Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by Greek myth. The stories of Ancient Greece, cataloguing the fantastical adventures of the gods and goddesses, filled my imagination in such a way that Mount Olympus never seemed all that far away from my childhood home in the Edinburgh suburbs.
And then other things began to demand my attention. Exams. Boys. Make-up… the usual teenage distractions, and, for a time, I forgot my fascination. In fact, it was only years later, when I had finished my PhD, that I finally rediscovered my passion for these wonderful stories. Now, I found that I could look at them anew. I’d lived life a bit now. I’d experienced loss and ambition, ecstasy and fear, hatred and happiness. My filter on life was now more textured, more coloured by my participation in adulthood.
Not only that, but my ability to understand the stories was at a whole new level. My academic studies were in the area of narrative and how our stories reveal our hidden selves. After reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Goddesses in Everywoman, I began to apply Jungian analysis to personal narratives using my skills in literary analysis and my knowledge of Greek mythic archetype. To say I was astonished by the continued relevance of these ancient narratives to my own and to others’ stories of contemporary everyday experience would be putting it mildly!
And the exciting thing is, is that there are so many goddesses who can teach us such wonderful lessons, if only we bring our awareness to them. To help you define which goddess you have drawn on in the past, and who you are currently drawing upon now.
I’ve put together this list of the 7 main Greek goddesses with their shadow and light aspects…
Shadow – common difficulties
Athena – retreat behind a hard shell remaining distanced & abstract.
Artemis – narrow-focus on destination & no appreciation for the journey.
Aphrodite – hedonism with emphasis on pleasure over & above the needs & feelings of others.
Hestia – renunciation of community & self-centeredness.
Demeter – investment of self-worth in achievements of others & operating from lack.
Persephone – loss of self & permeable boundaries.
Hera – fighting battles where there are none & committing to that which doesn’t serve you.
Light Shadow – pictures of health & fulfilled purpose.
Athena – wisdom and strategy – supporting the hero’s journey.
Artemis – balance and focus – the competitive huntress.
Aphrodite – sensuality and sexuality – lover of ecstasy & queen of the senses.
Hestia – inward focus and attending to self – keeper of the inner flame.
Demeter – nurture & nourish – tending to the growth of others.
Persephone – boundaries & sovereignty – stepping into self-power.
Hera – fairness & commitment – seeker of justice & committed to her cause.
Let me explain through two examples from my own life…
Example 1 – Artemis
The end stages of a PhD are always very difficult. You have very tight deadlines, a lot of pressure for your research to be as robust as possible and the guilt of not being available to the important people in your life. You need to be completely focused all the time. This means that you go to bed thinking about your thesis. You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the thesis and you spend your day working on the thesis.
The target of completing the thesis, strongly defending it and graduating at the end of it all, fills your vision until it’s all you can see. Everything else just falls away.
I think of this as my Artemis stage. Artemis was the huntress. With her bow and arrow she never failed to miss her target. Forward focused, her momentum carried her onwards until she reached her goal. She was not a lover or a mother, rather she was a virgin goddess – one unto herself.
When I reflect on this goddess and the various stories that involve her, I can appreciate with a new awareness that my focus narrowed significantly during those last 6 months. My eyes were very firmly on my target and my momentum was a force to be reckoned with.
And yet, because of this extreme focus I became very blinkered. I didn’t see those around me. Couldn’t spare my energy to attend to their needs. To have allowed my attention to be diverted would have meant I would have missed my target.
When I finally reached my target, I hit a crisis point. After all, if Artemis is about focus and achieving your goal, how does Artemis serve when the hunt is finished? I found myself casting around for anything to focus on next. What would my next goal be? What achievement could I aim for next?
This scattering of energy, this dispersal of focus felt incredibly uncomfortable to someone who has been in the zone for as long as I had. I felt confused, disorientated, lost.
By correlating my experience of this time of transition, I can see very clearly how the archetype of Artemis was incredibly dominant. And I can also see how that served me really well in one situation and not so well in another.
To become a