First of all, sorry for the new "capchas" in the comment section. They're annoying, but they've been cutting down on my spam quite a bit.
Now on to actual content: I've been reading the book Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen. It was written 25 years ago, making it as old as I am. While the title is overly New-Agey, the book itself doesn't really have that vibe. It's about using Jungian psychology in a more feminist way, and working out different archetypes of women based on the Greek goddesses. Apparently, you can have any number of these goddesses "in you" in different proportions. To completely buy what the book is saying, you'll have to agree with Jungian theories, and I'm not sure all of them make sense to me. For example, Bolen talks a little about the difference between masculine-seeming female archetypes (like Artemis and Athena) and the animus, which is a male part of a woman's "unconscious mind" that is sometimes activated, but doesn't seem like a natural part of you. To me, this idea sounds odd and unintuitive. But, even if you think Jung was full of crap, the book might still be interesting to you. While there's another book called Gods in Everyman, I think that men might stand to learn something from Everywoman, too.
One criticism: When my mom asked if White Buffalo Woman was included in the book, I realized that it was somewhat problematic to have the archetypes of all women be portrayed as, well, only Euoropean women. It's true that the Greek goddesses form a neat package, are all inter-related, and have complex back-stories, but I do find it odd that women of all cultures are supposed to be represented by only the goddesses from Greek culture. That said...
I thought two main things about this book were especially cool, and the first kind of relates to asexuality, or at least my own asexual experience. Out of the seven goddesses, three of them-- Artemis, Athena, and Hestia, are "virgin goddesses". The goddesses were literally virgins-- none of them ever had sex. However, Bolen expands this concept into the metaphorical realm. She describes these goddesses as women who were not defined by their husbands, lovers, or children. Unlike the other goddesses, they weren't abused or taken advantage of by the male gods. They're independent and focused on their own goals. That these goddesses were "virgin" didn't make them less feminine or less mature. While each goddess, apparently, can cause problems if she manifests too strongly in certain areas of your life, no goddess is portrayed as being inferior to any other.
It sort of reminded me of the positive portrayal Joan of Arc (and her virginity) got in Intercourse. However, even if you're literally a virgin, that doesn't mean one of the virgin goddesses is necessarily "your" archetype. It's worth noting that every goddess has a short section about the way their archetype views sexuality, and none of them besides Aphrodite is said to be especially interested in sex just because they like sex. For example, Demeter is only interested in sex in the context of having children, and Hera may only be interested in it as part of a marriage.
All that said, I didn't necessarily find it easy to relate to the goddesses, who tend to be either vengeful and extreme or completely passive. When I read Greek myths, I'm often struck by the fact that the gods and goddesses seem more flighty than the mortals, getting enraged about things that a person might be able to brush off. They're not exactly good role models. The goddess who seemed most in sync with my own personality, Artemis, had many parts of her archetype that didn't relate to me at all. I could relate to every other goddess a little, except for Athena and Hera, who seemed totally foreign to me. Aphrodite is described not just as a goddess of eroticism, but of creative energy-- a quality many asexuals might be able to see in themselves.
Now, on to the other cool thing. While the intent of Goddesses in Everywoman is to help me better understand myself, I don't think it really did that. However, I do think it helped me understand other women better. I've always had a hard time understanding women who were obsessed with marriage (Hera), fixated on motherhood (Demeter), or who sided with patriarchal institutions (Athena). Reading about where these women are coming from, even if they're just archetypes, has been enlightening. Men might be interested in that aspect, too. The book will definitely make you think about what goddesses are lurking within the women that you know. Has anyone else out there read it? I'd be really interested to hear some other thoughts...