This series of articles is about the female archetypes as Jean Shinoda Bolen described them through goddesses from Greek mythology. Each goddess represents a character structure with good qualities and pitfalls, its own shadow aspects and its own potential for personal growth. This time: Athena
‘Success is a Choice’
Athena women are logical and analytical thinkers. They have many masculine traits in that they are decisive and ambitious and put logic above the intuitive and receptive. The Athena archetype gives women competence and decisiveness. An Athena woman strives to do things right and she believes anything is possible as long as you are willing to work hard for it.
The pattern of life
In mythology, Athena was born as an adult goddess from the head of her father Zeus, dressed in armor and armor. She is the patron goddess of the craft and is said to have given mankind many useful inventions that made life easier, such as the scissors plow, the halter and the loom. It is, in fact, the source of human civilization.
By farming, developing crafts and living in permanent places, man could rise above the nomadic collector-hunter existence. Athena is thus the goddess of the formation of the mind and the cultivation of skills and competences.
An Athena girl is smart from a young age. She is a good learner, precocious and asks critical questions. She is socially fortunate, because she is already praised at school for her learning ability and critical eye. She almost naturally goes to college and then throws herself into a career.
Because she excels in left-brain skills, an Athena woman can keep up with today’s society and therefore does not understand why anything should change. She is thus an open champion of a culture that tames ‘the wild’ in favor of civilization and the dominance of the mind. Why should we go back to nature?
In the past, the Athena archetype was expressed in the housewife. When we hear the word ‘housewife’ we often think of the typical 1950s housewife who does not have to work and who lives a sheltered and comfortable life surrounded by technical conveniences.
But in pre-Christian cultures, “housewife” meant something completely different! In addition to being a mother, it was the job of the lady of the house to grow food in the vegetable garden with minimal resources, to grow herbs for medicinal and domestic use, to keep animals and to make cheese from the milk. She was responsible for the manufacture of clothing and textiles and had to be able to spin, weave and sew.Because the men were often away from home, she also had taken on the role of handyman and defender of hearth and home.
She was a mother, farmer’s wife, doctor, pharmacist, teacher, craftswoman, midwife and soldier in one. The Romans, whose women were utterly marginalized, were stunned by the influence, empowerment, competence and fighting spirit of the women of the tribes they sought to annex. Athena stands her ground. Or should we say female?
An Athena woman is rational and methodical. She often ends up in science or business administration. In earlier times she was the patroness of the crafts, but because that work is now mechanized, she will no longer do that professionally.
In her spare time, she can craft fanatically and stand out more for the quality of her work than for her artistry. She devises a pattern and produces it with remarkable craftsmanship. As a counterbalance to thinking, she often feels at home in repetitive activities that require a certain skill at the same time, such as knitting, spinning or weaving.
But she will still like to come up with and execute patterns and designs, because she likes to knead things the most. Most Athena women aspire to a career.They have a preference for the rational, the methodical, the analytical. They often rise in traditional organizations and often end up in the highest echelons as advisors or CEOs. She thus follows a male pattern of hierarchical ascending and also acquires the status that goes with it.
How is the archetype activated?
As a result of technological developments, the ‘home’ Athena has become obsolete and the ‘career Athena’ has remained. But sometimes there are still those women who enjoy broadly developing their craft skills and opt for a self-sufficient existence in which, as in the past, they are a jack of all trades and are dependent on their inventiveness, frugality and efficiency. With the current trend of sustainable living, off-grid living and the rise of residential communities, the ‘old Athena’ could well get a new impulse.
The Athena archetype is purely intellectual and is stimulated in every girl as soon as she starts school. She learns to plan, organize, work efficiently, achieve goals and strive for the best possible result. The archetype is also responsible for a professional work attitude in a woman. At work, a woman must achieve a certain level of quality in her work, she must be results-oriented, must deal with clients, colleagues and others in a professional and not friendly, sentimental or informal way. Athena empowers a woman to meet pre-set goals and quality standards and makes her happy when she succeeds.
