(Athena painting by Susan Seddon-Boulet)
Goddess of Wisdom and Crafts, Strategist and Father’s Daughter
Also known as Pallas Athena and as Minerva in Roman mythology.
Athena rules everything to do with civilization, all aspects of cities, urban life and the civilized life.She rules technology and science and all practical crafts, literary arts, education and intellectual life. She guides a woman’s career, her profession, how she relates to her father and the patriarchal archetype and the accepted norms of society.
A Virgin Goddess.
Intellect, Courage, Goal-orientated
Warrior, Intellectual, Accomplished
Spear, intertwined snakes, olive tree and owl
Modern Archetype :
A woman in a man’s world
Father : Zeus
Mother : Metis
Wound : Athena’s armour hides her need to be accepted – especially by her ‘father’. ‘Father’ represents the patriarchal society, the culture, her physical father, academia, fashion, body image, status consciousness, etc. In her mental focus she denies the needs of the physical body.
Lesson : Athena’s dilemma is civilization is repression. She wants to belong to society and the patriarchal society, but these do not allow her to develop or to be her free self. She needs to overcome her need to be accepted to find her true self. She needs to acknowledge her body as an aspect of the goddess.
Archetype : Athena expresses the negative mother archetype; the stepmother. Demeter is her split off positive mother archetype.
Zeus tricked the pregnant Metis (Demeter) into becoming small enough for him to swallow her.When it was time for Athena to be born, Zeus’ head was cracked open with an axe and she jumped out, a full grown mature woman dressed in golden armour.
Athena regards herself as only having one parent, her father Zeus. She does not acknowledge having a mother and she believes that one does not need a mother. She is only her father’s daughter. The absent Metis/Demeter psychologically represents mother function in Athena that has been split off.The missing mothering function is replaced by spiritual nurturing from the father figure, but this father is really at war with the mother principle (he deceived and swallowed the mother). The more Athena identifies with the masculine principle in establishing her sense of self in the world, the more she alienates herself from her mother within and her nurturing. The positive spiritual father principle strives for perfection and this quest Athena takes up – often leading to diseases such as anorexia nervosa.
Athena yearns for unconditional love and warm, physical mothering, but as long as she denies this aspect of herself, she is will stay a victim of her own making.
Athena sprang from her father’s head full-grown. This depicts her emotional maturity and logical thinking abilities. It also, however, shows that she never had a childhood – that she missed out on being irresponsible and playful. It indicates a person who, from a young age, felt the need to act responsibly and to take control. It is quite safe to say that as a prerequisite for the birth of the Athena archetype in one’s psyche, the tendency to control had to exist. Born from the perception that the world and other people are not to be trusted, a deep need to control one’s environment and experiences, and therefore other people, arises. The perception and expectation that others are not to be trusted will attract and give life to life-threatening experiences, such as betrayal, rejection and humiliation.
Athena is known for her wisdom, logical and rational thinking, being interested in worldly affairs and being a strategist. She is also a craftswoman and has skills as a weaver. She likes a sense of balance and she keeps everything in moderation. You will not find any excesses or passions in an Athena. Clearly, this is another mechanism of control. As long as the passions are held on a tight leash, then the possibility of unpleasant surprises are limited. Athena also avoids those who are emotionally explosive as they bring the danger of emotional upheaval. She cannot allow herself to relax and surrender to the chaos of living. As new life grows from chaos, Athena tends to stagnate and suffocate the growth of the self.
Athena wears a golden suit of armour : intellectual defenses keep her safe. From birth she used her head to control herself and those around her in order to prevent herself from experiencing any pain.She does not allow herself to get involved in the pain of others – she uses her intellect to analyze, label and categorize experiences and feelings.
Athena stays cool at all times and does not take anything personal. (Artemis, in comparison, wore a short tunic which made her much more vulnerable than the armored Athena.) Athena avoids confusion at all costs. One a problem is noticed, she uses her mind to effect damage control. Thus she keeps the self from ever attaining real wisdom. Wisdom cannot be obtained through the mind. It needs the physical experience of the heart, the body and the mind. By allowing herself to sit with the confusion and the questions, she will attract the wisdom from her deepest self, beyond the defense barrier of the mind.
Practical, uncomplicated, confident, someone who gets things done without a fuss. She is in good health, has no mental conflicts, and is physically active. Athena women tend cultivate an ageless asexuality. This is also a method of staying safe. Sexuality implies vulnerability; it also implies the need of love and being loved; it implies the need of other people. All of these are powerful allies in the opening of the heart and becoming a heart-centered person. But the journey to the opening of the heart, through the intrinsic nature of its goal, brings deep felt pain and confusion.
They usually lack close women friends. Her lack of empathy, as well as her need to win does not cultivate friendships with other women. They do not feel any closeness with traditional women, nor with feminists.
Athena is not tolerant of the emotional, vulnerable world of traditional women. She is also not tolerant of feminists who give it enough power in order to oppose it. In her view, only the patriarchal world of the mind exists.
Athena women are attracted to successful men. They are impatient with dreamers. This, once again, illustrates the extent to which Athena will go to extinguish any reality beyond the lower mind.
