A FEW years ago, I attended a seminar of my cousin “Dido,” Dr. Ma. Teresa Gustilo Villasor who specializes in Neurological Sciences and Clinical Psychology. Dido is a Jungian and part of the seminar was about Carl Jung’s different archetypes of women being goddesses.
Who is Carl Gustav Jung? He was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of the school of analytical psychology. He used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters— reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over.
A psychoanalyst and a Jungian as well, Jean Bolen wrote and published in 1980, “The Goddesses in Every Woman” which brought her career to sheer heights. It is a classic work of female psychology using the seven archetypal goddesses as a way of describing behavior patterns and personality traits. Women who read the book felt empowered by identifying their own inner goddesses and guiding them to greater self- esteem creativity and happiness.
Dr. Bolen says that women do not feel that they have powerful archetypal forces within them. These influences are manifested in what they do and how they feel. An understanding of these inner patterns and their interrelationships opens doors to alternatives that can propel women far beyond the restrictions of their dichotomies as masculine/feminine, mother/lover, and careerist/housewife. Women can decide which to cultivate and which to overcome, and how to tap the power of these enduring archetypes to become a better “heroine” in one’s own life story.
My cousin Dido gave us a test to recognize which archetype of a goddess we were. Much as I wanted to be another goddess, I was happy with the goddess in me.
So who are these seven archetypal goddesses?
There’s the Goddess Athena who was a Warrior. She was a strategist and a diplomat and called upon to mediate in several disputes and wars amongst the gods. This archetype represents physical strength and the ability to protect and fight for your rights and those of others. Her weaknesses, though, are that she is ruled by her head and out of touch with her emotions and feminine side. Thus, she can be unapproachable and lacking in compassion. The shadow side of the warrior reflects the need to win at all costs, abandoning ethical principles to prove your supremacy.
Then there’s Artemis the Goddess of the Hunt, the Goddess of the Night, Woodland Goddess and Phoebe which translates as the bright one. She is at home bonding with the forces of nature. Often independent, courageous, confident, and physically fit, she can be vengeful, impulsive and aloof. As the huntress, she attacks anyone who tries to take away her dignity and like any other god, hates to be beaten.
Hestia was the Goddess of the Hearth. Hearth meant the center point of the home, the family. She is a virgin goddess. Independent, autonomous and focused on her inner spiritual world, she does not seek a relationship with a man to complete her. She is impersonal and detached not letting people know she cares. She presents herself as a non-entity, no desire to stand out by conscious choice. She lacks assertiveness and is out of place in a competitive world.
Hera, the Queen of the Gods and the Goddess of Marriage and Birth and she is also the protector of women. Her strengths are leadership and being a loyal wife. She represents regal femininity using her authority to protect others. Her archetype signified the power of women who can rule over the home and the office. However, she has the tendency to become arrogant, controlling and aggressive when challenged. Hera was known to be jealous and vengeful towards the many lovers and offsprings of her husband Zeus and misused her powers.
Demeter is the Goddess of the Harvest. She not only represented the fertility of the land but is a Mother Goddess. Among her strengths are loving mother, persistence and empathy. The mother archetype portrays her as life-giver, source of nurturing, devotion, patience and unconditional love. Her shadow aspect can be devouring, abusive and abandoning. She can make children feel guilty about becoming independent and leaving her. Her weaknesses are depression and living her life through her daughter.
Aphrodite the Goddess of Love and Beauty, had the ability to make men fall in love with her. She represents passion and selfless devotion to another person. It extends to the things that make her heart sing like music and the arts and nature. However, she is vain, bad tempered jealous and unfaithful. Her shadow aspect is obsessive passion that completely takes over lives and negatively impacts on health and well-being.
Persephone is the Goddess of the Underworld. Her exit to the underworld heralds the beginning of spring as she helps her mother bring life and bounty back to the land. This dual role makes her a Goddess of death and rebirth. This archetype represents purity and the innocence of childhood. Her strengths include ability to compromise. On the downside, she is not able to escape the influence of an over protective mother and torn by her loyalties to please everybody. Persephones remain trapped by a mother’s love and her inability to fully assert her independence.
Jean Bolen said that most women will express one of these goddesses as her natural archetype. But there can be multiple goddesses at work within her. Knowing which goddesses are dominant within you provides insight into why you act as you do, and gives you clues about how you can better find personal meaning and make soul-guided choices.
To examine and embrace every aspect of ourselves and honoring all your archetypal stirrings keeps us balanced. It brings clarity, compassion and wisdom even in our relationships.
Every woman has “goddess-given” gifts to discover and accept gratefully. Since goddesses had their dark side too, every woman also has “goddess-given” liabilities, which she must recognize and surmount in order to evolve and grow.
Isn’t it fabulous to know that we are goddesses? Would you like to know which goddess you are? There’s a goddess archetype quiz in the internet if you want to discover which one you are. Choose the one with the 13 questions to have an idea.