This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3
I’ve been reading Dr. Bolen’s seminal masterpiece “Goddess in Everywoman.” If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so: buy it, download it on your kindle, check it out at you local library, but check it out. The premise of the book is there are seven universal feminine archetypes broken into three groups:
Dr. Bolen calls the first group the Virgin Goddesses. These goddesses represent qualities of autonomy, independence and self-sufficiency. Their purpose does not become sidetracked by relationship. She is one-in-herself.
- Artemis (Competitor and Sister),
- Athena (Strategist and Father’s Daughter),
- And Hestia (Wise Woman and Maiden Aunt);
The second group is the Vulnerable Goddesses. Bolen asserts their well-being relies on involvement in a significant interpersonal relationship.
- Hera (Commitment Maker and Wife),
- Demeter (Nurturer and Mother),
- And Persephone (Receptive Woman and Mother’s Daughter).
The final “group” contains only one Alchemical Goddess. She is a mentor, supporter, teacher who possesses the power to transform. She is neither chaise like her virgin sister nor victimized like her vulnerable sisters tend to be. She is an independent transformative agent.
- Aphrodite (Creative Woman, Lover and Muse).
Each of these archetypes has their dark sides too. The Artemis women in her love for personal freedom can hurt others. Athena may be cold in her rationality. Hestia for all her inner wisdom may lack the self-image necessarily to navigate herself in the world. Hera in her devotion to marriage could become a jealous shrew. Each archetype has her psychological difficulty to contend with.
There is certainly more to it than the short sound bites here. I did a search a most often the folks who tried to condense the book into a blog post missed important aspects of how the archetypes express themselves. I’m not going to make the same mistake and add to the confusion, so again you might consider to reading the book; it’s a amazingly easy read.
When Dr. Bolen wrote this book in 1984, she presented a new way of understanding ourselves as women, expanding the definition of women beyond wife and mother including a myriad of other possibilities.
Now, 30 years later, I find the book hugely inspiring because I can use the characteristics of the archetypes as I approach various situations in my everyday life: I can call on Athena if I’m redirecting my career, like I am right now. Or I can call on a positive Hestia helpful to be a helpful aunt. Or I can look to Hera to guide me as I make choices in potential mates. See what I mean? I can integrate all of the pieces of womanhood and be exactly what I want in the best possible way for all.
As a multi-dimensional women, I wear many hats (aunt, career women, lovers, muse….), it’s nice to be able to call on the strengths of the Virgin Goddess without her coldness and distance or call on the compassion of the Vulnerable Goddesses without falling prey to her whims or call on the passion of the Alchemical Goddess without feeling guilty for my sexuality. I feel strong and in control when I invoke the characteristics of the Goddesses. There’s just something so empowering about taking care of me that way.
How do you express your inner goddess? How did you figure it out? Did you always know?