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Wonder Woman: The Amazon Archetype

THE SYMBOLIC LIFE (Summer 2017)


Many of us are in shock after last Fall's elections and the way the year has gone so far in regard to the attacks of the current administration on such vital enterprises as health care, immigration (most ironic since we are a nation of immigrants), and the protections of our fragile environment to name a few. In myth this is the time of the rise of the hero, Moses for instance is called forth in the Hebrew Biblical tradition to lead his people against the tyranny of Pharaoh, Christ emerges at a time when the Roman Emperor has identified with being a deity, and centuries later Mohammed emerges as a key figure on the Arabian peninsula to similarly lead his people.

In our own time the need for such avatars is often expressed in the fantasy worlds of comic books and film. For instance, this quote comes from a 1920 film adaption from a Johnston McCulley novel. "Oppression-by its very nature-creates the power that crushed it. A champion arises-a champion of the oppressed-whether it be a Cromwell or someone unrecorded, he will be there. He is born." The champion in this case is Zorro, one featured in novels, film, and television throughout most decades of the 20th Century.

This summer season we are also reminded that the champion who is born may very well be a "she," in this case that she is Wonder Woman. (In last summer's newsletter I discussed another such "she," the character Rey in the new Star Wars trilogy.) Wonder Woman is a figure from the DC Comics (Extended Universe) world who has had a big impact on this summer's mythos, a pleasant surprise to many. I have wondered if part of the success of the film was the loss in last year's election of Hillary Clinton to a misogynist businessman, one who fed the darker fantasies and fears of people in regard to those like Clinton who sought to live beyond his shallow rhetoric. For those who haven't seen the movie, Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times offers a fine summary (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-wonder-woman-review-20170531-story.html).

Diana is an Amazon warrior, who lives in her own secluded world on the island Themyscira, and then is moved to come forth to help fight what is unjust in our world. The Amazons are training to defeat Ares the god of War who has defeated the others gods of the Greek Pantheon. In psychological terms and the metaphor of another modern myth, Diana seeks to bring balance to the world, because one aspect of it is very much out of control.

Directed by Patty Jenkins with an excellent cast led by Gal Gadot, the film has stirred deep emotions in many people, and many women in particular, especially at the moment Diana is moved to cross the no-man's land between the World War I battle lines so as to end the suffering of the people living nearby.

Diana represents an archetype, an energy pattern that each of us can be in contact with that fits our particular personality. One of Jung's most important collaborators, Toni Wolff, developed a model of four structural forms of the feminine psyche. They are the hetaira, the woman as a soul mate or lover, the maternal, woman as wife and mother, the amazon, the woman as self-directed and independent achiever, and the medial, the woman as prophetess and psychic seer. (See Nan Savage Healy's recently published book, Toni Wolf & C. G. Jung: A Collaboration, p. 88ff.) The amazon may be the most neglected of the four, and Wolf notes that woman as wife and mother or lover are the forms most prevalent in Western Culture.

Jungian Analyst Jean Shinoda Bolen has written two books exploring similar archetypal patterns found in women and men. Her books Goddesses in Every Woman and Gods in Every Man seek to explore the archetypal energy patterns depicted in various goddesses and gods from Greek myth and how they manifest in the human personality. Artemis is the Greek goddess most closely aligned with the spirit expressed by Diana. (The Roman version of Artemis was called Diana.)

When times in our lives personally and collectively become unsettling, then we turn to find the energy that will help, as represented by Diana/Wonder Woman. Such figures can help us find the life energy in ourselves to move forward. The challenge is to find the right one. Diana has to sort this out for herself. Her strongest characteristic is her undaunted heart, something not only her world needed, but ours as well.

Editor: Steve Galipeau

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