For my birthday a number of years ago, a dear girlfriend organized a ladies’ luncheon for me. It was touching, especially since I had not had a luncheon in my honor for more than 20 years. I had given her the name of 10 of the most powerful women I know.
Even though this was not a milestone birthday, my friend saw it as a monumental birthday. After all, I was turning 61, the age my grandmother took her life. By the way, my memoir, Regina’s Closet is about her life and our relationship.
During the weeks leading up to that birthday I became inspired to reflect upon my life and the role of women during the ages. Unlike my grandmother, who believed she had nothing else to offer from her life, I feel as if my life had just begun.
I was still tapping into new adventures and exploring new horizons. Times were different for my grandmother, who was orphaned during World War I. She had fewer opportunities than many women today.
In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I reread the works of Jean Shinoda Bolen, especially her classic book, Goddesses in Everywoman. In addition to having been transformed by this book, it was serendipitous that many of my birthday gifts that year were also connected to goddesses.
This told me that many of my friends and colleagues were also at a crossroads or time of transition in their lives. A time of reflection. A time to think about our role in society. Most of us had grown children, and while I’d not yet become a grandmother, some of my friends had.
While never really a feminist, I have always believed in the power of women to initiate change and transformation. After all, my name, Diana is after the Roman Goddess of the Hunt, which resonates with the way I lead my life, as a seeker and a hunter.
I have also always experienced a theme of loss of love, which Bolen says is a common theme in many heroine myths. She explains that is the reason most women define themselves by their relationships rather than their accomplishments.
Women’s identities are very closely tied to their relationships, so when a loved one dies, they suffer twice – loss of the relationship and a loss of an identity. I am also a strong believer in the idea of having to go through the darkness to find the light and from all bad comes good.
According to Bolen, we may be different goddesses during different times in our lives. The goddess archetypes are deep desires that vary from woman to woman, providing autonomy, creativity, power, intellectual change, spirituality, sexuality and/or relationships.
She identifies seven complex archetypes within each woman which can be called upon at various times during our lives. These can be used to describe certain personality patterns or characteristics.
For example, because I am a creative and sensual person, the goddess I most identify with is Aphrodite. Bolen claims, “Whenever Aphrodite is present, energy is generated; lovers glow with well-being and heightened energy; conversation sparkles, stimulating thoughts and feelings.” (p. 229).
She is considered the alchemical goddess. She puts beauty and creativity first. At other times in my life, such as after graduating university at a time when intellect and pursuing a career was my utmost priority, I have felt the goddess Athena, whose primary realm is intellect and pursuing a career or project.
Around the time I got married back in 1977, I became Hera, who typically puts marriage first. Most often, I have felt like either Artemis or Aphrodite. Artemis was the goddess who bonded and rescued other women, in addition to her mother, but never wanted to be like her mother.
While we might be different goddesses during different stages in our lives, there is usually one goddess that has most prominence in our lives. Understanding this provides a container for our sentiments and also provides a certain amount of comfort.
It’s okay to be who we want to be when we need to be that person. In other words, we are maneuvering around our responsibilities and wearing different hats when it is necessary to do so. According to Bolen, I am presently in the wise woman stage, and I must say that I am quite comfortable here.
It’s a time in my life when I can be who I want to be while holding little concern about what others think or feel about who I am. My contentment is intrinsic instead of extrinsic.
Knowing and understanding the goddess archetypes provides a container for understanding who we are. We don’t have to be one or another. According to Carol Pearson in her book Awakening the Heroes Within, these archetypes or inner guides, help us on our journey.
Whichever archetype is prominent at a given time brings with it a task, a lesson and a gift. Overall, they teach us how to live and behave. Because all the archetypes live inside of us, we are able to access them when we need them, meaning that “we all have this full human potential within ourselves” (p.7).
Pearson connects her archetype classification to 12 archetypes we can tap into to help find our truest nature and transform us. These include: the innocent, the orphan, the warrior, the caregiver, the seeker, the lover, the destroyer, the creator, the ruler, the magician, the sage and the fool. All these help to balance the psyche; help us connect with ourselves and develop a sense of wholeness.
As Bolen says, it’s not so much what happened to you that made the difference or what archetype was present when it happened; what’s important is what happened inside of you that transformed or made the difference.
Bolen, J. S. (1984). Goddesses in Everywoman. Harper: New York: NY.
Madison, P. (2011). Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women Over Fifty or Becoming a Juicy Crone.” Psychology Today. October 24.
Pearson, C. S. (1991). Awakening the Heroes Within. Harper: San Francisco, CA.
Have you thought of yourself and your personality type? Have you considered which goddess personality archetype you might be? Would knowing change anything in your life? How?