Introducing Maga – An Evolution from the Triple Goddess

The Triple Goddess of ancient times lives on, as relevant today as She was in the matriarchal cultures of ‘prehistory’ (before 1000BC). She is the Maiden/Mother/Crone – Persephone/Demeter/Hecate. These three phases of a woman’s life were seen to be reflected in the Earth’s seasons: Maiden – Spring; Mother – Summer and Autumn; Crone – Winter. Each phase, or season, of a woman’s life has a rite of passage that sets its theme and gives her information about how her particular culture values her new role and what is expected of her.

                 Rite of Passage                        Life Season                          Rite of Passage

                        Birth                                       Maiden                                   Menarche
                     Childbirth                                   Mother                                   Menopause
                   Menopause                                  Crone                                       Death


The developments and discoveries of our modern scientific and medical technologies over the last ten centuries have given us another life season. Simply put, we live longer than our ancestors did. In the times of the ancient Triple Goddess, we would have babies at fourteen, become grandmothers at thirty, and die at forty-five. Now, if we make it through menopause without having any serious health issues or conditions, we can live to 100 plus years.

The ancient Triple Goddess now can be extended to the Four Phase Feminine Way.


 Rite of Passage      Life Season      Rite of Passage          Age          Corresponding Earth Season

       Birth                      Maiden              Menarche            ~ 0 – 25                Spring
    Childbirth                  Mother               Menopause         ~ 25 – 50              Summer
    Menopause               Maga                Retirement           ~ 50 – 70            Autumn/Fall
    Retirement                Crone                   Death               ~ 70 – 100+           Winter


During a recent visit to North America just after my 47th birthday, I spent a weekend with my mentor and friend Cedar Barstow (*) in Boulder Colorado. While my sons slept in, Cedar and I sat on her back deck overlooking her beautiful garden in full bloom, and catching up after several years apart. The Rocky Mountain air was hot and clean, and new baby birds chirped as they flew for the first time.

I told Cedar about the book I was writing on the wisdom of the cycles. I proudly showed her my ‘Spinning Wheel’, a tool I created after I received a vision for it during a meditation. The ‘Spinning Wheel – A Woman’s Oracle of the Truth’ functions with a series of spinning wheels that enable a woman to line up her present life season with the matching Earth’s season, the moon phase, and her menstrual cycle, to “read” the energies influencing her on any given day, and to help her to understand and make sense of her feelings, thoughts and energy levels at any given time.

Cedar and I spoke about the rites of passage that occur at the beginning and end of each life season, and she told me about the ceremony that her spiritual community, Earthsong Ritual Dance Community, facilitated for her and for other women seeking to mark their menopause and transition from Mother to Maga. “Maga?” I asked.

“I’m no Crone yet,” she said, “far from it! I’m out there in the world earning my living and I have much to give. I’m not wondering about what I’m going to do with my life anymore, I’m doing it! I have physical limitations, I’m not as young as I used to be, and my day has an earlier ‘quitting time’, but I also don’t need as much detailed prep’ time for my teachings and for doing therapy. My life experience and the wisdom it has brought me provide a stable and rich foundation.” Cedar continued, “I have arrived at my self in this life season. I’m not trying to prove myself, and so I’m now driven by a desire to use my gifts and passions to give back. The name ‘Maga’ came from one of the women in our community, Sylvia Keepers (**). An apt and potent image, ‘Maga’ was intended to represent the female version of ‘Magus’, who is the wise man and the magician.”

Interesting…“arriving at my self…”. This phrase reminded me of Dr. Christiane Northrup’s statement in her book “The Wisdom of Menopause”, where she likens the symptoms of peri-menopause to those of a woman in labour, except that this time around, the woman is giving birth not to a baby, but to herself.

Cedar described the beginning of her own Maga phase as a time of “integration and pulling through and pulling together the biggest pieces of my life’s work, my offering to the world.” She described herself and her Maga sisters as being at a level of competence within their self-expression or their careers. They were enjoying freedom from the intense responsibilities and demands of motherhood and from the career climb. They were comfortably confident and driven by a desire to give back. For some of them, not having to take care of children any longer has opened up the space and time for giving back in ways that had never before been possible. For others, like Cedar at 60, it is “too late to start another career, my path is set.”

Cedar’s unique contributions to the larger world are possible now, and they are motivated by what is calling her. Cedar described herself as less social now than she was during her Mother season, but very involved in her community. Mothers and Magas generally have a very active and direct community influence, while Crones typically influence via their well-developed presence and by visiting and holding space from the outer edges of their family lives, circles and communities.

