By Andrea M. Slominski
The 2016 presidential election released and supported a torrent of suppressed hatred and fear. Within this attempted “othering” of anyone who is not a white American male of European descent is the rise of publicly expressed misogyny. Driven by far-right political ideas, U.S. culture is once again attacking the fundamental human rights of women. The attacks on women’s bodily sovereignty, our right to be co-equals in the human race, and the open rejection of planetary stewardship by the political right reveal the ongoing battle to deny the return of the archetypal feminine.
This chapter in the struggle against autonomous patriarchy reveals the imbalances such patriarchy creates in culture and our relationship to the natural world by its rejection of immanent divinity within the feminine and nature. Whether you call it the conscious feminine, the divine feminine, the return of the Goddess, or the archetypal feminine, in the past century, this archetypal principle has erupted again into contemporary consciousness. Synchronistically, accompanying this return was the expansion of women’s life spans and, by extension, women’s potential to fulfill a greater destiny.
Data collected in the U.S. shows that the average white woman’s lifespan in the year 1900 was 48.7 years, and the average lifespan of black women was 33.5 years. Most women did not live to the post-menopause stage of life. By 2011 a white women’s life span had increased by 58 percent, and the life span of black women had grown by 129 percent. This has created a new stage of life for women, potentially lasting another 20-25 years, enfolding within it perimenopause, midlife, menopause, and post-menopause. Boomer women are the first entire generation in the history of humanity to live collectively into this new stage, experiencing an additional 25 years before the onset of old age, where, potentially, 60 is the new 40 and 70 is the new 50.
As our longevity has increased, women’s lives also have expanded from three mythological, psychological, and spiritual life stages to four. As a consequence, the mythological descriptors of a women’s life, “Maiden, Mother, and Crone,” frequently invoked in archetypal psychology and spiritual feminism, no longer adequately encompass women's lives, as old age no longer begins at 50. Women’s longer lives are now being lived metaphorically in a four-stage model, which I argue is more accurately expressed as Maiden, Householder, Regent, and Wise Woman.
For the second stage, which is traditionally known as “Mother,” I prefer the term Householder. This stage of women’s lives is often hectic and lived at a breakneck pace by women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Householder fits well for the often-tumultuous years of growing up and settling in, spanning ages 18-45. Most importantly, Householder is more inclusive of all women, including those who do not have children, and it encompasses a broader array of lifestyles.
Regency is what I call women’s new life stage, spanning the ages of 45-70. I argue that Regency better expresses women’s embodied experience at this time of transformation and cultural pressure than the often-suggested Queen or Matriarch. To be a Queen implies wealth and a hierarchical household with servants constantly tending to one’s needs. A Queen is royal, not common, or mainstream. She is pampered, removed, and sheltered from the rigors and struggles of daily life. To be a Queen suggests a life with no financial worries or challenges to the maintenance of one’s power or autonomy. From my work with women in this often-tumultuous stage, I have met no women who feel their experience is that of a Queen. A Matriarch, by definition, is a mother who is the head of a family or tribe. This implies descendants and children, again excluding the many women who chose not to have children, and those who live alternative lifestyles.
A Regent woman rules or governs her own life; she makes the choices about who and what she will become in this new stage of life, recreating herself, for herself. A Regent woman has sovereignty, or the desire for sovereignty, over herself and her life; she is dynamic and active. A woman chooses to be Regent in her life. She takes control of her life; she does not inherit it. Her power is not given to her by another authority. A Regent woman can lead, administrate, and make decisions for herself. She may have been at home caring for children and family, immersed in a career, or both. She is not removed from the activity of day-to-day living; she lives as a creatrix of the divine in the world, striving to embody her potential. Finally, a Regent woman, as she matures and transforms through the 25 years of Regency, holds her seat of power for her Wise Woman to come.
For the final life stage, I discovered that many women perceive Wise Woman to be a less pejorative identifier than Crone. It also implies the gathering to one’s self all of one’s knowledge, wisdom, and life experience later in life.
Women experience the challenges and opportunities within Regency through contention with the psychological and biochemical engines that power this period of profound transformation. Further, menopause and midlife, once considered harbingers of death, are now thresholds; they are rites of passage through which all women will pass as they live into Regency, whether they chose to participate consciously or not. My research and fieldwork suggest that the transformations within Regency are powerfully encoded physiological, psychological, and spiritual developmental shifts or opportunities, offering women a hitherto unprecedented chance to revision their lives, priorities, passions, and focus.
