Feminine Archetypes: How to Recognize and Embody Them
Feminine archetypes offer us beautiful, deep, and often startling insights into the psyche and heart of feminine embodiment. With that, we must remember that feminine energy lives and breathes in every one of us. Therefore these can be found in every person regardless of gender expression. From there we might also note that these feminine archetypes may be easier to recognize and distinguish in those who exist on the more feminine side of the gender spectrum, while the accompanying masculine archetypes may be easier to see in those who embody more of the masculine end of that spectrum. When we look closely though, we can all find aspects of both masculine and feminine archetypes, with both their light and shadow dimensions, in every one of us.
Masculine vs. Feminine Archetypes
One of the humorous yet truly relevant aspects of our exploration of the feminine archetypes arises in contrast to the masculine archetypes we recently wrote about. Staying true to the natural expression of masculine energy, we actually find a relatively small number of recognizable masculine archetypes. On the other hand, an exploration of feminine archetypes reveals well over 20 different descriptions. We might even say there are infinite ways to describe the feminine.
This undefinable aspect of the feminine creates a part of her magic and mystery. Yet it also explains why the feminine can feel so confusing in relationship. Explaining this further, part of the feminine’s power is her ability to shapeshift and express in many different forms and ways.The feminine does not want to be defined or limited in any way. In contrast, at the essence of the masculine is the capacity, and need, to define, distinguish, and understand everything. Masculine strength and power rests on its ability to separate things, categorize them, and on some level, keep them simple. Do you sense a bit of why masculine and feminine beings in relationships struggle?
Continuing with our contrasting awareness of feminine archetypes, the feminine’s expansiveness allows her to feel the nuances of everything. She’s sensitive to the smallest distinctions. She likes variety and, while she never wants to feel separate, she also values her uniqueness. The feminine exists as the mystery of life and by definition the mystery cannot be defined.
With that being said, we have chosen to organize the exploration of feminine archetypes into primary categories that embrace and describe the many nuances and varieties of the category, both from the light and shadow dimensions. While we obviously can’t make a direct comparison with the core masculine archetypes, we will contrast 4 of the primary 7 feminine archetypes with their masculine counterparts.
The Feminine Archetypes
As you explore these feminine or female archetypes, consider that all of these aspects of the feminine show up combined in a feminine being, or in the feminine expression of a masculine being. In other words, you are not trying to answer “Which feminine archetype am I?” You are likely all of these in various combinations.
Some aspects of these archetypes may be more developed than others within you. Some may even be overdeveloped at the expense of the others. That’s not good or bad. Yet coming into our wholeness as a human being and a divine being, truly calls for us to integrate all of these dimensions of the feminine. The true strength and power of each depends on their integration with the others.
If you have resistance to an archetype, this may indicate a part of yourself that needs attention and consideration, and maybe even acceptance.
1) The Queen (contrasts with the masculine King)
The queen holds a presence that combines regalness and leadership. Her leadership happens not through direction or directiveness (masculine) but through inspiration. She holds herself with honor in a way that invites honor for all. She stands for the highest good of all and she invites her community or realm to be in conscious relationship with each other.
Her regalness is a celebration of her highest self which in turn invites out the highest expression of others. In other words, she holds herself with highest regard because she has discovered her own innate value and, again, inspires others to do the same.
Variations of this feminine archetypal category could include the Empress, who also holds a very similar energy to the Queen. She could also be referred to as the “Lady” archetype which focuses more on the regalness and less on the leadership aspects. The Matriarch archetype focuses more on the leadership aspect over regalness.
The feminine shadow archetypes arise when natural feminine energy is unconsciously overamplified or underused in the primary archetype. In the case of the Queen archetype, when feminine energy is underused entitlement and manipulation will show up. In this case she focuses on highest good for herself and not for the whole, as the Queen does. In the modern age, she might be referred to as the B****. You could also think Cruella Deville here.