The Maga phase is the extended Mother phase of the Triple Goddess; it is the phase we move into after Mother and before moving into Crone. Maga represents the autumn season of a woman’s life. This season is symbolized by the harvest and by the integrative place of the west on the wheel. The Crone represents the winter season, the season of ‘retirement’, life review and letting go. The Crone’s life is inwardly focused; she is in contemplation, in a distillation mode of the life that she has lived. She philosophizes, tells stories, prays, gardens, and gathers with other Crones. The changes to her body and brain necessitate a quieter existence, enabling a ripened access to spirit. There is spaciousness to her being-ness that takes her into the place of ‘big picture’ as opposed to detail. She is the wise woman.

Over the last couple of decades our culture has seen the development of an upward trend in maternal age in Western minority cultures. Many women put off their first childbearing in favor of pursuing careers, often waiting until well into their 30’s and even 40’s to start their childbearing. This has given rise to Assisted Reproductive Technology, resulting in many multiple births and caesarean section deliveries. In these cultures, in addition to the creation of the Maga phase, the Maiden phase and the Mother phase are also affected by scientific and medical technological developments. The effects of this will remain to be seen and will be creating a completely different story in a few decades or so. But regardless of what the possible effects of technology may be, a woman’s life seasons are always defined by the natural fertility cycle of her life. Menopause is the rite of passage that ends the season of the Mother and begins the season of Maga.

If a woman arrives at her Maga season with the timing Mother Nature intended, her children are either well into their teens or young adults who have perhaps already left home. They need her less, and their process of separation has already begun. The turmoil of this separation process, combined with the labor pains of menopause, truly does give a woman the opportunity to give birth to a new version of her self. Her role as Mother is very different now: her children not only depend on her less, but part of their individuation process may also be to reject her at this time. How this transitional period is negotiated, and how well she is supported by family, friends and society, will determine how she comes through this rite of passage and who she will be on the other side.

A ‘negative’, or shadow aspect of Maga is expressed by the unfulfilled ‘empty nester’, a woman who has lost her sense of self as mother and nothing else has yet taken that place. Her life may feel empty, depressing and without meaning. She could, with this mindset, become a premature Crone, withdrawing from her life. Or, she could hear with ‘the ears of her heart’ or her ‘third ear or intuition’ (Jeannine Parvati Baker ***) for what has ‘heart and meaning’ (Angeles Arrien****) for her and direct her still very strong and potent energy toward whatever she chooses.

Many women in their 50’s pick up careers and interests from their Maiden phase that may have gone dormant or ‘part-time’ during their mothering time. Some women start new ones. They have time now – focused time. Cedar described it as “finding a motivation more powerful and more effective than Will.” She calls it an organic and heart-centered motivation that is much more pleasurable and sensual than Will. She said “we need to surrender to this powerful force like we surrendered to the birth force.”

The Maga season seems to be a modern privilege and responsibility.

The privilege: Our lives today are “cushy”, compared to even just 100 years ago. Machines have replaced many of the tasks that would have taken up most of our time to just survive. Cars, supermarkets and ovens have substantially changed the time it takes to get a meal on the table. We go to the gym for the exercise that we would have gotten from daily life tasks. In some respects, this takes meaning away from our lives, but in other respects it gives us the freedom to use our time and energy in unlimited ways. This then leads to…

The responsibility: The Maga woman is needed as a strong conscience for the community and society. She can, as Cedar explained, “hear and tell the truth without shame or blame” and “stand in strength, while staying in heart”. Perhaps the essence of the drive to give back comes from all that was ‘given’ to the Mother – a way for her ‘to give thanks’. Becoming the Grandmother, she cares about the world her grandchildren will be born into and about doing all she can to help make that world a safe, sustainable place. The Grandmothers of times past were the ones who held the final say on matters such as war. If this were still the case, the world might be a different place today.

In their book “The Women’s Wheel of Life”, Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard describe this season of a woman’s life with the archetypes of the Amazon, the Matriarch and the Priestess. Some of their keywords and phrases for the Maga are: harvesting one’s life skills and talents, confidence, competence, assimilation, integration, power, giving back, contributing, community mindedness, maturity, presence, security, abundance, sharing, storing for the future, queen and magician, and knowing one’s self.

Since my return to Australia I have shared this Maga tale with women’s circles, in my Women’s Mysteries workshops and with many of my friends, and the prevailing, dominant responses are “YES!” “This makes sense, this feels right.” “A whole new chapter in my life!”
As with all transitions there is no one point at which everything changes. Like the seasons, ‘the change’ is gradual, not instantaneous. Peri-menopause, with ‘peri’ meaning ‘around’, can last anywhere from two to thirteen years.

