Sunday, March 02, 2008

Godddesses for Our Times: Jean Shindo Bolen Tells Archetypal Stories to Inspire Aging Women

Bolen, Jean Shinoda. (2001). Goddesses in older women: archetypes in women over 50: becoming a juice crone. New York: HarperCollins.

Bolen casts a cross-cultural net to find goddess stories to inspire and provide templates for aging women in the United States and other Western cultures. She also provides a mature perspective on the stories of Greek goddesses covered in her earlier book, Goddesses in Every Woman.

The parts of the book are about goddesses or icons of wisdom; goddeses of anger, laughter and compassion; the update on familiar Greek goddesses Artemis, Athena, Hestia (who also appears in the wisdom section), Hera, Demeter, Persephone and Aphrodite; and a final section of forming circles of wisewomen. Bolen argues for a cultural renovations of the word crone. The word has long been associated with the Halloween witch with a wart on her nose, a pointed chin, and yellowed baggy skin, like the hags in Shakespeare’s MacBeth.

As a communication scholar, I do not see this term rising like Lazarus from the grave to connote juiciness. Combatting ageism in our youth-worshipping culture is a challenging enough without saddling these efforts with a timeworn word of such negative connotations.

Bolen is an effective story-teller who relates the stories of each archetype through the lens of psychology. She creates mental pictures into which each woman can project images of herself in the broadly-defined roles and qualities of each goddess icon. I found it especially interesting to read her interpretations of the biblical Sophia as a goddess of mystical and spiritual women; of Hindu Kali as a goddess of angry destruction and regeneration (the cycle of life and creation); Baudo as a goddess of bawdy mirth; and Chinese Kuan Yin and the Roman Catholic Virgin Mary as goddesses of compassion. Today’s aging woman needs stories about admirable women whose qualities offer templates for maturity that do not depend on cosmetic surgery and desperate efforts to avoid aging.

In conclusion, I recommend this book to any woman who is looking for models for aging with grace and maturity. These iconic stories tap into timeless energy patterns that Carl Jung called archetypes. Through these mysterious psychological resonances, we may discover blueprints for our future.

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