The Competent Woman
An Athena woman is the woman who can do anything and is good at it. She makes sure everything is done and arranged. She can withstand a high workload and has a high work ethic. She can do a lot and she knows that. That’s why she’s never humble. She is resilient and is not afraid to open her mouth. In pre-Christian cultures, women were not only the caretakers of the house, they were also in charge.
Athena women have a strong appetite for assertiveness and naturally take on a leadership position. She is the type of woman who clearly calls the shots in the house and to whom her husband plays second fiddle. Today they are often managers, consultants or CEOs.In an organization she stands out for her thorough approach, perfectionism, competence and enormous drive. She often climbs up quickly.
The alpha female
An Athena woman is quite a masculine woman, and that quality is enhanced as she advances in a career and comes to work among mostly men.
Her leadership style is directive and unlike most other women, she shares a great sense of status with men. She likes to show her success in a “man’s way”: she chooses the largest bucket if a lease car is allowed to pick, prefers to dress masculine (in pinstripe suit or a dark blue or black skirt) and values status symbols such as a own office.
She conforms to the male dress code to look businesslike and impersonal. An Athena woman experiences little bonding with her inner self and therefore has no difficulty in adapting to such rules: she derives her identity from her performance and not from who she is inside. She has no problem with asymmetrical proportions and enjoys pushing her position forward.
An Athena woman is often characterized as ‘bitch’. This usually means that she behaves masculine in the sense that she tries to take a dominant position and lead others. Within the patriarchal worldview, a woman should not do that, she should act receptive, subservient and docile. The disapproval of this behavior in women expresses the repression of the virgin archetypes and the social disapproval of women who live from their ‘masculine side’. But an Athena female is an alpha female.
Just as there are dominant alpha males and females in the animal kingdom, there are alpha males and alpha females among humans. An Athena woman is not a bitch, she is an Athena woman and that means that as a woman she has some yang qualities in her and uses them. And she often does so with good results. As a result of the women’s emancipation, these qualities are coming back into the consciousness of women and we will simply have to accept that.
Calculating, strategic and distant
An Athena woman is calculating. She looks at how best to achieve her goal and then she goes straight for that goal. It is more pragmatic than idealistic; she will be satisfied with a workable solution that may be less morally responsible, but which will yield results the fastest and with the least resistance.
An Athena woman runs Realpolitik. She accepts the world as it is and does not try to achieve lofty, idealistic goals. And she doesn’t mind if others are left behind in the rat race on their way to the top. An Athena woman keeps her cool under stressful circumstances and doesn’t get carried away by her emotions. She is task oriented and not people oriented.
She can network well and that makes it seem like she gets along really well with people, but in dealing with others lacks a certain warmth. She seems to be constantly radiating “What’s in it for me?” and if she’s really on the career path, she is. Her social skills lie in navigating deftly between conflicting interests and her ability to never feel personally attacked and always respond rationally. As a result, she has diplomatic skills.
The art of diplomacy is to bring people together who are actually opposed to each other by making them aware of the common interest. In fact, it’s not about ‘liking’, it’s about building bridges that make further cooperation possible.If she is not under the influence of milder archetypes such as Demeter, Hestia or Persephone,
the all rounder
An Athena woman is constantly looking for ways to do something better or more efficiently. That is a typical Athena centipede who can manage everything perfectly. I grew up in a primarily Christian village where the husband was breadwinner and wife was a housewife and there you saw a certain type of women that has always stayed with me:
those housewives who have a remedy for every household problem, whose house shines from front to back, who maintain an enormous vegetable garden and have jars full of canning in the cellar, who are lice mother, reading mother and stay-at-home mother at school (sometimes simultaneously), who sit in an association or committee, and all of this next to a sometimes large family.
Athena traits serve a woman well when she becomes a single mother.She is businesslike, pragmatic, she puts her money where its mouth is and she is fully aware of her responsibility to her family and the realization that she must acquire ‘masculine’ skills if she is to successfully complete single motherhood. She does odd jobs around the house to avoid having to hire an expensive handyman.
