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Inventing a Goddess – Archetypes

There are several tangled backstories to this tale.  Many are threads that go back a score or more years (score sounds much more elegant than 20, which just makes me feel old!).  A few are knotted and loop  back around.  So I will begin at the title and work back from there: Inventing a Goddess.

Now that I had 6 forces, six colors, and three guides, I figured that aligning each force with an archetype or personification would help give each more of a personality and help me flesh them out a bit.  Three of the forces I identify with goddesses or divine guides from my journey work, so they already had a headstart on having a persona, name, look, and feel.  The other three would have to be built up from scratch, so I figured a concise title or role would be a solid place to start.

 Triple Goddess and Archetypes
The maiden, mother, crone associations are familiar to most witches. The trick was coming up with 3 more archetypes that were as well-rounded and powerful! I scoured every list of archetypes I could find: Jung, tarot, ancient pantheons, Carol Pearson, folk tales, and more. Just like with narrowing down the six forces, I tried to whittle the choices down by what archetypes were independent concepts and which were more like aspects of an umbrella one.  To keep myself on the right track, I also brainstormed themes and attested goddesses that fit the type.







the Crone the Witch the Priestess the Scholar the Huntress the Lady
wise woman destroyer healer teacher protector sovereign
sage whore weaver scribe explorer the Empress
grandmother trickster sister judge hunter the Lover
widow outlaw guide leader smith child
 the Hermit rebel oracle architect heroine consort
sorceress farmer
themes themes themes themes themes themes
limitlessness destruction moon wisdom passion Nature
 sorrow transformation magic the mind  art the body
 abyss independance intuition  logic creativity fertility
death lust  spirituality  fate action mistress of the animals
primordial creation the Tower  the soul Justice Strength love
underworld  the Devil compassion Wheel of Fortune Chariot  the World
goddesses goddesses goddesses goddesses goddesses goddesses
Hecate Kali Isis Athena Brigid Demeter
Nyx Eris Selene Fortuna Hestia Artemis
Persephone Circe Frigga Janus Neith Feronia
Nun Baba Yaga Freyja Ma’at  Sekmhet Hathor
Nephtys Morrigan Kwan Yin Thoth Durga Rhiannon
Hel  Morgan le Fay Nimue Merlin  Ishtar Green Tara
 Sedna Lilith the Madonna Sophia  Pele Eve

the Unknowable – the Crone

The jist that this list seemed to summarize was that the Unknowable was a force of wisdom, age, and a certain amount of isolation or mourning (Hermit, widow).   “Crone” invoked all those feeling so I kept it.  Although “crone” tends to invoke a aged woman, my desire is that the crone archetype is not specific to an age or some kind of post-menopausal, reproductive cycle milestone.  The crone is marginalized, even feared, because of her connection to the otherworld and her separateness from the mundane realm.  Otherness is unsettling, frightening, and even grotesque.  Lamentably, these qualities are often conferred on age or infirmity, but the Crone is a state of gnosis and liminal status, not a diagnosis of the body.

Chaos – the Witch

Chaos is a force of destruction like Kali and a trickster like Loki: a force of flux and upheaving the status quo.  Outlaw, rebel, whore, and stranger all describe a transgressive nature that is explicitly negative from the normative point of view.  I felt that “witch” best summarized this role with the twist that just as “witch” is pejorative to outsiders, it is not necessarily negative or destructive to those who claim the title.  Chaos can be a force of destruction, but also one of positive change.  The matter of perspective regarding whether change is good, bad, or merely uncomfortable is a key element to the force and the archetype of the witch.

I often summarize witchcraft as “the art of bending fate or wyrd to one’s Will.”  By analogy, the witch manipulates the strictures of fate just as Chaos challenges the conventions of the Ordered universe.

“Whore” was a close second choice.  The Babalonian current is one that is relevant to this archetype, not to mention I like the inversion of the “maiden” archetype which I’ll get to below.  In the end, I felt that “whore,” like rebel, destroyer, etc, just didn’t have the reclaimed dual meaning that “witch” does.  Here’s to hoping that one day it does!

Consciousness – the Priestess

I knew before I started that I wanted to drop the term “maiden.”  The politics of female virginity are just too loaded and problematic.  Even with the modern pagan spin  “maiden” meaning simply a  “free” or unmarried woman, the word is still tied to women’s sexual autonomy and participation in or abstinence from (symbolic or physical) male relationships.

