Women are inextricably linked to nature. Just as our earliest ancestors evolved in the primordial sea, we emerge from the watery world of our mothers’ wombs. The moon tugs on those wombs the way She pushes and pulls the ocean tides. We are the outcome of ancient supernovas, connected to both fish and the cosmos. We are nature and like nature, we follow a cyclical pattern of life-death-life, regeneration that depends on our very impermanence and the impermanence of all living things.
We can look to the cycles reflected in nature to better understand ourselves. From the shift of seasons, to the lunar calendar, the movement of the sun across the sky in a single day, the menstrual cycle, and even the phases of a woman’s life. These cyclical changes are also reflected in the four Divine Feminine archetypes. By acknowledging our fluidity and cyclical nature, recognizing the wisdom of our own cycles, and working with those cycles and the associated energies rather than against them, we can live a more inspired and magical life.
What is an archetype?
Carl Jung talked about archetypes in terms of the collective unconscious, the psychological substrate that is universal, and innate, belonging to all men and women worldwide. He believed that archetypes reside within this collective unconscious. The archetypes are combinations of qualities, attitudes, energies, and behaviors appearing repeatedly in myths and folklore representing universal themes and ideas. They are basically a set of traits creating a whole personality with both positive and negative attributes.
Some of these archetypes are masculine and some feminine. And since they reside in the collective unconscious, both exist in all of us. That said, feminine archetypes aren’t as a whole valued by the patriarchal society in which we find ourselves. Similarly, some female archetypes are more celebrated by our society than others. For instance, the Maiden archetype is a symbol of innocence, purity, and youth, all qualities that the patriarchy values and encourages in women. Mothers, while accepted, are not valued to the same extent lacking the youth and malleability of the Maiden archetype. And some archetypes are threatening to the patriarchy and shunned as a result, such as the Wild Woman and the Crone. Where the Maiden is innocuous, the Wild Woman is empowered and competent. Where the Maiden is innocent, Wild Woman owns her sexuality and desirability with no shame. Where the Maiden is commended for her “womanliness,” the Wild Woman is hunted down and relegated to the shadows and the rubble of the feminine unconscious for stepping into her power.
What are the 4 main feminine archetypes?
While there are many sacred feminine archetypes, we’re going to focus on the four main feminine archetypes that correspond with a woman’s menstrual cycle: the Maiden, Mother, Wild Woman, and Crone (sometimes referred to as Wise Woman). The four main female archetypes are associated with different phases in a woman’s life. However, we can embody the aspects of any one of them (or all four!) at any time and we may resonate with one more than another despite our current life phase. Some women cycle through all four archetypes in a day (each is actually associated with a specific time of day, too), and some women embody only one archetype for long stretches of time while neglecting the others.
Our society teaches us that some of these archetypes are undesirable so we deliberately push them away. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this can lead to a very imbalanced sense of self where frustration is common and the primary feelings are those of disconnect and deficiency. Our work is to reclaim all of the feminine archetypes (including those we are uncomfortable with or maybe even fear a little) and to cultivate the positive aspects, while still acknowledging the negative. By working with all of the feminine archetypes, as well as their positive and negative attributes, we learn to find beauty in the darkness and embrace all the pieces of ourselves, returning us to a state of wholeness and holiness. We can begin by tuning into our own sacred cycle to acquire a deeper understanding of the four female archetypes. Then we can work with them according to what we wish to cultivate in our lives in a given moment.
Playful, ecstatic, joyful, adventurous, open-minded, and curious, the Maiden has a zest for life and enthusiasm matched by none. The Maiden is valued by society for her youth, playfulness, innocence, and inherent lightness of being. But she is also prone to being too compliant, naive, self-centered, and lacking the drive to complete one of the many projects that she dreams up. Many myths portray the initiation and transformation of the Maiden from innocent to experienced. Of the archetypes, the Maiden and the Mother, are the two most accepted and celebrated by our society. Women are encouraged to “behave” and embody these archetypes for their entire lives, despite that resulting in a limited and incomplete sense of self.
Sabbat: Ostara, Beltane
Moon Phase: Waxing/New Moon
Time of Day: Dawn/Early Morning
Menstrual Cycle: Follicular phase
Goddess: Persephone, Ostara, Brighid
Tarot: High Priestess
Herbs: Stinging Nettles, Yerba Santa, Burdock, Oat Straw, Red Raspberry Leaf, Cleavers, Violet, Chickweed, Dandelion
How to work with Her: The enthusiasm and curiosity belonging to the Maiden archetype make it perfect for learning something new and following your bliss. Mother your inner child and let go of old wounds. Play, go on an adventure, give up tired habits, set new intentions, and vision board (the sky really is the limit!). Purification rituals, egg cleansing, and sipping warm lemon water or apple cider vinegar to flush toxins and awaken digestion both physically and energetically.
