Women in Mythology
In myths the classical hero is consistently male, but in underworld myths females tend to have a larger or primary role. Jung emphasized the importance of the women the hero encountered during his adventures: they represent the anima, or the female part of the male psyche. This figure is an opposite-sex archetype essential to the development of a complete and mature personality. Women in underworld myths are often portrayed as either “Mother Atonement”, a goddess or a temptress (189), although these are the main roles of women in underworld myths there are also women who portray a heroic role closer to that of a man.
The first myth is the story of Psyche; Psyche loses her husband Cupid and must perform a series of tasks to win him back. The role of Psyche is similar to that of a male role in a traditional heroic archetype because she must complete a series of tasks in order to test her, and show her worthiness to Cupid. It is different because this myth does not contain each part of separation and departure, trials and victories or return.
This story includes “the call to adventure”, which is when Psyche loses cupid, “the road of trials” where Psyche must complete her many tasks and “crossing the return threshold” where she wins Cupid’s love back. The role of the woman, Psyche, in this myth and in general is significant because she plays not as much of a hero role but has to endure the process that a hero would take, she also plays neither a seductress nor a Mother Atonement role in comparison to other mythological women such as the Lady of Tubber Tintye or the virgin goddess Diana.
The second myth is The Prince of the Lonesome Isle. All of the women, minus one, in this particular myth play the roles of temptresses. The first thirteen women the hero comes across are the most beautiful women he has ever laid eyes on, each more beautiful than the previous, each continuously tempting the prince to stay but he leaves them nonetheless. The last woman in the myth, the Lady of Tubber Tintye, plays the role of a creator goddess who nourishes and protects the world(189), he stays with her six days and six nights but still continues and completes his quest (Jeremiah Curtin 101-106).
The ways in which the roles of the women differ from the male roles in the traditional heroic archetype are that the women do not present a heroic archetype but rather that of a distraction from the princes original quest he wishes to complete. “In the morning they came to a house on the roadside; and going in, they saw a woman who had washed herself in a golden basin which stood before her. She was then wetting her head with the water in the basin, and combing her hair with a golden comb. She threw back her hair, and looking at the prince, said: ” You are welcome, sister’s son.
What is on you? Is it the misfortune of the world that has brought you here? ” “It is not; I am going to Tubber Tintye for three bottles of water. ” “That is what you’ll never do; no man can cross the fiery river or go through the enchantments around Tubber Tintye. Stay here with me, and I’ll give you all I have. ” “No, I cannot stay, I must go on. “” (Jeremiah Curtin) These women are significant to the actual story because they show how the prince resisted the calls of the seductresses, met and united with a goddess who helped him to fulfill his quest.
These women in the myth are significant to the portrayal of women in myths in general because they fit the stereotype of women in underworld myths being evil temptresses. But it also breaks the mold seeing as once the prince meets with the creator goddess, “queen goddess of the world”(189) she helps him to fulfill his quest rather than hindering his quest or inhibiting his ability, such as in the myth of Actaeon and the virgin goddess Diana. In the last myth, the myth of Actaeon and the virgin goddess Diana (Artemis), Actaeon stumbles across Diana while he is hunting and happens to see her while she is bathing in a stream.
Diana fears that he will brag about seeing her, and turns him into a stag, which then his own hunting dogs are set on him (189). Diana’s importance to the story shows the power that women have, they are not just pretty faces there is always something more to them. To the general portrayal of women in myths Diana unmasks the Greek male’s fear of women – female beauty is not just there for his enjoyment – it has a power to trap and then destroy (Andrew Wilson) Diana’s roll differs from the traditional male heroic archetype because she is an object of lust turned somewhat evil rather than brave or heroic.
She is similar to that of the heroic archetype of a male because she is a “vengeful destroyer” (Storybuilder User’s Manual) towards Actaeon. In conclusion, throughout underworld mythology the role of women can stray from the typical “temptress or goddess” and find their way to being a woman called to an adventure. They all have significance to be able to change mythology from a man only perspective, into one where a woman can also be the hero.
Although most of the women in these myths are have more differences from the male heroic archetype than similarities, they still have some form of the heroic archetype to them: Psyche’s love for Cupid is tested through tasks, and Diana uses her vengeful destroyer attitude. The women of underworld mythology show that women are not just their beauty or for looking at, they have an underlying root of skill that should allow them their own heroic archetype as well. Works Cited Campbell, John. “Hero with a Thousand Faces. ” Magical Earth Maiden Pattern. Princeton University Press, n. d. Web. 14 Feb. 013. . Curtin, Jeremiah. “The King of Erin and the Queen of the Lonesome Island. ” Myths and Folk-lore of Ireland. Little, Brown and Company, n. d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. . Storybuilders User Manual. “Archetypes, Myths, and Characters. ” Archetypes, Myths and Characters. Seven Valleys Software, Glen Rock, PA, 1996-1998. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. . Thury, Eva M. , and Margaret Klopfle Devinney. Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and World Myths. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print. pages 185-191 Wilson, Andrew. “Diana & Actaeon. ” The Classics Pages. N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. .