To be a human being is to know and be complex. To be a woman in this life intensifies psychic complexity and represents another whole layer and motif of psychic nature. Most of us are familiar with the influential Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, famous for his description of what he proposed as universal human archetypes or modes of the human psyche. Two modern psychotherapists, in studying the word of Jung, Roger Woolger, and Jennifer Barker Woolger, embraced the repertoire of archetypes. These therapists translated it brilliantly into an interpretive view of the female psyche as viewed through the gamut of Greek Mythological Heroines in their book Goddess Within: A Guide to the Eternal Myths that Shape Women's Lives."
Taking 6 major Greek Goddesses, Woolger and Barker Woolger create a six Greek Goddess archetype system that any woman can use as a tool of self-inquiry for the purpose of self-understanding and exploration. These archetypes can be used by women to tap into their inherent archetypal power and to identify the stage of their journeys.
What is an Archetype?
The term archetype was created by Jung to describe universally valid symbols, and that can be found in myths and dreams across the span of humanity and which represent inherent human potentials. Each archetype can be accessed to bring a distinct form of power and liberation or completion in the human subconscious reality. Jung said, "The archetype points out that there are thought-formations of a parallel or identical nature distributed all over the world…and furthermore that they can be found in individuals who have never heard of such parallels."
For a symbol to qualify as an archetype, it has to maintain the integrity of meaning across cultures and eras of time. Whether or not an individual is aware of the description of an archetype, he or she may naturally act it out, and this tendency can be seen repeating in the lives and stories of other people. "The contents of the collective unconscious are archetypes; Primordial images that reflect basic patterns that are common to us all, and which have existed universally since the dawn of time." While the Jungian archetypes are The Ruler, The Creator, The Sage, The Innocent, The Explorer, The Rebel, The
Hero, The Wizard, The Jester, The Regular Person, The Lover, and The Caregiver. In our look at the goddess archetypes, we explore some overlapping themes that are more finely tuned to reflect the nature of living life as a woman.
How to Find Yourself in the Goddess Archetypes
With the depth and complexity of Goddess archetypes, it would be an oversimplification to reduce our question to 'which Greek Goddess am I?" The elements of the feminine nature and journey are represented here as a spectrum or a continuum. Each of these archetypal ideas is likely to play some significant part in each woman's life at some point. We may each have primary ones that are more strongly reflective of the personality and life path we have developed. But in our experience of the feminine psyche, most women will recognize all of them whether in one's self, one's past or one's relationships to important women in one's life such as mother, sister, grandmother, mentor, or friends. As we take a walk through the 6 archetypes, it is recommended to be open to how all 6 archetypes ring true to different aspects of the journeys of femaleness.
Hera: The Wife- A Symbol of Power
Associated titles and Power Words: The Empress, The Ruler, The Wife, The Matriarch, Worldly Power, tradition, marriage, partnership, and morality.
Hera in Greek Mythology was the wife of Zeus, the Sky God, and thus her title was a grand one; The Goddess of Marriage and the Queen of the Gods. Her character was one of intensity. When she was happy in marriage or in the company of others, she could be cordial and gracious, yet if she was faced with betrayal on the part of Zeus, which was often the case, she could be spiteful and vicious. Whether expressing the graceful or disturbing aspect of her nature, she exemplified determination and strength.
This archetype is applicable when questing for good solid relationships and partnerships and when there is a desire to create substantial committed and sacred unions with another. She would not be the goddess most resonant with breakups or divorces necessarily, though her archetypal influence empowers disentanglement from unhealthy relationships. She carries the quality of justice and is an archetype appropriate to moments of challenging corrupted authority.
Historically, the Hera archetype was embodied by Queen Victoria in the 19th Century.
Athena: The Career Woman- Symbol of Civilization
Associated symbols and power words: The Careerist, The Competitor, The Rebel, education, city culture, intellect, and logic.
Athena, though known as the War Goddess, is also famed for her wisdom, artistry, and technical skills. Her unusual 'birth' story involved her father Zeus's fear that she may be another child to try to overthrow his power, and he, therefore, swallowed her mother Metis so that she would not give birth.
Athena, however, was born instead out of Zeus's head. At birth, the myth holds that she was a fully formed adult clad in complete war gear. She is remarkably intelligent and fierce, with no fear of taking on enemies.
Athena is a fierce warrior woman, independent of the approval or support of men. The energy of the Athena archetype would accept is one who would be able to stay abreast of her high ambitions and quest to live life for a higher purpose. For this purpose, the Athena archetype cannot be hindered.
When a woman finds herself pursuing career success or a vision for a lofty life mission for her community or humanity at large, she could be said to have found herself in the Athena archetype.
Psychologically, Athena archetype is often revealed in personalities or phases characterized by executives and competitive players, not in competition with the masculine, per se, but holding the belief that she is as smart and strong or stronger and as good or better a leader as men. Women expressing the Athena archetype will often be those wearing expensive or name brand suits and clothing. She will tend to marry for power more than an emotional connection, and this archetype may express as a lack of interest in children or a lack of desire for having children. The focus is primarily on business and politics.
Historically, the Athena archetype was exemplified in Joan of Arc.
Aphrodite: The Lover- Symbol of Desire and Eros
Associated symbols and power words: The Patroness, The Lover, sexuality, body as a sacred temple, sensuality, romance, beauty, eros, passion, and the arts.
The Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, was born from the foam of the sea. She is celebrated for her beauty and desirability and yet is ironically forced to marry the Blacksmith God, who is an unsightly man. Aphrodite and her husband are Greek versions of "Beauty and the Beast."
Aphrodite, however, found love in the arms of a myriad men. She is desired by many as love, and her mere attention was said to break down emotional walls, creating intimacy and vulnerability. Aphrodite's energy is transformational; her power allows her to transmute anything into love. She values a genuine connection between people and is willing to explore intimacy while maintaining independence.
Aphrodite's archetypal influence can be seen in those women who are looking for love, desiring to live life through the heart, or to those women who feel especially called to experience sex as a sacred and spiritual act, full of vulnerability and playfulness. Her archetype stands to assist the deepening of relationships and to aid women embarking on creative projects. She brings healing to relationships and love related trauma.
Historically, Aphrodite was represented by Cleopatra.
Persephone: The Seer- Symbol of the Underworld and the Unconscious
Associated symbols and power words: The Medium, The Seer, intuition, clairvoyance, transformation, endings and death, dreaming, inner guidance, shadow work, healing, and psychic powers.
Greek Goddess of the Underworld, Persephone, is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. While still in her youth, she was kidnapped by Hades, God of Death. It is said that when Persephone ate pomegranate seeds in the underworld, it forever tied her identity to that pace. A deal was made, and Persephone stayed with Hades for the six cold months.
Because of her connection to the underworld, Persephone is associated with all things occult in nature. This is including the world of spirits, mysticism, and death itself. She views everything in life through the veil of spirituality. Trapped in the darkness of the underworld, she became connected to the collective unconscious and an archetypal guide for shadow work and the laborious task of a woman facing her inner demons. The Persephone archetype endeavors to transcend the station of the victim and to begin the journey to self-knowledge and –empowerment.
Psychologically, Persephone's archetypal threads can be most clearly seen in women coming from overly strict upbringings with overbearing parents. Perhaps as girls and young women, they struggled to make independent decisions or saying no to others. They aim to please others and are often innocent, pretty, and naïve. Simultaneously, they possess incredible minds and capacities for creativity, being deeply imaginative, poetic, artistic daydreamers who find fascination with the mystical. A Persephone type energy is the potential for a great many outcomes offered by a myriad of talents, but they need to pin down precisely what it is they desire.
Persephone personifies dying to the old self and beginning to be reborn anew, sometimes over and over again. She is a phoenix rising from the ashes. Once matured, this archetype develops the strength and wisdom characterized by her tempering through many challenges. She can serve as a guiding light for others to do the same, letting go of fears, defining her own self, and living in the full flow of life. Her interest in esoteric studies and magic tends to develop and grow with age.
Historically, the Persephone archetype came to life through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a famous Swiss- American psychiatrist who pioneered studies on death and dying.
Artemis: The Naturalist- Symbolizes Nature
Associated symbols and power words: The Shamaness, The Huntress, adventures, wilderness, nature, and the animal world
The Greek Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis, was another of Zeus's unplanned children. Wanting to hide her true connection to him, Zeus turned her mother, Leto, into a quail who then laid Artemis in an egg. Artemis' unusually mythic birth from an egg hints to her legendary association with nature, the forest, and the animal kingdom. As a small child, Artemis ran away into the wild and began hunting with a band of women who gave vows of chastity. Although she hunted, she maintained profound care for animals.
The Artemis archetype is most resonant with activism- particularly animal rights. Still, she appears in those women who find in their nature a rebel, an animal lover, and a nature lover or environmentalist.
Psychologically, Artemis is an independent woman, and in myths, she is not depicted as being reliant on men. She possesses the ability to seize what she desires out of life without the need to question her own desires.
In step with her ambitious nature, she is athletically built, dresses in attire, which will permit her to move swiftly, and she will only choose a suitor who can run alongside her. With a deep personal need for her freedom and the need to conquer her goals, her romantic partnerships are based on friendship and playful competition more than emotions.
Artemis is kindhearted with a desire to help women, animals, and the planet. Historically, Artemis is embodied by the beloved Jane Goodall.
Demeter: The Mother Symbol of Ancestral Wisdom
Associated symbols and power words: The Mother, The Daughter, The Earth Mother, The Grandmother' childbearing, fertility, generational wisdom, and nurture.
The Greek Agriculture Goddess Demeter is a kind introverted soul who loves to nurture others, most especially children. She exudes motherly love toward anyone in need of it. She is a natural caretaker and her symbolism extends to human fertility, nature, and the earth.
Psychologically, the archetype of Demeter speaks to the love of women for their children or the children whose lives they touch. A decision shaped by the Demeter archetype would be choosing a partner with the primary desire to procure a family. A woman expressing this archetype may be extraordinarily nurturing and may attract others who were deprived of motherly love. Generally, this aspect of the psyche needs to learn to receive as well as she knows how to give, protecting her tendency to give away energy too freely. This type of personality may excel at sometimes providing even try to save others but must learn to also prioritize herself. Women who have this archetype dominant in their character or life path may find success as doctors, psychologists, or any caretaking professions.
Historically, the Demeter archetype was embodied by Mother Teresa.
Which Archetype Speaks to You?
While each archetype certainly has her place in the female psyche, each woman may find that she identifies one or more that resonates most strongly with her reality.
Which Greek Goddess Archetype speaks most to your personality or the phase of your life currently?
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