An essential ingredient found in myths are archetypes. An archetype is defined as the original pattern or model, from which all other things of the same kind are made – a prototype. Along more Jungian lines, the idea of an archetype is related to that which is unseen. It is a preexistent form that is part of the structure of the psyche and is manifested in images found in dreams or experiences such as fantasies. These forms are given meaning by the cultures in which we live. Archetypes are universal in all people’s psyches; similar in form, shape, structure and appearance. Many see archetypes as numinous or sacred, inexpressible, mysterious experiences that are associated with the Divine.
People define and experience archetypes in many different ways and on many different levels. While I experience archetypes as sacred, living symbols, they can also be viewed as a psychological construct or a psychological concept, that exists in the structure of everyone’s psyche.
My experience of working with archetypes (whether they appear as animal manifestations, cosmic powers, nature forces or one of the many names and aspects of the Goddess) is that I find myself synchronistically attracted to, and resonating with, certain aspects of a particular archetype. I begin by creating or calling to myself the life experiences that will teach me whatever lessons I need to learn at that time. I find myself confronted with and immersed in a specific situation or set of situations, which forces me to deal with whatever the archetype is teaching. This is the first step on the journey of actualizing an archetype.
- Turtle, who easily creates its own boundaries by simply withdrawing into the shell it carries, has taught me the important lessons of maintaining boundaries and self-protection. Turtle has also shown me that its seeming slowness is actually focused deliberateness, taking the time to make well thought out choices. I have also learned the importance of staying connected to earth energy from Turtle – whose short legs keep it grounded and close to the earth.
- Another archetype is the Goddess Inanna, bringing me relational experiences to help me embrace the darker emotions I have been avoiding, such as anger and rage. Inanna becomes the guide into my inner landscape, as we walk through the underworld together, in my quest to find and embrace wholeness. In my ritual work, whether for community, individual clients or for my own personal evolution, I often use one of the many goddess myths from around the world as the creative foundation.
The video below, The Descent of Inanna, a contemporary re-telling of a Sumerian myth. Its origin is a poem written in cuneiform and discovered in Mesopotamia 1900 BCE – c. 1600 BCE. The performance was filmed live as part of full theatrical presentation by The Mythic Players in Pasadena, California.
The Descent of Inanna
The Goddess, as an archetype, exists as the prototype, the original pattern of Woman. The many faces and aspects of the divine feminine hold a wealth of knowledge and deeply held patterns for women to explore.
For many women all over the world, the Goddess – She of Ten Thousand Names – by whatever name she is called, is a way of life. She is the spiritual, political and the ritual center of their lives. For these women, relating to the Goddess as a container for change and healing, will be easy and natural. While a direct spiritual involvement with the feminine divine will enhance the rituals you create, it is not a prerequisite. If you are new to the concept of Goddess or have your own spiritual practice, based on a different theology than Goddess, you can still use the rituals and recipes in Feminine Alchemy by using the mythology of the Goddess as an archetype.
For thousands of years, women have been psychologically splintered and fractured. Men, as well, have been cut off from the vital aspect of the feminine, leaving a great imbalance in society. By reclaiming the magnificent ancient female archetypes from folklore, forgotten bookshelves and the recesses of our collective unconscious, we give ourselves permission to make ourselves whole. As in homeopathic healing, “like is used to cure like”. To heal the imbalance of the feminine and masculine in society, we need a strong image, metaphor or ideal of the feminine. The Goddess is the purest essence of undiluted femininity.