Now that the children of the swinging Sixties are approaching their own 60s, the sexual challenge renews itself in a different way. What kind of sexuality is relevant now – if at all? So many seem to be embracing an asexual old age. Perhaps post-menopausal time is the time for a more transcendental approach to sexuality.
Let menopause be the death of the bad, sad, and dutiful sex but not the death of sex. In old age, being our authentic selves (in or out of relationship), our sexuality, and our spirituality is the path itself. The reawakening of spirituality and a renewed sexuality are mutually inclusive. It is Crone’s work and part of our conscious evolution
In legend, the Great Goddess had three aspects all parts divine; like the moon in her phases, like life itself past/present/future, birth/life/death. She is Virgin / Mother / Crone; Maiden / Wife /Witch.
Other versions described four aspects; chaste, promiscuous, motherly and bloodthirsty; modest, sensual, nurturing and ruthless; virginal, harlot, fertile and warlike; immaculate, wanton, motherly and warrior.
All renditions have the fierce component and the nurturing/fertile aspect. But sexuality is befuddled and divided; what does it mean to be chaste and promiscuous? We do not have an image for it because our worldview denies a sacred sexuality, sex is either good or bad. So chaste is split from promiscuous, modest from sensual, virgin from harlot, immaculate from wanton. Essentially the lover aspect is separated from both mother and maiden and severely condemned. In truth the lover aspect is the priestess of love serving eros. She is ecstatic and transcendent in nature. We need to feel the lover within us, in all aspects of our life. (Sacred) sexuality imbues all aspects of the life cycle.
Defining the Virgin by her unbroken hymen is a patriarchal concept, a limited and literal understanding of virginity. Metaphorically and psychologically, the Virgin is the autonomous part of a woman’s psyche; the intrinsic self not owned by, needing, or requiring a man’s validation. She could be sexual – or not. (On the matter of “losing your virginity”, there is the wonderful story in the novel Red Tent, where the older women gently pierce the hymen at first menstruation with one of those little goddess figurines. Essentially, the menstruating girl’s initial physical penetration is an initiation by the goddess not a male violation with blood on the sheet in barbaric proof of possession.)
The patriarchy had to wrest control of the life cycle from the Goddess. Life and death were fairly straightforward; but to command procreation, the mother/wife had to be owned in marriage, and sexuality had to be strictly confined there. The mother image was idealised and spiritualised. She was always caring and patient; no room for anger and frustration.
By severe distortion, then, the Virgin and Mother phases of the ancient goddess could be assimilated into Christianity. But the Crone absolutely could not; the word itself derives from the word crown, and indicates the lost power of ancient queens. The Crone was wise, mysterious, independent and awesome. Too much like the male god aspect! According to Barbara Walker, patriarchal religions could not achieve full control of men’s minds until the crone figure was suppressed.
Compare the wisdom figure of India, where the divine Shakti is “an almost untranslatable amalgam of wife, mistress, queen, power, genius, strength, authority, mind, vulva, woman and cosmic energy”, and every god needed his Shakti in order to act. Here are multifaceted options for real women!
But in the West they crippled our Crone, leaving only images of ugly witches, evil stepmothers, and harmless little old ladies. A wise and wonderful (and sexual) Crone has been absent from our culture and our conscious awareness for too long. Without her, our life options are distorted and old age bleak indeed.
The Crone’s liberation is to “exercise her own will”, after centuries, to incorporate all aspects, virgin, mother, crone and lover.
Reclaiming the Crone means the spiritual and psychological deepening of soul that maturity can bring, including a clearing and healing of one’s sexual wounds. Only this is a proper platform for the redefinition of sexuality (and spirituality) required at menopause that can lead to a radically new kind of vital aging.