Do you remember that old movie title 'The Three Faces of Eve?' I think that title (not the movie) is a good one to describe all of us. For we women are forever tripartite beings - three beings in one.

This notion of female trinity has been with us throughout history, in many cultures, often symbolically represented as a triple Goddess.

These triple Goddess aspects co-exist within us, each taking its turn to be expressed as the dominant pattern currently manifesting in our lives. We are all the maiden, then the mother, then the elderwoman.

Often, in tribal cultures, life stage transitions are clearly defined and marked by ritual. Our modern, Western culture, however, emphasizes individual development, so our psychology is more complex and our stages, although they follow each other sequentially, are blurred. For us, life stage is less a matter of chronological age than a function of one’s primary relationship with the world. A seventeen year-old wife with a baby, for example, may still be mostly in the maiden (identity-formation) stage of her psychological development, even though she has physically given birth, while a forty year old office manager may be childless and single, yet is clearly expressing her mother aspect, since her identity is well-formed and most of her daily tasks involve creating new things, maintaining existing ones, and guiding, teaching, disciplining and encouraging other people.

What of the third member of the female trinity, the elderwoman, a.k.a. the crone? Unfortunately, she has had a bad press for several hundred years now. For many women today, whose minds have been bombarded, since they were little girls, with the propaganda of the so-called 'beauty' industry, the thought of aging into a crone conjures up images of the wrinkly, warty witch of fairy tales, trying to eat Hansel and Gretel. 'Crone' derives from the ancient word, 'croonie,' (an old ewe, destined soon to be eaten by crows). It is related to the word 'carrion.' And that's definitely not a good look.

But although the word 'crone' shocks and repels some women, I know many nowadays who are deliberately embracing it, precisely because it is such a powerful word. To them it signifies permission to own their increasing sense of personal power, to explore their freedom to be different, to be courageous and outrageous, and to experiment with all the hitherto unlived aspects of their own natures. Others prefer 'elderwoman,' with its connotations of deserving respect and speaking with authority. Either way, there is a revolution afoot.

In 1991, when my friends held a special 'croning' ceremony for me, I was aware only of the personal significance of stepping over the threshold into a new life stage. I had not yet thought deeply into what daily life as a crone might entail. Neither had I grasped the potential social impact of a whole generation of conscious crones upon the world in which I lived. That dawned on me slowly over the years that followed. I realized that in our 21st century Western society, where, unlike our foremothers, most of us can now expect to live several decades post menopause, the movement of the baby boom generation into elderhood will soon create a veritable army of elders, an army which can - if we wish - become a powerful force for change.
I like to think it is these new elders, who will lead the way, more and more in the coming years, towards healing and rebalancing our out-of-kilter planet. We elderwomen are, after all, the ones with the greatest wisdom, the deepest understanding of the ways of the Earth and the energy and creativity to know what needs doing - and get it done. For as Margaret Mead so famously said, 'There is no more creative force in the world than a menopausal woman with zest.'

So what is now dawning is nothing less than the Age of the Elderwoman. It is a time when, as individuals, women will find their way out from under the false messages of the pop culture, reclaim their ancient power and recognize their 'third age' for what it is - the time of deepest personal fulfillment and completion, the crowning phase of their womanhood. It is a time when, collectively, this growing army of post-menopausal women will recognize themselves and each other as a potent force for planetary change and healing.

Not every old woman is an elderwoman, however. There is much more to being an elderwoman than simply growing old. Becoming an elderwoman presupposes that we have spent some of our time already on personal development. It assumes that we have become conscious and aware of our inner processes and of the impact our existence has upon the planet's ecosystems. It assumes that instead of spending the last third of our lives looking wistfully back at the other two thirds as the profiteers from anti-aging creams and liposuction would have us do, we are prepared to dive into our elder years with eagerness, zest and interest, keen to explore and develop the potential of this surprisingly wonderful third phase of the life cycle.

Woman, in all her aspects, symbolizes the cyclic nature of all life. In this cycle of eternal renewal, the full, successful completion of each stage is vital to the arising of the next. A girl who does not complete all the developmental tasks of her childhood is ill-prepared for the onset of the motherhood phase; a women who cannot let go of her role and face her empty nest or corporate retirement comes limping, fearful and reluctant into elderhood; the old woman reluctant to assume the full mantle of the elderwoman cannot play her vital part in preparing the ground for next year's healthy crop.

We are now entering the Age of the Elderwoman, an era when mature, feminine power arises, replacing the old dominance model with a co-operative one, and every Eve eats the whole apple, right to its last drop of juice.

It's a revolution. Be in it.

Author's Bio: 

Marian Van Eyk McCain. BSW (Melbourne), MA, East-West Psychology (C.I.I.S. San Francisco) is a free-lance writer who has published articles on a wide range of subjects, including wellness, stress-management, psychology, women’s health and spirituality, environmental politics, organic growing and alternative technology. She is the author of four books editor of several newsletters and co-editor of The GreenSpirit Journal. Marian has also created a special online social network for 'third age' women called Elderwomanspace.
This article is adapted from her book 'ELDERWOMAN:Reap the wisdom, feel the power, embrace the joy' (Findhorn Press, Scotland, 2002)

You can contact Marian through her website at