Wicca is a mystery tradition as much as it is an Earth based spirituality. While some Wiccans may focus more on cycles of the earth, the Triple Goddess is central to Wicca. This article deals with the Women’s Mysteries of the Wiccan tradition. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the mysteries, it’s not something that one can really fully “explain” because these are not logical, rational things. The Mysteries must be experienced to be fully understood and we will not be able to experience all of them in a single lifetime.
For those unfamiliar with the Triple Goddess she is the Feminine divine force representation and she has three faces she chooses to use to interact with humans. She is all things and more than this but she chooses the faces of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Maiden rules the late winter and spring, the Mother rules over summer and the Earth’s abundance, the Crone rules the dark, winter months. While these cycles do align with the Earth’s fertility, they are primarily about the cycles of women’s lives as well. These life stages in the women’s life cycles are part of the Mysteries and I believe they are tangible. Many coming of age rituals for young women mark the entrance into Maidenhood. These rituals may be found in pagan contexts as well traditions like Quinceañera, Sweet 16, and Debutant Balls.
Maidenhood is not the same a Menarche. Menarche is a girl’s first period: which today comes sooner than in the past. Maidenhood is when the young girl becomes a young woman. When a girl crosses the threshold from child into womanhood – meaning it’s likely that in society’s eyes she becomes sexually available. Now, as a feminist I have a problem with saying this is all well and good: but I’m not going to deal with that now other than to say young women should feel confident and safe to engage in sexuality as they see fit and not feel pressured or shamed by it. Maidenhood begins when the others around her notice her as a grown or fledgling adult. Young women usually cross this threshold sometime in the mid to late teen years, and in my opinion it would be a nice gesture to begin to acknowledge this transition with ritual as this is one Women’s Mysteries.
Maidenhood is the time in life when young women learn all those things that will make them the women they will be later in their life. Maidenhood is both a dangerous and exciting place. Your late teens and early to mid 20’s are a time to try new things, adventure, make mistakes, fuck shit up, and a time of total freedom. That freedom to become yourself is both exciting and terrifying. The best advice I can give young women is to reject the cultural training that tells you other women are threats: they are not – they are your allies. Sisterhood is powerful at all life phases, but this phase Sisterhood is not just powerful but fun. Maidenhood is a time that focuses on finding and seeking, both material things, relationships, and our “place” in life. Once you find yourself on the other side of this chasm, you will find these things have been to some extent settled: you will know yourself. The challenge of Maidenhood is to take the journey towards this self-knowledge.
Maidenhood is also the time when youth and inexperience leave women open to predators: some degree of which are natural parts of growing up. To grow up and advance, we must get our hearts broken, we must get tricked by the predators so we learn, we must encounter the Blue Beards or Big Bad Wolves. No one gets out unscathed: though our experiences vary from woman to woman depending on our preparation, our support by other women, and our knowledge of the lay of the land. Learning the signs and trusting ourselves, learning to listen to ourselves, is part of what will take us onwards to the next stage of life. These are hard lessons, but important, they will keep us safe. The pressures at this time in life are great: pressure to prove our worth, to preform a certain way, to look a certain way, pressures personal to our families and social groups. It’s easy to get lost in the negative aspect and miss the freedom to change and grow at this time. Teenage angst seems to linger until all these psychic kinks are worked out: but once it has worked itself out, you’ll find yourself in another transition.
Maiden goddesses or archetypes may be used to connect with the energy and lessons of the Maiden. The Maidens may also be able to provide wisdom and guidance for women in this stage of life. I find connecting with goddesses that correspond to our own life cycles to be very powerful. Some Maidens you may want to consider working with are Persephone (especially in her incarnation as Kore), Athena, Artemis, Breed, Eve, and The Butterfly Maiden just to name a few. For literary stories of Maidens look towards Pandora, Psyche, Shakespeare’s Ophelia or Taming of the Shrew‘s Katherine and Bianca. Other stories that deal with the lessons of the maiden are Blue Beard myths, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. This is a stage of great potential, freedom, strength, and vulnerability. Regardless of our age, sex, or gender we all encounter and learn from the Maiden and she is always within us. For women or those who identify as female, we are also creating our own Maiden stories.