Godesses in Everywoman

Jean Shinoda Bolen

Publisher

Harpercollins

ISBN

978-0062500823

Reviewer

Gill Fitzpatrick

I guess you could say that this is the book that catalysed my personal journey. I’d hit mid 40’s and was feeling very unfulfilled and restless but didn’t know why.  Everything in my life seemed OK but my health was poor and I was quite low. I was working as IT Tutor at Derby Womens Centre and one day in my lunch break I wandered into their library. I cannot, for the life of me, remember any of the other books in there with the exception of one recommending the use of ionisers, which also has proved to be invaluable.

So what drew me to this book? Well, it was three factors; one the word psychology, two the reference to women, and three the lovely picture of Prosperpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti on the front cover (I’ve always loved mythology). Prosperpine is the Roman equivalent of the Greek Persephone, and ironically she is the goddess that I most identify with although it took me more than just reading this book to assimilate and admit to this.

The ancient Greeks were amazing; they had human nature totally sussed. What a load of back biting, interfering, vengeful so and so’s their pantheon really is and oh so very human (they do have the odd good point too). Nothing has changed, technology may have moved on but mythology is still as alive and kicking as it was back then and from personal experience I can confirm that we all have our own specific mythic themes. These may change with different phases of our lives but when you know what to look for they are so apparent.

It is quite difficult for me to recollect the exact process that the book took me through as it is a while since I first read it so the initial impact of the experience has faded into the distance - a bit like yesterday’s chocolate bar. What I do remember is quite alot of ‘aha’ and ‘not so aha’ moments as I identified (or not) with the descriptions, exploits, strengths and weaknesses of the goddesses. It made me feel ‘normal’ to realise that some women are like this and others are like that and that both this and that are OK just different. I know I was looking for a sense of identity at the time and definitely helped.  I bought a copy for my friend and she told me that it had given her greater insight into her mother with whom she had always struggled. It gave her a deeper understanding of the woman who had been a wife before she was a mother. It then enabled her to forgive her mother because in recognising herself as a Demeter/Hestia mix she realised that archetypal energy is so very powerful and that her mum just couldn’t be any other than her Hera energy.

If you are intrigued by which goddess influences your life the most then read on. The author references seven goddesses, the six original female Olympians plus Persephone. She then groups three of them into virgin goddesses (those with no husband or children), another three into vulnerable goddesses (those with either a husband or children or both) and Aphrodite who is one on her own and given the function of alchemical goddess.

The Virgin Goddesses are:

Artemis – goddess of the hunt and moon who personifies the independent, achievement-oriented feminine spirit.
Athena – goddess of wisdom and craft who represents the logical, self-assured woman who is ruled by her head rather than her heart.
Hestia – goddess of the hearth who embodies the patient and steady woman who finds comfort in solitude and who exudes a sense of intactness and wholeness.

The Vulnerable Goddesses are:

Hera – goddess of marriage who personifies the woman who puts being married before any other role.
Demeter – goddess of the grain, the Archetypal Mother, who puts being a mother before any other role.
Persephone – maiden and eventual queen of the underworld who expresses a woman’s tendency towards compliancy, passivity and a need to please and be wanted by others.

The Alchemical Goddess as previously mentioned is Aphrodite – goddess of love and beauty, governing a woman‘s enjoyment of love, beauty, sexuality and sensuality. She impels a woman to fulfil both her creative and procreative functions.

So which goddess appeals to you? Which repels? This is a fascinating study, a truly accessible method of finding out more about yourself and others. The book is very well researched and prompted so much positive feedback for the author that she went on to write Gods in Everyman (a new psychology of men’s lives and loves) and Goddesses in Older Women (archetypes in women over fifty – becoming a juicy crone). In the latter she borrows a few goddesses from other pantheons, maybe the Greeks, like us, didn’t celebrate old age in women, I might just need to address that!

Gill x

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