She can accept that she has a job that she may not like and that has to work more hours than she might like, but that makes enough money to keep her kids from raising her kids in a slum and graduate with no debt. . The way she solves a problem is pragmatic, material and sober. ‘Don’t talk, but polish’ is her motto. Or: ‘Prefer cookies are not baked.’What many other women have a problem with when they have to give up their comfort zone,
It is these Athena qualities that make adults think of their own mother as ‘a strong woman’. Boys growing up in single-parent families in particular benefit from their mother’s Athena traits. It is said that growing boys need a father figure, but a feisty Athena mother is firm and confrontational enough to keep a stubborn teenager on the right path. Because of her yang qualities, she provides the kind of structure that adolescent boys need. She naturally has the ‘And now it’s over!’ kind of dominance that a boy looking for limits is in awe of.
Athena mothers teach their sons how to deal with feminine authority at an early age. If a mother treats her son like a prince of sorts and adores him, later on he will not be able to deal well with strong women, competence in a woman, feminine leadership and resistance of a woman in relationships. Mothers who don’t impose limits on their sons raise men who are not nice to women. Men raised by a mother with Athena traits later respect powerful, bold women who aren’t afraid to set boundaries and command respect.
Athena in relationships
An Athena woman seeks a man who is as rational and competent as she is. She is green and yellow annoyed by soft men. She can’t hold back, just brush them off and just drop them. She does this both in the workplace and in relationships. An Athena woman often gets into a relationship with a like-minded man.
They often become a ‘power couple’: both partners actively work on their careers and act as a mutual coach and inspirer for each other. They help each other up the social ladder. It can happen that the man does not like it so much that his wife rivals him in her success. Then an Athena woman accepts the relationship breaking up and continues with her career on her own.She is self-directed and goal-oriented enough not to need any support.
A man’s reaction like this creates a watershed between women: is she pursuing her own goals, or is she stepping back to please her partner? An Athena woman chooses the former. The reverse also happens: When an Athena woman builds a shining career and her husband is left behind. She enjoys the status of ‘being the man in the house’ and making the money and is okay with her husband keeping the home front going.
An Athena woman is not passionate. Her relationship often takes the form of a partnership. Like all her relationships, her marriage can be a bit distant. She seems to take her relationship for granted: it runs just as smoothly as the rest of her life.
If her partner wants a divorce because he sees the lack of passion as a lack, an Athena woman can be completely stunned because she doesn’t understand that someone values that. She may then respond with, “But haven’t I always been reasonable?” without realizing that that was the problem. She sticks extremely to the golden mean and there is not a cross word. She can get something robotic in there.
Athena as mother
An Athena woman is not a pet mother. She is a disciplined mother who will not tolerate laxity from her children. She doesn’t run after her children; to the question ‘Mom! Where are my shoes?’ she replies: “Where did you take them off!”.
Go find them yourself. She teaches her children a disciplined and orderly attitude to life from an early age. She is a spirited and sometimes a bit snippy mother. Children should not expect a high ‘service level’ from an Athena mother, but she delivers her children with a good baggage and high work ethic in the society.
A woman who has chosen the career path will expect the same attitude from her children and prepare them for social success.
Underachieving is not an option. If necessary with homework help, she does everything she can to ensure that her children finish as high as possible. Even if her children are good at sports, making music or theatre, the eagerness in an Athena mother comes out. She stands as a coach on the sidelines or in the crowd, doing her very best to bring out the best in her children.
And she does that in addition to her own, often crowded work week. An Athena mom with a career has one trait that maternally misplaces women: she has no problem with outsourcing the care of her children. What a typical Demeter mom thinks:’You won’t have children and then take them to nursery, will you?’ an Athena woman sees no problem with that.
Her psyche is not centered on intimate ties, and just as her marriage is often aloof and seems more like a partnership than a love affair, she sometimes sees her children – exaggerated – as a part of her life that, like the rest,must be managed . She simply chooses her own intellectual development and if that means her nanny sees her child’s first steps instead of herself, then she pays that price without complaining.
