Recently I came across the book ‘ Goddesses in Every Woman ‘ by Jean Shinoda Bolen. When this book appeared in the 1980s, it became a true classic in women’s studies and literature. Bolen’s unique approach to female characters shed a whole new light on female psychology. In the first wave of feminism, which was in full swing at the time, it helped women better understand themselves and other women and move them toward sisterhood.
Women have now been able to let go of the feelings of intense resentment and powerlessness that characterized the first women’s movement. They are much more settled in themselves, although we are not there yet. I discovered many awareness points in the book that are absolutely topical especially now, with the Sacral Feminine going through a major growth spurt. I thought it helpful to pass this wisdom on to a younger generation of women.
Acceptance of feminine power
There is a lot of confusion about femininity. As a woman, should you be sweet and caring, or spicy and ambitious? As women, we hardly understand it anymore and the men even less. Bolen showed us that femininity has two faces: a mild, maternal and devoted side and an inquisitive, playful and outgoing side.
The patriarchal system that has prevailed under the influence of the Church for two thousand years has suppressed that spicy side of women. Yet it is a very essential part of a woman.
Acceptance of female power seems to be a runaway race these days. But it is far from finished and has come a long way, and not so long ago the depreciation and contempt for the feminine was so total that we cannot imagine it today. The pioneers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung , had already noted this feisty side of the female sex in their work.
But in keeping with their Victorian mentality, they didn’t know what to do with it. At the same time, Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley worked on ideas about natural selection and evolution, which later developed into Darwin’s theory of evolution.would develop. As travel became easier in the 19th century, field research became more accessible and many biologists found that active sexual selection by females was quite common.
This was at odds with the Victorian view that women were weak, helpless, passive, frigid, uninitiated, needy creatures who could hardly survive without a man. And now they also found clues to autonomous, powerful components in the female psyche! The suffragette movement also emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which would eventually lead to women’s suffrage and the opportunity to study.
Various social movements have completely turned the prevailing image of women upside down, which has led to much confusion among the male establishment. We’re still not completely out of it. Darwin has paid much attention to sexual selection as part of animal reproduction, but has completely ignored the subject related to humans. Freud believed that women were literally failed men and that women who exhibited ‘masculine traits’ suffered from penis envy and had actually wanted to be a man (as a woman in the 19th century you hadcentury, for every reason).
It is therefore particularly valuable that Bolen has refreshed psychoanalysis with an innovative view of ‘male’ female archetypes. Much seems like a run-down these days, but at the time, her approach to female psychology was revolutionary. However, we are now one step further on the spiral of development and can once again draw inspiration from her approach on a deeper level.
The animus/anima theory assumes that in every woman a male element ( the animus ) is present and in every man a female element ( the anima ).† The individuation process is aimed at strengthening that animus or anima and thus removing the one-sided identification with feminine or masculine and becoming a complete, integrated human being in which yin and yang are in balance and the opposites are dissolved.
Carl Jung’s work is strongly influenced by the zeitgeist in which it originated and gender diversity was a tricky issue in the early twentieth century. They have gone to great lengths to define non-feminine traits in women as masculine and to this day they still do. I emphatically distance myself from it.
How difficult we still have with autonomy and decisiveness in women is shown by the fact that many psychoanalysts have pointed out categorically that the ‘virgin’ goddesses are not the same as the animus in a woman.Artemis ‘ entrepreneurial spirit, Athena ‘s ambition and decisiveness and Hestia’s emotional stability is not the Animus, what is it? The concept of the animus/anima does not correspond to the image I have of wholeness.
The autonomy of Artemis, the logic and reason of Athena and Hestia’s calm focus on her own goals feel completely natural to me and in no way like ‘a piece of man’ in my psyche. We tend to think that ‘masculine’ qualities in women such as entrepreneurial spirit, competitiveness and purposefulness are a result of the emancipation of women. These traits are not ‘male auxiliary’ or learned traits.
They have been naturally occurring in women for as long as mankind has existed. They have only been oppressed for a while.
