“There may be a concentration of spring energies in the maiden, but she can feel as well the forces of fullness and decline. Women in their prime are maids and crones at once. And every aged woman knows still the wild spring winds.”
– Patricia Monaghan, Seasons of the Witch
Every spring we have the opportunity to get in touch with our inner maiden — the young girl still alive inside of us.
In Goddess Spirituality, the season of Spring belongs to the Maidens — to Kore/Persephone, to Diana/Artemis, to the Amazon warrior woman, among many others. In the Spring, the Goddess is Daughter, symbolizing that time in a girl’s life when she is confident, athletic, and strong. She embodies freedom, action, strength, and independence. This is the Maiden at her best — the archetypal Virgin (read: Sovereign) who has not swallowed the lie that she is “less than” or “not enough” in any way. If she chooses a sexual partner, it is her own choice, and not because she has been pressured or coerced. Like the Fool or Seeker of the Tarot, she sets out on her own path to discover what life may have in store for her.
When the earth comes alive in the Spring, we all want to throw up our hands and dance for sheer joy, round about in circles, Maidens once again.
Kore is the name of Demeter’s daughter before she enters the Underworld at Autumn Equinox. Whether we follow the story that Hades abducted her, or that she chose to go to attend to the needs of the Dead, she undergoes a metamorphosis once she is in the Underworld. Through separation from her mother, she is initiated into adulthood. She discovers her sexuality, and begins the sacred work that defines her. She becomes Queen of the Dead, and when she returns from the Underworld to join her mother once again, she has a new name: Persephone. She is no longer an innocent child. She has known hardship and grief; and so her joy is much deeper than it ever was before she had known sorrow. She rejoices at her reunion with her mother, as Spring awakens the land. Persephone teaches us that deep sorrow may turn to joy, and despair to hope.
It is said that in the early church, when one believer would greet another on Easter morning, he would say: “He is risen,” and the other would respond, “He is risen, indeed!”
We have changed this lovely custom to say to our sisters and brothers at Spring Equinox: “Persephone returns!” and to listen for the ritual response: “She returns, indeed!”
The Greek Goddess Artemis (or her counterpart, the Roman Diana) is the protector of wild places. She is often seen running through the forest, with her bow and arrow in hand, her hounds at her side. Patricia Monaghan says that she is a kind of cosmic game warden, “keeping the wilderness safe from predatory hunters who might kill for sport rather than for need; such hunters could expect to meet a fearful fate at her hands.” She is both protector and huntress, but only hunts those animals not vital enough to reproduce strong offspring. She is also midwife to both human and animal mothers.
She is the goddess of girlhood, and protects her woodland nymph sisters from peeping hunters. She protects their virginity, as well as her own.
As Virgin, Artemis embodies Woman Whole Unto Herself — a girl or woman who is not defined by relationships, especially romantic or marital ones, but is whole and complete, alone. When the archetype of Artemis is at work in a woman’s life, she may be partnered, but she is not limited or defined by that partnership.
Artemis is a role model for us when we aim true for our heart’s desire, and when we embody our own sovereignty.
We usually associate Aphrodite, the goddess of erotic love and beauty, with Beltane or Summer Solstice. But I place her here with the Maidens because she took a page from Artemis’ book, when she returned to her birthplace on the isle of Cyprus every Spring. She bathed in the ocean there, and renewed her virginity. No matter how many lovers she had had, she withdrew from them to remind herself that she was full and complete by herself.
Aphrodite teaches us that no matter what life brings us — no matter how many sorrows we endure, how many mistakes we make, how many times we stumble and fall — there is always a new beginning for us. We can be Virgin — Woman Whole Unto Herself — once again.
We get this chance with every New Moon, and with every new Spring.
Tarot Play in Honor of the Maidens
The following questions were inspired by the seasonal Tarot Circle Games created by James Wells. You can gather in small groups to share your answers, as we did at our Gaian Soul Spring Retreat, or you can do this exercise alone.
Pull a tarot card to suggest ways to finish these sentences.
Card 1 (Persephone):
“At this time in my life, returning from the land of the dead looks or feels like _________.”
Card 2 (Artemis):
“For me, aiming true for my heart’s desire looks or feels like_________.”
Card 3 (Aphrodite):
“For me, becoming Virgin once again looks or feels like_________.”
Contemplating the Maiden Within
I wrote the following questions (some based on the book Storycatcher by Christina Baldwin), for a Story Circle at our Gaian Soul Spring Retreat. You could answer these questions in your journal, or gather with others in circle and listen to each other’s stories.
- What was something you loved to do when you were a Maiden (teen), and is it something you still do?
- Who was a mentor to you when you were a Maiden (teen)?
- What piece of writing changed your life when you were a Maiden (teen)?
- Tell me about a pivotal choice you made when you were a Maiden (teen).
- What would you say to the young woman you once were? What do you want her to know?
Ritual for the Maidens of Spring
At the Spring Equinox Ceremony at our Spring Retreat, I spoke these words:
“At Spring Equinox we honor the young Maiden that lives inside each one of us. We acknowledge our own beauty, and the beauty we see in each other. Like Persephone, we return from the land of despair to the land of hope. Like Artemis, we hold fast to our own sense of worth. And like Aphrodite, we bathe in the waters of Mama Ocean, and find that we are Virgin once again.”
We passed a hand mirror around the circle. Because we often do not believe we are beautiful, but are instead imperfect and “less than” every other woman, this was an opportunity to see just how beautiful we truly are. Each woman gazed into her own eyes in the mirror and said:
“I am beautiful.”
Each woman then passed the mirror to the one on her left, and said with a huge smile:
“You are beautiful.”
And so it went, around the circle, until we were all smiling and radiant.
I then went to each woman, holding a small dish of seawater collected that morning. I invited each woman to dip her fingers into the saltwater, trace a crescent moon on her own brow, and say:
“I am Woman Whole Unto Herself. I am Virgin once again.”
Finally, I spoke these words:
“At the time of the Spring Equinox, we know that the seed of light is bursting out of the shell of darkness. Like Persephone, we return from the Underworld of grief and despair. Two at a time, please come up to the altar and light a candle. It represents the sacred fire of Spring, igniting under the surface of the earth. Ask for your deepest hope, as you light your candle, silently or in a whisper.”
The energy built as the candles were lit. There was singing. There was dancing. There was rejoicing.
May it be so for you, as you reclaim your own Sovereignty and the Spring Maiden within.
I presented this material, as well as the story circle, ceremony, and tarot play, at our Gaian Soul Spring Retreat. These elements — changed for the season and the theme — are common to all of my retreats. Please sign up for the Early Bird List if you think you might like to join us!