"I feel that the MMC archetype is limiting. It assumes the only possible progression of a female is virgin, mother, and grandma."
"But that’s what women are.” Someone said. That was the phrase. No. Not something they can do, not something most do or have done. That the whole…
Totally agree with this….
But on the other hand, another problem in modern Paganism is the assumption that the most ignorant and prejudiced people somehow define the entire tradition.
Personally, I don’t resonate with the Maiden-Mother-Crone triple goddess archetype. But I do worship a few “maiden” goddesses who are themselves gender-queer and even anthropo-queer (which is a term I just made up to mean bending and blurring the lines between human-like and non-human-like).
There is nothing about being a “maiden” that restricts a goddess, or a woman, to an objectified interpretation of her existence based on the literal state of her uterus or hymen.
The same is true of mothers.
The same is true of crones.
The MMC model is not inherently patriarchal or misogynistic. I know many women who are inspired by the MMC model who have spent their lives working to end misogyny and patriarchy and support the cause of feminism, equality, diversity and gender/sexual inclusivity. Let’s give them the respect they deserve, rather than dismissing an entire spiritual tradition just because (like all traditions) it contains a few ignorant assholes.
I wrote about a different set of life stages a few years ago, Bill Plotkin’s “Wheel of Life”. Instead of being based on reproductive capabilities or rigid dualistic gender roles, they’re rooted in one’s personal development on a variety of levels. Bonus: it’s based in ecopsychology! Here’s my post on it.
But I’m sure if/as soon as he catches on among modern Pagans, there will be people who misinterpret his approach in ignorant and prejudiced ways, too. This is a fact of life with almost any tradition.
For instance, a few years ago, Plotkin teemed up with Catholic contemplative Richard Rohr to teach some workshops together. At the Wild Goose Festival a few years back, I had the chance to attend one of their talks focused on the “later stages” of life. While Plotkin himself emphasizes the benefits of every life stage, Rohr (who was in his late 60s then and is in his 70s now) spent a lot of time emphasizing how the really important spiritual stuff is something that you just can’t really “get” until you’re old and you have the luxury to retire — which smacks of both ageism and classicism.
(Not to mention, Rohr spent his life as a monk — what was he retiring from?! Vespers?)
Obviously any model for the stages of life runs the risk of privileging certain stages (or aspects of all stages) over others. Especially for individuals inclined to hold a biased view anyway. Rohr being a crotchety old man doesn’t diminish the value of Plotkin’s work, anymore than the occasional sexist/anti-feminist diminishes the value of the MMC model for those who resonate with it.
Which kind of makes me feel like we’re having to constantly outmaneuver prejudice, finding new oases until the sea of crap catches up. Yeesh.
Huh. I hadn’t heard about the thing with Rohr. It makes sense, though, how someone could take the beauty that is “look, every stage of life has important lessons and contemplations, no matter how young or old” and turn it into a competition. Though I wonder if Rohr was motivated by backlash, at least a little bit. Plotkin’s Wheel is the first time I’ve seen a developmental psychology model that addresses the fact that we keep evolving beyond the cusp of adulthood (and really, out entire lives) and older people often get left out of that. So I wonder if Rohr was going TOO far to the other side of “Yay, we got noticed!!!”
I think it’s more likely that Rohr’s roots in contemplative Catholicism make him inclined to favor the mystical/nondualistic aspects of the last couple stages (the Sage), where the “center of gravity” and sense of self-identity is said to shift back towards the cosmos or “pure being/non-being.” It’s not really surprising that a religious tradition that places an emphasis on transcendence and historicity might reinterpret Plotkin’s cyclical model into a linear progression from a fallen state back towards a state of grace.
(Although you’re probably onto something, too. As the Boomers in particular continue to age, I get the sense that they feel more and more pressure to reject the notion that elders are “useless” just because they no longer contribute “productively” to a consumerist society. Rohr’s stuff is really catching on among a lot of older Christians I know. But it was incredibly frustrating to attend his talk and listen to him insist that anyone under the age of 50 really couldn’t say much of value about the spiritual life, and that if they disagreed with that claim it was only b/c they didn’t know any better. That’s incredibly patronizing!)
What bothers me is not so much that Rohr had his own interpretation of Plotkin’s work based on his Catholic perspective, but that Plotkin chose to work and teach with Rohr seemingly without being bothered by (or aware of?) Rohr’s reinterpretation of his model. To me, that suggests that maybe Plotkin, too, has some lingering biases that even he doesn’t recognize in himself.
But that doesn’t mean the Wheel of Life model doesn’t have a lot to offer! I really do think it’s the best that’s out there, and I hope more people start to work with it and really dig into it. :)
All that said…..
I also think the best possible thing is to have an abundant diversity of models of life stages, including Plotkin’s Wheel of Life and the Maiden-Mother-Crone model among many, many others!
It’s important to remember that the MMC model is not only a model of life stages, but a theological concept about the nature of deity. There are people for whom an MMC triple goddess is a very real and meaningful manifestation of the divine in their lives. Who am I to tell them their understanding of goddess(es) isn’t “real”? I don’t want to be that person who polices other people’s experiences and interpretations of the gods.