Women who are starting to develop their “masculine” yang qualities can certainly feel at first that there is “a man walking beside them” as they try to be assertive and give their personal interests the space they need. to deserve. From her biological role as a mother, however, I find a strong yin/yang balance in a woman only logical: a mother must nurture and care for her children as well as defend them fiercely and learn to stand on their own two feet.
You can already see this in the animal kingdom and it is not much different in humans. Covering the whole spectrum of yin and yang is, in my opinion, completely natural for a woman within the sphere of womanhood and is absolutely not a piece of man in a woman! Likewise, tenderness and caring in a man are not a “piece of a woman,” it is a perfectly natural and legitimate expression of manhood, ancient, and aimed at forming stable bonds that guarantee everyone’s survival. In my opinion it is precisely the split in feminine/yin and masculine/yang that is unnatural.
What are archetypes?
Archetypes are a kind of blueprints or ‘primordial characters’ that can be found in every human being. It includes a way of living and reacting, and a range of positive and negative qualities, pitfalls and shadow aspects*). A person’s personality is not an arbitrary combination of characteristics, but falls within a certain ‘profile’.
Bolen divides the goddess archetypes into the dependent, or vulnerable, and independent, or virgin goddesses, and Aphrodite, who is categorized as a transforming goddess. In Greek mythology, these dependent goddesses are married and are regularly abused by their husbands and other male gods in the form of child kidnapping, rape, infidelity and cheating. The independent goddesses are unmarried in mythology and wish to keep it that way, as in the presence of a man they would lose their own identity and become dominated.
It should be clear that one archetype is just a flat character , a caricature. A woman who acted entirely according to the patterns of a single archetype would be a stereotype. It is the combination of archetypes that gives a person depth and stratification, and a broader repertoire of actions that makes us rise above the limitations of a single archetype.
Personal growth (flattening out your weaknesses by expanding the ways of dealing with problems) could also be described as activating archetypes that had not yet been clearly visible. Nowadays, due to the fairly complex life in today’s society, several goddess archetypes are activated in a woman.
People often express multiple archetypes, but there is often one that plays the greatest part in a person’s character. But it could also be two, or three, or even four. Such a person is not fickle, it is a complex person. Such a person has a wide repertoire of actions at his disposal and can therefore deal with a large number of situations in a way that is satisfactory to her, instead of shining in one situation (her archetypal core quality) and completely sinking in another. (her archetypal pitfall).
*) A shadow aspect arises when someone is completely stuck in a trap of his/her archetype. This creates an identification with that negative behavior and a justification for being allowed to indulge in it. Shadow aspects are harmful to other people around you, but not least to yourself, because you get removed from your own wholeness.
The Virgin Goddesses
The independent goddesses are Artemis , Hestia and Athena . These goddesses are independent because they derive their happiness in life from achieving their personal goals . An Athena woman sets herself a materialistic goal, an Artemis woman an idealistic goal, and a Hestia woman a spiritual goal.
They have a highly focused consciousness, which enables them to formulate and achieve personal goals. These women are less focused on relationships and connection. If a woman is strongly influenced by these goddesses, she will find it important to earn money or have a successful career. She will have to, because she won’t always be in a relationship. She will not automatically become a mother.
It is these archetypes that enable a woman to survive on her own in society, guard her boundaries and act assertively, and lead a fulfilling life independent of partners and children. The downside of the autonomous goddess archetypes is that women can give too little priority to relationships and as a result become lonely or focus so one-sidedly on their work,
Women who are strongly influenced by virgin goddesses are often sportswomen, career women, single women who develop themselves widely, women with strong science qualities or women who are attracted to traditional male professions. They often find it difficult to open up emotionally to another person and to be intimate with a partner and their relationships often break down because the other person perceives the relationship as too casual. Because they have so many fun things to do, they often make too little room in their lives for a serious relationship. Due to their independent nature, they do not feel lonely easily.
In mythology, these goddesses were not essentially affected by the actions of male gods. They were not damaged and did not suffer. They organized their own lives. Likewise, women influenced by these archetypes are less prone to depression, more self-directed, and less burdened by not being in a relationship. In prepatriarchal times, “virgin” did not mean sexually untouched, but authentic, not essentially influenced by a man. A woman under the influence of virgin goddess archetypes does not do things to get or please a man, but because she wants to, from within.