Throughout the ages, the Goddess has not changed. The unity of the Archetypal Feminine by its very nature remains unchanged. However, women’s embodied experience of the Goddess has changed, and our understanding of mythic time and space has changed the way our psyches interact with her as a universal constant.
I suggest that the Goddess embodied through us has been leading us toward quaternity from the beginning. Only now have we lived long enough to fill the form. C.G. Jung discusses quaternity as the model for the psyche. “The idea of completeness is the circle or sphere, but its natural minimal division is a quaternity” (CW 11, para 246). Jung’s theory of individuation and its four-fold feminine model supports the development of a new fourth stage in women’s lives (Jung, CW 9, para. 425, 426, 490) (Edinger, 193). The Great Round, the circle, a symbol of the Great Goddess, can be imagined as divided into four quadrants by time and space. Conceptually, time is the horizontal axis running from the past to the future, and space is the vertical axis, representing our embodiment and the experience of “now” as the Axis Mundi, the center of our universe and life.
In the Western tradition, a lens through which most women living in the U.S. have experienced life, the earth has four directions, the year has four seasons, there are four primary colors, and the moon has four phases. There were four early elements, four biblical rivers of creation, there are four main steps in the alchemical process, and so on.
Though the Goddess has her roots in antiquity, her manifestation in the lives of twentieth and twenty-first-century women underscores Jane Ellen Harrison’s statement, “The Matriarchal Goddesses reflect the life of women, not women the life of the Goddesses.” If women are the metaphoric embodiments of the Goddess in the flesh, if we are living metaphors of the Goddess’s creative power as womb and tomb, if we are living metaphors of the cycle of the seasons, then it is fundamental that the metaphors of the Goddess have expanded right along with us. We are the Goddess, and she is us. Women cannot separate themselves from the Goddess any more than the Goddess can separate herself from women.
The Goddess’s metaphors have transformed in the past from monad to dyad, dyad to triad, and now triad to tetrad. The Goddess will always continue to reflect the lives of women. I maintain that we are now firmly situated in four, Maiden, Householder, Regent, and Wise Woman. The four-fold Goddess is one expression of the new emerging mythos that may, I hope, find its full expression in the balancing of the masculine and feminine attributes within the human psyche and the world.
The energy amplified from living in the renewed oppression of women and the conscious feminine has fueled the rise of Regent women in culture and politics. It is evident in the #metoo and #timesup movements, the election in 2018 of 120 women to Congress, and the strength and power of women such as Sally Yates, Marie Yovanovitch, and Fiona Hill. The most successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged and older. The Harvard Business Review predicts that by 2020, women over 50 will control more than half of the private wealth in the U.S.
By 2027 over 87 million women in the U.S. will be over 45. The Regent and Wise Women of the U.S. working together with all of their experience and passion could transform politics in one election cycle—and with it, U.S. environmental policy, economics, education, healthcare, social justice reform, national policy, international policy, and more. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that at this time of existential ecological peril, the feminine divine, the conscious feminine, the principle of eros has risen up. The archetypal feminine brings with it the understanding of the divine as immanent in nature, not transcendent above it, the understanding of the co-dependent ecology of life, and the opportunity to recreate culture through compassion and cooperation. What could 87 million U.S. women achieve working together? We could change the world.
Adler, Gerhard, and C.G. Jung. Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, edited by R.F.C. Hull, Princeton University Press, 1981. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/pacgradins-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1573473.
Edinger, Edward F. Ego & Archetype: Individuation and the Religious Function of the Psyche. Shambhala, 1992.
Jung, C.G. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Trans. R.F.C. Hull, Vol. 11. Princeton University Press, 1966, pp. 15-331
---. Psychology and Religion: West and East, edited by Gerhard Adler, and R.F.C. Hull, Princeton University Press, 1970. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/pacgradins-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1573471.
---. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung Trans. R.F.C. Hull, Vol.9. Princeton University Press, 1981, pp. 14-133.
Andrea M. Slominski, Ph.D. is a cultural mythologist, women's midlife coach, author, teacher, and speaker. “Dr. A.” is the creator of The Midlife Re-Boot! Method, a program developed to guide women to recreate themselves and rediscover their True North at midlife. She has been a featured workshop facilitator and speaker at women’s events and conferences. “Dr. A.” also teaches women’s entrepreneurship for Women’s Economic Ventures in Santa Barbara, CA. Her work is published in the anthology— If I Don't Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings— with the essay "Bearing the Unbearable," Skyhorse Publishing, 2019. In January of 2020, you will find her via her podcast, social media, and her new website, www.drandreaslominski.com.