Let me back up.
The Triple Goddess--Maiden, Mother, Crone, corresponds to the three phases of a woman's life.
The Maiden represents the first stage of a girl's life. Youth, purity, independence, courage, and the innocence of virginity are qualities possessed by the maiden.
The Mother represents a young woman who has reached puberty. She is fertile and possesses a hot, fiery sexuality. She is in a cycle of growth and ripeness. She holds a lot of power in her position of giving life and protecting her young.
The Crone represents an elderly woman in the last phase of her life. She is wise, full of experience and adds immense value to her family and community as she transforms all her experiences in the journey towards death.
But wait, something is missing...like a whole phase of a woman's life! And this isn't a short inconspicuous phase either--it could encompass 30 years or more (let's say ages 45-75). One particular woman in her 70's comes to mind and she is one hot, sexy...cougar!
Yes, I am aware that some woman take issue with this label. The cougar has been so bastardized that we've learned to shun her. (I'm reminded that bastard is a word I'd like to reclaim but I'm getting ahead of myself in more ways than one.) The word cougar has become almost a synonym for "pathetic"--as in pathetic older woman, desperately holding on to her youth without the grace to know it's time to let go (of sex) and fade into the woodwork--or sink into her rocking chair with her knitting and grandchildren. Please, I've nothing against grandchildren (or knitting). They are both glorious. But not the point here.
The words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich come to mind,
"Well behaved women rarely make history."Or one might say that well behaved women rarely get fucked." Excuse me, I digress. Cougar has entered the room and we shrink from her. If we don't shrink from her we at least shrink from the mass medias portrayal of her and the label--uttered with disdain, "Cougar!"
But I'm on a mission to take ownership of the Cougar label--much in the same way that Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues) reclaimed the word cunt, which has been considered one of the ultimate insults. When this one-woman performance turned into an Valentine's Day ensemble, (originally with such well know performers as Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, Winona Ryder, etc.,) Glenn Close didn't think she could bring herself to say the "c" word. But she did and Eve has created an army of dedicated, and devoted cunt converts who have open and frank discussions about their cunts.
Eve said, "I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them. . . There's so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them--like the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there." Speaking these words and the stories that evolve around them has created healing in the lives of both women and men and I think talking about Cougars has the potential to do the same.
Cunt. Pussy. Vagina. Twat. CootchiSnortcher. Pal. Peach. Down there.
I'm was worried that we aren't thinking, or at least not thinking enough, talking more, and taking significant action to help reclaim this "invisible" phase of a woman's life. But I've discovered that lots of women are thinking about it, and talking more about it too. A few weeks ago a friend told me that her goal for 2010 was to become a Cougar. I responded with a resounding, "Yes! We need to start a Cougar club!" And that's when Cougar stepped into her rightful place between the mother and the crone.
Maiden, Mother, Cougar, CroneSo what exactly does the Cougar phase represent? It's obviously going to be somewhat different for each woman as our experiences throughout life are so varied. And just like some women have extended (or shortened) maiden and/or mother phases, some will have extended or shortened cougar and/or crone phases. But here are my ideas, and my personal experience.
Today's women (I'm speaking of my contemporaries here--educated; living in first world countries; independent, free thinkers) are living very different lives than women from previous generations when the triple goddess concept was perhaps better suited to the actual history of women. Comparatively speaking, we live lives of luxury and abundance. We have indoor plumbing and machines (washing machines for instance--I have a friend who has a whole theory on this) that do much of what was once strenuous physical labor. We have knowledge of and access to nutritious food and exercise. We have birth control that has freed our bodies from the "sex=continuous reproduction" equation. Women can now enjoy sex for the sake of pleasure alone without it resulting in pregnancy. Even with my own choice of birthing so many children, I was 50 years old when my sixth and youngest child turned 18. When women today are faced with an empty nest, they are often more interested in fucking on the dining room table than knitting in their rocking chairs and sharing wisdom. I sure am. Truthfully I want to fuck just about everywhere, plus knit, and share wisdom. Why limit myself? These phases are very fluid and while I'm still somewhat engaged in being a mother to my grown children (and being a grandmother) I personally experience the Cougar phase as a return to--a reclaiming of sorts, of my maiden self--with more experience and wisdom to appreciate it. I might have more sag and bag, wrinkles and fat to contend with but that's where grace comes in. There is a lot of lifespan left to embody Cougar wisdom.