The current of Consciousness is very lunar, intuitive, feminine, and spiritual.  Consciousness refers not only to personal consciousness or the soul, but the sentience of and connectedness to the consciousness that is the fabric or web of the cosmos.  The force of Consciousness is the conduit by which the individual recognizes her own divinity and subsequently the divinity in all things.  I was immediately drawn to the Tarot trump of the High Priestess to represent this idea.  The priestess is an intercessor or guide connecting the mysteries of the microcosm and macrocosm and presides over acts of devotion and illumination.

Order – the Teacher

As mentioned in other posts, I have had a hard time defining the white goddesses Consciousness and Order.  They just seem to overlap a lot in my mind.

I felt deeply that Consciousness was lunar with all the associations of intuition, feminine cycles, the subconsciousness, and tidal ebb and flow.  I also knew that Athena and Ma’at as strategists and arbiters of justice were Order-ly goddesses.  By leapfrogging across pantheons with these goddesses in mind, I pieced together a picture of a lunar, gentle, spiritually inspiring, feminine Consciousness. The other side of the coin, Order shaped up to be a scholarly, no-nonsense force of objectivity, words, learning, and truth.

The archetype of Order was strongly defined by the deities I associated with it, gods of wisdom.  Across mythologies, the domain of intelligence is paired with writing (Thoth), justice and truth (Ma’at), political strategy and infrastructure (Athena), and more.  I decided that “teacher” described not only the academic and intellectual side of Order, but also the role of a teacher as a mentor or leader and also as a judge, evaluating a student’s proficiency.

Energy – the Huntress

For Energy. I had a tough time choosing between the terms “warrior,” “smith,” and “huntress.”  Energy is all about action, movement, and passion.  “Warrior” invokes those aspects of strength, protection, and force.  However, the other side of passion is inspiration, creativity, and art.  The smith, a crafts-person, relates more directly to these concepts.   I came upon Huntress later as a riff on Warrior.  A bit more versatile, a huntress can provide for her tribe and act as the protectress of the wild like the traditional Mother, but can smite just as surely as a warrior. All three terms have a wealth of lore in other traditions, but for now I like injecting the gynocentric Maiden-Mother-Crone trinity with an unabashedly aggressive title.

Matter – the Lady

I strongly relate the force of Matter to the Empress tarot card.  The Empress is the terrestrial feminine archetype in contrast to the celestial, lunar Priestess.  The Empress is fertile in all the meanings of the word.  She revels in a bountiful harvest, she tends to tame and wild animals alike, she is a loving mother or caretaker of others.  She luxirates in her senses, relishing the physical world of taste, touch, sound, companionship, and intoxication.

This one was tough for me.  Unlike the use of “priestess” for Consciousness, the tarot card “empress” is more of a title than a role or archetype, even though the card is deeply evocative.

Matter is the creatrix and custodian of all life.  In that sense, “mother” describes not on the reproductive act of generation, but also the role of nurturer, biological or otherwise.   I aspire to assemble a cast of archetypes that are not too tied to a literal reproductive cycle, role, or age.  However, like virginity, motherhood is deeply tied to a lot of problematic gender issues in our culture.  Being a mother– especially a “good” one, however that is defined– is still inexorably tied to how womanly a woman is, how exemplary or despicable she is morally, and maps one’s entire landscape in terms of things in which a mother should or should not participate.  I find those connotations restrictive as an archetype, but at present I am still struggling to find a suitable alternative.  Some possibilities are:

  • Nature.  After all, Mother Nature is the most old school mama of them all.  However, nature is more of a force or “thing” unlike the other titles which are more conventional human jobs or roles.
  • The Lover.  It is suitably Tarot-derived and emphases not only maternal or nurturing love, but also that of the friend, companion, or paramour.  On the other hand, I always feel a little ridiculous using the term unless it is preceded by the word “chocolate” or “pizza”!
  • The Lady.  It has a pleasingly old fashioned, pagan elegance to it and invokes the beneficent ruler aspect of the Empress without being too specific to an liniaged royalty.  As a honorific, “lady” conjures up unabashedly girly-girl femininity and grace, but at the same time confers authority and rank.  The tarot’s Empress and Mother Nature both prefer to do their business using more honey than vinegar, but both can pack one hell of a wallop when they need to,  so the duality of ladylike charm and sovereign authority of “Lady” fits well.
  • The Sovereign.  The Queen.  The Dame.  Variations on Lady, these titles play on the roles of queenship, authority, and divine ownership of the land.  All effectively summarize the intended meaning, but I’m still looking for the one that has that “ring” to it.

further reading:
Grimoire of the Vokaor
Owlsiprit, Katara Zunmir’s site


related post:
Inventing a Goddess – Archetypes
Inventing a Goddess – How Many?
Inventing a Goddess – Combining Paradigms
Inventing a Goddess- Colors

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