The Vulnerable Goddesses
The vulnerable goddesses are called vulnerable or dependent because they derive their life fulfillment from relationships and to do that you have to be vulnerable. Your source of happiness is something outside of yourself and you can always lose it: a marriage can break down, your relationship with your children can deteriorate, friendships can end. The dependent goddesses are Demeter, Persephone and Hera. A Demeter woman is focused on her children, a Hera woman is focused on her husband, and a Persephone woman is focused on people in general.
Under the influence of the vulnerable goddess archetypes, women will focus on relationships and family life and give less priority to economic independence and the fulfillment of their own needs. These archetypes form the nurturing, mothering and connecting element in a woman. They make a woman want to be faithful to a partner for life and also want loyalty from him (or her), start a family and strive for harmony and good relations with other people.
Women under the influence of the vulnerable goddesses have a fundamentally different consciousness than women under the influence of the virgin goddesses. Where the influence of virgin goddesses creates a consciousness like a laser beam, women with vulnerable goddess archetypes have more of a consciousness like a table lamp: their consciousness is more diffused, scattered in the environment.
As a result, they perceive their own consciousness less sharply and the needs of others all the more. It is because of this that these women so often confuse their own wishes with those of others and put the needs of others first. If you encourage them to listen to themselves better, you must realize that it is really more difficult for them to feel what they want. They are not necessarily weak or without limits, they live in a totally different field of consciousness than an autonomous woman.
If women with this predisposition are also taught in their upbringing that as a woman you have to subordinate your own interests to those of others, they can end up in an automatism in which they focus on others without thinking about it and no longer come to themselves at all. , often resulting in burnout or depression.
The extent to which these women spread their awareness throughout their environment becomes clear the moment they move in: every mother knows the situation where her child is playing sweetly as long as she is messing around in the house. As soon as she starts doing the administration or making a phone call, her child starts whining.
For that lacks the ‘warm cloud’ of her presence throughout the house as she focuses (‘virginizes’) her consciousness for a more autonomous activity. The same thing often happens in a marriage when a woman goes to school. Her husband often thinks it’s an excellent idea that she develops, but as soon as he notices that her ‘warm cloud’ is disappearing (she has her nose in the books after all), he feels rejected and starts claiming her.
This can lead to friction in a marriage, because the wife feels that her husband is hindering her development and feels betrayed because he was behind her before. Men often do not know what is going on and why they feel so ’empty’ as soon as their partner no longer naturally focuses on them. It is good to know that there is not always a misogynistic motive behind this, but the lack of the diffuse consciousness of mother-the-wife that was always just there.
This pattern, that children, partners and sometimes friends begin to harass a woman when she turns to herself because they have unconsciously lost her diffuse consciousness, prevents many women from pursuing their own interests. “You see, my family just can’t live without me!” This is also the reason why many working mothers secretly love being at work because while they are busy, their consciousness is not as plucked as at home. At the same time, a woman can also become more or less addicted to the need of others for her ‘consciousness cloud’.
Though exhausted from the constant demands placed on her, she can’t bring herself to focus on herself. Because she cannot clearly design what she herself would like, she continues to rely on meeting the needs of others for her life. She often only comes to herself when she finds herself alone and has to learn to maintain herself on her own. Mothers who are under the influence of the virgin goddess archetypes are much less affected by this.
It is much easier for them to let their family fall back on themselves because they do not have that table lamp consciousness or have it much less strong. The family does not miss it when it is gone, they are used to taking care of themselves. It is much easier for them to let their family fall back on themselves because they do not have that table lamp consciousness or have it much less strong.
The family does not miss it when it is gone, they are used to taking care of themselves. It is much easier for them to let their family fall back on themselves because they do not have that table lamp consciousness or have it much less strong. The family does not miss it when it is gone, they are used to taking care of themselves.
In mythology, these goddesses went through a personal transformation as a result of losing their relationships. They became depressed and suffered. But they grew stronger as a result of that suffering. This is often a common thread in the lives of women who are under the influence of vulnerable goddesses: they suffer from bad relationships, become depressed but come out of it and come out stronger.
