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Woman Archetypes

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Archetypes are universal patterns of behavior, characters, events, and ways of thinking that live in a sphere of the collective unconscious. They exist in every one of us and penetrate all areas of the psyche. However, they stay elusive and intangible. But myths and fairytales are symbolic representations of archetypes that can help us to catch them on a level of imagination. Contact with a myth, symbol, or image representing a particular archetype can activate in us a sense of connection with this archetype.


I would like to introduce you to 4 woman archetypes and some of their representations that can be found in myths. I choose the ones that are close to me but they may not resonate with you. That is why I encourage you to make your own research, dig deep into amazing worlds of myths, and find figures and symbols that speak to you somehow. Go into contact with and observe what is happening.



Virgin Archetype


When we hear the word ‘virgin’ we usually think about a young innocent girl who has not had sex yet. However, it was originally defined as an independent and free woman, whether she had sex or not.


Virgin is a woman who feels good in her own body, who belongs only to herself but remains sociable, flirtatious, playful, full of energy and enthusiasm.


Characters that represent the Virgin archetype: Aphrodite


Aphrodite


Aphrodite is the goddess of fertility, sexual love, and beauty. She is married to Hephaestus, the god of fire but she was having sex with other men as well, not really caring about her husband. She had many lovers but was not a victim of any of them. Her sexual freedom was unlimited and she used that for her own pleasure.


It was believed that she is the patron of prostitutes and The Temple of Aphrodite was a place where sacred prostitution was happening. Back then, prostitution was seen completely differently than is seen today, and sex with strangers could even have a spiritual meaning. The action of sexual service and sexual pleasure was seen as an act of devotion to the goddess of love. Prostitutes used their earnings to pay for dedications and ritualistic celebrations in honor of Aphrodite.



Venus by William Blake Richmond


This archetype helps us to stay open to sensuality and sexuality. Under its influence, we are independent and open to changes. It can also manifest itself in the search for an intense adventurous romance rather than a stable relationship.


The not integrated archetype of Aphrodite can be like a femme fatale. It can be a woman who is focused only on her own pleasure and competes with other women for men's attention.


Mother Archetype


You may think now about your mother or about your own experience of motherhood. But there’s more here. Mother gives life. She cares, feeds with her own breast, and protects those who she loves.


You can find this force within yourself even though you are not a mother. You still have the power to create, to give life. Not only to other human beings but also to new ideas, new creations.


The power of creation is the power of the Mother archetype.


The need for giving something to the world.


Her energy is manifested through love and care for others, but also care for our ideas and projects.


But thinking about the archetype of Mother we might also find Mother Nature. So many amazing plants, herbs, and even essential things like food and water we got from Mother Earth.


I believe and feel that by nurturing my connection with nature I develop a relationship with my inner Mother.


Characters that represent the Mother archetype: Demeter, Gaia, Pachamama,


Demeter


She had a daughter named Persephone that was very loved by her mother. Zeus promised Hades that Persephone will marry him. He knew though, that Demeter will never allow it to happen so Zeus and Hades decided to kidnap her daughter.


When the goddess realized that Persephone is gone, she got furious and desperately started to ask everyone if they have seen her daughter. From Helios, she found out that it was Zeus who kidnapped her and left her in the underground world.


Demeter was so furious that she refused to grace the Earth which would cause big starvation among people. Zeus could not let that happen so he send Hermes to bring Persephone back. Hades did not like it so tricked everyone. He made her eat something in the underground world which means that she couldn't leave this place anymore.


Zeus knew he had to do something so he promised a compromise. From now on, Persephone was living with her mother but had to get back to her husband for one-third of the year. During that time Demeter was very depressed and that is why for four months every year the grasses stopped growing and grains withered and died. It was believed that Demeter's grief is the reason for the winter season that makes all the plants die.


Demeter is a symbol of a mother’s protection. A mother that is stubborn, and determined, can be furious, even dangerous when her loved ones are in danger.


Her power manifests itself in us when we feel a responsibility for someone or something.


It can be very charging, loving, and caring energy within us. But it can be also destructive when you care for others so much that you just become controlling and forget about yourself.



Gaia


Another figure from Greek mythology. Gaia is believed to be the beginning of the life and mother of all creation. The one who formed the shape of Earth from chaos.


