The Women's Wheel of Life: Thirteen Archetypes of Woman at Her Fullest Power


Maiden, Mother, or Crone-where does a woman in her forties fit in?

Women who have turned to feminist spirituality for appreciation of women's ways of knowing have struggled with the confining concept of the Triple Goddess. Though no longer raising children, a woman may not yet be ready to be a "wise old woman." The Women's Wheel of Life offers a new archetype for this woman-the Matriarch.

The Matriarch is the Queen of the Harvest-reaping the ...

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Maiden, Mother, or Crone-where does a woman in her forties fit in?

Women who have turned to feminist spirituality for appreciation of women's ways of knowing have struggled with the confining concept of the Triple Goddess. Though no longer raising children, a woman may not yet be ready to be a "wise old woman." The Women's Wheel of Life offers a new archetype for this woman-the Matriarch.

The Matriarch is the Queen of the Harvest-reaping the rewards of sustained work and effort, at the height of her sexual and professional power. Elegantly self-possessed, fueled by an intensity and direction, she is poised to rekindle the passions, dreams and spiritual pursuits of youth. She represents the challenge facing midlife women today-how to reap the harvest of one's work and make time for new creative and personal explorations.

The Matriarch is but one of thirteen empowering archetypes presented in this book. From Daughter to Blood Sister, Mother to Amazon, Sorceress to Crone, this groundbreaking work reveals the grand pattern of women's lives, rich and complex, beautiful and mysterious.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Elizabeth Davis's first book, Heart & Hands, is often considered the bible for practicing midwives. Now Davis has teamed up with fellow midwife Carol Leonard to attend to all stages in a woman's life, by imagining and exploring 13 positive archetypes. Among the archetypes presented in The Women's Wheel of Life are familiar ones like the Crone and the Maiden, but also new ones, such as the Matriarch and the Priestess, that apply to women in midlife. (Viking, $22.95 256p ISBN 0-670-86227-4) Appearing on the heels of two popular films about Scottish history, Braveheart and Rob Roy, Stuart Reid's 1745 offers a military history of the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie and his House of Stuart to regain the throne of England and Scotland. The text covers the prince's 10-month campaign, which climaxed250 years agoin the Battle of Culloden, which was the focus of Reid's Like Hungry Wolves. Illustrations. (Sarpedon, $24.95 264p ISBN 1-885119-28-3)
Library Journal
Steeped in New Age rhetoric and references, this work targets the true believer. Authors Davis and Leonard have drawn inspiration from their experiences as midwives, as participants in "women's circles," and as students of tribal beliefs to devise a system that identifies 12 stages in a woman's life. These archetypes correspond to general goddess stereotypes and may be understood through instinct rather than reason. Women move from one phase to another using a 13th or transformer stage. The authors encourage those in this position to consult tarot cards, runes, or the I Ching to facilitate the transition. Throughout the book are testimonials given by individuals, identified solely by age, who share the same jargon and perspective. Only libraries desperate to fill gaps in their New Age or occult collections should consider this cultish manual.-Rose M. Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780615394688
  • Publisher: Bad Beaver Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/1/2012
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 1,032,652
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Reading Group Guide

The Women's Wheel of Life
Thirteen Archetypes of Women at Her Fullest Power
by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard


A New Look at an Ancient Mystery

If you dig deep into the past, before Christianity and the advent of science, you will discover a time when women's Blood Mysteries – the biological events of menstruation, childbirth, and menopause – accorded them great power and respect. People once believed that conception was a culmination of some kind of female magic – that women conceived children on their own by withholding their menstrual blood. During this time, women in menopause were also revered for their ability to carry within themselves their magical, mysterious blood – and all its power. But as science became more sophisticated, seeking to tame and dominate the forces of nature, the Mystery was lost. Now, in The Women's Wheel of Life, the authors re-examine the Blood Mysteries, creating new, empowering archetypes that guide women towards greater self-awareness and self-respect.


The Thirteen Stages of Women's Lives

Middle-aged women who have turned to women's spirituality have struggled with the confining concept of the triple Goddess found in many ancient religions. The image portrays just three phases in women's lives: the Maiden, whose rite is menstruation; the Mother, whose rite is childbirth; and the Crone, whose rite is menopause. But where does the woman in her late thirties and forties fit in? For the first time, the authors of The Women's Wheel of Life offer a fourth phase which falls between the Mother and the Crone – the Matriarch: She is a woman at the peak of her sexual and professional power, who, over the years, has developed a powerful sense of timing which compensates for any loss of youthful energy. But the Matriarch is just one figure in The Women's Wheel of Life. There are twelve archetypes around the wheel residing in phases of innocence, power, nurturing, and wisdom. Although the stages flow somewhat consecutively, women revisit certain stages in their lives numerous times or leap ahead to stages further along the Wheel. The means of movement among the stages relies on the thirteenth stage and archetype – the Transformer. Completing the women's wheel of life, the Transformer is at the center, and whenever we cross the threshold of a major life transition, we enter this stage.

The authors developed the Wheel as a synthesis of forty years' work in women's health, spirituality, and psychology, drawing on over a hundred interviews with women in all stages of life. As you read The Women's Wheel of Life, look into your own experiences, find your own truth – and share what you learn with others. A truly transformational experience awaits!