So,what is a Cougar? First off I want to say what a Cougar is not. Being a Cougar is not all about preying on younger men. In fact, being a Cougar really has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting a younger man/men. But then again, it just might. Thing is, it's an option. The Cougar knows she could go after a younger man, (any man for that matter) and that if she chooses to do so, she could take him to her bed and give him the ride of his ever so lucky life. And for any woman who chooses to do that, I say more power to her. I support that. I support whatever a woman chooses to do with the power and wisdom of her sexuality and being a Cougar is about being in touch with that. And if being celibate in her Cougarhood is right for a woman, kudos to her for knowing that that is her power medicine and taking it.
Cougars aren't desperate. Nor are they trying to be sexy. Cougars are sexy and they know it.Veronica Monet recently posted a question on facebook asking people to share the shamanic meaning of Cougar. That question moved me into the shadows of my middle age. One of my shadows is the struggle with my body image. With peri-menopause encouraging my body to hold on to fat as its most valued commodity, I'm currently struggling with trying to be comfortable in and liking my body regardless. Extra fat along with all the other natural signs of the wear and tear of aging are difficult to cope with. Especially when these are coupled with a strong desire to express myself as a sexual being. I want my old body back. A return of my once thin and supple body with its smooth skin sans wrinkles. I once thought I would accept this aging process more easily, gracefully, but I admit it's a struggle. I'm making a connection with my struggle to age gracefully with my lack of connection to Cougar wisdom.
So this missing phase...Gillette has written about Jung's Quaternary Theory. My extremely limited understanding of this theory is about how it relates to an imbalance of the Trilogy and how our psyche seeks the balance of the Quaternary. Without this balance, the fourth aspect becomes part of the shadow and is demonized until it is fully integrated. In the Christian tradition, the Devil is the missing fourth aspect of the trilogy--Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Gillette goes on to wonder if the sensual older woman, the Cougar if you will, is the demonized fourth aspect of the maiden, mother, crone trilogy.
In another post Gillette says,
"We no longer have children to take care of 24/7. We don't have to worry about becoming pregnant. We are free in ways we've never been. We're (probably) more self-empowered than we've ever been. We're wiser, more experienced, more centered in ourselves. We're probably happier than we were when we were younger because of those freedoms and awarenesses. All our experience makes us better lovers than our younger selves. And yet, we're supposed to cut this most basic aspect of ourselves "off" because society no longer thinks it appropriate for those our age to want sex? Could it be that the juicy, sensual, sexual women past her culturally acceptable version of "sexy" is scary in her freedom from cultural constraints? What, oh what do we do with The Wild Women who refuses to go down?
The news is that we aren't "trying" to be sexy...we ARE. Our partners know this. We know this. We women of this certain age at this certain time are changing the definition of who we "are" as we age. The movie was set during the late 19th century. Lea was a sexy, sensual women in her 50's in the film. And an outcast living on the edge as she had always done as a Courtesan. Once you are an outcast, you have little to lose, nothing to conform to. I think it's time to integrate ourselves as sensual women instead of being outcasts any longer."
Maiden, Mother, Cougar, Crone
Maiden represents the first stage of a girl's life. Youth, purity, independence, courage, and the innocence of virginity are qualities possessed by the maiden.
Mother represents a young woman who has reached puberty. She is fertile and possesses a hot, fiery sexuality. She is in a cycle of growth and ripeness. She holds a lot of power in her position of giving life and protecting her young.
Cougar represents a middle aged woman in the prime of her independence. She still possesses the hot, fiery, sexuality of the mother but is no longer fertile which frees her sexual encounters to be for pure pleasure without fear of pregnancy. She uses her power without ego and pursues her desires with gentle assertiveness, self-confidence and the strength of grace. Her actions are free of guilt, her heart is pure and on purpose. She is balanced in body, mind and spirit.
Crone represents an elderly woman in the last phase of her life. She is wise, full of experience and adds immense value to her family and community as she integrates and transforms all her experiences into the journey towards death.