Her power of creation gave birth to her children: Uranus (symbol of the sky), Ourea (mountains), Pontus (the sea), and many Titans, and Immortal Giants.


In Greek mythology, she was seen not only as a universal mother who cared for her children but also as a protector of those who are in need, especially women.


Her power of protection comes from transformation which can be seen as another form of giving birth to new life. She was able to turn humans and nymphs into plants. Her power allowed her to swallow the creature and then let it return to earth as a beautiful flower or tree.


‘She was the lifeforce of the earth itself and, as such, the mother of all living things. Plants and grains grew from her soil that nourished both men and animals. When these creatures died, they returned to Gaia. In the circular pattern of life, Gaia was at the centre.’


There was no god that has power over Gaia. She was the beginning of life and everything that walked or grew on earth was her children.


Pachamama


In my interpretation, this is the equivalent of Gaia, originating from the ancient Inca, the indigenous people who inhabited the Andes mountains.


Mama Pacha is translated as Mother Erath or World Mother.


In Inca mythology, She is a goddess of fertility who protects the corps. Can be personified by the mountains.


It is believed that She is the mother of Inti, god of the sun, and Mama Killa, the moon goddess.


Her creative force helps to sustain life on Earth.



source: Pinterest


Andean people believe it is important to live in harmony with nature and show Her respect. Otherwise, Pachamama, in a shape of a dragon that lives beneath the mountains, can cause deadly earthquakes.


In pre-Hispanic culture, Pachamama is often seen as a cruel goddess that eagers to obtain sacrifices.


After the Spanish conquest that caused the conversion to Roman Catholicism, many indigenous people identified the figure of the Virgin Mary with Pachamama.



Wild Woman Archetype


This is a very powerful archetype. Wild Woman is unbridled and full of intense emotions that can be destructive, even dangerous.


All these difficult things like anger, sadness, grief, weaknesses and all fears can let you find Wild Woman. And she wants to be found so desperately.


You can also find Her force in sex when you allow yourself for this primal wildness. When you know what you want to feel satisfied and you just take it.


I think it is the piece that is the most denied by our culture. For centuries, women were brought up to be good wives, and good mothers, to ignore their deep needs, their true emotions, and desires. In consequence, there was no place for impulsiveness or madness, no place for contact with emotions and authenticity.


Even today, women who decide to openly express their sexuality, their feminine force with all the emotions and states that comes with it, can be easily misunderstood, mocked, or embarrassed about it.


The energy of the Wild Woman can be felt like the freedom that fascinates but scares at the same time.


It can give us such power when you are just open to that.


Characters that represent the Wild Woman archetype: Kali, Lilith


Kali


Goddess of death, change, time, and doomsday. She represents the power of feminine energy. Some myths and iconography sources associate her also with sexuality, violence, or even motherly love. She is strongly related to the creativity force and can be also seen as a protector and giver of liberation.


Often portrayed dancing with her husband, god Shiva. The legend says that Shiva fell under her to stop her from the big destruction she was causing during the battle. When she saw her husband under her feet, she stuck out her tongue in surprise. A tongue that shows her nature, "her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavors'".


Her nudity is related to her transparency. She is primeval like Nature.


Three eyes represent the past, present, and future as she is the goddess of time.


"Kali is so called because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness." - Sir John Woodroffe, translator of Sanskrit in Garland of Letters


Represented with many hands, keeping the sword in one and the head in the other. The cut head is a symbol of ego and the sword severs the bondage of ignorance. The skirt is made of human hands and symbolizes work and liberation from the cycle of karma. The necklace of 50 skulls represents 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and is a symbol of her infinite knowledge.



source: Pinterest


As a Mahakali (the other form of the goddess Kali) she represents the spiritual force of feminine power. Black skin symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature.


"Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her" - Mahanirvana Tantra


Isn't it powerful? Maybe even scary.


There are many legends about the birth of Kali but in the earliest texts, it is said that Kali appears to fight with the evil demon Raktabija. She might look like the evil force but she is the one who defeats it with her wisdom, determination, and courage to destroy what needs to be destroyed. She is scary but she does good and represents love, in fact.


In Tantric meditation, Kali’s dual nature leads practitioners to simultaneously face the beauty of life and the reality of death, with the understanding that one cannot exist without the other.


