What is an archetype? The literal definition of archetype is “the original pattern or model from which all things of a similar kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; a prototype. Archetype also refers to an ideal example of a category, the quintessence of a class.”
In Jungian psychology, an archetype is an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience, which is present in the individual unconscious. An archetype is an image-idea, a stylized pattern that we carry within our psyche, a mythic model that guides our development and gives direction and meaning to our lives.
The Triple Goddess — The Maiden, the Mother and The Crone — offers women a role model for their developing youth, for their creative, nurturing years, and for their old age. But these archetypes don’t include me or other women in our middle years. They do not address our issues and needs. They do not even recognize our existence.
The old stereotypes simply do not apply to us. We haven’t been Maidens in decades, we are no longer Mother material, and we are definitely not old Crones. We women of a certain age who are excluded from the tripartite paradigm also need a model with which to identify.
We need a larger-than-life archetypal framework to help us to elevate our personal aging process to legendary proportions. A mythological mirror of our own midlife experience, so that when we look into its depths, we can see a clear reflection of our own potential.
When I could not find a role model within the Triple Goddess archetype to describe my life as a midlife woman, I created my own. Was this hubris? Who am I to conceive an archetype? Well, I am in fact, a proud member of the pioneering Sixties Generation, and consequently, I have a certain modest amount of experience in rebelling against the status quo of old systems and beliefs and striving to replace them with new, more inclusive and relevant ones.
Our generation has demonstrated time and again that it is possible to create our own characters, compose our own scripts, and author the sagas of our own lives. We are our own role models. Bereft of affirming depictions of our lives, today’s midlife women are more than ready, willing, and perfectly capable of creating our own.
Each one of us has a story, a myth, a legend to create — and to live. The shamanic assumption from which I operate is that every person has her own mission in this lifetime: her own path, her own dreams, her own symbols and sensibilities, her own visions and designs, her own way of learning, her own personalized hard-won lessons. That every one of us must figure out for ourselves the fullest, richest, most effective, ethical and satisfying way in which to do it; and moreover, that each and every one of us possesses the wisdom, the power and the response-ability to make it so.
In our search for new archetypes, we look to the past for grounding, look to the future for courage, look to each other for inspiration and support, and look to ourselves for the answers.
What is your vision of an ideal role model to guide you along the path of your life?
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.