She represents the stage of maturity where we have enough within ourselves and our own experience to be able to give back to the community. As a youth, you tend be so overwhelmed with how new everything is, you get wrapped-up in yourself. Being a Mother is giving back. Mothers are fierce protectors, innovative teachers, and wise leaders. So, woman-up and run that Mother.

    Speaking of mothers.... My own mother, upon hearing me refer to the Crone stage awhile ago, said the term Crone was the most insulting term she'd ever heard. She was actually quite upset about it. She felt it was a sexist concept due to society's attitude (past and present) toward women beyond the biological and cultural age of conception by the patriarchy. It made me blanche a little, because I never thought of the Crone that way. Since it is a term not often used outside the Pagan community, I had only heard it used in the proudest and most respectful ways. To be a Crone was to be respected. I can see my mother's point though, and I often struggle with the term. But I can also see it a feminist term; just as Pagans use the word Witch, elder women in our community have "reclaimed" the word Crone. Whenever I hear "Crone" used by a Pagan elder, it sounds as if the speaker is saying "Yeah, that's right. I'm old. And I'm effing awesome! OLD IS THE NEW WITCH, Y'ALL!" But that's just what I hear. You're experience may vary.


    (Btw, your creation of "The Fabulous MMC" is sooooooo going on the Lexicon.)

  3. I do the polytheistic thing, and prefer to think of each goddess (and, y'know, god) as an individual, with various aspects and areas of interest. I like that, because if human beings were nothing but archetypes, I'd get very bored with them very quickly. Same with deities.

    As I mentioned on IaBhh, I'm not really into the triple goddess archetypes. I'm the age of most mothers, but I don't have kids. My own mother is technically crone-aged, but she acts more like a maiden (well, randy adolescent really) than most people her age - and why shouldn't she? We're all many things at once, and my life is *not* defined by whether or not I've had children, or when. I'm more than a baby-making machine. Plus, y'know, lesbian. Sex does not always equal procreation (she says at Beltane!)

    It also rather leaves men out in the cold. There aren't so many god-based archetypes for them, especially not age-based ones. And they aren't usually defined by fatherhood in the archetypes they do have - but many men are exceptional care-givers of their children, sometimes their primary care-givers, and as much involved in the fertility 'process' as the woman in the (hypothetically hetereosexual) partnership.

    MMC. Nah, not for me. Give me a warrior goddess and a trickster god any day of the week, but as distinct beings, not archetypes.

    - Sophia Catherine

  4. I would have to agree with Sophia. While goddesses within my chosen pantheon often have a triplicate nature (the Celts loved 3s), they don't necessarily form the modern MMC triad. One book I recently read added the Queen to make the MMQC to mark a transitional period that even more modern Pagans are going through (middle age).

    I will admit to having a bit of a knee-jerk, hard-polytheist reaction to people talking about The Great Goddess/The Triple Goddess. I don't get how they can read ancient mythology and believe that (while still somehow claiming to be recreating ancient religion). I really love the research you put into things, because I've met so so many people who don't and still think they know everything about Neo-Paganism.

    I will say that from back in my own soft-polytheism days, I found it hardest to relate to the Maiden, mostly because she did not have a nurturing nature nor the wisdom of experience to offer, she seemed kind of useless.

    -T Seifert

  5. It's interesting that the "maiden" is referenced in virginal qualities. I always see her as more of a budding flower, meaning ready to become a mother less virginal more like fertile. I have to agree with other posters here that I don't follow the MMC archetype but I do find it interesting in that it allows for women of all ages to identify with the Goddess.

  6. I wrote about this last year.....

    Mostly I have a hard time with the MMC. As a queer woman and one who chooses to be childless, classifying women in their relation to their proximity to birthing years is insulting and outdated. The imagery would not be so offensive if it were not everywhere, but alas it is.

  7. I'm with Bellatrix. "Maiden" is all innocent, virginal, naive. "Mother" is all about giving birth, 'fulfilling woman's natural function'- just there to be a vessel for someone else. No worth on our own. "Crone" is what we become when all we have left is ourselves and a whole lot of regrets and hard lessons. No thanks.

