The Well of Feminine Power


In European and Chinese thought, the feminine principle is associated with passivity and the masculine with action. In Hinduism, however, the feminine is associated with creativity and action, and the masculine with manifestation.

The primary image of the feminine principle in Hinduism is the goddess Durga. In a myth called the Devi Mahatmya, a buffalo-headed yogi has become a monster whom none of the gods can overthrow. So the gods stand in a circle, send their energies back to where they came from, and a great black cloud appears. Out of it comes Durga, the goddess with eighteen arms. In each hand is a symbol of one of the gods. With the combined power of these symbols, she alone is able to defeat the monster.

In this story, masculine power is a specific form of the life energy that is feminine. As Joseph Campbell says in Pathways to Bliss, the feminine is the source of the energy and the masculine is its specification in any particular direction. She is the energy out of which creation arises, he is every visible manifestation of that energy. She is the whole; he is each individual part. This intuition from many spiritual traditions is probably why the feminine has long been associated with the dark sea of the unconscious, and the masculine with the ego consciousness which emerges from this maternal matrix.

Although the masculine and feminine principles are metaphors for the basic energies of every psyche, most of us associate them with the genders. As a result, Campbell says it’s much easier for a woman to identify with masculinity than for a male who is committed to his particular form to identify with femininity. All she has to do is take on a specification of the power that is already hers, but he has to give up his ego identity and personal field of power which feels like disintegrating into a formless void. This, of course, is exactly what the Buddha did, and that, says Campbell, was a heroic act of the first order.

In a perfect world, both forms of energy would be valued equally and every child would be helped to discover and activate his or her own unique blend of interests, skills and powers without regard to gender. But most of us have not yet attained that heroic level of consciousness. An immature ego with limited consciousness equates power with physical prowess and power over others. Sensing the magnitude of feminine power and fearing anything more powerful than itself, it represses the feminine principle in the psyche; and if it identifies with maleness, it will also tend to dominate and exploit females.

A well is a symbol of the feminine principle, the womb of the Great Mother, the human psyche.  We all contain Durga’s power: the totality of human potential. Our ego is only one form of that potential. We can choose to identify only with the familiar and comfortable qualities that are sanctioned by our families; or, if we want to, we can choose to activate our fullest power by accepting everything about ourselves we associate with the feminine principle, including tender feelings, instincts, caring, nurturing, evil, suffering, the capacity for intimate relationships, an understanding heart, intuition, etc.

In empowering Durga we can attain our destiny. What monsters hold you back from attaining your destiny? What do you have to lose by enlisting Durga’s help to overcome them?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon, and at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 


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20 Responses

  1. dear and divine Jean Raffa ….. wisdom is a language of inner silence..
    and inner silence is the nature of feminine energy…. feminine energy is nature of God… like proton in the the center of atom with neutrons…
    electrons represent masculine energy….and all happens because of
    zero …the real nature of God…
    your posts are full of silence … of a enlightened soul… which you are..
    god bless you..

  2. Dear Ram,
    It is always a pleasure to read your wise words and receive your warm affirmations. You always make me think.
    It occurs to me that few things are as silent or deep as a well….and wells contain the water of life. One more playful assocation: wells are zero-shaped. Why are they not square or triangular or irregular? Because zero, the circle, is the most efficient, comprehensive, indeed “whole” shape of all: the shape of planets, of mandalas that symbolize the soul, of silence, of nothingness, of the Source.
    God bless you too,

  3. “What monster hold you back?”
    I am always amazed when I have thoughts in my head and then I read something like your text and I have feeling that you were there in my head.

    1. Thank you for the reblog. I hope your readers enjoy it. I got interested in Durga a while back after a dream in which I was riding a lion down a city street…stark naked! That one woke me up!

      1. Oh my, that is some dream, like the Strength tarot card. I always enjoy your writing and I was very happy to reblog this article. I have never been happy with assigning passivity to the feminine, either.

        1. The Western world has such dysfunctional ideas about power: if it’s not grossly obvious, in your face, physically superior and over the top, it must not be power!! Meanwhile, the subtle qualities of power, like perseverance, containment, patience, standing firm in our truths, self-sacrifice for the common good, inner-directedness, etc. are either seen as weak or not noticed at all!

  4. This is one of the best explanations of the masculine and feminine principles I have read in a long time – concise and easy to understand! Thank you so much! I am going to store this away to reread in the future : )

  5. Hi Jean,
    Recently I was considering purchasing Marion Woodman’s Sitting By The Well. I didn’t, yet, just reading the description shifted by relationship to the subtitle: language, metaphor and dreams … I love what you’ve written here … about the sacred balance … of what I call lifesource and lifeforce … I recently read that Jung believed it was creating a more conscious relationship between the collective unconscious and the individual is what creates wholeness … I was lucky enough to meet with Marion Woodman once at her office in Toronto many years ago, she gave me a gift of a copy of Perera’s Descent To The Goddess. That started me on a journey that all these years later I am only now consciously embodying … for which I am grateful.

    1. Heroicheart, I love your name. Synchronistically I’ve just finished writing a blog post that will come out tomorrow titled “The Heroic Making of a Soul.” Soul-making was I term I learned from Marion Woodman! I didn’t read Sitting By the Well, but it’s probably the only one of hers I haven’t!
      I love your terms “lifesource” and “lifeforce.” Perfect descriptions of what I’m writing about!!!
      And one more synchronicity, Pereira’s Descent to the Goddess was one of the earliest influences on my journey as well!
      Thanks for writing, and blessings on your journey!

      1. Wow, Jean, I love it!!! I forgot to sign my name … it’s Lee, fledgling woman writer (Sacred Marriage) … I wrote you for the first time several weeks ago. Can’t wait to see this article …

  6. I remember you, Lee. And I remember the synchronicity about your title being the working title for Healing the Sacred Divide! All these synchronicities tell me that we’re meant to be in contact! I wish you well with your book. Do let me know how it’s coming along and what you decide to do with it. Best, Jeanie

  7. I’ve always admired Durga and her many attributes. I love the simple explanation you give of this complex deity. Thanks for a great overview of this beautiful Goddess. Namaste 🙂

    1. And your mention of that post was the exact reminder I needed as I work on the first chapter of what may turn out to be my next book. Don’t you just love these synchronicities?

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