Kali, with her creative, nurturing, and devouring aspects, is a wild woman who dares to express her sexuality, her anger, and her power no matter what others say or think about it. And she knows why she’s doing that.


Kali is a Destroyer. She destroys illusions showing who we really are.


Kali is Warrior. She represents strength, the ability to protect and fight for your rights and those of others.


I believe that deep down we all want to be like her sometimes. And we are. We just need to find it.


She patronizes me for a reason. Kali's brave and determined energy helps me push things forward and awakens my creativity.


Discovering the Kali aspect in yourself invites openness and acceptance towards everything that comes because you trust in your strength. You experience intense emotions, lots of anger and wildness but also ecstasy and passionate love. Because Kali is full of paradoxes. And that makes her complete. She can be wild but tender. Angry and violent but still loving. Kali teaches you how to move with love across your various extremes.


With Her, you go through life dancing because you love every part of yourself. You learn to play with your body in sexual or creative acts.


You go through fire and you are the fire.


Lilith


Lilith is a very dark and mysterious character from Mesopotamian and Judaic mythology. It is believed she was the most beautiful woman ever created and the first wife of Adam, before Eva. Created from the ashes of the Earth, just like her husband. She wanted them both to be treated equally, even during sex, so she refused to obey her husband. She refused to be submissive and lay beneath him. She decided to show her feminine power. In consequence, she was kicked out of Eden and called to be a demon.


In Jewish tradition, she is represented as an evil temptress that seduces men to give birth to demonic children. Some believed that Lilith attacked grown men in their sleep because of her deep hatred and resentment towards Adam.



Lilith by Roberto Ferri


Among the Sumerians, her name was associated with the name of a group of demons or spirits related to storms and winds. And we know that those are powerful forces of Nature.


The way of seeing and interpreting Lilith changed after John Collier's 1889 painting that represents her as a beautiful, naked, and sensual woman surrounded by a snake.


Lilith is a representation of a very powerful and brave figure that goes her way and no one will tell her what to do. She is a symbol of empowerment and resistance.


You can feel Her energy when you follow your needs and you are able to stand for yourself because you know you're worth it. When you find the courage to take action. When you open yourself to discovering your sexuality, your desires, and fantasies. But to get there, sometimes you need to face the darkness that is buried deep in your psyche and it may not be easy.


Witch Archetype


Another powerful but not so uncontrollable like Wild Woman. However, can be very misunderstood as well.


When I think about this archetype, the word that appears in my mind is Wisdom. Witch is the one who knows. The one who has access to knowledge that is not accessible to everyone. The one who understands the language and power of plants. The one who dares to meet the darkness.


Finding the energy of Witch can be very transformative but challenging as well. Because transformation means to let some part of you die to be reborn. It is not an easy piece of the psyche but really worth exploring.


She will help you to get in touch with your intuition.


She will help you to discover and maybe even understand the deepest and darkest places of your heart.


Characters that represent the Witch archetype: Hecate


Hecate


Greek goddess of magic, ghosts, underworld, necromancy, and witchcraft. Guardian of borders, crossroads, and entrance-ways. Often associated with secret knowledge about herbs and poisonous plants. Very mysterious figure whose origins are not fully understood and her powers are unexplained.


Often represented as a triple goddess. Some speculate that it represents the full moon, half-moon, and new moon. I like to think about the triple goddess as she is the one who embraces three phases of a women's life: a girl, a mother/adult woman, and an old woman.



source: Pinterest


Hecate was a goddess of boundaries and “in-between” spaces. This refers to physical boundaries, for example, doors or crossroads, but also to mystical ones like places between life and death.


It was believed that she is the goddess of both the living world and the underworld. Her capacity of passing between both realms gave her access to the secrets of the dead, which explains her connection to necromancy and ghosts.


Association with borders and gates makes her a protector, a guardian who watched over the place that allowed passage into homes, cities, or worlds.


Her role as protector was well known. Greek people dedicated evening meals to honor Hecate. By praying to her, they believed that it will bless and protect their home from the ghosts and that all the wrong-doing by family members will be forgiven.


She is also a protector of transformation through death and rebirth.


Contact with Hecate aspects is contact with dark areas of the psyche. She helps to find the truth in the depths of femininity.



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