A warning again: This blog post is a tangent based on my current exploration into feminist writing. If this type of information is not of interest to you, I’ll be back to more “retirement transition – life journey” stuff soon.
This is part 2 to my previous blog on Goddess Archetypes (link here) where I shared brief descriptions of a few goddesses that sparked my interest.
All of the goddess myths being shared communicate potential archetypal patterns that exist for every woman. The uniquely feminine ways of being (archetypical – instinctual – behavioral patterns) are personified in these enduring myths/stories.
While one archetype might be strongest (dominant) within you, all are potential sources of meaning. Not every facet of the archetype, even if you have a dominant one, has to be lived out or even felt. One archetype might be activated by a specific situation, life transition, or circumstance. Or one may be you in the outer world and another one inner (home life). But, just like someone might have an innate musical ability, you will have an innate archetype(s) you were born with. Cultural and family expectations supported or suppressed those innate traits. When an archetype myth/story resonates, there is probably a corresponding archetype within – active or suppressed.
Here are a few more of the major feminine archetypes depicted by Greek goddesses:
Artemis is an independent, strong willed, goal-focused, adventure-seeking goddess with an “I can take care of myself” confidence. She is competitive but also a protector of the victimized and powerless. Artemis does not give up, her inner spirit will not be subdued, and she will never have a victim-mentality. She has a strong reverence for nature, especially the wilderness. A young Artemis was a courageous child who did a lot of physical exploration, found solace in nature or with animals, was called stubborn for standing up for her beliefs (probably got in trouble for speaking up), and hated seeing defenseless children or animals picked on. An adult Artemis will invest energy into work that has deep meaning for her and continues her connection to nature. She is also probably an activist fighting for a cause she believes in – for social justice, women and children, the environment, or animals. Artemis however can be ruthless if she believes she’s been wronged.
Hera is the goddess of marriage and stands for the traditional role of the good, supportive wife. For Hera, the marriage relationship defines her, so her need to mate is her underlying motivation. Our couples-focused culture highly supports this archetype. An adolescent Hera dreamed about her wedding, likely dropped girlfriend connections as soon as she dated somebody steady, and looked to college to find her best mate. If she has a job/career, it is secondary to her husband’s; even children’s needs are secondary to her husband’s needs. She will not take on the traditionally masculine aspects of the household (finances, mechanical stuff) as she believes she is half of the whole. The “wronged/wounded wife” is unfortunately common – everything from her husband putting work before her or having an affair to divorce or widowhood, which in both she loses her identity. A wronged Hera can easily slip into rage and vindictiveness. An unmarried Hera will feel an inner emptiness, while Hera in a long-term marriage (which she can easily commit to) is fulfilled.
Demeter is the goddess who personifies the traditional role of mother and maternal instinct. Her identity and wellbeing are dependent on having her own child/children and so the need to procreate and nurture is her underlying motivation. Not being able to conceive is a deep soul issue for Demeter. A young Demeter played with baby dolls, was “mother’s little helper” with younger siblings, and was eager to babysit. Demeter has a wide range of friends, is the one to help others join in and belong, and she looks to women friends for emotional support. While motherhood fulfills her the most, she can also be fulfilled through helping professions or creative projects. She is warm-hearted, affectionate, and generous. However, she can be overly involved in her child’s life, over-protective, and over controlling – doing everything for the child, fostering dependency, spoiling a child, and/or raising an entitled child. She can also have burnout as she nurtures everyone else but herself. Often when children leave the nest, she will find an alternative “child” (project) to nurture to avoid the strong grief she feels at the loss of her mother identity. Because if Demeter is the dominant and only archetype, when the maternal role in life is truly lost, life can have no meaning resulting in agitated depression, apathetic depression, or extreme anger at the world.
Persephone as a goddess personifies the traditional role of dutiful, compliant daughter. She has an underlying motivation to be dependent on someone else. Her personality profile is to NOT act; she is more an observer than a joiner. She has a strong desire to please others and is highly accommodating. Her “mother knows best” relationship taught her to “be the good girl” – cautious, obedient, conforming. An adult Persephone is unaware of her own desires or strengths, is always waiting for something, will often follow the path of least resistance, and for her, nothing ever feels “for real”. The Persephone myth however has alternative adult component. A grown-up Persephone can evoke the Queen of the Underworld persona with deep introspection, eventually becoming a guide of others to their personal unconsciousness and collective unconscious.
Aphrodite is the archetype goddess who governs a woman’s enjoyment of love and beauty, sexuality and sensuality. She impels women to fulfill both creative and procreative functions. Procreative is union of two people; creative is union of artist & art. When Aphrodite is a major/dominant archetype, a woman falls in love easily and often. She is an extroverted, fiery woman with a lust for life. She has sex appeal, personal charisma/magnetism. In most cultures, this archetype has been degraded (temptress, tease, whore). Aphrodite values emotional experiences with others but not long term commitment. She lives so much in-the-moment that it can be “out of sight, out of mind” for other people or a commitment made. She is spontaneous, amorous, flirtatious, has lots of casual relationships and a non-judgmental, appreciative eye. She is not possessive or jealous and doesn’t understand it in others.
Becoming conscious of the archetypes within, as well as the cultural/outer influences we had, can help identity a personal authenticity and empower new paths forward. As a child, what aspects of your personality were encouraged, praised or rewarded? What aspects were frowned upon or criticized? Was it the quiet solitary play of a Hestia, the risk taking explorations of Artemis, the play with dolls of Demeter, the flirty dressing up of Aphrodite? How might one foster independent children and avoid the grief state of lost mother identity? How might one build up the independent autonomy of an Artemis activist or a planning Athena? How might one tap into the creativity and in-the-moment sensuality of Aphrodite or the calm solitude of Hestia? How might one shift from the compliant Persephone to the introspective Persephone?
Do you recognize yourself (or someone close to you) in any of these Goddesses?
Picture Credit – nothing to do with goddesses. A picture from the local Kite festival this week. Cooler winter temperatures have arrived, but still sunny days with blue skies.