“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces—Bollingen 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.