The Archetypal Female in Mythology and Religion: The Anima and the Mother


  • Joan Relke


Carl Jung observed that myths and religions across cultures contain common themes and entities: for example, images of the mother, father, wife, husband, lover, fool, devil, shadow, hero, saviour, and many others. The stories woven from these beings, as gods, goddesses, semi-mortals, heroes, and demons, constitute the myths and religious stories of humankind. Carl Jung postulated that these myths about such archetypal entities constitute the ‘dreams’ of cultures, and that the stories and archetypes originate in the dreams and fantasies of individuals.
This study explores, in two parts, two of these archetypal entities: the anima and the mother, and how they manifest as goddesses in the myths of various cultures and sometimes combine with each other. Part one describes the two archetypes, their characteristics and manifestations, and how they can be divided into three categories or realms: goddesses of the underworld, the earth, and the sky or celestial realm. It details the difference between the anima in male consciousness and the animus in female consciousness. Using a personal dream example and Jungian theory, it then demonstrates that the anima in dreams and mythology can be relevant to women as well as men. Focusing on the anima, it then explores the underworld – the myths and entities of this shadowy realm as an expression of the unconscious mind of the individual and whole cultures. Part two extends the exploration to the animas and mothers of the earth and sky, and how in these realms, the mother excels.
While this exploration focuses mainly on the primary sources from Jung, world mythology, and personal experiences and intuitions, it also draws on the work of post-Jungian thinkers such as James Hillman, Ginette Paris, Marion Woodman, and Michael Vannoy Adams.