Recently I attended an all women’s camping retreat honoring and marking each stage of a woman’s life. This group of about thirty women identified three stages: maiden, matron, and crone. These are traditionally acknowledged stages in multiple cultures. I think I would prefer a four stage model, using some of the terms for women that are traditionally given to men; these stages resonate more for me: maiden, warrior, sage, crone (with this being earned at around age 70). Now that we are living longer lives, this seems more accurately reflective of our modern life, though of course, I truly hold the value of embracing ancestral rituals. The word matron sounds outdated to me, not all women choose to become mothers, though they may be part of a community of shared mothering, they may not be. Warrior at this stage of a woman’s life, say 25ish to 50ish, is really the worker bee stage where women are raising families, forging careers, and building community. They are indeed warriors.
The other evening, in an emotional eating group I was facilitating, a client had put the words “road warrior” on her collage. It was the first session of a new group and everyone had shared about their struggles with food. A common thread, of course, was that the participants had tried every diet in the book, as well as a 12 step program. My client stated she’d picked that phrase because in truth, we are all warriors. Though she’s realizing now that dieting will never work, that listening and learning to trust her own body is the way, instead of reflecting on herself as a failure regarding dieting endeavors, she is recognizing herself as a warrior. She said something to this effect, extending encouragement to each member, “We’re all warriors. None of us has given up on ourselves, otherwise we wouldn’t be here tonight.” I loved this, it is so true. My clients, my warriors. Each one of them has tried everything they can to fit themselves into our culture; our narrow, unrealistic definition of beauty. As hard and crazy making as trying diet after diet had to be, the fact is that each of them learned more about themselves with each endeavor. And they kept going. Now they’re on the path of listening to their own body, trusting themselves to let them know when and what to eat, instead of handing that job over to some outside agency. They’re on their way home. It was an incredibly rich evening of verbal processing and collage making, each warrior sharing deep wisdom and support with each other.
Ahh, but I wanted to revisit the women’s retreat which was absolutely magical. Smudging, sacred circle, drumming, fire tending throughout two days and two nights. It was my first time being up in the middle of the night tending a magnificent fire in the forest on a starry, starry night. Can’t get more magical than that.
To celebrate each stage, a maiden, a matron, and a crone danced a solo or duo initiating the honoring. The maiden, a precious fourteen year old girl/woman was so shy and sweet, dancing before the circle of older women. What courage! I wept for all her innocent, young beauty and all the experiences that await her. And my wish for the maiden? That she will have enough positive female community of warriors, sages, and crones to support her in trusting her body and loving who she is. To know that her unique essence is part of this universe now and forever.