My goal, over the next few weeks, is to introduce you to the Heroine archetype, the Heroine’s Journey and a selection of heroines the world over, from the most ancient to the most modern. As with a great many things, this is just one perspective. If you find it useful, that is awesome. I’ve done my job. If not, that’s alright as well. Everybody processes and interprets differently.
This post, and the next several, are taken from my class materials for The Mythic Feminine, a class I crafted, and until recently, taught. I hope to post a new segment every 2 to 5 days.
As long as humans have been around, we have had stories of heroines. These stories inspire us, teach us and serve to guide us. Some stories of heroines come from mythology, some from legend. Even today, we still craft stories of heroines and their exploits.
Of course, we can find heroines in all manner of situations. These stories inevitably follow a teaching pattern commonly called the ‘Heroine’s Journey’. The notion of a Heroine, itself, is an archetype. Carl Jung, the notable Swiss psychologist, developed a field that enjoys playing with archetypes and he catalogued numerous ones, just one of which is the Heroine. Archetypes, under Jungian psychology, are universal cultural patterns and symbols passed along through the collective unconscious, the same place that also stores and passes along mythic themes that tend to go hand in hand with archetypes when it comes to storytelling.
First, let’s clear up some definitions. A myth is generally defined as a story told by ancient peoples to explain certain things, such as why a culture has certain beliefs or practices. Myths were also used to explain natural phenomena and they generally involve the supernatural or preternatural. The tales of Rhiannon and Inanna are myths. Legends, on the other hand, are generally defined as stories of the past that are believed to be true, but cannot accurately be verified. They are historical, but unauthenticated. Legends tend not to involve the supernatural or preternatural. Hua Mulan is a legendary heroine.
***Next up: Of Archetypes and Journeys
*Cambell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1972
*Frankel, Valerie, From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend, 2010
*Murdock, Maureen, The Heroine’s Journey, 1990
*Schmidt, Victoria, Story Structure Architect, 2005
*Volger, Christopher, Writer’s Journey, 1992