from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 25 November 2013

goddesses - or how to break the patterns

Well, I have a very ambivalent relationship to the Greco-Roman underpinning of our culture. For myself, the myths and archetypes of our own British mytho-spiritual tradition have more resonance. (Here, I'm using the word 'archetype' to mean a particular constellation of specific energies in the psyche, individual and collective.)

Nonetheless, for complex reasons, Greek mythology offers us archetypes that are perhaps more clear-cut than our British deities (deities, we would say in our post-Jungian world, are externalised collective archteypes), more readily distinguishable one from the other. So in terms of representing certain characteristics, I thought – following on from recent posts on sealskins, homing and martyrdom – I'd offer here a brief breakdown, for those of you who are interested, of Jungian Jean Shinoda Bolen's amazing work on goddess archetypes: Goddesses in Everywoman (she's also written Gods in Everyman).

This was an immensely important book for me in my thirties, as it allowed me to gain perspective on certain motivations and tendencies in myself.

I'm just going to be brief. Buy the book! It's another of those 'must haves' if you're interested in 'personal growth'. 

What I'm putting forward is that once we can identify which archetypes drive us most strongly, we then have a choice consciously to develop others, to balance these out. This can only lead towards more wholeness: arguably our 'reason' for being here.

So here, in Bolen's view, are 3 archetypes that operate in a woman's psyche that suggest that one is primarily motivated – and, importantly, defined – by one's relationships with human others. Bolen she calls these 'the vulnerable goddesses':

Hera/Juno, defining herself by her role as wife;
Demeter/Ceres, defining herself by her role as mother;
Persephone/Proserpina, defining herself by her role as daughter.

Then there are the 3 'virgin goddesses', who, as operant archetypes, are reasonably self-sufficient and do not define themselves by their role in relation to a (frequently male) Other:

Hestia/Vesta, keeper of the temple flame;
Athena/Minerva, stateswoman and political thinker, intellectual, craftswoman and poet, who identifies/allies herself more with a 'masculine' role in the world than with the 'feminine';
Artemis/Diana, champion of the sisterhood, fierce defender of the wild and the natural world.

Then there is Aphrodite/Venus, who occupies a unique role: as a creative love goddess she is very much involved in relationship, but is not in thrall to a man or her family, and does not define herself by her sexual or other relationships although they are very important to her. Like the vulnerable goddesses she values her relatedness; like the virgin goddesses she is self-determining. She is a 'woman in and to herself'; Bolen also calls her the alchemical goddess, inspiring and transforming others, as she can. A woman for our time, I think.

It seems clear to me which of these seven are particularly needed in our contemporary society. And I guess we'll have personal favourites; but most of all they need to pull together to serve the Greater Good, whatever we understand that as being.

And I personally have been working at this job of inclusion for over 25 years, and although the three that remain my own personal primary motivators are still strong, in this time I've managed to develop a somewhat more conscious relationship to all of them (of course not all the time, and of course there is always shadow-stuff to deal with).

Increased awareness of impulses that drive us, and finding ways to envisage/depict those (one of the gifts of archetypal psychology), gives us more choice, doesn't it, and therefore more freedom.

I occasionally lead workshops on these themes. Email me if you want to hear more.

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