“I’m not old enough to be a crone.” “I may be past menopause, but I am so not ready for old age.” Common enough protestations, when AARP Magazine a couple years ago declared that “sixty is the new thirty” and a million baby boomer girls are getting close to retirement. They’re not about to slow down.

We seem to think that because we worship a “traditional” or “ancient” Triple Goddess, we need to mirror her with three stages of womanhood. Well, here’s the news: the “ancient” Triple Goddess was invented in 1948 by Robert Graves for his book, The White Goddess, which is neither history nor herstory, neither theology nor thealogy. It is a close reading of Celtic poetry and myth by an eccentric 20th-century poet-scholar. Authentic triple goddesses were either sisters (the Furies, the Graces, the Fates, the Matronae) or three faces of one goddess (Brigit, Hecate).

Urban shaman Donna Henes has studied the Great Goddess in Her many aspects and, thank Goddess, written a book of humor, wisdom, and eloquence that explains the situation of aging women who aren’t old. Now that women are living several decades beyond menopause, three stages of womanhood just aren’t enough. When you’ve finished bleeding, but you’re not wrinkled and fossilized and all-wise, when you’re still learning and doing and active in the world, when you know what you want and aren’t afraid to go for it... now you are a Queen.

Mama Donna begins the story of how women can become queens of themselves with the story of her own life— hot flashes and midlife challenges and “the relentless bombardment of losses” every woman experiences as she moves into middle age. She investigates archetypes and goddesses around the world, she includes histories of and quotations from authors, poets, and real queens, and she talks about women she knows and how they’ve taken charge of their own lives. She also tells us the many differences between threes and fours and presents a Four-Fold Table of Correspondences (p. 59):

Maiden Mother Queen Crone
Waxing Moon Full Moon Waning Moon Dark Moon
Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Water Earth Fire Air
East South West North
Dawn Noon Sunset Midnight

How do we move into midlife sovereignty? There are, Henes warns, no ten easy steps, “no rules, no recipes, no prescriptions, no instruction manuals, no precise formulas to follow when it comes to pursuing the daunting process of Stepping into Sovereignty” (p. 97). But she makes lots of suggestions. Modify your intention. Articulate your intention. Sanctify your intention (p. 104). Take care of yourself. Feed yourself. Clean house from the inside out. “Note the process of noting your process” (i.e., keep a journal, keep family records, keep notes from divinatory readings you get). Meditate. Spend a day in bed. Light your own fire. “Create your own majestic makeover” to project your new image. Approximately every other page of the second half of the book gives ideas, some fanciful, most of them practical and grounded. The last suggestion—Do something.

We can all become queens of our selves. The world is likely to become a better place when we step into our sovereignty, tell it like it really is, and do something about it. This is a book that women who think they’re “too old” should read, that women who are of queenly age but don’t know what to do with their lives should read, that all of our daughters and granddaughters should read so they know what lies ahead. In an age of overwhelming information and the daily possibility of terror, we can at least take charge of our own lives.

— Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.



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