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Archetypes of Ecstasy From Witch to Muse: Transformational Figures of the Feminine in Myth

One of my favorite philosophers has a theory that feminine figures in myth are either an "elementary" mother figure that contains and supports or a character of transformation such as a witch or muse that has creates an inner alchemy.

The German psychologist and philosopher Erich Neumann believed the evolution of individual consciousness mirrored the same archetypal stages as collective consciousness through mythology. His mythological progression represents a movement from creation, to hero, to transformation myth—with each collective unfolding corresponding to a personal process called “centroversion,” related to Jung’s individuation. Drawing on myths from around the world, Neumann theorized that cultural archetypes evolved over time to reflect more and more individual self-awareness. In his book, The Great Mother, Neumann introduces the concepts of “Negative Transformation Characters” and “Positive Transformation Characters” as archetypal entry points into the projection of ecstasy and transformation in the psyche. While these character complexes may be revered or feared, their goal remains the same—initiators of change and individuation both collectively and personally.

I recently presented at the Fates and Graces Mythologium on "Archetypes of Ecstasy from Witches to the Muse: Negative and Positive Transformational Figures of the Feminine in Myth." Above is the video in honor of Venus retrograde ending soon and remembering how we are transformed by relating to others.


"..particularly ecstasy, which with its disintegration of consciousness leaves the way open for either a positive or negative development of psychic situation..."-Erich Neumann

" esctastic expression we recognize a long forgotten part of ourselves that makes us truly alive and connects us with every living thing."-Robert A. Johnson

What strikes me the most on this topic is thinking of ecstasy as a bridge point into transformation and the quality of something considered both positive and negative. Whether we realize it or not, we unconsciously seek transformation as an invisible evolutionary thread pulling us into our individuation.

And as Neumann reminds us, through myth, that we can see our own consciousness. In this way, the negative or positive transformational characters in stories become a recognition of our own reflection. We all have muses and witches and for many female-bodied people, we play these roles for others through projection--often as an anima figure.

Transformational figures such as the Muse or Witch do different things in mythology, they are different than what Neumann refers to as an "elementary character." Those figures contain or create safety, hence often a projection of the mother onto women.

This push pull between mother or lover, the paradox of women's roles to others imbued with so much complexity. And I've started to notice for myself how much I consciously and unconsciously have played those roles for others as well as them for me.

I'm not entirely sure how to end this post, other than my gratitude for the Fates and Graces and this magical process of relating.


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