When the feminine energy is overinflated in the Queen archetype, she could be referred to as a Kept Woman. Submissive and victim energy would show up here. She would be more reclusive, isolated from, and invisible to those the Queen is meant to inspire.
2) The Sacred Wife
This is a lesser known feminine archetype that shows up in between the Queen and Mother archetypes. While the feminine does not need a masculine partner and does not need to be a wife, there is a natural expression of the feminine that becomes ‘the wind beneath my wings’ as Bette Milder says in her song.
Ancient history and life force energies show us that masculine and feminine energies must partner together for highest good. The feminine cannot embody its fullest expression without the contribution of the masculine. The masculine cannot stand as its greatest presence without the support of the feminine. The Sacred Wife archetype represents this partnering nature and the contribution the feminine makes to the masculine in whatever form that might appear.
The masculine holds deep reverence for the contributions of the Sacred Wife.
3) The Mother (contrasts with the masculine Warrior)
It may seem odd that the feminine Mother archetype pairs with the masculine warrior archetype, yet if we look at the idea of divine parents it becomes clearer. The masculine or father archetype will protect and defend the family or community, while the Mother archetype will nurture and care for the needs of the family or community.
As such, the Mother archetype as caregiver brings out qualities of nurturance and nourishment. She embraces, welcomes, and loves unconditionally. Think of the power of a mother’s love. Some refer to distinct archetypes of Nurturer or Caregiver yet we find that these both reflect the same essence as the Mother archetype.
On the shadow side of the Mother, when feminine energy is underused and her masculine energy is over relied on, the Mother will become controlling, quite self-centered, and even suffocating. This could also be referred to as the “helicopter mom” that never allows the child to discover themselves and their abilities.
With too much feminine energy in the Mother archetype, on the shadow side she will become possessive. While Mother holds the unity of the family or community, if she grasps too tightly for this union she becomes smothering and even devouring. Enmeshment happens. Additionally, while it is again natural for the Mother to self-sacrifice, if this is over done, the Mother turns into the Martyr archetype.
4) The Healer
The healer archetype doesn’t directly pair with a masculine or male archetype, yet on the feminine side, it lies between, and combines the energies of, the Mother and the Priestess archetypes. The Healer archetype is also often referred to as the Medicine Women, the Wise Woman, the Crone or the Midwife.
She begins to bridge the human and mystical or divine aspects of life. Her greatest healing powers and wisdom come not from her human intellect but from her ability to open to her intuition and the wisdom of the ancients. She combines this sacred “knowing” wisdom and intuitive inspiration with her ability as a caregiver and nurturer to bring about healing on all levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
5) The Priestess (contrasts with the masculine Magician)
The Priestess, truly a Divine Feminine archetype, embodies our direct connection to the sacred, divine, or sixth sense realms. The Priestess can feel far beyond herself. She, similar to the Queen but with more attention to and dependence on the spiritual realms, tends to the good of all. She wants the greatest fulfillment, love, and ecstasy for all beings. She brings the sacred into the mundane and depends on her psychic abilities that allow her to know what hasn’t been shown to her or proven. The Priestess also brings out the feminine’s alchemical nature that has the ability to not only see, but also integrate the vast interconnectedness of the Universe.
The Priestess feminine archetype relates closely to and represents similar energies to the feminine archetypes referred to as the Mystic, Goddess, Creatrix, Alchemist and Witch (as in the Good Witch of the South from the Wizard of Oz).
On the shadow side of the Priestess archetype, when feminine energy is over utilized this can turn into the Gypsy or Wanderer archetypes. When the priestess doesn’t have roots she may feel her connection to all but it can have an “Airhead” quality to it.
On the other hand, when the Priestess doesn’t fully embody her feminine energy and over relies on her masculine, she will again not care for the good of the whole, the good of humanity. She will turn her mystical and spiritual powers toward control for the sake of a few, over the wellbeing of all. These shadow aspects of the Priestess Feminine archetype would be known as the She-Devil, Sorceress, or Witch (like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz.)