    I prefer other gods/goddesses. There are even 'mother' goddesses with identities independent of their reproductive status. Aset (Isis) is one of them- mother to Nekheny, but also a patron of slaves and artists, and a great practitioner of magic, especially magic relating to resurrection. She had stories and a life that didn't necessarily revolve around her kids; she was independent of them while still acting as a mother. You can see how this is a direct contrast to our current cultural expectations of a woman's world and identity being completely entertwined with her kids', as if everything she does should be for it's benefit at all times.

  8. As someone who's childfree, I'd rather skip from maiden to crone--god knows my personality is born crone anyway. I don't want to HAVE to be a self-sacrificing nurturer because I was unlucky enough to be born with a vagina. God knows we don't have this concept of triple god in the same way (unless you count Father/Son/Holy Spirit, whatever the hell that is), or at least we generally don't talk about it. I guess they have "kid," "teenager" and "grown man," but he's still worthy whether or not he had children, and women...aren't regarded as such. So, ugh.

  9. I'm 36, and I've been feeling motherly since I was 14 (I began raising my nephew then). I began my journey into cronehood (that should be a word) when I was about 7. You know how our lovely old people LOVE to ask questions who make other people uncomfortable? Well, 7-year-old me made a lot of people squirm. I have a feeling that I'll stay maiden of mind forever, even if my body continues to ache and say that the whole things is nonsense.

    I think that the concept is... sweet. But when it is taken out control and turned into some kind of measurement system it loses its power.

    Jesus says, "Word, G!"

  10. Ever notice how there is no warrior in there? Does that say something about gender expectation? Just sayin'.

  11. I actually did an almost entire episode on this once i think in season one of IP Radio. I have had almost NO feelings of association with the mother aspect of the goddess EVER. LOL. In agreement with Jennifer I always wondered WHY I should have to feel any of those things simply because I was born with the parts that could make me a mother? I never wanted to be a mother (at least in a traditional manner) and the ways in which I do/did nurture don't seem to qualify so....

    I ended up relating more to the male aspects of spiritual practice. And then there is the crone - i have always wanted to be the crone and now that I am I am like - take THAT shit momma and go nurture yourself! LOL.

    The mother aspect is just another label to me. Just another way to make us all feel not good enough, caring enough, birthy enough... Screw all that.

  12. I tend to think that the MMC as sign posts, and are not intended to be socially enforced definitions. I do think there should be an analogous set of signposts for males, like was spoken in in the podcast. The maiden/youth, I think of as a "novice" phase,in a person's life, where the community or coven or whatever, is needed to train and nurture a young person. the mother/father is the point where the community deems a person as a full fledged adult, and the crone/sage. is the point where a person's physical working time is no longer as important as their capacity to teach and share experiences with those younger to enrich the society.

    My dad used to say one of his big problems with modern western society is that there are no rights of passage, and the few we do have don't really tell you much. I think he has a point.getting a driver's license and the ability to legally drink alcohol, do not give one the knowledge that one needs to grasp the idea of adulthood. I do think the word "mother" may be a bit loaded, I also think that people are reading way too much into it. when you reach the "mother" phase, no one is going to run up behind you and start snapping their fingers and say "alright sweetheart, time to start pumpin' out them babies!" or at least they shouldn't.

    A friend of mine, who is also a guy, were discussing the idea of mmc/yfs and pointed out that neither of us had children and were in our thirties.were we doing something wrong? were we seen as less than other men or women who had children? after talking to several other pagans who had been at this longer than he or I, We were told, that being a father/mother did not mean that we NEEDED to have kids to be in that phase, but that we give birth to creative things, ideas, stories, artwork things we build etc. and that we need to be "mothers and fathers" of our community I.E. acting like adults, taking part in the running, health, and maintenance, of our communities.not to mention the covey of younger friends that come to us to ask for advice or help. all of these are our children, and the communities we help create are the nurturing ground for the youth, and the homes for our crones and sages.

    the fact of the matter is that with this way of thinking children are not a must, the middle phase just means that you need to act like an adult.

    I can't speak for the crone/sage as of yet, as I am not there. but the idea is at that time your knowledge and the fact that you have "been there and done that. once again, not meant to be a title or a personal definition, but a signpost. I would love to wright a blog on this kind of thing


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