Often growth consists of making oneself less dependent on others and building more personal autonomy, or learning to guard their own limits so that they don’t become so drained on their relationships. This is contrary to the challenge of the virgin goddesses, who must learn to be vulnerable, to allow others and to love. The influence of the vulnerable goddesses makes a woman more susceptible to depression than that of the virgin goddesses, because those women have much less high expectations of relationships with other people and are much more in control of their sources of happiness in life.
On the other hand, this vulnerable goddess influence is also essential for social cohesion in a society and without these influences no healthy society or family life could exist.
The archetypes in brief
The various goddess archetypes are briefly described below. You will probably be able to draw them out like this and recognize people in your environment or yourself in them. Subsequent articles will explore each archetype in more detail.
Demeter is the goddess of grain in mythology. Demeter is the archetypal mother who puts her children above all else. Demeter women are generous, motherly and caring, have few social ambitions and find it difficult to guard their personal boundaries because they want to take care of everyone, sometimes at the expense of themselves. Mother’s Day is an ode to the Demeter archetype
Persephone is an endearing girl in mythology until she is abducted to the Underworld, where her true strength unfolds and she becomes Hades’s consort and Queen of the Underworld. Persephone women are girlish, romantic, introverted and receptive. They find it difficult to build up a defined identity and often confuse their own wishes with those of others. They are not very ambitious, but very intuitive and sociable. Their talent lies in connecting people. They have a very strong intuition.
In mythology, Hera is the wife of the adulterous supreme god Zeus and is constantly behind his pants to remain faithful to her. Hera women are very focused on their husbands and marriage and being married is very important to them. They are loyal and self-effacing for their partner. They derive their identity strongly from being married.
Artemis , the goddess of the hunt, is a woman with masculine traits. She represents the free, unfettered, inquisitive, wild and boyish in a woman, but at the same time has a strong matriarchal orientation. They are loners, find it difficult to bond emotionally, like to travel both in the world and in the mind, need an intense contact with nature and must be able to develop their qualities in depth in order to be happy. They have little interest in men and often remain single.
Hestia is the goddess of domestic peace. She was venerated as a guardian of family unity and although not usually depicted in guise, Hestia was considered the most respectable goddess in Roman times. In a group she is the one who ‘keeps things together’ from the background. She has a strong intuition focused on the spiritual world and intensely enjoys being alone. She doesn’t need anyone besides herself. A Hestia woman is a mystic and a solitary seeker in the mind.
Athena is Zeus’ favorite daughter because of her clear mind and strategic ability. Athena women are doers and thinkers. Athena women achieve a lot in life. They too have masculine traits and they are the ideal career and business women. An Athena woman can handle a lot and does it well.
Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty and sensual femininity. The essential characteristic of an Aphrodite woman is expression . It differs from the vulnerable and independent archetypes in that it strives for both relationships and personal expression. An Aphrodite woman only lives in relation to other people.
An Aphrodite woman has a strong erotic attraction. Men are very fond of her and many Aphrodite women cannot do without the erotic attention of men. Aphrodite represents the spiritual process in which all opposites in our inner self are reconciled and we become a whole person out of selfless love
Why knowledge of the archetypes?
Goddess psychology is, in my experience, a very powerful tool for understanding and appreciating the differences between women (and people in general). By defining personality types as divine manifestations, the duality behind the differences can disappear and it becomes apparent how all those characters interlock and complement each other like cogwheels.
I think this approach can still be very helpful in helping women to restore their feminine consciousness and sacred femininity. Whereas in the early years of the women’s movement there was a strong emphasis on the gap mother/wife versus independent/working woman, I have come to realize that this gap is an illusion. Every woman is inspired by one or more divine aspects of femininity, and all those archetypes imply a talent as well as a task.
The cross-pollination between the virgin and vulnerable goddess archetypes was an eye opener for me. You can bet that as an ‘independent goddess woman’ I had to swallow a bit at the suggestion that I could learn something from the vulnerable archetypes… It also helps a woman to better understand her motivations, or a man to better understand his wife or his better understand relationships as he learns about the diversity and duality of the female sex.