6) The Wild Woman
The Wild Woman archetype again bridges the human and divine aspects of our existence. She has the connections to other realms of the Priestess and she has the compelling aspects of the Enchantress. She is liberated from all expectations and limitations. Yet her liberated or uncontrolled nature still holds in her heart the highest good for all. She is not out of control at the expense of others but for the good of others. In many ways, the Hindu Goddess Kali represents this Wild Woman expression. She does whatever it takes through creation and destruction to bring about good, Love, Truth.
7) The Enchantress (contrasts with the masculine Lover)
The feminine archetype of the Enchantress connects to the heart of love in the feminine. She is radiant, magnetic, and mesmerizing. Like moths to a flame she draws others to her. She, like the Priestess, knows her sensual nature. With this energy the feminine becomes “art” because her beauty cannot be mistaken. It stops us in our tracks.
The Enchantress also opens us to our sexual nature and she approaches it from her heart first. This explains why so many challenges and so much confusion arise in hetrosexual relationships when partners don’t understand the difference between making love and having sex. The Enchantress brings heart to physical intimacy, yet that does not mean the feminine doesn’t know raw passion. She finds this through integration with the Wild Woman. Together the two know the greatest of ecstasies, pleasures, and joys.
The Enchantress Archetype described here compares to other similar feminine archetypes like the Sensualist and the Muse. The Muse has a similar role in masculine and feminine energy dynamics, as the Sacred Wife.
From a shadow perspective, when masculine energy is relied on more than feminine energy, the Enchantress will become the Siren, Seductress, Temptress, or Vixen. Now, let’s be honest, many could argue that these are conscious or light feminine archetypes, and that could be accurate. It all depends on whether the movements and expressions of these archetypes arise from the desire for the highest good of all versus for individual gain or control of another.
If we seduce someone, in one sense that could be for highest good, or we may seduce them into our way of thinking because we want something we think we can’t have without them. Again, neither is right or wrong.eWe simply need to be aware of subtle and unconscious attempts to manipulate with feminine energy. As you consider your own feminine archetypal embodiment, simply get to know your motivations, and the Temptress may truly be the Enchantress.
On the other shadow side of the Enchantress, when she turns down or minimizes her feminine light, she moves toward the feminine archetypes of Librarian, Spinster, Father’s Daughter, Good Girl, Virgin, and Matron. In this case, the feminine being simply hasn’t yet realized her full potential and power. She may even fear her own greatness as Marianne Willamson speaks about in her poem.
Feminine archetypes that aren’t actually feminine
Finally, we simply can’t complete this exploration of the most common feminine archetypes without including those so frequently cheered and celebrated in the modern age – that of the Warrioress or Warrior Goddess and the Huntress. While these absolutely exist as archetypes of human embodiment, they are actually not feminine archetypes because their expression is actually dominated by masculine energy rather than feminine energy.
Again, this is not good or bad, it is simply a clear distinction from the other 7 feminine archetypes listed above whose expressions rely first on femininity and are then supported by masculinity. In the Warrioress and the Huntress archetypes, while often associated with the female end of the gender spectrum, these archetypes rely first on masculinity. If they are conscious in their expression, that masculinity will also be supported by femininity.
While these archetypes can feel powerful to women, they also have become the source of great pain for many genuinely feminine women. These archetypal expectations also lead to some of the reasons successful women fail at dating and relationships over and over again.
As you explore the feminine archetypes within yourself and in your relationships, for completeness, you’ll also benefit from exploring the masculine or male archetypes mentioned here in more detail. Then remember that you are not any one of these archetypes, but likely a combination of all of them.
Together the integration of all of the feminine archetypes will, if you are a predominantly feminine being, bring you into the greatest expression of yourself you could ever know. You will find your deepest power and the source of your greatest joys. You’ll ignite your greatest pleasures. And, if you’re willing, you’ll offer your greatest good and highest contribution to humanity – simply by being you, by enjoying being you.
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