Chapter 1: The Gods and Goddesses Are Alive Within You
Everything is full of Gods.
Three thousand years ago, my Greek ancestors tried to identify the forces playing themselves out in human nature and created the eight gods and seven goddesses of Olympus, giving each of them a name and a story. Each one exemplifies an authentic pattern of feminine or masculine human nature. These gods and goddesses have fascinated me since my early years. Fearless, magical, flawed yet awesome, they have been with me throughout my life's journey. They were with me when I first fell in love, as I discovered how to express my gifts and develop qualities I didn't know I had, as I learned to build boundaries and turn inward for my source of happiness, and as I moved into pivotal events that would shape my life today.
In writing my first book, Conversations with the Goddesses, I embraced the seven goddess archetypes and learned to bring them down off their pedestals into our everyday life. I used them to fulfill my passion, which has been to inspire women to become all that they can be and create their own lives. Yet as my work evolved, the gods kept nagging me; they wanted to be sure I didn't forget them. As I began to focus my attention on them, I saw how they play in the psyches of the men I know, and men in society and history. I saw how the goddesses and the gods go together. In their myths we see them drawn together into perfectly imperfect unions -- which is exactly how these relationships are designed to be. The myths show us our own relationships played out on the big screen of Olympus.
In ancient times, there were no therapists, no relationship workshops, no dating services, and no divorce lawyers. Instead there were the myths, the stories of these gods and goddesses. Many centuries later, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called these deities "archetypes," which means "ancient types" in Greek. He identified the gods and goddesses as part of the collective unconscious, and pointed out how they make up the software of our psyche. These archetypes live within each man and woman, and the stories of their relationships and notorious adventures on Mount Olympus, as well as here on earth, provide a basis for understanding human personalities and behavior.
In their stories, we recognize familiar scenarios. Zeus is unfaithful to Hera as he pursues liaisons with other goddesses and nymphs. She becomes angry and vengeful and ultimately leaves him to find herself. Aphrodite enters into an arranged marriage with Hephaestus and then, driven by eros, has an affair with his brother, Ares, as well as with other gods, demigods, and mortals. Athena remains a virgin and bonds with men as their protector, while Artemis has nothing to do with men and prefers the company of women. Apollo is constantly experiencing unrequited love. Persephone is raped and abducted by Hades, god of the underworld, and ends up marrying him. Demeter sleeps with Zeus, has one daughter, then moves on to become a devoted single mother. Unlike the fairy tales in which everyone ends up living happily ever after, the Greek myths teach us that, in reality, relationships bring friction.
Each of us is born with a predominant archetype that is our driving force and directs our actions and choices. Yet each of us also contains all of the archetypes, and at different times in our lives we may favor one over another. We have all the gods and goddesses in us, but in differing degrees of intensity -- some stronger, some weaker, some in the foreground, some in the background. A particular god dominates our lives at a particular stage only to retreat when we move on to a different stage. For example, a woman might have a strong desire to be married. That is her Hera speaking. When she feels the calling to have children, that is her Demeter tugging on her. And once her children are grown and independent, she may feel the urge to find meaningful work. This is her Athena stepping forward. She might suddenly awaken to her Aphrodite and want to have an affair or refuel her marriage with a new eros. Or she may feel a yearning to serve, to give back, to follow an inner path of spirit; that is the Hestia principle governing her.
The archetypes play themselves out through us. It is easy to get caught in those patterns. We find ourselves making certain choices without really knowing why. For instance, a Persephone woman may find herself getting involved in relationships that are destructive. Or an Athena woman may want a relationship, but feels too caught in the work ethic and is disconnected from her body to open up to love. Both of them are caught up in their myths.
Who is running the show?
As we become familiar with the archetypes, we begin to see the unconscious patterns that act themselves out in us. Then we can start to make wiser choices, based on what our real needs are. We gradually discover that the archetypes are here to serve us; that we can direct the archetypes and we can use them as needed. They become our tools in creating the life we want. To use my mother's favorite word, we become "autonomous," a word that comes from the Greek and means a "law unto one's self." In other words, we become an independent thinker.
To be in a healthy, heartfelt relationship requires a lot of attention, care, commitment, and hard work of the heart. Most of us have to unlearn a lot of our imbedded beliefs, and no one hands us a manual. However, the archetypes provide extraordinary clues. Why are some women more drawn to successful, powerful men, while others prefer the creative type? Why does one woman look for a compatible yet independent companion while another woman prefers a man who is dependent on her? Our dominant archetype shapes the choices we make about a partner. As you come to understand those archetypal patterns, you learn how they tend to operate in a relationship, and begin to consciously direct the way you interact.
You need not remain a prisoner of your archetype; you can always draw on your nondominant archetypes as allies. For example, if you are an Aphrodite quarreling with your Ares partner, there is no better ally than Athena's wisdom to help you find your way to a resolution, and Hestia's steady presence can guide you back to what really matters in your relationship. We never have to be victims wondering why we don't have enough love or the right kind of love in our lives. If you were to say to yourself: the personal relationship -- or lack of one -- I have right now is exactly what I want, it might reveal to you a powerful piece of your inner puzzle. When we truly believe that we deserve to be loved, cherished, and supported as who we really are, we can attract the person who can do that for us.
In the next chapter you will find two quizzes that will help you identify your dominant and secondary archetypes, as well as the primary and secondary archetypes of the man in your life -- or the man you might be looking for. The quizzes also provide an overview of all the feminine and masculine types.
In the remainder of this book you will find a description of each woman with her particular goddess archetype, showing how that goddess's personality and story influence the psyche of the woman, and highlighting her strengths and vulnerabilities. I then describe the woman's compatible male partner in terms of his god archetype and myth, followed by how these two archetypes play themselves out in relationship, the patterns that might surface, and suggestions as to how the couple can best work with these patterns. For each goddess, I also include a story of an actual modern couple that fits those archetypes. (The names and locations of the real people are changed to protect their privacy, except in the case of Gay and Katie Hendricks near the end of the book.)
I have paired each goddess with a god -- or in Aphrodite's case, with two gods! -- based on what their myths tell us. Such archetypal relationships have the quality of a template; they have been repeated and played out, with minor variations, throughout history in both fiction and life. In some cases, such as pairing Hestia with Hermes, I've based the match on relationships I have seen and on the qualities that each archetype can bring to the relationship. Of course other combinations are possible because we have other archetypes working in us. You might be an Artemis woman dating a Zeus man. You might discover, for instance, that you are actually drawn to his Apollo aspect, which is secondary, and you find his Zeus aspect overpowering, reminding you of your father. The more you understand all the archetypes, the better you can see how your relationship reflects them.
If there is one characteristic that defines all the gods, it is self-confidence. They acted boldly, courageously, fully embodying who they were, flaws and all. They were free of judgment and guilt about what they did. This is a great role model for us. They show us how to be generous with ourselves, act fearlessly, unleash our creativity, and claim who we are. Most of all, they show us how to be alive.
As Joseph Campbell said, "People say that what we're all seeking is a meaningful life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we are seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive." We are so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about. As he said, "Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive."
As you befriend the gods and goddesses, converse with them. Let them speak to you, let them bring you information about yourself and your relationships, and use them to create the life you want.
Copyright © 2004 by Agapi Stassinopoulos