Career women often remain childless because in motherhood the ‘gender schizophrenia’ that is common to Athena career women emerges mercilessly: she can behave like a man in every way and achieve success with it, but one feminine aspect of herself can don’t erase them and that’s her ability to have children.
If an Athena woman has little influence from Demeter, she will not be very maternal and may regard having children as a responsibility to society. She can bring two offspring into the world ‘as usual’ and take them to the nursery every day without much ado, because her career takes precedence over everything else.
She will work well into the pregnancy and can hide her pregnancy ailments by sheer willpower. She dares, in accordance with the male pattern,not to show weakness for fear of losing her position and will therefore take a minimum of maternity leave. Classic Americantiger moms often work until the delivery and there are even Athenas who write articles or sign contracts between the contractions.
The Dark Sides/The Repression
The dark sides of the Athena archetype have to do with an exaggerated emphasis on rational and logical capacities and too strong an identification with masculine qualities. An Athena woman is therefore the prototype of the emancipated modern woman who keeps on running and losing contact with herself.
Tormented attitudes towards womanhood and motherhood
An Athena woman is naturally very strong, but she is also afraid of being weak. She sometimes seems ashamed of her femininity and is determined not to let her work suffer from her womanhood. When she becomes a mother, she can be taken by surprise by the impact of motherhood. She might have imagined in her mind that her smart, efficient approach would ‘put motherhood on the side’.
She can then hit reality hard when it turns out that motherhood is much more drastic than she thought. Also, once her baby is here, Demeter may suddenly play up and may want to prioritize her child much more than she thought she would. Where more traditional women may feel guilty about their social ambitions,an Athena woman can sometimes feel guilty about the fact that she really wants to be a mother.
Sometimes she is really not interested in motherhood, but she can also forgo children because she does not want to face the fact that she is a woman after all. She cannot always accept that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are major events that take a lot of energy, attention and time. Also, because she is often psychologically inflexible, she prefers to avoid situations that could change her sharp judgment of ‘mother-mothers’.
She can then remain a successful, armored, but emotionally drained power woman for the rest of her life. but she can also forgo children because she does not want to face the fact that she is a woman after all.She cannot always accept that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are major events that take a lot of energy, attention and time. Also, because she is often psychologically inflexible, she prefers to avoid situations that could change her sharp judgment of ‘mother-mothers’.
She can then remain a successful, armored, but emotionally drained power woman for the rest of her life. but she can also forgo children because she does not want to face the fact that she is a woman after all. She cannot always accept that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are major events that take a lot of energy, attention and time.
Also, because she is often psychologically inflexible, she prefers to avoid situations that could change her sharp judgment of ‘mother-mothers’.She can then remain a successful, armored, but emotionally drained power woman for the rest of her life. rather avoid. She can then remain a successful, armored, but emotionally drained power woman for the rest of her life. rather avoid. She can then remain a successful, armored, but emotionally drained power woman for the rest of her life.
An Athena woman wants to be there where the important decisions are made. Under the patriarchy, that meant she had to put off her femininity and behave like a man.
An Athena woman is not a bitch, but her absolute shadow side is betraying and falling away from her femininity to such an extent that she is in fact a champion of a male-dominated culture. She unquestioningly accepts masculine values as the only correct ones and is often vehemently opposed to measures such as women’s quotas and positive discrimination policies.
She made it on her own, women who need support are frail princesses in her eyes who have nothing to look for at the top. She forgets that although she has worked very hard for success,but that in a man’s world her attitude is also the only one that is accepted, so that milder women have less chance to make it that far. She doesn’t always realize that she owes her success in part to her willingness to conform to masculine values.
In extreme cases, an Athena woman has such a strong masculine identification that she denies her womanhood. She can copy men in every way and look down on other women as unambitious, easygoing and lazy spoiled princesses who owe their social disadvantage to their own feminine behavior.