Expansive, transforming, selfless, devotional, encouraging, nurturing, protective, creative, and committed, the Mother is alchemical in nature, able to turn energy into focused action to bring ideas and projects to fruition. She is associated with the Summer where abundance and peak expression are prevalent. Still, her tendency towards selflessness makes her prone to burnout, and her devotion can just as easily turn to obsession, a tendency to be overbearing and manipulative. Literature portrays the two sides of the Mother archetype with the Fairy Godmother and the wicked Stepmother. While the Mother is associated with the rite of passage of marriage and birth, you need not be married or have children to embody this archetype. Any time we birth a project or idea into the world, we’re tapping into the Mother’s energy.
Sabbat: Litha (Summer Solstice), Lammas
Moon Phase: Full Moon
Time of Day: Midday
Menstrual Cycle: Ovulation
Goddess: Demeter, Gaia, Pachamama, Isis, Mother Mary, Hathor, Quan Yin, Amma, Rhea
Herbs: Cacao, Hibiscus, Calendula, Saint John’s Wort, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Cinnamon, Mint, Schisandra
How to work with Her: Practice self-care and mother the mother. Heal ancestral wounds and trauma. Practice full self-expression and create! Drink warming elixirs (cocao, turmeric, and ginger). Bathe under the full moon allowing the light to enter your spaces. Mark rites of passage with a sacred ceremony such as Blessing Ways.
The Wild Woman
Medicine woman, witch, shaman, sorceress, La Loba, whatever name she goes by, the Wild Woman is unapologetic standing fully in her power. She is discerning and introspective with a strong womb voice and at one with the life-death-life cycle. She is the female Soul. While the Maiden and Mother could both be characterized as an exhale, the Wild Woman is an inhale bringing retreat, rest, and release. There is a deep and powerful magic vibrating from this archetype. The shadow attributes are chaos, pain, darkness, denial, and destruction. As such She is associated with the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle. But Wild Woman and the emotions that this phase of a woman’s cycle elicit need not be feared, nor denied. There is a power in giving into and tending to ourselves wholly, finding the wisdom in our pain, and beginning the work of truly healing.
Sabbat: Mabon (Fall Equinox), Samhain (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, Day of the Dead
Moon Phase: Waning
Time of Day: Sunset
Menstrual Cycle: Premenstrual
Goddess: Artemis, Kali, Tara, Saraswati, Inanna, Lilith
Tarot: The Witch
Herbs: Consciousness shifting plants, Kava Kava, Willow, Elder, Passionflower, Linden Flower, Awshwagandha, Shatavari, Skullcap, Blue Vervain, Rose, Blue Lotus, Mugwort, Elderflower
How to work with Her: Shadow work, re-wilding, shamanic journeying, and dream magic. Creating a hygge environment that holds you. Cooking a nourishing meal. Sipping nervine tea and dreaming elixirs. Gratitude journaling. Saying no more often. Decluttering your life and protecting your boundaries. Rituals of release such as cord cutting. Creating powerful and authentic work.
The Crone/Wise Woman
The wisdom keeper and able to see with absolute clarity, the Crone is the woman that others come to for advice. She has traded youth and external beauty for experience and knowledge and is introspective, and almost other-worldly. She is fully awake, well acquainted with the life-death-life cycle, and lives closest to the Great Mystery. This archetype is associated with the void, consciousness, rest, and darkness where light is born. She is at risk of becoming a hermit and too disconnected from the world, as well as brutal, crazy, unforgiving, bitter, and self-pitying. While our patriarchal society condemns the Crone archetype, there is much wisdom to be found in working intimately with Her, in rest, retreat, and deep listening to our wombs.
Sabbat: Yule (Winter Solstice), Imbolc
Moon Phase: Dark/New Moon
Time of Day: Night
Menstrual Cycle: Menstruation/bleeding phase
Goddess: Baba Yaga, Morrigan, Cerridwen, Hecate
Tarot: The Hermit, Death, Strength
Herbs: Hops, Reishi, Mugwort, Comfrey, Kava Kava, Blue Vervain, Tulsi, Blue Lotus, Passion Vine, Lion’s Mane, Turkey tail, Ashwagandha
How to work with Her: Create moments of complete stillness to rest and practice tuning into your intuition and womb voice. Journal. Oracle/tarot card readings and other acts of divination. Strengthen your connection to the Divine. Drumming and shamanic journeying. Eat a nourishing meal by candlelight. Take a hot ritual bath. Sleep. This is a particularly good time to make a decision or get clarity on something, as well as set intentions for the coming moon cycle.
Questions to Consider/Journal Prompts…
Now that you’re acquainted with the four main divine female archetypes it’s worth asking yourself which one (or more) you resonate with the most. Are there any you may have been pushing away or denying and why? How can you embody and work with each of them? How can you better bring your own cycle into harmony with that of nature? How can you celebrate all of you?
And if you’re interested in the connection between the menstrual cycle and the moon phases, there’s a blog post on the horizon that will explore all of that and more. We’ll get into White Moon Cycles and Red Moon Cycles, as well as what they mean for your archetypal work, so stay tuned.