Knowledge of the archetypes is particularly useful for women who feel insecure in their roles as modern women. They want to work and develop, but sometimes feel guilty if they don’t give their children 100% attention or are afraid of appearing firm, dominant or even shrewd. Because we have long refused to accept that ambition, decisiveness and autonomy are legitimate feminine qualities, women still often feel that these qualities are ‘weird’ or that they should really give priority to their maternal and nurturing qualities.
From this misconception also comes the lack of personal boundaries that many women struggle with. As a woman you are there to take care of someone else, right? Nothing is less true. Motherhood is an important part of being a woman, but in prepatriarchal cultures, women had a strong social function and for that they needed a focused, decisive consciousness. The virgin goddesses provide that.
Knowledge of the archetypes can make an over-autonomous woman realize that she may need to devote more time to the relationships in her life. She doesn’t have to strive for marriage, but more contacts with family and friends can also be a good social foundation in your life. She can learn to be more receptive in life.
She cannot and does not have to control everything. Her character can become milder and she learns to put her sharp judgments into perspective. In fact, while she can be helpful, a woman remains emotionally distant if she is overruled by the autonomous goddess archetypes.
A more harmonious female image
In recent decades, women in droves have returned the virgin goddesses to the place in their consciousness they deserve. As a result, a more balanced femininity is emerging. Women, of course, give great priority to motherhood and relationships, but are also increasingly learning how to maintain themselves socially, profile themselves professionally, achieve their goals and guard their boundaries. Thus, women’s emancipation is not about women becoming more ‘masculine’, but about restoring the influence of the virgin goddess archetypes.
Hera, Demeter and Aphrodite are the more instinctive archetypes that can leave a big mark on a woman’s life and are also the most difficult to manage. The qualities they represent, the cyclical in nature, generosity, giving and nurturing, motherhood, the erotic attraction between man and woman, the initiation rite , touch upon the Great Mother worship that took place in Europe before the patriarchal religions came into existence. They represent the primal principles in life, which are so closely associated with the female sex.
Artemis, Hestia, and Athena are more intellectual and contemplative archetypes, and the cult devoted to them arose later than that of the Great Mother, but certainly before the Patriarchy. These goddesses predate Greek religion and have been “Greekized” by the latter. The properties they represent did not end up in women through men, but were developed by women themselves.
Even before the switch to a masculine value system took place, people (and women) were developing all their rational faculties. So it is not, as popular imagery often leads us to believe, that it is the men who have explored the rational faculties. Women were already working on this in cultures that possessed a harmonious and positive image of women and within that women have developed their capacity for acumen, entrepreneurial spirit and strategic ability. In that context, we also need to consider these traits in women.
Women’s emancipation and ‘explosions’ of oppressed archetypes
The 20th century has been dominated by the women’s movement and during this century there have been periods in which aspects or archetypes of the feminine that were previously not given space suddenly ‘shot loose’ and very strongly determined a decade or image.
It actually started at the end of the nineteenth century, when the sufragette movement campaigned for women’s suffrage and the right to study. We are concerned that in strict Islamic countries women cannot or are not allowed to walk the street without a male escort, but this also applied to wealthy women in the nineteenth century!
It was indecent for an upper class woman to walk alone on the street and the primary goal of the women’s movement was to make it possible for women to walk without a man at all without being assaulted! Shortly afterwards, women’s suffrage and the right to study (in some countries a woman was prohibited from entering a university!) were realized. These periods were clearly under the influence of Artemis and Athena.
Then came a hard time. The First World War, the stock market crash in 1929 and the Second World War put women’s emancipation on the back burner, at least in Europe. But in the 1950s and 1960s, it cautiously continued. Now that the hardships were over, a whole new phenomenon emerged: the playful woman.
In the rock & roll era, boys and girls in fancy clothes, quiffs and ponytails went out together to dance without adult supervision! Although we do not immediately regard the 1950s as the paragon of women’s emancipation, this development did provide an important impetus. Boys and girls learned to interact with each other in a freer and more playful way. The paternal authority, in extension of the ecclesiastical authority the cornerstone of thepatriarchy, crumbled.
