Self

How To Truly Honor The 4 Stages Of Life Women Go Through

Photo: Andrej Lisakov | Unsplash 
Group of woman in all stages of life

It's not often the scientific community and the spiritual community agree on the same criteria to define a concept. But that’s what happens when describing the female stages of life!

Medical establishments relate the stages of a woman’s reproductive cycle, beginning with menstruation and ending with menopause. In contrast, women’s spirituality uses the terms Maiden, Mother, Wise Woman, and Crone, which are connected with your menstrual cycle.

The face of the maiden approaching menarche is of childlike innocence; the Mother (associated with the child-birthing years) embodies the nurturing aspect; the Crone (whose rite is menopause) represents wisdom.

However, the Maiden/Mother/Crone model has become outdated. Feminist scholars and theologians are introducing a new phase between the mothering years and old age: The Amazon or Queen.

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Here are the 4 stages of life women go through & how to honor them with spiritual rituals:

1. Celebrate the "Maiden" with a coming-of-age ritual

Introducing a young girl to the idea that her first period — her “first blood” — is something sacred is a radical notion when given the less-than-positive messages she may get.

Therefore, it's one of the most powerful women’s rites you can enact, not only for your daughter but for yourself as well.

Often, it works better to have someone facilitate who’s not directly related to the “maiden,” like a grandmother or aunt.

You can make it a family affair and invite the female members of your family or several friends who've recently gotten their first periods. You can turn it into a magical PJ party!

If you want to go full-out with the coming-of-age ritual, the first step is to create sacred space with the help of the Maiden — a beautiful altar on the dining room table or in the backyard — with her favorite colors, music, and objects.

The woman who loved her most gathered around and encouraged her to express something she wanted to leave behind from her childhood. It might be sadness or fear.

Then she can write it down and burn it! It’s helpful to invite everyone to talk about fear or a challenge first so she can see she’s not alone and that even grownups have fears.

You can also have them mention something positive about being a woman and pass around a pendant as they share this wisdom and gift it to the "new" young woman.

You can then send her off to her room or even a tent in the backyard (her “initiation hut” as they call it in coming-to-age rituals around the world) to contemplate some big questions: Who am I? What dreams, hopes, and fears do I have for my teenage years? How will I handle them?

Or encourage her to reflect and write about these thoughts after the ritual.

And if all this seems like too much, you can plan a thirteenth birthday party for your Maiden … kind of a non-secular Bat Mitzvah as celebrated in the Jewish tradition.

Whatever you decide to do, it will be an unforgettable experience for everyone … there’s something powerful about women sharing their experiences in a supportive, non-judgmental environment, no matter how old they are.

   

   

2. Honor the "Mother" with a blessing ritual

Like a bridal shower, a baby shower is a way for a circle of friends and family to celebrate a significant passage you might go through as a woman.

In a traditional baby shower, the emphasis is on supplying the expectant mother with everything she’ll need to furnish her nursery and to dress, feed, soothe, and care for her new baby.

Certainly, that practical aspect of preparing for the baby is a big one, but what’s missing in a typical baby shower is an equal emphasis on the “care and feeding” of the new mother.

The final weeks of pregnancy, the birth itself, and certainly those first exhausting months with a newborn are perhaps some of the most important times in a woman’s life to practice self-care — and when she’s least likely to have the time or energy to do so.

In the Navajo culture, the “Blessingway” is a ritual enacted to lovingly prepare the expectant mother for a powerful life transition. Here are some ways you can create a modern-day rendition of this ceremony.

Assuming your “blessing” will be done during a baby shower, you can set the mother-to-be on a chair in the center of the room and invite the guests to place nurturing gifts around her — nursing pads, special “belly balm,” and foot and back massage lotion for labor.

Another mother-nurturing gift that can be co-created in a divinely feminine circle is a nursing shawl. It can be a simple cotton wrap or if it’s a winter baby, a soft, knitted shawl.

In the circle, her friends can inscribe their hopes and dreams or take turns sewing little charms or beads representing their wishes for the mother-to-be.

Then invite small groups of women to approach the mother and whisper prayers, blessings, and a little supportive touch.

