In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three “feminine” phases: the innocent Maiden, the life-giving Mother, and the wise Crone.
In the first phase we unconsciously serve the drive to preserve our species; in the second the cycles of life force us us to become more aware of our individual needs; in the third, honoring our inner, spiritual selves becomes as important as meeting the needs of others.
Our Queen is a culture mother and the feminine sovereign of the psyche. Like the goddess Hera, a Queen in the Maiden phase automatically honors her duty to society without reflection. Her growth is usually instigated by some sort of crisis —rape or love, parenthood, illness, divorce, or loss of a loved one—which destroys the Maiden’s virgin innocence and instigates the Mother’s suffering. If she develops a conscience and learns moral responsibility she becomes a caring Crone/Queen of personal sovereignty, moral virtue, and social leadership.
The Mother archetype represents our instinct for physically serving the birth/death/rebirth life cycle. In our unreflective Maiden phase our Mother is, like the warrior goddess Artemis and Mother Nature herself, as capable of destroying life as mothering it. In our Mother phase our Mother archetype struggles to understand and serve the needs of individuals as much as the activity of the impersonal Great Mother who gives and takes all life. As our egos mature, the Crone Mother helps us value the life in our bodies and souls as much as life outside ourselves.
The Wisewoman is diffusely aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the maternal depths of the unconscious. In our unreflective phase she is like Greece’s Persephone, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Walt Disnery’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Because we lack the experience and logical thought to handle the vast unknown, our Maiden can get us into trouble with archetypal powers we don’t understand and can’t control. Our transformation into the Mother phase begins when our mistakes force us to distinguish between objective facts and subjective symbols in the inner and outer worlds. Our Crone Wisewoman integrates logos with mythos to see the big picture, understand how the parts connect, and create personal meaning.
The Beloved is the magnetic principle in relationships. Our Maiden Beloved is like Aphrodite: an innocent, unconscious seductress driven to attract sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment by attracting and pleasing others. Our Mother phase begins when we suffer the conflict between wanting to please our lovers and wanting to discard them when they no longer please us. Our Crone Beloved is like a hospitable, emotionally authentic hostess who lives in beauty, inspires others, and gives what we could only hint at in our youthful phase: full sensory and emotional intimacy with fully respected and loved otherness.
Whereas shadow masculinity destroys otherness, shadow femininity is self-destructive. A compulsive Queen can burn us out if we give too much of ourselves. Our Mother can sabotage our relationships by being too receptive/or smothering. An obsessive Wisewoman can cause us to be depressed and overwhelmed by the unconscious. And if our egos obsess over the outer appearance of beauty, our Beloved can compel us to sacrifice the true beauty of our souls. But as we accept our feminine sides and partner them with our masculine sides, their union can give birth to a Spirit Warrior of perfected selfhood and completed relationships.
What does your attitude toward the feminine archetypes say about your ego’s maturity? How are your relationships and service to our species evolving in ways that benefit all?