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One of the big themes you see in Paganism is the Maid, Mother, Crone thing when it comes to goddesses and women. It is supposed to represent the three phases of “womanhood” based on the sexual stages of pre-fertility (maiden), fertility (mother), and post-fertility (crone). And a number of Pagans like to have a similar set up for Men, only that one gets pretty damn complicated.

Why does it get complicated. Well, first off, Male fertility doesn’t work the same way as female fertility. There is no “three stages” of fertility for men. There’s two. Pre-puberty, and post-puberty. A man can father children on his death bed. There is no post-fertility for men. So right then and there, you’ve already wiped out the equivalent to the “Crone” phase.

This, however doesn’t stop people from trying to fit it. So you’ll see things like “Youth-Father-Wizard,” but that doesn’t really work. Most men, even those who get to be “Fathers” don’t get to be just fathers (unlike women who used to get to be just mothers). Men had to be producers, hunters, craftsmen, farmers, etc. So we can’t just have the “Father” stage because, well, producer is more over arching. Men are “producers” long before and after we are “fathers.” Of course, then we could go with something like “Child-Producer-Old Dude,” but then that strips men of everything but being producers, mere chattel, while women are personified as those who raise and give and are people. For a while I thought about something like “Warrior-King-Wizard,” and while this is perhaps the most pleasing, anymore it is not realistic. Most young men are never warriors. Any man who tries to be a King is going to find himself suffering all kinds of abuse and having his power ripped away. And while a man might make it to Wizard, a wizard with no one to listen is just a rambling mad man.

So why this insistence on the Tripartite approach? I think it’s because in Paganism, women get a big jump to the head of the line, especially in Wicca where this stuff seems to come from. The man is second to the woman, and the High Priest is there to aid the High Priestess. And so the stages of manhood must fit the stages of womanhood, no matter how unrealistic or ill fitting. Men will just have to deal.

Of course, I like to take a cue from my ancestors. The Norse didn’t have this tripartite thing, with men or women. We actually had it in two stages, from what I’ve been able to find. We didn’t have the maiden, mother, and crone. We just had maiden and mother. The thing with the maid/mother/crone is it’s based on female fertility. A woman with no fertility has no beauty, and cannot produce heirs, so she becomes the old woman good only for advice and nothing else (and is often ugly). But with the Norse/Germanic way, a woman is always a “Mother.” Even post-fertility she is a Mother, a “Grand” Mother. You will not find the crone in Norse Mythology, not when you really look. The Norn are all sisters, and even Hel, our Goddess of death is more a young maiden than anything (yes, we beat Neil Gaiman to perky young death XD).

I think we have to take this same view when it comes to men and manhood. If we have two phases “Boy” and “Man” it works out well. And Man can be whatever we will it to be. Fathers, kings, hunters, wise men, anything. Because it can last us till death (and often does).

We need to get over this tripartite thing, because it’s holding us back. Forcing men to work by that stage set isn’t going to do us any good. We don’t work that way. There is no “post-manhood” stage in terms of fertility. Nor is there in our lives. Once we are men, we are men. There is nothing after that.

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