I am a typical earth mother – nurturing, a good listener, a therapist and a caregiver. In contrast, my close friend marches on Washington, travels to third world countries to fight for the preservation of environment and has tied herself to a tree to protest corporate greed
Another friend is always beautifully dressed, loves fine wine, gourmet food and being in love. These are our personalities, our styles, how we define ourselves.
Another way to understand ourselves may be through what psychologist Carl Jung called “archetypes.” These are personality types that are found repeated over and over in mythology, literature and popular culture.
A purely feminine version of archetypes would be the Greek goddesses of ancient mythology. Psychotherapists such as Jean Shinoda Bolen and Jennifer Barker Woolger have used the goddess archetypes as powerful ancient symbols to help women understand themselves more deeply.
The archetype analogy contemplates not only who we are but also who we may be becoming, and even who we may long to be.
When we learn the goddess archetypes, we intuitively recognize them in ourselves and in the women around us.
I am like Demeter, the mother goddess of grain. My passionate social advocate friend is reminiscent of Athena, the warrior goddess who fights for justice. And my friend who is always beautifully-dressed brings to mind Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.
But it is important to note that none of us is actually one pure goddess type. Several of these archetypes, in various strengths, may underlie our personalities.
Our third stage of life, over 60, is a time of potential powerful transformation. Free of old responsibilities, aware of our mortality, maybe sick to death of our old patterns, we may be ready for something different.
The goddess archetypes can provide a rich new perspective that helps us to identify, appreciate and act upon the passions, conflicts and urges now stirring within us.
Maybe we are content and love the way we are living life. But it’s also possible that we are sad or angry or fed up. We may be walking around with the sense that something is missing, or we may be excited about new possibilities.
We may want to express aspects of ourselves that have been buried or neglected. An earth mother may be ready for travel and adventure. A hard-driven career woman may suddenly long for quiet solitude. A casual outdoorsy type may want to put on lipstick and heels and go out on the town!
Let’s take a look at 6 goddess archetypes that may be especially present and powerful in older women. See if you notice aspects of yourself within these descriptions. Try to notice which goddesses, or combinations or goddesses, stir something within you.
Athena is the warrior goddess of wisdom. She is practical, ambitious, hard-working, achievement-oriented and intellectual. She has a high degree of political and social awareness and tends toward activism. She may put career ahead of family.
Athena-type women are extroverts, heroic and fierce, with a fighting warrior spirit. We feel the spirit of this goddess when we speak out against injustice, challenge the local legislature, fight for the welfare of our family, ally ourselves with political causes, continue working in our professions or businesses, volunteer or attend meetings or classes.
Artemis is goddess of the hunt and moon, of wilderness and animals. She prefers solitude and the outdoors. An Artemis woman may hike and stay in elder hostels, wander the country in a recreational vehicle or attend workshops in beautiful natural settings.
She is likely to dress carelessly, and may even be sloppy, as if appearances mean nothing to her. Small talk and city life can be uncomfortable for her. Artemis is calling if you feel the urge to backpack alone in the woods, walk the trails barefoot or wander around late at night watching the moon and the clouds.
Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. She is alive and well over 60! She is an unabashed sensualist who loves perfumes, flowers, silky clothes that feel good against her skin, gorgeous colors, sentimental music, a wonderful massage, fine food and of course, delicious sex.
Aphrodite likes to be sure of white wine and clean linens. She is emotional and loves warm, heart-felt relationships. She is likely to be a romantic all her life.
Sexuality and sensuality are inherent in Aphrodite women, whether men are there to respond or not. Aphrodite sees beauty and loves what she sees, qualities that make her feel good to be alive.
Baubo is the goddess of healing mirth. It’s Baubo when we laugh together with our friends so hard it hurts! This is the belly laugh most often heard when out of the earshot of men. This goddess often is born in women late in life.
Younger women just might not have reached the stage of acceptance to see the dark humor in our troubles. When Baubo is present, we laugh at our bodies, our men and even our problems. This laughter connects and comforts, and heals the isolation of suffering alone.
Hestia is the goddess of the hearth. She yearns for a place of her own and the time to be there, not disturbed by anyone else’s presence, emotions or belongings. Hestia is a wise woman who is beyond the delusion that something or someone outside herself is needed to complete her.
She is at peace within herself. Of all the stages of life, over 60 is when there is most time for Hestia. The needs of others are no longer at the center of our lives. Often at this stage, our need for solitude makes itself known, and we may have powerful urges to focus on our rich inner life.
When we do the spiritual practice of meditation or Yoga, of emptying the mind and quieting the emotions, we are connecting with Hestia.
Demeter is the earth goddess, the personification of the mother archetype and maternal instinct. She is the only goddess who is fully preoccupied with mothering to the exclusion of all other concerns. A woman does not have to be a biological mother to be a Demeter figure.
Demeter can be found among nurturing teachers, therapists, nurses, and even those who nurture animals. Growing older, Demeter energies can be transformed into the nurturing wise grandmother figure, providing the younger generation (as well as friends) with warmth, sustenance, a patient listening ear, perspective and of course, good homemade food.
These goddesses are symbols representing profound forces within women’s psyches. They can help us to identify and understand the various emotional and psychological energies acting within us.
Awareness of the goddess archetypes can clarify for us what parts of ourselves we want to cherish and hold onto, which we want to discard, and what new aspects we want to develop.
And now, I’m heading out to the woods to meditate. Artemis and Hestia are calling.
Which goddess rules you? Is there a goddess you want to leave behind? Is there a goddess you want to bring more fully into your life? Please join the conversation!