The Heroine’s Journey is an archetypal pattern that plays out in many stories – think Cinderella, The Tale of Baba Yaga, The Handless Maiden – which can be a guide to a woman’s journey through the world. This Gallery presents some visual inspiration for embarking on this journey ourselves.
We’ll begin with an ancient image, possibly of Inanna, the Goddess of the Underworld. See how proudly she displays her nakedness, how fearless she has tamed the lions, how the birds that can see far into darkness surround her.
Queen of the Night
19th-18th century BCE
49.5 cm x 37 cm x 4.8cm
I share this next image because it is a fond theme in my life: The Frog Goddess. Frogs evolve from tadpoles to become creatures of both earth and water. They dig into the ground over winter, to be reborn in spring. They are cyclical like the moon, like women.
6th mill. BCE
Image by Marija Gambutas
Illustrations of Heroines: Yeh-hsien, described in Google as the Chinese Cinderella.
And of course the Cinderella we know and adore:
Moving on to contemporary images, this beautiful beaded sculpture shows the malleability a Heroine acquires when she allows herself to be embraced by her changing nature. A woman fluctuates like the moon, usually symbolised by the frog, but the chameleon works just as well.
This next mosaic refers to the dual nature of the Heroine (the face in the sculpture above also alludes to this). On the one side, the feminine is of the earth, deep dark below, underground, deeply rooted like a tree. On the other side, the feminine reflects light, the moon, graceful and curvy and beautiful. The Heroine spirals between these two sides, and each time she embarks on the journey she spirals deeper and deeper into her descent.
This next sculpture, Undine Rising from the Waters, depicts the chaotic primordial feminine Undine as she emerges from her watery home. Water is symbolic of the subconscious – we can never quite see below the surface – the descent into the underworld, and here our Heroine is emerging from that underground, underwater part of her journey.
Undine Rising from the Waters
Chauncey Bradley Ives
1,944 x 2,592
Yale University Art Gallery
And I would like to close off with a reminder that this journey is difficult, that although I might long to just descend and work on my spiritual life, there are chores to be done. Contrasting this image with the first proud Goddess presented in this gallery, although our domestic Goddess is also naked she is not as proud, rather hunched over her work. But there is a glimmer of her fierceness in her direct gaze, challenging us to find Ishtar in our everyday life.
Vintage Fabric Stitching