One other magical ritual (if the mother is willing) is for her friends to decorate her belly with wishes and words of encouragement. You can use colorful body paint that is safe and fades slowly, or henna, a natural dye.

After everyone's had a chance to nourish the mother, you can share a ritual communion of eggs and other foods symbolizing fertility. Then, you can proceed with the traditional opening of baby presents.

   

   

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3. Reclaim the Amazon/Queen and step into your power

In terms of planning rituals to celebrate the female stages of life, the timing of the first two rites (Maiden and Mother) is pretty straightforward.

However, honoring the onset of your Amazon-Queen phase is a little fuzzier for a few reasons: First, the peri-menopausal years can span as much as a decade.

Second, right about when you’re beginning to move past the most labor-intensive mothering years, you’re entering menopause.

So, regardless of what’s going on with your body, you can celebrate your “queen-dom” on your 40th or 50th birthday.

Whenever you decide to do it, the idea is to reconnect with your sense of personal power and embrace the freedom and feistiness that come with owning your Amazon Queen self … while encouraging everyone else who’s celebrating with you to do the same.

You can also express and release any old memories, habits, and regrets from the past decade and then declare all of your dreams and goals for the next decade.

In her book, The Queen of My Self: Stepping Into Sovereignty in Midlife, Donna Henes offers some other fun ideas for Amazon-Queen parties.

And of course, whatever you decide to do, be sure to create a sacred space with lots of candles, beautiful music, and an altar filled with all kinds of meaningful symbols representing your gifts and talents as well as the ways you want to embrace your power over the next decade or so.

Opening yourself up to be celebrated in such a magical way can feel a little daunting, but the Amazon Queen ritual is all about embracing your power, authority, and self-confidence.

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4. Embrace the Wise-woman/Crone & claim your wisdom

Being indoctrinated by patriarchal culture, you’re probably now picturing the Crone as a stooped, wrinkled, haggard, unstable old woman. But stop for a moment and look at the words themselves.

Crone comes from the Greek root Khronos, which means time, so a crone has lived a long time and is steeped in wisdom from years of accumulated experience. She is “haggard” in the original meaning of the word … holy (really – look it up!).

Mary Daly, the brilliant feminist theologian reminds us that hagiology is the “...description of sacred writing or sacred persons,” and that an obsolete meaning of hag is “intractable or willful” and when applied to a hawk, means “untamed.”

May we all grow up to be haggard Crones!

Fortunately, more and more women are reclaiming their “crone-dom” and recognizing the need to embrace that seasoned wisdom in themselves. However, as defining the perfect time for an Amazon Queen celebration is a little fuzzy, so it is with the Crone as well.

You could tie it to the astrological milestone of your second Saturn return sometime between the ages of 56 and 60. Saturn is the archetype for the teacher and the responsible adult.

Another possibility is to wait a year after your last menstrual period, when you’re “officially” through menopause, or you could go with the “traditional” retirement age of 65.

Whenever you choose, the intention is to honor the breadth of your life experience and step into the deep wisdom of your Crone-self.

To create sacred space, you can place four candles representing each stage of your life: white for Maiden Innocence, red for the Mother’s life-giving, fertile blood, purple for Amazon Queen power, and black for Crone wisdom and embracing the unknown.

Then, invite each woman to name herself and her female lineage, a powerful way to acknowledge our ancestors, foremothers, and grandmothers: “I am the daughter of____, who was the daughter of ____, who was the daughter of____," etc.

You can also ask four friends to dress and roleplay each of the four life stages. One at a time, the Maiden, Mother, and Amazon-Queen present themselves to you and invite you to share memories and wisdom gained from each of those stages.

By presenting the Crone as a strong, saucy leader and wise woman, you’re sending a powerful message to the girls and young women that it’s time to toss out the negative patriarchal stereotypes. No shriveled, mousy, ineffectual, invisible Crones in your world! It is pretty liberating and empowering to envision that for yourself, isn’t it?

Have fun playing with these phases as you and the beloved women in your life move through each of these four stages of life in meaningful, spiritual ways!

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Deborah Roth is a Life and Career Transition Coach and Interfaith Minister who founded Spirited Living™ to help guide spirited women and men through life’s big changes with joy and ease.