They just need to be a little more masculine. It does not occur to her to question the dominance of masculine values. She can even go so far as to act like a kind of ‘third sex’. She’s not a man, but she doesn’t want to be a woman. She becomes a kind of hybrid in-between with an emphasis on masculine behavior. She boasts that anything is possible for a woman as long as you work hard enough, but refuses to see herself as a woman.
She sometimes even tries to physically resemble men by wearing “men’s color” pantsuits, shoulder pads and a short haircut. Some even subconsciously lower their voices to appear more masculine. I’ve seen Athena mothers say they were “smooth they had sons because they didn’t know what to do with a daughter.” Such a woman is in fact totally estranged from her own gender.
When an Athena woman is emotionally hurt, she can shut out all intimacy and bury herself in her work. Although she seems to have everything covered professionally, if she has any, her private life can be empty. Because she herself believes that she can do everything and wants to radiate that, her life is sometimes a succession of long working days, sports with colleagues, overtime and social contacts.
She can forget to pay attention to her own inner self. Because her consciousness is centered outside herself, she pays little attention to her psyche or her environment. She doesn’t miss that either. She sometimes seems to be afraid to go in and therefore fill her life with 60 hour work weeks.
She doesn’t know how to make and maintain female friendships, and when she hangs out with men, they will often exercise together. An Athena woman is always busy and forgets the value of standing still and reflection. She has a kind of contract with masculine values and falls into the same trap as many men: her whole life is externalized, she hangs her self-esteem on her success, she no longer knows how to go inwards or reflect.
Lack of sisterhood
An Athena woman can be downright mean to other women. Many Athenas who move up the social ladder tend to push women who want the same back down. She is very schizophrenic in that regard, for she has adopted the patriarchal habit of not tolerating women above you when she is a female leader herself!
Many top women who look back on their careers regularly sigh that they could have been a little kinder to other women who also wanted to move up the ladder. Feminist organizations—often Artemis slanted and relying heavily on sisterhood—has often resented career Athenas for being so inconsistent with their own gender. And rightly so.
An Athena woman has often not really learned to deal with women. Due to her competitive nature, she often had few friends as a child and she was never interested in girls anyway.
She likes to surround herself with winners and wait-and-see, feminine girls are losers in her eyes who owe their second-class position to their own attitude. She has learned to look down on the soft forces. She identifies with the mighty oak, but does not realize that it too started as a small, vulnerable seedling.
She may learn to find comfort in the gentle, load-bearing strength of women who are sisters. She doesn’t always understand the importance of venting and sharing. She thinks it’s ‘talking about issues’ and sees it as the thing that prevents women from being successful: always focus on the negative and don’t go through with it.
Because she copies male patterns, she has a blind spot for the negative excesses of the male approach and covers it with the cloak of love. Everything men do is good, and women are brans in her view. When she decided she wanted to be one of the winners, she despised and underestimated the feminine. This closes her off from the source of female power.
From her rational and pragmatic mindset, she believes that weakness is a choice and losers shouldn’t whine – they should have been strong. A career woman once slipped in the media that women should stop whining and ‘just’ start working at least 50 hours a week. She completely ignored the fact that not everyone has the intellect or passion for such a career.
Because such women have such inexhaustible energy of their own and are not relationship-oriented, they forget that many other people are just tired at the end of the day and want to go home and their families. She is not only hard on others but also on herself. She sets the bar extremely high and not achieving her sometimes impossible goals or getting burned out as a result can be seen as a personal failure.
Opportunities for growth
The challenge for an Athena woman is to become less destructive in her judgments and more understanding of her more feminine and receptive sexes. Because she herself has such a sharp mind, she cannot fully understand that it is difficult for women with the diffuse consciousness of the vulnerable goddesses to formulate their personal goals as sharply as she does and that others have to work hard for what makes her so. goes off easily.
