Women Mythology

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“In the traditional mythological tradition, the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to. When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male.”

—Joseph Campbell

Women Mythology

Since childhood, ancient mythology has fascinated me because of the significant roles that women played in the tales. They were powerful goddesses, mothers, warriors, creators, and destroyers. Women were not only associated with fertility and birth, but with warfare and destruction.

Epona Flanked by Horses

Mother Goddess Epona Flanked by Horses

Women have always had a power that men did not have—the power of creating life. Early ancient civilizations acknowledged this power through the Mother Goddess who ruled supreme over all. Ancient civilizations held women’s ability to create new life inside her body in awe, but they feared the mystical blood flows which synchronized with the phases of the moon. Women were considered magical and the intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds. They served as seers, priestesses, healers, oracles, lawmakers, judges, and agents of the Great Goddess Mother who gave birth to the Universe.

Macha Curses Men of Ulstur

Mythology Women Macha Curses Men of Ulstur

The hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell is a journey to the depths of our psyches where we discover spiritual meaning to our lives. It allows us insight into our souls where there are no boundaries between the spiritual and physical worlds. The ancient myths celebrated a female’s courage and cleverness to rescue their family, to be a partner on the hero’s journey, and to spin ways to overcome the giants in their way.

Boudica Statue

Statue of Boudica in London

It is no wonder myths have flourished throughout history because the tales and symbols reflect our universal struggle to find spiritual meaning in our everyday lives. Universal symbols in myths and dreams connect each one of us to our creative, intuitive side. Unfortunately, the evolution of paternalistic societies and the emphasis on science, analytical reasoning, and technology in modern times have often left a void where people feel they cannot relate to each other and discover the spiritual meaning of their own lives.

Statue of Minerva, Roman Goddess of Wisdom and Battle

Minerva, Roman Goddess of Wisdom and Battle

Heroine’s Journey

The heroine’s journey has always existed in epic myths, but it is often understated. Many ancient myths and legends were rewritten to reflect the religious and cultural beliefs depicting women as seductresses and witches, or as pure-minded maidens and mothers.

In today’s society, women oppressed by the hero quest see only two choices:

  • Be the sobbing princess needing rescue
  • Be the hero, taking on the masculine qualities to success

However, the heroine’s true role is neither to be the hero or his prize. The power of women is reflected in the Great Goddesses who battled darkness. Her worship once dominated ancient mankind. She is the earth and sea from which life was created. She offers not only her feminine qualities of beauty, imagination, and compassion, but also offers death and savagery.

The primal goddess reigned uncontested for centuries as Ishtar, Morrigan, and Cybele who could be cruel and lustful goddesses.  Many of these tales celebrate the metaphoric death of the inadequate self to resurrect into a higher plan of existence.

Relief Depiction Ishtar

Queen of Night relief often representing Ishtar British Museum

In the original ancient tales, heroines were brave, resourceful, and clever. They accustomed to saving themselves and their princes. Myths are the collective conscious of humanity to help the next generation face conflicts and journey to self-discovery. For both men and women, myths have helped ease their passages from childhood into adulthood.

Complexity Women’s Roles

When I began writing the APOLLO’S RAVEN series, I at first grappled with the characteristics of my heroine, a Celtic warrior princess. However, ancient mythology gave me insight into the complexity of women’s psyches that provide them with both the courage and wisdom to overcome challenged in their everyday lives. Women not only ascend into the heavens as goddesses, but delve in the Underworld to face the shadowy parts of their souls. From these destructive forces bring forth new life. The heroine must use her darker feminine side, balancing compassion and cruelty, to overcome evil forces on her journey.

Triplicate Mother Goddesses Displayed at Bath UK Roman Baths

Triplicate Mother Goddesses Displayed at Bath UK Roman Baths

Only after the heroine understands her dark side can she gain the wisdom to guide others needing her counsel, especially children. The heroine can travel between the mortal and spirituals worlds to become protector of others and a goddess.

To Be Continued

The next posts will further explore the heroine’s journey and Celtic mythology of powerful women and goddesses.

References

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand FacesBollingen Series XVII Third Edition; Joseph Campbell Foundation; New World Library, Novato, 2008.

Valerie Estella Frankel, From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend; McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2010,

Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness; Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA, 1990.

6 Responses to "Women Mythology"
  1. Christy B says:

    LOVE this post, Linnea! Thank you for pointing out the mult-faceted nature of women, both in storytelling and in real life. You are so right that women’s roles are not simple but instead involve light and darkness. Also, I particularly appreciated how you explained that female heroes in books do not have to take on male traits but can instead stand strong in being who THEY are as women. I cannot say enough about this post ~ Off to promote it on social media now ♥

    • Thank you, Christy, for your lovely comments. I agree there are various ways a heroine can overcome obstacles using the strong traits she has as a woman. Ultimately, both the hero and heroine need to reach a balance on their life journeys, so they can find meaning and wisdom in their lives. We lose our humanity and harmony if we don’t value the roles each of us plays. I admire your dedication to highlighting women who inspire. I appreciate your support.

      Best,
      Linnea

  2. rita roberts says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post Linnea Women in Ancient times were a force to be recond with.
    Maybe we could do with those type of women today in order to gain peace.

    • Thanks, Rita, for your comment. I agree there is a lot of wisdom that we can learn from ancient women who were a strong force. As with all things, there needs to be a balance between the masculine and feminine traits to achieve harmony. Have a great weekend!

      Best,
      Linnea

  3. Aquileana says:

    “When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male”…

    That excerpt of Campbell´s quote speaks out loud… I agree, of course 😉 A great post… I liked how the primal goddess
    appear in almost all cultures (you provide good examples such as Ishtar, Morrigan, and Cybele)…
    The section of your post concerning the Heroine´s journey stands out… Again Campbell was a genius to think about this structure
    Thanks so much for sharing… Best wishes & happy holidays to you, dear Linnea. 😀

    • Thanks, Aquileana, for your comments. One of the aspects I like about your blog is that you often provide a psychological interpretation of the myths that you discuss. Most often, the symbols in mythology are universal and provide a road map into understanding ourselves. I’ve always appreciate your support and mutual love of mythology. Have a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for a New Year!

      Best,
      Linnea

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