The Season of the Maiden
The Maiden Archetype and the Magic of Today’s Young Women
My mum’s favourite nursery rhyme for me growing up was:
Mary Mary, Quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells,
And so my garden grows.
And it was a great fit for me for several reasons. I was, and still am, quite contrary. My wild curly hair could not – and still can’t be tamed. I questioned everything (still do), which would often get in the way of the schedules of a busy home with four very active children.
But the nursery rhyme also speaks of an otherworldliness and a connection with nature that I felt deeply. I would spend a lot of time dwelling upon this – whether that be out on the grass, cloud-gazing, or up a tree, away from others or in the quiet safety of my room, drawing, writing, crafting. Every year my school reports from grade one through to high school made some mention of my tendency to daydream. My bedroom shelves were full of shells, feathers, special sticks and stones. I had an irresistible urge for making healing potions out of available honey, herbs, and anything else I could get my hands on. I was indeed a girl of ‘silver bells and cockle shells’. My dreaming was always strong – and what I later found out to be lucid, that is, I was aware that I was dreaming in my dreams and could direct the action and outcomes of the dreams. And the diaries…many many journals over the years!
I felt deeply connected to the shifts in the wild field of seasons, storms and moons, the creatures, earth and the sensations within my own body. I knew there was information there, an intelligence. This too has remained with me as an adult.
The drive to create beauty, with meaning, was a constant. Being an artist, my mum generously indulged this, with journals and materials always in full supply. She also encouraged me with time in the holidays and weekends to simply create. She very patiently sat and listened to the recitations of every poem and short story I penned and made sure each new artistic creation occupied a place of pride somewhere in the house for a time. Thank you, mum!
In my teens I had an insatiable appetite for systems and frameworks and world views that could answer my questions about my own nature, the sensations I felt within and in nature itself.
Perhaps because the answers were not readily available, and very much to deal with my contrary nature, I was moved into excellent and strict education, groomed for a life of business and success, and the behaviours and ‘magical’ leanings were gently dismissed as the whimsical nature of a little girl who ‘needed to grow up in the real world’. But they didn’t go…these leanings, they couldn’t be dismissed as they were intrinsic to my being…they just went deep underground. They were nurtured quietly through my ponderings, reading and experimentation and then later, by wonderful teachers and guides who taught me how to tend to my spiritual garden, prune it, water it, weed out what didn’t serve me, to love it and make it sacred, powerful and prioritised.
Fast track years later, after many years of teaching girls and young women in community workshops and in meditation courses and becoming the mother of a vibrant, creative and magically-inclined teenage girl, I have come to understand two significant realities.
That all girls have these leanings towards the sacred, meaningful creativity, deep ‘felt-sense’ or clairsentience, and,
that these ‘whimsical leanings’ are not ‘just girly nonsense’. They are the first wild expressions of the dazzling spiritual nature of the Feminine, the archetype of ‘The Maiden’.
The Maiden archetype has been acknowledged around the world in various ways since ancient times. It is in the first of the Celtic Triple Goddess, through the New Moon to First Quarter Moon in Lunar Magic; in the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White; in Greek mythology’s Persephone, and in the Sanskrit epic poem Ramayana.
Far from a compliant, virginal wisp, The Maiden represents the burgeoning feminine power, aching for expression, with all the glory and power of the awakened woman enfolded within it, much like a rose is enfolded in the rosebud. No less striking nor impactful, in its promise, beauty and potential.
In the wilderness, The Maiden corresponds with the seasonal turn from Imbolc to Spring Equinox, when there’s a stirring of life within the earth. There’s a subtle and beautiful tilt in light, vibration, and the palpable and highly magical state of potential and promise.
As we near the first two days of February, we enter the first turn of the Wheel of the Year, a cross-quarter point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox (in the northern hemisphere). This is the Feast of Imbolc, the season of The Maiden.
The sunlight changes in the sky to a brighter and perceivably longer day. Water currents in the oceans and river systems shift, and deep beneath our busy cities and busy lives, the Earth is stirring into spring. Just like young women, the early spring is subtle under the surface. For most northern countries, the land is still veiled in ice and snow, but the signs of the shift become evident at this time. Snow drifts start to shrink and the slight increase in the light stirs seeds into germination and animals from hibernation. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all affected by these shifts, because we come from, and dwell in, the same wild-field which enters into a wholesale ‘gear-up for growth’.