Discover her soul
An Athena woman may at some point become aware that while she is good at many things, her soul is nowhereput in. And she can experience that as a loss. Because she works intellectually and methodically, she can get a lot done, but her approach lacks feeling. To learn to develop her feeling, she must develop her subjective, feminine, receptive side. Then she learns the difference between playing an instrument and making music. She may learn to slow down her pace of life and let things sink in.
She can book an expensive trip to score the experience of a sunset on a tropical beach—she can tick it off her bucket list—but must make the effort to fully experience that sunset. Then she has to turn off her mind and that’s the hardest thing for her to do.Often that only works when she gets out of the rat race, because it keeps her in her rational, left-brain skills. Or if she gets a burnout and is forced to take a rest.
Or when she becomes unemployed for a period of time, becomes ill, or decides to change her life. An Athena woman must literally give up her Athena qualities in order to develop the sensuality, richness and fullness that come with being a woman. And then she can discover that that ‘weak’ side of femininity, which she has always avoided, is the source of true joy in life.
Accepting her womanhood
An Athena career woman seems to divide humanity into men (that’s okay), women (that’s sluggish bitch) and herself (she’s the only woman who has seen the light and identifies with the superior masculine traits). The challenge for an Athena woman is to accept her feminine qualities.
She can appeal to them by letting themselves be mothered and comforted instead of always being strong. She can learn to see the world through the eyes of a child and let the girl she never was into herself. She can coddle someone and find that it’s fun to please someone just for the sake of pleasing itself. She can learn to accept, love and enjoy her female body as a home and temple.
To see it as the temple in which the miracle of conception, pregnancy and birth take place, instead of seeing it as that cursed feminine quality that opposes women in the labor market. She can learn to contemplate and discover the temple within her, instead of focusing on the ever-calling duty in the outside world. When she dares to admit her femininity into herself, she notices that being a woman is a natural fact and not a ‘pathology’.
Help from other goddesses
An Athena woman can learn from Artemis to be sisterly with other women, learn from Hestia not to judge so sharply and to be more intuitive and contemplative, learn from Hera that it is important to have someone in your life and to be faithful, learn from Demeter to be warm and motherly to other people and to accept that not everyone can be on their own, learn from Persephone to be receptive and playful and not always shoulder all responsibilities and learn from Aphrodite to be sensual and that you can enjoy your femininity.
The pre-patriarchal primordial essence
The Athena archtype played an important role in the transition from gathering-hunting to farming. At the end of the last Ice Age, when temperatures rose and herds disappeared wildly, women realized the transition from a nomadic, nature-dependent way of life to agriculture, a permanent residence and eventually the emergence of civilization.
The Athena archetype proves that inventing things, realizing an abstract idea, hard work and leadership are definitely not archetypal male tasks. Women have done this with great success for thousands of years (1).
The Athena of Greek mythology who was born from Zeus is a patriarchalized version of the original Athena. The ´primordial Athena´ is a matriarchal goddess who has merged into the Greek Pantheon (2). Just as the masculine attitude of some career women is an adopted attitude, the cult and mythology of Athena has been influenced by a patriarchal culture. The original Athena is a wisdom goddess with matriarchal properties. Likewise, that matriarchal ‘primal layer’ is still in women who over-identify with masculine qualities.
The Patriarchal Wound
Athena’s strategy for dealing with the depreciation of the feminine is to discard her femininity and join the men. That is not difficult for her, because she already deals in ‘masculine’ qualities.
She has convinced herself that femininity and feminine qualities are inferior and therefore does not feel comfortable with herself as a woman. For that reason, she is hostile to other women and identifies herself with masculine traits.
What would the goddess Athena like to give you?
“Keep your mind, it’s a beautiful instrument. Nothing in life happens to you, you always have a choice. Use that choice. It is your task to develop what you have been given in gifts. Life is a series of events.
Get yourself right in the middle of those events. Don’t be afraid that you are too weak to be disciplined. Doing things right and neat is a choice, not a gift. There is beauty in cultivating your own mind. Use your mind in any way you can. Fine tune it and develop it.”