She lives in her mind and is often out of touch with her sexuality. Typically, she is not a sensual or sexy woman, nor is she flirtatious or romantic.
Athena does not communicate her feelings well, if at all. Athena has been suppressing her feelings for so long, that she is unaware that they exist. It is therefore not surprising that she does not communicate her feelings well. Athena will prevent the self from acquiring any compassion as she does not acknowledge, nor tolerate suffering. If Athena is successful in denying the emotions and feelings, and therefore, the suffering for long enough, the self will attract physical imbalance in order to try and re-establish the balance. Typically, depression, auto-immune diseases and dis-ease of the heart and kidneys.
THROUGH THE STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
Has a capacity for concentration with an intellectual focus
She will love reading
When not reading, she will be following her father around with a million questions
Curious, seeks information and wants to know how things work
Athena girls learn how to fix things
She might be more interested in traditional boy things, such as fixing cars or classifying bugs
May excel at sewing or other crafts
Screaming or tearful scenes are absent
Hormonal changes hardly seem to affect them
Extraverted by nature
They plan ahead
She will not form close bonds with other girls, but rather be friends with boys as equals
Athena lives in her head and she leads a one-sided existence. She lacks emotional intensity, erotic attraction, intimacy, passion or ecstasy. She never experiences the deep despair and suffering that may follow bonding with others or needing them. Rational Athena cuts a woman off from the full range and intensity of human emotion. She cuts herself off from empathizing with anyone else’s deep feelings, from being affected by art or music and from being moved by mystical experience. Living in her head prevents her from living in her heart and this is exactly where her wound lies. She is an extremely vulnerable and sensitive being behind the armour. She uses the intellectualism to protect her, but it prevents her from opening the heart as this is far too an intense journey of ups and downs.
Living in her head, also prevents her from living in her body. This can lead to a lack of vitality and vibrancy. A woman/man ruled by Athena can experience a dullness to their existence; a lack of intensity and passion. One the one hand this will keep you in control and safe, but on the other hand, it will prevent you from seeing life in its full brilliance.
When one of her priestesses (Medusa) was raped, Athena cursed her by turning her hair into a writhing mass of snakes which instantly turned any man viewing her to stone. When her priestess was killed, Athena was remorseful and made restitution by integrating Medusa into herself as her destroyer aspect.
Athena is known for the Medusa effect. She has an ability to intimidate others and to take away the spontaneity, vitality and creativity of people who are not like her. She is very critical of any weakness.
She is intolerant of traditionally feminine vulnerability and emotions. She punished both Medusa and dominating men by cursing Medusa. This shows Athena’s depth of understanding of the paradoxical nature of the Universe and our experience in it : you cannot enjoy the full beauty and splendour without the pain and suffering. In our archetypal consciousness and understanding we know that it is through suffering that the bleeding heart turns into the rose (the symbol of unconditional love). This is indeed our raison d’etre; our reason for being born into the physical life. Athena will block the artist and the sensitive creative in the human psyche.
Athena might have been developed in childhood where a girl grew up in an abusive household. In order to keep herself safe she learnt to suppress her feelings. She had to put on an armour and as a survival mechanism she became numb and out of touch with her feelings. She may have had to learn to plan and strategize in order to survive. Athena becomes activated when a victimized woman starts to plan to set herself free.
When a woman is trapped in an experience of disempowerment and of having no control over her emotions and her circumstances, she can cultivate Athena. The courage and warrior in Athena will lead her to freedom.
Women who feel that they need some of Athena in their experience, can cultivate her by educating herself. She can develop disciplined study habits. At work she can behave professionally, which will imply objective, impersonal and skillful. She may need to acquire dispassionate observation, logical thinking and skills (because of her professional work). One of Athena’s strengths is self-discipline.The following of a spiritual path based in self-discipline will also assist in awakening Athena.
AFFIRMATIONS FOR CULTIVATING ATHENA
I am strong
My mind is sharp and decisive
I am a woman (or man) of the world
The goddess Athena was never a child – she was born as an adult. The first step to healing will be to recover the child within. As a rational little girl she would have missed out on the subjective experience. An Athena woman must learn to listen and to imagine as best as she can both the scene and the feelings being described. When she is going through emotional pain, she has to allow others to comfort her. She needs to learn to play and to laugh, to cry and be hugged. Discovering her own vulnerability and mortality will bring healing to a controlling Athena. Becoming aware of her own feelings and capacity for suffering, will lead her to discover her potential for love. If a woman does not heal her Athena out of her own accord, she will attract painful events into her life to assist her with this healing process.
Athena needs to discover the mother within and to allow others to mother her. She depreciated her own mother and she therefore needs to discover her mother’s strengths in order for her to value any similarities between them. She needs to connect to her mother within in order to heal.
Because Athena is such an intellectual person it is very important for her to change her habitual thought patterns and thus her perception and view of the world. She needs to cultivate her trust and faith in the universe and more importantly, in other people. Only when Athena can trust herself can she trust others and vice versa.
Athena forms a contrasting opposite (a pair) with Artemis. Artemis is the goddess of the wild as opposed to Athena’s civilization – they share masculine qualities, though. These two form a working relationship of independence.
Extracted from Dr Jean Shinoda Bolen's work