Old stories and legends have always reflected our subconscious. Ko Hyekyung, the writer of ‘Why the Fairy Left the Woodcutter,’ said “The term ‘once upon a time’ does not refer to a certain time, but it means a time that does not exist, not even once. That is the reason why, when you hear an old story, you feel like you have heard it at least once before; at the same time, you feel that it is fresh even though you have heard it in the past.” Like she said, when people hear old stories like myths or fairy tales, we feel it is interesting, fresh and sympathetic at the same time. Why do we feel like this? Do the traditional main characters still live? The answer is ‘yes.’ The main characters of myths still live in modern people’s subconscious.
The Goddess Lives in a House Named Stereotype
Jean Shinoda Bolen, the famous American clinical psychologist, claimed this above fact through her theory. You have to know two important concepts in order to understand Bolen’s theory. The first is Carl Gustav Jung’s archetype, which can be seen in his theory of Analytical Psychology. The archetype, in other words, is a ‘psychological tradition.’ It means a copied, patterned, or emulated model of a person, personality, or behavior from a long time ago. It has stayed in the subconscious, and controls a person indirectly.
The other is stereotypes related to the feminist movement of the 1960s~70s. According to feminism, women are under the control of stereotypes which are created by society. These stereotypes have changed according to the period. For example, the stereotype of the 1960s-70s was the wise and good mother, as witnessed by the fact that there were so many babies born in this era (the baby boom). On the other hand, the stereotype of the 1990s was the career woman because society needed more human resources than in the past.
Dr.Bolen said that every woman is caught between archetypes and stereotypes. In the subconscious, woman has been moved by some goddess archetypes; however in her consciousness, woman has been moved by some stereotypes. When these concepts collide, seven goddess archetypes are changed, recreated, or disappeared.
Seven Types of Goddess Archetype
Virgin Goddesses – Artemis, Athena, and Hestia
None of these virgin goddesses were hurt by the gods; also, they are autonomous and don’t fall in love easily, but fall in love with themselves. These characteristics of the goddesses are reflected in modern woman as she is.
Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and the moon, as well as being a virgin goddess. She was an independent goddess, an excellent archer, and the eldest sister of every nymph. These characteristics are reflected in the Artemis-type women. These women are independent, pursuing one goal, and play the role of eldest sister in some groups. Artemis women especially consider that the value of the group is most important value. Artemis women choose their own jobs. Interestingly, most of their jobs are not related to money: feminist, public attorney, environmental activist and the like. Also they feel more of a connection with women friends than with men friends.
Athena was the goddess of wisdom and the city of Athens , a virgin and battle-goddess. She sprang from her father Zeus’ head, wearing armor, carrying a spear and screaming. She helped many heroes in Greek Mythology, and respected her father Zeus more than any other person. Athena-type women have similar qualities. They always compete to get something, and they want to be the owner or master of some area. Athena-type women are similar to Artemis women, but also so different. Artemis women move for the value of their group, but Athena women move for their own goal, so they pursue goals by fair means or foul. They also feel stronger connections with men, especially successful men like Athena’s father, but many of them have estranged connections with women because of their perfectionism.
Hestia was goddess of the hearth, the symbol of the home, and, like Athena and Artemis, a virgin goddess. She didn’t have her own particular appearance or myth, but she was one of the most important goddesses in Greek Mythology. This is certain because she was the goddess of fire. Fire does not mean destruction, but means the home and the indispensable essence in the group like a home, city, or nation. Hestia-type women have concentration like Artemis and Athena, but the focus directs their inner mind. Hestia women don’t want to get power; they just want to keep their own position, invisible, but essential. In conversation, Hestia women don’t be the topic, but prefer to listen to the other person’s story. They choose the role of keeper, so most of them choose their way in convents, households, and religion.
Tender Goddesses – Hera, Demeter, and Persephone
Hera, Demeter, and Persephone reflect traditional women types: wife, mother, and daughter. These goddesses are self-in-relationship people, and they have an important connection to ‘place.’
Hera was the protector of marriage, Zeus’ wife, and also known as the ‘jealous goddess.’ But it is not a bad meaning. Hera considered marriage to be the most important thing in life. Like Hera, Hera-type women pursue the perfect marriage. For example, at a party, Hera women seek out their boyfriend rather than enjoy the party by drinking or dancing. They think the most meaningful thing in life is marriage, and try to make a perfect marriage. Even if their husband hurts them like Zeus, they try to fix the situation rather than choosing divorce. Even if Hera women get hurt in their relationship with their husband, they keep at it until the end, because keeping the home is Hera’s role.
Demeter was the goddess of earth, grain and fertility. Being mother of the whole world, Demeter loved her daughter Persephone more than any other thing. She had strong maternal love, as do all Demeter-type women. Young Demeter women enjoy the ‘role of mother.’ When young Demeter women became real mothers, they give all of their mothering and love to their children, so many Demeter women are somewhat dependent and careful. They sacrifice everything for their children, and when their children leave them, they fall into melancholy more deeply than other people.
Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, also the queen of the Underworld (Hades’ wife.) However, she became the Queen of the Underworld through the passive course. She was kidnapped by Hades against her will, and also came back to her mother Demeter only because Demeter found her; Persephone didn’t try to escape from the Underworld. Even though she came back to the Underworld every winter, it was just because of her passive action. Like this, the majority of Persephone-type women are passive women. It also refers to the daughter in patriarchal society; they act according to their parents’ wishes, saying things like ‘my mother said it is dangerous,’ or ‘I think we’d better ask mother first.’ Persephone women always wait for a ‘chance,’ and they go with this chance.
Creative Goddess – Aphrodite
Aphrodite is so different from the other goddesses mentioned above, but she is a fascinating type. Aphrodite loved many male gods but she also loved herself like Hestia, and would do anything to get what she wanted, but sometimes left it alone. This unique Aphrodite style becomes the dynamic power; the creative something.
Aphrodite was the goddess of Love and Beauty, who beguiled all, gods and men alike. She was a lovely goddess, but she became a jealous goddess like Hera. She tempted many gods and men but sometimes she loved one man with her whole heart. Aphrodite-type women are similar to Aphrodite’s kaleidoscopic life. They don’t avoid chances and challenges, and don’t enjoy competition. They just enjoy their situation, and create chances and challenges with their magical power. They don’t like being given roles or positions, but want to make their own position. Therefore, Bolen estimated that many women artists are Aphrodite women.
Finding Myself in Greek Mythology
Why do people find themselves in Greek Mythology? It is certainly because the situations in Greek Mythology were similar to modern society. Many of the women, nymphs, and even goddesses were hurt by men, but these women found solutions through their own power. It reflects modern society. Some women get hurt by their husbands, while some women lose out to men in their work places. Some women live their life following someone else’s direction. As you can see, modern society and modern women are so similar to goddesses from long time ago. The famous mythologist Joseph Campbell said, ‘The dream is a personal myth, and the myth is a group dream.’ Likewise, the things that modern people go through are the same that the ancients went through. Through myth, people can discover wise solutions.
References - Cho Moo-seuck and Doo Jin-sook, The Background of English Literature (2001), Sookmyung Women’s University Press. - Jean Shinoda Bolen, Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives (2004), Quill. - Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 2nd ed. (1986),PrincetonUniversity Press
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