Autumn Archetype

May 2020.  Auspicious times. COVID-19 lock down restrictions are easing here in Australia and Europe. In Celtic earth-based traditions, it is southern hemisphere Samhain: time to settle in for cooler, less-light winter days; to note the passing seasons in the cycle of the year; to prepare for change. According to the old ways, this was the beginning of the new year. Time to gather in, acknowledge life’s gifts with gratitude; to remember our ancestors; to face our fears.

Marking the change of season seems particularly meaningful for me this year, perhaps because the lockdown has settled me firmly in my beautiful natural environment – trees in abundance, clean air, blue sky. (And yes, I realise I am very privileged.) Ancestors, autumn, anxieties link me with the wheel of the year and the seasons of my own life.

Recently I was intrigued to discover that as a post-menopausal woman who is not yet an elder Crone, I fall into the Maga or Queen archetype in the female life cycle.  Archetypes and symbols, myths, folklore and legends are treasure houses for writers. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with them, partly because I wrote a story about a water witch, based on a legend from the Friuli area of Italy where my grandmother was born. The legend had such significant connections to stories my grandmother told about their lives, that it felt like it was my story.

In the literature of female archetypes for a woman’s life, three figures are usually described: Maiden, Mother and Crone corresponding respectively to the child and girl; the mother who births and cares for children (or if childless, she nurtures in other ways); and finally becomes the wise woman reflecting in her life, sharing stories with those who will listen. The Maga or Queen archetype reigns in the autumn season of the life cycle between Mother and Crone. (Thank you, Jen Storer from Girl and Duck for drawing my attention to this development).

Seems with all the baby boomers living well past child-bearing stage and into careers and interests outside of and including the grandmother role, our collective unconscious needed a new persona to typify this emerging phase of women’s lives.  Enter the Maga/Queen ( I think she’s always existed in various incarnations of the work of Jung and others) but she has recently taken firm hold in popular iterations of the female archetypes.

While the Maiden energy is youthful, inquisitive, learning about herself and the world and the Mother energy is about birthing new life, understanding unconditional love and putting the ego aside; the Maga/Queen energy is both grounding and balanced while accessing deep insight and powerful wisdom that can contribute much to our evolving 21st century. Australian naturopath Angel Counsel suggests the word means magic woman or wise woman in Sicilian.  

Image by Valentin Salja on Unsplash
A beautiful hike through the Serbian Kosmaj mountain forest in early, cold spring.

The Queen/Maga feels connected to all life, yet she realises she cannot nurture it all. She must be selective. She is aware that her time is running out. She must set boundaries on energy expended. She realizes she can’t do it all; she must let some things go and she must do what really matters. Her expertise, wisdom and knowledge may benefit many if she chooses to work in the community.

She may feel drawn to focus on her own needs and creativity. I think she possesses what Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Big Magic as a fierce sense of creative entitlement. She writes on p.92 creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that – merely by being here – you are allowed to have a voice and vision of your own.

What a gift is this message to those of us who feel called to write, draw, act, dance, sing, create (any creative endeavour) in the Queen years of our lives. Certainly, we’ve earned the right to be here through our Maiden and Mother experiences, not that we needed to earn it. We were always allowed.  Yet somehow, there’s a knowing in our bones that now is the time.

And how powerful for women at other points on the wheel of life to bring in this Queen energy, whether as a Maiden learning her own thoughts, life purpose and expressing her voice; or the young Mother challenged with conflicting demands of child-rearing (or other kinds of nurturing) and societal expectations; or as a Crone settling into her wisdom, sharing with those who will listen. The Queen teaches all of us how to ask for what is needed, how to say no, how to negotiate boundaries, how to use expertise and influence for good.

And as a Maga what am I to do at this stage of my one wild precious life (Mary Oliver poem). Am I doing what I want to be doing? Am I being who I want to be? Questions for another day, another post.