A warning: This blog post continues this series based on my current exploration into feminist writing. If this type of information is not of interest to you, I’ll return to more “retirement transition – life journey” stuff soon.
This is a continuation of insights from my reading exploration. Previous posts specifically on the goddess reading are here and here. This post is about my personal work on cultivating an emerging feminine consciousness by looking deeper at goddess archetype and what they mean specifically to me. By sharing this very personal perspective, I hope you might see how you can utilize the goddess archetype understanding in your own personal development.
Retirement can provide time to really consider your authentic identity and where you are in your life’s journey. For me, it came as a sense of a spiritual void, a lump in the breast, a yearning for expanding my feminine traits within, a desire for a sense of home in the community, a fear of disappointing others, and a feeling of not measuring up by following obvious paths (like a successful author promotion plan or a killer consulting career or even a helpful life coach – any successful second career in fact!). Exploring goddess archetypes has opened up my thinking to what the feminine within me might authentically be.
Looking at goddess archetypes, traditionally acceptable archetypical adult feminine roles in the Patriarchal Belief Systems include the Hera supportive wife, the nurturing Demeter mother, and the Athena daughter of the patriarchy who learned to play/win in a man’s world. Athena in fact is the epitome archetype of the Feminist Revolution. Act like a man, live the heroine’s journey (just like the hero), and win in the Patriarchal Belief System (until you hit the glass ceiling because you’re not a man).
Other strong female archetypes include the lover of solitude, home-making Hestia; the independent, fighting for a cause, adventure-seeking Artemis; the eternally naïve, waiting for life to begin Persephone; and the sensual, sexual Aphrodite.
In goddess archetype profiling I am/was Athena. I embraced the stereotypical male heroic journey, pursuing achievement and recognition. I played the game strategically and learned to thrive in our male-dominated, hierarchal, materialistic culture/society. I never embraced my feminine nature nor learned to value myself as a woman. I subjugated empathy and relationship building to foster analytical, critical thinking, cool-headed decision-making, and practical planning & execution. Even now, I still feel the need for accountability & checklists, still am highly judgmental, and struggle with how to develop relationships.
I’ve also discovered a large bit of Persephone within. Persephone is not considered an acceptable adult female archetype, but does represent the acceptable, naïve female childhood. Because Persephone is waiting for life to begin, nothing ever feels “real” as she is always waiting for something or someone. She is unaware of her own desires or strengths. A goal-less Persephone dabbles in various things – doing what others want to do, looking to please others, doing what is expected. Her “mother knows best” relationship taught her to “be the good girl” – obedient, conforming, and well-behaved (follow the rules). Her personality profile is to NOT act, but rather to be passive and accommodating.
A key element of the Persephone myth (part of the archetype story) was her abduction and separation from her mother. This abandonment was a replication of my early life – I was hospitalized within weeks of my birth, in 1960 when parents were discouraged to visit a sick child. While I might not innately have been a Persephone, I do believe that this early separation sparked this archetype within me. Interestingly, in the goddess myth an adult Persephone delves into introspection – exploring personal unconsciousness, the collective unconscious, and the psychological or spiritual arena.
Seeing Persephone in myself took me down a rabbit hole of understanding childhood abandonment. With this type of childhood trauma, brain pathways are formed to manage the pain and also avoid the pain of future expected abandonment. Some of these are trying to always be a good girl/ being perfect (make no mistakes), not rocking the boat (avoid conflict), having a deep-seated fear of not belonging, and a fear of doing things alone. All of these are within me.
I recently found journal notes from when I was 24 years old. Even then I wanted confidence to do things by myself, to be “good” at work, to belong to a group of friends, to “not fail”. I was “waiting for someone to do things with” and had no strong commitments/hobbies. The Persephone archetype has been in my personality profile for a long time!
How do I use this goddess insight to move myself forward in personal development? How do I re-wire my brain to realize, with an adult perspective, that this thinking about abandonment is no longer valid?
Learning about the goddess archetype energies has helped me bring into consciousness who I am and who I am not. This consciousness is helping me in self-acceptance and stopping my Compare & Despair tendency. Two of the dominant cultural expectations of retirement – travel & volunteering – are very much an Artemis archetype. This is not me. I am not a save-the-world, adventuresome Artemis, nor will I ever have the homemaker warmth of a Hestia. I also am neither the devoted wife Hera archetype nor the nurturing mother Demeter archetype.
Recognition that I am living a soul-deep paradox of the thinker, planner, doer of an Athena archetype and the naïve, compliant, inertia of a Persephone archetype has been mind-opening. In fact, acceptance of the Persephone archetype within and its aspects of childhood abandonment is something I am coming to terms with. I also do want to find a more feminine aspect within; perhaps some of the sensuality of Aphrodite!
Have you considered what understanding your own goddess archetype(s) might mean for your personal development?
Picture Credit…me, as I stated in my last blog, “I want to spend time on creative projects” Picture is of some crafting using old bottles, fairy lights, shells and ocean glass beads. Hmm, symbolic of a light within?
9 thoughts on “How am I using insights into goddess archetypes? (5th in a series)”
I have really enjoyed this series, Pat, and the opportunity to get to know you a little deeper. I can see a lot of similarities. Beyond our planning and list making, I also spent much of my life trying to be good, avoid conflict, not rock the boat, fit in. Now, I wonder if that stemmed from my parents divorcing when I was young and my father being completely absent until he popped back in for a quick visit when I was 12 and then gone again until I was a young adult. I was close to my mother, so not abandoned exactly, but for many years I longed for a close father-daughter relationship. I was able to make peace with my father in later years and felt nothing but compassion when he died. I was honored to be by his side when he passed. Later when my younger sister and I were cleaning out his apartment, we found a photo album filled with pictures from our childhood. He had few belongings, but had carried that album around with him for more than 40 years and several moves.
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Christie, You’ll be intrigued with my next two posts on abandonment, fo sure. (sorry I’ve been absent from blogging past couple of weeks…life, as they say!)
Great insight, Pat. You gave me pause to examine my own archetypes. It also made me want to reread a book that’s been on my shelves for a long while: Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She says:” Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature….filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and ageless knowing.” Keep you your exploration, Pat. Good things are happening.
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Oh my. I had that book on my shelf for years, unread. It didn’t make the move. I’ll have to consider rebuying it!
It’s interesting to see how this thought path has triggered a lot of insights for you Pat. I think Midlife has been a real wake-up call for a lot of us and a re-defining of who we thought we were. I know that I’m a completely different person to who I was before I stopped working. Figuring out who I am without it being tied into productivity and drive and perfectionism has been huge for me – but also so liberating. I’m starting to wonder if there’s a bit of Hestia in me!
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Leanne, I can totally see/feel Hestia in you! She’s a lovely archetype – warm and welcoming. And yes, redefining who we thought we were is a big part of this time of life! ( I’ve been a bit out of blogging loop past couple of weeks, so sorry for late reply)
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Have you read any of Madeline Miller’s wonderful books? (Her mom happens to be a friend of mine & I am VERY proud to know her!) Your goddess reflections remind me of Madeline’s work, especially her wealth of knowledge of Greek mythology. I think you might really enjoy “Circe.” I read it when it first came out, and have just finished listening to the Audible version. Happy transitioning.
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Thanks for the book recco; I’m putting it on my to-read list.