Caroline, in her early 40’s, feels the Maga phase beginning to affect her. “I’m less social, and less interested in what’s going on in the social world. Where once I would have gotten a big kick out of being somewhere, all smart and dressed up, I now avoid large impersonal gatherings. They feel like time wasted. I am less interested in how I appear to the world because I cannot help any more but to be me. I feel that I make more sense as an older person than I did in my 20’s.” Caroline has four children aged 13, 11, 8 and 5, all born in her 30’s. Using the framework of the Four Phase Feminine Way, she is able to understand her internal struggle in juggling her children and her needs. “Whilst my advancing age is leading me to begin the inward turn and to focus elsewhere, my small children keep dragging me out of that place and at times I find that very hard. The pulls are equal and opposite.”

Irene, at 53, feels “better in my skin than ever before, more at peace and at one with what I perceive as my place in the universe. I’m not as driven by other peoples’ ideas or acceptance. I can look back with empathy to the woman I was and to the challenges I faced in my mothering phase. Although I feel an occasional sadness that I can no longer birth my own children, I have the joys of grandchildren to look forward to.” Through menopause, as a single mother of two adult children and 13-year old Tristan, Irene feels the essence of the Maga phase. “After getting through menopause a year or so ago I did not feel the isolation and ‘wintering’ of the crone. Maga makes so much more sense. I have in fact spent the last 12 months with a renewed vigor for study, both esoteric and technological, and have many career related goals in mind. I shall sail through the Maga season heart and mind billowing with fresh insights and consolidated truths.”

Anna, 57, remembers when she first started thinking about menopause. “I thought of it as a death sentence. Women were depressed about it coming, and we weren’t well informed. I was frightened; I thought I’d be old and shriveled up. Actually it was a gradual transition into a light space, not a dark space. Once my menopause symptoms stopped, I woke up. I have more time now, so I see things differently, I see more beauty. I feel more responsible for myself and to myself. I have a different kind of energy than I used to have, a slower pace with a renewed enthusiasm and newfound confidence. I please myself now.” Anna and I talked about the movement through the life seasons and we decided that it could be characterized like this:

Maiden ~ carefree, Mother ~ responsibility, Maga ~ carefree responsibility, Crone ~ responsibly carefree!

At 70, Barbara feels the inward draw. She literally stays indoors more, simply because it’s more comfortable. Since moving around has become difficult for her, being inside is much easier. She slowly moves to the kitchen from her place where she sits and knits, either dolls for great-grandchildren or hats for the earthquake-stricken people of Pakistan. She prepares her meals, most impressed with her use of every last bit of each ingredient, because she hates waste. On her daily visit to the chicken pen she pulls the weeds from the garden for their food. She counts the ducks and notices how many more baby rabbits there are. She speaks her mind, she cries, she feels angry at injustices and joyous about her grandchildren’s exploits. She tells me of her grandchildren – my children – “You can’t protect them from themselves.” These sound like wise words.

The Crone speaketh.


Maga wheel new_2

(*) Cedar Barstow, 2005, personal communication;
(**) Sylvia Keepers, 2000, personal communication; 

(***) Jeannine Parvati Baker, 2004, personal communication;

(****) Angeles Arrien, The Four Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Healer, Teacher, Visionary. Harper Collins: 1993

JaneCollings_FIXED_ap_9-12-12Jane Hardwicke Collings is a visionary and deeply dedicated to her spiritual community. She is the founder and teacher of the programs of The School of Shamanic Midwifery in Australiaand is nationally recognized for her work in this field. Jane, who is a mother and grandmother, has been a homebirth midwife for nearly 30 years. She has written several books and CDs including ‘Ten Moons, the Inner Journey of Pregnancy‘, ‘Thirteen Moons, the How to Chart Your Menstrual Cycle Handbook and Journal‘, ‘Spinning Wheels, a Woman’s’ Ready Reckoner of the Cycles‘, and ’Becoming a Woman, a Guide for Girls Approaching Menstruation‘. She gives workshops on preparation for birth, the spiritual and shamanic dimensions of pregnancy, menstruation and the cycles and shamanic midwifery. “I was initiated into the Women’s Mysteries through birth and have been a Priestess of the Goddess every since. Being a mother and a midwife and a ‘student of life’ has taught me how to ‘be with’, and the importance of, ‘being with’ whatever is, in all its dimensions.”