This is difficult for me. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. But, ever since I lost my brother-in-law in 1988, I’ve had spirit guides who have made it clear that my journey was not finished and I needed to stay here to finish whatever it was that I needed to do.
They always come to me in my dreams. And, not too long ago, I heard one of them say, just before I woke up, “You’re going to have to tell your story. All of it.” And I said, “I know.”
And I do know. I know exactly what they were referring to. A piece of my history that I have rarely told anyone.
I was nineteen years old. I was in college, a community college down the street. I was taking self-defense classes.
Now, I am a strong proponent of mandatory self-defense in public schools. As a matter of fact, I have a petition. Here. However, I am not naive enough to know that just one class will make girls and others who are vulnerable able to protect themselves. But, 12 or more years of self-defense and martial arts training, along with classes on bullying, will make for a whole group of young people who can not only defend themselves, but are willing to protect those who are the most vulnerable among them.
But I was barely through half a class, when I was raped by a classmate of the self-defense class (Oh, the irony). This was in September or maybe October of 1978.
By November, I was experiencing physical changes in my body. I was getting sleepy more, my mother commented (loudly, in a dressing room in a department store) how large my breasts were. Eventually, I went to Planned Parenthood and got tested to see if I was pregnant. For some reason, the test was never conclusive. But a few weeks later, I experienced terrible pain and had the worst period I’d ever had. I believe I was pregnant. I believe I lost the child.
The emotions I remember feeling from my mother, who knew all of this, was shame, guilt and fear.
Things have changed, I guess. Because when my unmarried niece became pregnant a couple of years ago while she was in school, my great-nephew was welcomed with pride and joy. No shame. No guilt. No fear.
Fast forward 25 years to 2003. I was reading Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s classic feminist book, Goddesses in Everywoman (a must read for everyone). Dr. Bolen realized that she could perceive the Greek goddess archetypes in her female patients. This allowed her to help them perceive their experiences as a hero’s journey; thereby giving them images of themselves as courageous and noble.
An archetype, in Jungian terms, is defined by Bolen as “…pre-existent, or latent, internally determined patterns of being and behaving, of perceiving and responding.These patterns are contained in a collective unconscious–that part of the unconscious that is not individual, but universal or shared.” (“Gods in Everyman,” p.6) “Archetypes are powerful predispositions; garbed in the image and mythology of Greek gods, as I have described them in this book, each has characteristic drives, emotions, and needs that shape personality. When you enact a role that is connected to an active archetype within you, energy is generated through the depth and meaning that the role has for you.” (Gods in Everyman,” p.5)
When one finally realizes what archetype and deity is most active in his/herself, one finds an inner peace.
According to Bolen, there are seven prominent archetypes represented by the Greek goddesses, divided into three separate categories:
The virgin goddesses, not necessarily physically, medically virgin, but women who are “untouched by her need for a man or need to be validated by him, that exists wholly separate from him, in her own right.” (“Goddesses in Everywoman,” p.35)
These are: Artemis, Goddess of the hunt and the moon, competitor and sister;
Athena, Goddess of wisdom and crafts, strategist and father’s daughter;
and Hestia, Goddess of the hearth and temple, wise woman and maiden aunt.
The vulnerable goddesses, whose existence center around a specific relationship, or type of relationship.
Hera, Goddess of marriage, commitment maker and wife;
Demeter, Goddess of grain, nurturer and mother;
and Persephone, the maiden and queen of the underworld, receptive woman and mother’s daughter.
The last goddess, in a category all by herself, is, of course Aphrodite, the alchemical goddess.
When an inherent archetype is denied, for whatever reason, there can be undesirable consequences. For instance, at nearly 60 years old and having various people in my life tell me, in many ways and forms, that I was, essentially, a Demeter archetype, I have finally come to grips that I am a mother. One of my mother’s friends even recognizes that and tells me, when she has the opportunity, Happy Mother’s Day. I have been told that I am a child magnet (True–Go out for a meal with me where there are children, and watch them refuse to sit forward in their high chair after they hear my voice because they want to play with me). I am also, I just recently realized, a baby whisperer. I can calm any baby down. Sometimes, when I’m on the bus or train, it’s all I can do when I hear a crying baby not to say, “Just give me the damn baby!” Restraint is all.
But for over half my life this was denied. For some reason, I did not get pregnant again and if I did, it did not come to term. This, I realize now, was the main cause of my depression.
According to Bolen, “When the Demeter archetype is a strong force and a woman cannot fulfill it, she may suffer from a characteristic ’empty nest and emptiness’ depression–Then, rather than rage or actively strike out at those she holds responsible (Hera’s way of reacting), the Demeter woman tends to sink in depression. She grieves, her life feels devoid and empty.” (“Goddesses in Everywoman,” p. 174-175)
So, acknowledging the grief I have been experiencing for the better part of half a century and acknowledging my true self is both freeing and painful. I still can’t watch adverts for pregnancy tests. When they come on, I turn them off.
In the Greek myth, when Demeter’s daughter was taken by Hades, her grief was such that eventually she refused to function as goddess of the grain and, as a result nothing grew or could be born. Only after Hermes went down to Hades and retrieved Persephone did Demeter return fertility and growth to the earth.
In recognizing and honoring myself as a Demeter, a whole world possibilities has opened up to me. I now understand why my dream of a creative learning center for children who have experienced trauma is so very important.
And I can move on, now.