A renowned expert on women's issues, Elizabeth Davis has been a midwife, women's health care specialist, educator, and consultant for more than twenty years. She holds a degree in Holistic Maternity Care from Antioch University and has served as president of the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council of the United States. Internationally active in women's rights, she travels and lectures widely on women's spirituality, sexuality, and the Blood Mysteries. Her books include: the classic Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth; Energetic Pregnancy; Women's Intuition; and Women, Sex and Desire: Exploring Your Sexuality at Every Stage of Life. She lives in Windsor, California and is the mother of three children.

A foremother of the women's spirituality movement, Carol Leonard has been a practicing midwife for more than twenty years and was co-founder of the Midwives Alliance of North America, serving one term as president. Her work to improve maternity care in Moscow was featured on the news program 20/20 and written into the Congressional Record. She facilitates a summer camp for young women and does healing work for women with chronic and terminal illnesses. She travels extensively to present her workshops, Women's Ordinary Magic (which explores women's Blood Mysteries), and Witches, Midwives, and Other Healers. She raises medicinal herbs in New Hampshire and is the mother of two children.


"I love this book. I recognized myself – thirteen times." – Judy Grahn, author of Blood, Bread, and Roses

"Adds an insightful new formulation to our understanding of the stages of women's development." – Starhawk, author of The Spiral Dance

"The archetypal descriptions...give us a new language for women's wisdom which feels absolutely right and very affirming." – Christine Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

"A long-awaited recognition of female diversity and development." – Vicki Noble, author of Motherpeace and Shakti Woman

"A tremendously useful book in defining women's experience of maturation. This book is a gem!!" – Brooke Medicine Eagle, author of Buffalo Woman Comes Singing

"I loved the book! Great, thought-provoking theories, excellent research..." – Zsuzsanna Budapest, author of Grandmother of Time


  1. Which archetype on the wheel do you feel best represents you now? Why? What are the events in your life that have led you to this stage?
  2. Are there stages on the wheel you have visited again and again? Are there stages which you would like to enter, yet they elude you?
  3. As the authors point out, many ancient religions represent women's lives in three phases: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. In this book, the authors have added the Matriarch phase to this trinity. What do you know about women at this time in their lives, either from your own experience or from the experiences of others? Does this fourth phase seem to you to be a valid addition to the trinity?
  4. What are some of our society's misconceptions about older women? How do you yourself feel about growing older? What are some of the ways in which this book redefines a woman's aging process?
  5. What do you think your grandmother's experience with her own Blood Mysteries was like? Your mother's? Your daughter's? Try to place these different experiences into a historical context which reflects the growth of the women's movement over the last few generations.
  6. The thirteenth stage, the Transformer, represents the medium of change in women's lives. Some of the women interviewed describe this stage as a period of descent somewhat akin to depression. Describe your experience of change. How did other people treat you when you were in this stage? What has your relationship been to feminism? When and where did you first encounter the concept? How did that experience change the way you feel about yourself, other women, and men? Describe how this book has impacted your feminism, or femininity.
  7. The media often portrays women before and during their periods as unreasonable, unhappy, and emotionally unstable. What actually happens to you at this time of the month? Has the media affected your perceptions of yourself? How has this book changed that perception?
  8. What is it like for women at your place of employment? What are co-workers' expectations of you? One woman interviewed in the book noticed that "as you provide some women's knowledge in a male-based world, it feels right to both of you" (page 210-211). Are the people you work with willing to accept unconventional kinds of wisdom?


The Sorcerer's Crossing: A Woman's Journey
Taisha Abelar, with a foreword by Carlos Castaneda

The author recounts her experiences with a group of sorcerers in Mexico, where she underwent a rigorous physical and mental training process designed to enable her to breach the limits of ordinary perception.

Drawing Down the Moon:
Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today
by Margot Adler

The only detailed history of a little-known and widely misunderstood movement, providing a fascinating look at the religious experiences, beliefs, and lifestyles of the Neo-Pagan subculture. Includes an updated resource guide to related journals, festivals, newsletters, and groups.

Women of Wisdom
by Tsultrim Allione
Foreword by Chogyam Trungpa

The author, who lived as a Tibetan nun, demonstrates in rich detail how the female in Buddhist mythology can empower women to express the emotions they are too often encouraged to repress.

Women in Search of the Sacred
by Anne Bancroft

This fascinating book surveys the spiritual lives of ten very different women, including: writers Annie Dillard and Iris Murdoch, physicist Danah Zohar and Catholic missionary Elaine MacInnes.

The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image
Anne Baring and Jules Cashford

An invaluable study which presents the stories and images of goddesses as they were expressed in different cultures, from the Paleolithic era in 20,000 BC down to the contemporary pictures of the Virgin Mary.

The Witch's Dream
by Florinda Donner-Grau, with a foreword by Carlos Castaneda

Renowned anthropologist and spiritual healer Florinda Donner-Grau recounts her apprenticeship to Dona Mercedes, an aged healer in a remote Venezuelan town known for its population of spiritualists, sorcerers, and mediums.

Hidden Journey: A Spiritual Awakening
by Andrew Harvey

In this candid and beautifully written book, the author recounts his spiritual awakening following an unexpected encounter with Mother Meera, an eighteen-year-old Indian woman, the embodiment of the Divine Mother.

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