You wouldn’t think that modern woman has much in common with goddesses from Ancient Greece.
In actuality, surprisingly little has changed. And that is to do with the existence of archetypes.
In Jungian theory, archetypes are deep enduring patterns of thought and behavior that remain powerful over long periods of time, and transcend cultures.
Having read Goddesses in Everywoman, the book by Jungian analyst Jean Shinoda Bolen which maps seven feminine archetypes, I have to agree. Bolen uses characters from ancient Greek mythology to explain the different types of women we see in the world.
Meet the seven goddesses:
- Athena, goddess of wisdom
- Artemis, goddess of the hunt
- Hestia, goddess of the hearth
- Persephone, goddess of the underworld
- Demeter, goddess of grain and agriculture
- Hera, goddess of marriage
- Aphrodite, goddess of love
Bolen’s map contains important insights into female psychology. These women are fractures of a whole complete woman; seven varieties of female energy, each with their own unique areas of focus.
Represented this way, it allows women to understand and affirm their strengths, and to cultivate our missing (or “recessive”) female energies to help support personal growth.
Below is a brief description of each feminine archetype, plus some personal development recommendations (for the full version of these, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of Bolen’s book).
I guarantee you will find yourself in at least one of these feminine archetypes. You’re unlikely to relate to every single characteristic, but should relate to the overall flavour of one or two types.
The “independent” feminine archetypes – Athena, Artemis and Hestia
Athena, goddess of wisdom
Athena is proactive, focused and intellectual. For a current reference, think of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel or even Maggie Thatcher.
- Logical thinking
- Sharp intellect
- Relates to men as intellectual companions with whom she shares ideals
An Athena woman is curious, seeks information and wants to know how things work. She values rational thinking, and the superiority of will and intellect over instinct. She is highly capable, and is skilled at planning and executing.
Athena prizes her intellect and is led by her head rather than her heart
Women dominant in this energy may lack close women friends. They aren’t tolerant of dreamers and idealists, and may lack sexual passion and romanticism. Plus, her values on empathy or compassion are not high.
Athena types are encouraged to recover their childhood (Athena’s may have needed to grow up quickly) and tap into the part of them that doesn’t have to feel responsible for everything. They should learn to be with their feelings as they listen to people’s stories and experience.
Athena’s should also be mindful of their tendency not to forgive themselves, and not feel like they have to be tough constantly.
Artemis, goddess of the hunt
This feminine archetype is responsible for the women’s movement that the world is witnessing today. For a modern reference, think of the character Katniss in the Hunger Games.
- Strongly connected with nature
- Non traditional
This archetype gives a woman the innate ability to concentrate intensely on whatever is important to her. On the darker side, her emotional distance from others brings on a merciless quality.
Artemis is what we are seeing a lot of in the world today. It is a ruthless, competitive, justice-focused energy
To balance out her fierce competitiveness, Artemis needs to soften up a bit and connect with her vulnerability. She should also try cultivating her inner Aphrodite, helping temper her earthiness and become more creative.
Hestia, goddess of the hearth
Hestia is the third of the virgin goddesses and she’s quite different to the other two. She is much more introverted and her focus goes inward. Think Oracle from the Matrix. Being quieter, she tends to be undervalued.
- Not a strong presence
For women high in this energy, the development is in acquiring assertiveness which gives them the ability to fight for themselves. In other words, Hestia should cultivate her inner Athena and Artemis.
Hestia also needs to push herself to leave her sanctuary and go out to the world. Otherwise, she can easily become lonely and isolated.
The “relational” feminine archetypes – Persephone, Demeter and Hera
Persephone, goddess queen of the underworld
Persephone’s job is to be a good girl and please others. Persephone’s playfulness and innocent way of looking at the world gives her an air of being unaffected and a special charm which calls for being taken care of although she may miss sexual passion.
Because she often lacks direction and individual drive, Persephone has the most possible routes for growth among all the goddess archetypes.
Persephone grows when she has nobody around to do things for her or blame
This type of woman has a natural understanding of the unconsciousness in human psyche. If she evolves, she can bring important healing to others.
If a Persephone woman does not cultivate some other archetypes in her life, such as Artemis or Aphrodite, she can be easily manipulated and dominated by others.
Demeter, goddess of grain and agriculture
A Demeter woman carries a deep longing for becoming pregnant with her own child. Then she lives solely for them and even experiencing life through them.
If a Demeter woman cannot become a biological mother, she is deeply wounded and struggles all her life to find meaning and purpose.
- Generous and giving
- Creates safety around her
- Usually has solid friendships with other Demeter women
- Can be stubborn
- Has perseverance
A woman with strong Demeter influence is almost incapable of saying ‘no’ to others, and therefore has the tendency to burnout through taking on too many tasks. She has a strong sense of responsibility.
Demeter women must learn to nurture themselves or they may become over-controlling of their children
When she ignores her boundaries, her psychological health may deteriorate. Her strongest shadow side can appear in the relationship with her children. With the intention of protecting them, she may become over-controlling.
It is important for a Demeter woman to learn how to take care of herself and nurture herself as if she was her own mother.
Hera, goddess of marriage
Women high in Hera energy are really relationship-oriented and good at making commitments. Hera’s full focus consists in not only finding a partner or mate, but in finding a man who is ready for commitment and marriage.
Without a partner, a Hera woman sees herself as incomplete and insufficient.
- Strong capacity to bond
- Ability to endure
Hera’s obsession with finding fulfillment only within marriage often limits her own individual growth and potential.
Hera women excel at being loyal and finding partners, but risk oppressing other women by being overly judgmental
Only if she manages to bring her attention to inner realms and other forms of motivation and satisfaction – like the independent goddesses – will a Hera woman grow beyond these negative behaviour patterns. When she does this, she will find peace and balance on her own, as well as within a relationship.
The “both” feminine archetypes – Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty
As the alchemical goddess, Aphrodite shares some similarities with the other two categories, yet she is different from both.
For her, relationships are important as with the relational goddesses, but not as long-term commitments. Instead, she seeks to consummate relationships. She tends to have unlimited creative talents.
At the same time, she is able to focus on what is personally meaningful to her and to becomes totally absorbed in it, like the independent goddesses.
Aphrodite’s magic consists in being fully present in what she does and who she is with. She gives those around her the feeling of being special.
- Focussed on relationships
- Lust for life
- Warm and attentive
- Tremendous force for change
On the less positive side, Aphrodite women easily fall in an out of love. They may act on sexual desire without considering the consequences. They either enjoy being the center of attention and the sense of power that comes with their sensuality, or they judge themselves harshly for those characteristics.
Aphrodite characters need to learn how to use their sensuality positively.
Using Bolen’s system
If you’re a woman reading this, I hope you managed to see yourself in one or two of these.
I believe I am probably an Aphrodite/Artemis combo myself. Those are the feminine archetypes I have mostly identified with in life until now.
I have found increasing my consciousness of the various energies to be a useful thing for self-awareness. Like other psychological maps, it allows me to see where I am best suited in life, affirm my positive qualities and understand my areas of challenge.
Also by looking at my hidden goddess qualities, I can better see what I need to do to cultivate more balance.