In my observation and personal experience, young women embody this ‘under the surface’ gear-up for growth, expansion and expression. It comes through us in impulses, like the impulse to write, draw, craft; or to clear out disused clothes and items from cupboards and shelves; the impulse to take new directions, learn new skills, create new habits (or shed old ones).
As with all the ‘hinges‘ of the Wheel of the Year, this time has been marked for thousands of years with beautiful rituals across many different traditions that help the seeker connect consciously with the immense wild-field of energy that is stirring, and to put it to use. The ancient Celtic festival is known as Imbolc (pronounced EE-molc) which derives from the meaning, ‘in the belly’. Perhaps this is in reference to pregnant or milking sheep of the season. It could also refer to spring, stirring but still remaining within the belly of the Earth and within the heart of The Maiden. In Pagan Europe, this time was closely associated with the pre-Christian goddess Brighid and the three-fold goddess transforming from The Crone (winter) into The Maiden (spring). Festivals to mark this juncture were known as Feast of Torches, Oimelc, Lupercalia, Feast of Pan, Snowdrop Festival, Feast of the Waxing Light, and no doubt, many others that are now lost in time.
Later, Imbolc was celebrated by Christians as St Brigid’s feast day (the pagan goddess and Christian saint sharing many attributes and features). The vibration of this time also refracts through the festivals of Candlemas and Groundhog Day.
What is beautiful about the many evolutions of the rituals that connect us with the early vibration of spring, is that over the ages, certain archetypal symbols and rituals have repeated over and over again across traditions. It is these threads that intrigue me and that I put to use in my own practice. These symbols and traditions link us to the wider field of energy that is available, because they have been charged with the awareness of many, many people before us through time, just as our churches, temples, sacred sites and the wilderness are energetic bridges too. It is their role in the human story. They are gateways.
I’m grateful that my teenage years were spared from the pressures of the Internet, social media, augmented representations of the female body, attributes and messaging, that our girls today need to navigate. Now more than ever before, our young women require inner stability and strength, and access to their truth and voice, a deeply rooted inner garden.
Of all the world’s refractions of The Maiden archetype, it’s the Nordic Shield Maiden that appeals to me the most, as a useful archetype for our modern young women.
The ‘Shield Maiden’ in ancient Nordic cultures was a highly revered and respected member of the tribe. She was a warrior who wielded extraordinary power, strength, presence and magical ability. She held her place in the armies of men. She was young, unwed and schooled by the tribal Mages. She had the power and blessings of the Valkyries at her command. She stood for the archetype of ‘The Maiden’ in her full power.
Her shield represented her Spirit, not one of attack or defence, but rather a protector, counsel and tactical adept. She had the lore of magic at her disposal and was consulted by the great councils. She advised on strategic direction and she and her sisters unleashed precise and effective victories. It was not her physical strength that gained her a place in the Halls of Valhalla, as impressive as that was, but her alignment to and embodiment of spiritual power.
In our modern times, the days of physical battles and raids dwell within myth and legend. However, now more than ever, the attributes of the Shield Maiden are calling and stirring in young women. Modern pop culture, music and images, peer and societal pressure, augmented stereotypes and media have our modern maidens seeking answers and reconnection to their inner ground and their magic which is deeply felt and a source of great strength.
Since my daughter arrived 13 years ago I have pondered how I can offer support for the reclamation and reconnection for girls and young women with their innate spiritual garden bed. Recently, after receiving the 13th request from the mother of a maiden to support her daughter’s spiritual leanings, I have finally done something about it.
I am delighted to open up the Shield Maiden series this Imbolc, January 31st. It is a series of workshops to enable that reconnection and equip young women with the wisdom, practical know-how and spiritual life-skills that Modern Magic offers. Each workshop includes guidance and instruction, materials, meditation techniques, creative magic, spell casting and downloadable reminder notes.
Welcome to The Season of the Maiden, in 2021. And if you have a maiden in your home who has these beautiful energies emerging through her, and you’re based in Singapore, you can check out the Shield Maiden series details here. To generate some inner stillness and connect with your own inner garden, meditation and self-enquiry are proven to open this space up and enable you to come to know yourself more deeply. You can find my online meditation resources here.
Blessed Imbolc, everyone!
If you have any questions or thoughts about the Maiden Archetype and the Shield Maiden series, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you on your path to healing, self-discovery and mindful living.
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