So many years ago I tried to do a religious studies degree on Goddess Spirituality as an alternative paradigm for viewing and understanding embodied womanhood as powerful and holy (as opposed to icky, messy, gross, less-than – as defined by The Patriarchy).
Except that (a) I was looking specifically at Blood Rites and the imagery of Maiden-Mother-Crone, and (b) I hadn’t heard the word “cis” yet, and had no fucking clue how to talk about this stuff without somehow excluding trans women from the category “woman”.
I wound up stopping my degree part-way through for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that I didn’t think I could ethically talk about womanhood in the context of a religion that has bodily autonomy and self-definition at its heart while limiting that word to cis women.
Now here I am, almost ten years after the fact, wanting to talk about Maiden-Mother-Crone and how… it just doesn’t work. Not really. Not even for cis girls. Not even for cis girls who choose to be parents.
I remember, years ago, taking part in a Goddess Group where we all got to slot ourselves into one of those three categories and then talk about why we’d put ourselves where we did. And it was… sad-funny to see how many of us made our choices based, not on where we felt we fit, but on where we *didn’t* want to get *put*. The women who’d chosen “Mother” had chosen it because they didn’t want to be “put on the Crone Shelf” and ignored because they were (or looked) “old”. The women – self included – who’d chosen “Maiden” were doing so predominantly in resistance to social pressures to start raising babies. The women who’d chosen “Crone” did it for the same reason – because they’d spent so many years, often in (lieu of) childhood, taking care of other people’s kids (frequently their numerous younger siblings), and they no-longer wanted to be defined in any way by the role of “child-care-giver”.
I’ve watched so many women – with and without kids – trying to twist the goddess-category of “Mother” to mean something closer to “career woman” or “manifester of creativity” or something because – duh – being defined by our capacity to make – or not make – babies is not actually all that empowering when it’s used as justification for treating our bodies as civic/public property.
Many, many years ago I came across a book called the Women’s Wheel of Life.
I have a copy on my shelf, because it influenced me a LOT.
It is deeply rooted in cis-based biological reductionism. Which sucks. BUT. It’s also the first (though YAY not the only!) goddess spirituality piece that expands on and changes up (to some extent) the limited options offerred by the Maiden-Mother-Crone paradigm.
Spring: Daughter – Maiden – BloodSister
Summer: Lover – Mother – Midwife
Autumn: Amazon – Matriarch – Priestess
Winter: Sorceress – Crone – DarkMother
As you can see, it ain’t perfect. “Blood Sister” could just as easily have been called “Comrade” or “Chosen Sister”. “Dark Mother” could have been “Guardian” or “Crossroads Keeper”. But it’s a start, and I’ve been glad of it for a very long time. (It being my 35th birthday today, I would put it at about… seventeen years?)
That said, my lovely wife once asked me – around the time that Z Budapest was choking on her own feet at Pantheacon – why it has to be about bodies in the first place.
And it’s a valid question. (And the answer is: Because we *are* our bodies. This is not a meat suit, this is *us*. We can’t choose how we’re made, or how the rest of the world is going to treat us because of it, but we can find ways, make
ways, to make ourselves at home in our own skins. For some of us that’s a hell of a lot easier than for others of us. But it’s there, and it matters. You are not a thing for other people to make decisions about. Neither am I. We are ours, and we are holy. Full stop. No question).
None the less, and in spite of that answer, I do agree that an alternative paradigm (or three, or four) would be damn good to have available. Handily, they’re available!
An alternative that I (just now) came across, called the “Woman Breadwinner’s Wheel of Life”, offers the following:
Winter: Wise Woman
While, again, it’s not perfect – I’d have liked to see creativity/creation alongside cultivation as the Summer bridge between inspiration and completion – it allows for a much
wider range of activities, paths, and fulfillments than a model based on what we’re “supposed” to do with the reproductive organs someone else is presuming that we have.
I think this alternative paradigm allows for high-femme aunties (like me and
like my wife), empire-building career-artists; raging grannies & student-activists (possibly the same people, I do realize); trans dyke mamas; sexworking professors; and all the rest of us.
The goddess in me greets the goddess in you. You are all my sisters. ❤
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 Forced sterilization of indiginous &/or disabled cis women… "just 'cause", apparently; forced (manditory – until barely a couple of years ago, in my province – if you want to get an F on your ID) sterilization trans women; infringement and harrassment over access to birth control and abortion services for cis women; stealing children from reserves and poor, frequently racialized neighbourhoods coupled with opinions voiced by (usually white, usually cis-dude) people in power that poor women should just not have kids (see: "welfare queen"); implying that women who have "too much" and/or "the wrong kind of" sex (poly-kinky chicks AND sexworking chicks AND queer/dyke chicks) are unfit mothers and/or shouldn't be around children "just in general"; street harrassment of every possibly itteration; "Mommy Wars" and uninvited touching/discussion/advising of pregnant women (and, one suspects, people presumed to be women given their pregnancies); pressure for (cis) women over "a certain age" to have their reproductive (and sex-drive-inducing) organs removed ("cleaned out" – actual quote) now that they're not likely to result in further humans; non-consensual surgeries on intersex bodies to make them conform more to what "women" are "supposed" to look like "down there" as prescribed by a cisnormative, heteronormative, system that prioritizes the presumed desires and preferences of a het-cis male gaze; etc, etc, etc. 😛
 As someone who bakes the bread, but who doesn't earn a lot of money; as someone who is offspring-free but who holds the cultivation of my own chosen family in high priority; and as someone who doesn't see "career woman" and "parent woman" as mutually exclusive… I'm not thrilled with the name for this one. But I can work with it.