The most archaic
representations of women are those of the Great Goddess, dating back to
prehistoric times as the source of all life. Over time, the functions of
this unique Goddess have diversified and she has taken on many faces,
venerated to varying degrees in the different civilizations of the
The Egyptians portrayed her different facets as features of the
primordial goddess Hathor, with her four faces associated with the four
points of the compass and the four elements, as well as the four faces
of the moon, the heavenly body dedicated to the great goddess. Her four
faces are symbolized through Isis, wife and lover of Osiris; Sekhmet,
the ferocious lioness that simultaneously kills and heals; Bastet, the
gentle cat, seductress and tender mother; and Nuth, Lady of the Sky, who
ensures the rebirth of the Sun and the soul in the celestial world.
In Greek and Roman antiquity, the feminine is also represented with four
faces, which reappear in the 20th century as the four levels of the
anima (1) described by Carl Jung.
These four aspects are illustrated through the four best known
Greco-Roman goddesses: Aphrodite – Venus, Athena –Minerva, Demeter –
Cybele and Hera – Juno. But we also recognize them in the archetypes of
all civilizations, in the heroines of literature and in the exceptional
women found everywhere throughout history, as well as in our own
personal history and the histories of those we love and cherish.
Aphrodite, queen of beauty
When the body of a woman, in the splendor of youth, is inhabited by the
archetype of Aphrodite, it incarnates beauty in perfect form, an
expression of the harmony of nature. Beauty attracts, seduces and
expresses the strength of Venus, the mystery of love that also
flourishes through art. Goddess of procreation and fecundity, Venus has
two sides: one of spiritual or celestial love, seen through Venus
Urania, and one limited to carnal love and sensuality, Venus Pandemos.
Venus is also reflected in the image of Beatrice, Dante’s inspiration,
and the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work, as well as in Mumtaz
Mahal, for whom the Taj Mahal was built in India. She is also embodied
in artists and exceptionally beautiful women such as Clara Schumann,
Isadora Duncan, Maria Callas and Marilyn Monroe.
The courageous Athena
The feminine is also the energy and courage that accompany and inspire
knights in their battles, and is an intelligent force that defends life
and the values of peace and civilization. This image, with a look of
almost severe concentration, is that of Athena, the civilizing warrior,
the great virgin who gives to man the olive branch that nourishes and
sheds light. She has worn the features of Joan of Arc and Marianne, and
of women concerned about the society of their times, such as the
revolutionary Olympe de Gouges and the militant Flora Tristan.
Demeter, the generous
When a woman becomes a mother, she gives birth, nourishes, raises and
educates. In Egypt she was portrayed as Isis with child, as Demeter she
offered the Greeks the riches of the natural world in full bloom and as the
Virgin Mary, her son incarnated all of Humanity. She is mater, mother, the
substance that carries within it the miracle of new life. She is life,
tenderness, softness, but also firmness and strictness. Through her,
creation is fulfilled and the mystery of immortality is experienced through
this flesh that perpetuates the presence of the light of the spirit in
matter. She is recognized in all mothers and also in the saints and nuns who
offer their kindness in service to those suffering in the world, such as
Mother Teresa and Sister Emmanuelle, among many others.
Hera, power and magic
She can also be a woman of power, when knowledge is turned into action and
she is able to free the power of wisdom to heal bodies and souls. She is the
sorceress or magician, such as Morgan in the legend of King Arthur or the
Egyptian lioness goddess Sekhmet, the dangerous power that injures and heals
at the same time. She can espouse mystery and live this experience as a
mystical marriage. She then becomes a priestess with oracular powers, a
sibyl or visionary. Her power can also be expressed through sovereignty,
gained through a profound mastery of self and service to a collective ideal.
In her wake, we can find a number of great sovereigns or women of state,
such as Hatshepsut, the Queen of Saba, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, the Great
Catherine of Russia and Queen Victoria.
Hera is also the initiator, she who puts people to task to liberate power.
She espouses strength, as Hera, wife of Zeus, whose design is to direct man
to the summit of his own power. She teaches him to gain victory over his
fears and doubts, as she does with Heracles, who becomes an immortal hero.
Hera tests individuals to awaken them to the invisible. The names of those
women who awaken others to their potential are generally not known to us,
but their supreme form is portrayed as Sophia, or Wisdom, which symbolizes
the sublime union in which the masculine and feminine are again united as
(1) anima: the feminine archetype residing in the masculine unconscious,
according to Carl Jung
The History of Women Philosophers, Gilles MÉNAGE, English version published
by University Press of America, 132 pages
There have been women philosophers as far back as Greek and Roman antiquity,
as demonstrated in this English translation of a work written in Latin by
grammarian and man of letters Gilles Ménage in the 17th century. Aspasia,
Diotimea and Hypatia are only the best known among the few dozen women he
Femme, fille de déesses, Laura Winckler, Ed. Nouvel Angle, 2005