I have always loved autumn. It feels like new beginnings; a new grade at school, a new semester at college, a fresh start, and not surprisingly, my only child was born in October. It is also the time of the Autumn Equinox, a day when the duration of light and dark are equal, before the tipping point of summer turning into fall. This year, I still feel that excitement, a tingling in the air, but I am also reflective; musing about my life as I inch ever closer to the crone.
The Goddess, worshiped for at least 5,000 years before Christianity, encompasses the concept of a trinity: the maiden, mother and crone. Barbara Walker wrote in her seminal book The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, "From the earliest ages, the concept of the Great Goddess was a trinity and the model for all subsequent trinities, female, male or mixed." I've struggled as a maiden, loved being a mother, but at 55, am I ready to be a crone?
The maiden aspect of the Goddess is symbolic of new beginnings, youthful enthusiasm, independence, and a time when a girl is growing into the woman she is to become. When I photographed Maya for the Artemis portrait in Goddess on Earth, she was just 12 years old, and beginning to deal with all the newness that comes with growing into your own skin. In her statement to accompany her photograph, she wrote: "Artemis represents strength, independence, self-reliance, and courage -- all qualities I wish I had." Here Maya was, on the cusp of adulthood; I could feel her power but also her fear. I too remember a confidence at that time, but underneath it, what I really wanted was approval that I was doing things "right".
The characteristics of the mother stage are creativity, balance, and fullness of life, being pregnant with possibilities, as well as loving and receiving love. Rha Goddess, the renowned hip-hop performance artist, social entrepreneur and activist had no trouble choosing which Goddess to embody: Lakshmi, the Indian Goddess of wealth and prosperity clearly spoke to her. "It is our Goddess-given birthright to be healthy, wealthy and wise. The divine mother Lakshmi belongs to all of us; she moves in the hood just as she moves on Wall Street, challenging us to bring new consciousness to all our resources." With light streaming into a dark Brooklyn stairwell, Rha glowed with a magical life force.
The crone is a stage of wisdom, fearsome power and the courage to walk through darkness. The author, dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin chose to embody Tiamat, the Mesopotamian Goddess of Creation. In her book "Returning to Health with Dance Movement and Imagery" (2000) Anna tells her own story as a cancer survivor. For her Goddess portrait, we went into the Redwood forest behind her home in Marin County, where she nestled into the moist earth, instructing me to pile leaves on top of her, as she metaphorically returned to the earth. "The earth holds me, supports me, gives me roots, and above all, connects me with others, as we all walk the same ground," she said.
When I began working on Goddess on Earth, I was fully immersed in motherhood and raising my son. Now, eight years later, he is happily ensconced in college, and I am embracing this new time in life with the ferocity typical of a crone. I have to make this moment count. Normally a private person, I thrive on observing, not being observed. Yet, as I bring my book into the world and recognize the need for promotion, I find I am being pushed out of my comfort zone. But the reality is, I am a warrior now and will accept the challenge because I have the wisdom to know there is no other time like the present. I am ready to accept the power of the crone.
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