Over the next few decades, the father’s omnipotence as head of the family would continue to erode. Prosperity increased in the 1950s and this gave space to the Persephone archetype, which has long remained oppressed. Just as a Persephone woman cannot withstand harshness, this archetype fades from view against the backdrop of poverty and deprivation. Now that that was over, the genie was out of the bottle: women wanted to have fun, enjoy their early years and be unconcerned with the opposite sex.
Well, without a pill, not completely carefree, but the start was there. Adolescence became a time in which one’s own identity was clearly developed and propagated to the outside world. Your early years became the best years of your life. This development was the prelude to the flower power era, in which the compelling, masculine model in which your origin, social class and your parental environment determined what your life would look like was definitively done away with. There was room for authenticity and personal expression.
In the flower power era, the baton was passed to Aphrodite. Hippies experimented with psychedelic experiences, free sex and alternative forms of cohabitation.The ‘standard’ monogamy was criticized as bourgeois, outdated and unnatural. It was a creative era that greatly increased sexual freedom for women and removed the stigma of non-marriage. Since then, we don’t think it’s a shame that women talk openly about sex and enjoy it.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Artemis and Athena returned to finish what had been left behind: women conquered the labor market and countless men’s bastions. It is no coincidence that the ‘masculine’ archetypes received a major boost in the era of the free market economy. Everything was possible and allowed and the world was at their feet. The career woman makes her appearance.
The Margaret Thatcher era shows that women can do everything that men can and that they are definitely not emotional and soft! The assertiveness of these archetypes encourages women to work towards an equal division of work and care with their partners. The tug-of-war over the sharing of household chores begins. Women who are more under the influence of vulnerable goddesses sometimes view this development with regret.
Yet they also benefit from the achievements of the autonomous goddesses: they have access to contraception and safe abortion, and they are legally protected against domestic violence and are given maternity leave. Slowly but surely, the radicalism of the women’s movement is fading. We get an eye for cultures where ‘people’ are not as advanced as in Western Europe and we condemn it, although people often forget that it was exactly the same way in our own country less than 100 years ago.
Equivalence got used to quickly. although people often forget that it was exactly the same way in our own country less than 100 years ago. Equivalence got used to quickly. although people often forget that it was exactly the same way in our own country less than 100 years ago. Equivalence got used to quickly.
It is now 2016. The ‘great strongholds’ have been conquered: women are legally and legally equal to men, and have made huge strides in terms of economic independence and equal opportunities. We are ready for a floor. We notice that although women have equal opportunities on paper, in practice this is far behind.
Our motherly nature is eagerly blamed for this. But is there perhaps something else going on? Is the self-evidence with which we regard male values as the guiding principle for how society should be organized, is actually justified? Isn’t it time for… room for yin?
It seems that in the current decade Hestia is coming to the fore. She initiates a development that this time benefits not only women, but also men. As the most contemplative goddess, she prompts us to seek a healthy work-life balance and to incorporate spiritual development into our daily practice. Those familiar with Bolen’s goddess theory may have noticed that many female gods have a male equivalent, but lack a contemplative, spiritually oriented male archetype.
The men explore new territory. They start to discover their inner world and get rid of the externalized facade role they have played until now. More and more men are questioning their careers and taking a step back, or doing something else. We recognize the importance of silence and introspection. Society as a whole is changing. We feel more and more trapped in the pattern of working for money to pay the bills.
We are going to experiment with autonomous and autarkic(self-sufficient-red) life, consumption reduction and the sharing economy. This re-evaluation of the way we’ve lived for the past thousands of years, in which masculine values are central and men are best equipped to get to the top, is perhaps the biggest changing factor for women’s position: men are going out of their own way. movement relinquish their position simply because they themselves are tired of it.
But even then we are not there yet. Every female archetype has been damaged in one way or another during the male-dominated period (the male archetypes too, by the way). Each archetype has developed its own strategy for dealing with the oppression, ranging from withdrawal to adaptation, where it has to deny a part of itself.
This adaptation makes the good qualities of each archetype less effective and is responsible for negative behavior, both towards others and towards oneself. In order to regain her wholeness, it is important that a woman determines which archetypes are active in her and with which shadow properties this is associated.
In addition, women can also learn something from the other archetypes, which are less active: by uniting the properties of all archetypes in ourselves, we become a whole and complete human being.