This article was written by Shift Network staff writer Susan Audrey from a graciously provided interview with Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, speaker and internationally known author of Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives and over a dozen other books on the sacred feminine, the Women's Movement, mythology and Jungian psychology.
Think back to your childhood. What games or activities did you enjoy?
Playing mother to your favorite doll? Climbing a tree in the backyard? Or, maybe, you had your nose in a book, lost in a great adventure.
The activities we gravitated to as children can reveal a lot about us –– our temperament, our passions, and especially what we’re really like on the inside.
They can also reveal what goddess archetype we were most aligned with when we came into the world.
As a girl, you may have been innately drawn to the ways of Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt and Moon, who had an affinity for nature and is often portrayed holding a bow and arrow. Nowadays she'd most likely be considered a tomboy.
Maybe your greatest joy was to rock your favorite doll to sleep, revealing the energies of Demeter, Goddess of the Grain, who is also known as a mother archetype. Or, your love of reading and science revealed Athena, the Goddess of Wise Strategy and Crafts, stirring within you.
There is usually one natural or “signature” goddess with whom we align most strongly, yet we need the others to help us find balance in our lives.
(And I'll be sharing insights on the energies of seven of the most revered mythological Greek goddesses with you below.)
For example, we can’t be pure Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, in our teen years, as her strong amorous energies combined with our adolescent hormones could earn us the label “easy” around campus....
We need Athena’s less emotional, level-headed and goal-oriented energies to balance and guide us to study as well.
As women, we all have different goddess energies arising from within us at different times of our lives. Yet, to discover and activate your signature goddess (the one that feels most like who you really are or long to be) can be greatly liberating, empowering and healing.
For when you align with her, you feel most like yourself, you are doing what you love, and you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing that time feels suspended, just like when you were a child.
The reason you lose touch with your signature goddess and her archetypal energies — which most of us could so easily access in our youth — is that these self-defining inner forces are often swayed by the outer forces we are all exposed to, the expectations and limitations that are put on us by others.
Many women find themselves caught between the expectations of family, religion and culture, and the goddess inside.
When we effort to meet the standards of these outer expectations, we forget about the powerful archetypal energies within that can save us. Ultimately, however, it’s these strong instinctual inner forces that want their own way with us.
Part of surrendering to the goddess within has to do with consciousness raising, becoming aware that you have been relinquishing your inner goddess and authentic self to outer expectations and limitations.
There may also be a right time for remembering her and allowing her to blossom.
Women who were wives and mothers in the '50s were supposed to be fulfilled by these roles.
Yet, those whose signature goddess was Athena, for example — with her propensity for strategizing, goal seeking and achievements — would have felt painfully stifled by the cultural expectations, patriarchal dominance, and minimal career opportunities for women at that time.
Yet, the launching of the Women’s Movement in the '60s made it more and more acceptable from society’s perspective for women to find fulfilment in the workforce, and allowed “Athena women” to seek meaning in their lives through careers.
Listening to the call of the goddess within is particularly helpful when you are experiencing emotional pain or undergoing a difficult transition.
Oftentimes, part of that pain or challenge can be due to archetypal loss and the need to be who you are from the inside out.
For many women, honoring the goddess within is something they can’t or don’t embark on until their middle years.
As they transition from the traditional roles of mother and wife, their children grown and gone –– and for many –– their marriages ended, they discover a time of profound self-discovery.
And the goddesses can really help, because when you become aware of their archetypes, and you start to realize that there has been a part of you that has always been a bit like that, you can give that goddess and yourself a chance to be who you really are.
To discover which goddess is your signature goddess, the following are the seven most revered mythological Greek goddesses and the archetypal energies they’re most noted for.
Which one feels like the most authentic you –– whose energies you’ve felt stirring within since you were a girl?
7 Mythological Greek Goddesses & Their Archetypal Energies
1. Hera (The Goddess of Marriage)
Marriage and partnership is important for a “Hera woman.” She has the need to select a partner wisely and much of her identity may be linked to this partnership or marriage. She considers marriage a sacred partnership and betrayal of this meaning can lead to possessiveness, rage and obsessiveness.
2. Demeter (Goddess of the Grain)
Known as the archetype of the Mother, Demeter represents a strong maternal instinct. Her energies may emerge through biological means, as a strong desire to be a mother, or may reveal themselves in the characteristic of being nurturing and giving in all relationships. Often, a “Demeter woman’s” challenge may be to take care of her own needs as well as the needs of others.
3. Persephone (The Maiden & Queen of the Underworld)
Persephone's energies may persuade us to be receptive to stronger personalities we may encounter, yet if this gets us into less than savory life situations, we have the potentiality for making it through. “Persephone women” have also learned through their own depression and addictions how to help others. They are also receptive to the inner world and can become creative, as writers, poets and artists.
4. Artemis (Goddess of the Hunt & Moon)
Artemis’ symbol is the bow and arrow and the moon. She aims for goals or targets of her own choice. She is often a woman who has an affinity for nature. She’s a feminist, an environmentalist and can be a mystic. She appreciates what the indigenous people call the Great Mystery, the oneness that brings us all together.
5. Athena (Goddess of Wise Strategy & Crafts)
Athena was Zeus’ favorite child and the only one that he trusted with his symbols of power. She is depicted as either wearing armor or as a weaver with a spindle. She holds wisdom about how the world works and has a strong ability to think ahead. She does not become overcome by her emotions. Her shadow side reveals a woman who will “do what works,” even if unethical.
6. Hestia (Goddess of the Hearth & Temple)
This goddess' focus is most often inward. She takes to solitude and has a strong sense of serenity. In earlier times, she would have chosen a life as a nun, especially in a contemplative order. Her sense of tranquility and peace are revealed in how she makes her home and can be felt by those who come through her environment.
7. Aphrodite (Goddess of Love & Beauty)
Aphrodite women live their lives “in the moment.” They are creative; they are lovers. They are drawn to things for their beauty, be it a home, a relationship or a career, and throw themselves wholeheartedly into relationships or creative projects. Who or what they love is beautiful through their eyes. Every woman should have some Aphrodite to enhance the other goddess energies within her.
You may recognize the energies of a few of these goddesses stirring within you. When the archetypal characteristics of one particular goddess is stronger than the others, you may single her out as your signature goddess.
You may also notice that you experience a greater sense of loss and grief when life circumstances force you to stray from honoring the ways of your signature goddess –– more so than when other inner goddesses are pushed aside.
For example, if you are strongly aligned with the mothering energies of Demeter and can’t conceive a child, your experience of this loss will be greater than that of a woman not as strongly aligned with this mother archetype.
Awareness of your strong allegiance with a particular goddess can also help you to cultivate respect for what you have gone through in your life, as you learn to view challenging experiences as means for uncovering your inner goddess and helping to mold you to become who you are now.
When you live from an archetypal depth, getting to know, honor and activate the goddesses within you, you can be who you are through both the joyful and difficult times.
You experience a deeper level of meaning in your life and a greater sense of appreciation for the life you have.
By opening to your innate nature, the energies of the goddess stirring within, you step onto the path that feels like home and that you are meant to be on.
Think Artemis is your signature goddess? Or perhaps you resonate more with Hestia? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
PS - Another thing... If you enjoyed my post above and want to learn how discovering your natural archetype can liberate your full expression, I really think you'll benefit greatly by downloading psychology pioneer Jean Shinoda Bolen's complimentary hour-long recording on The Goddess in Everywoman.