Learn all about the wise woman archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Sage archetype.
What is the Wise Woman Archetype?
For psychoanalyst Dr Carl Jung the Wise Woman archetype represents what he referred to as an individual’s ‘mana’ personality.
The ‘mana’ represents a primordial energy that, if properly embraced, can assist the individual to grow and/or transform. If not properly embraced, however, it can cause the individual into disintegration and destruction. Jung believed that,
Although the mana personality represents fundamental male or female power, it is vital that the individual does not identify their own personality with this archetype. Doing so can cause megalomania or even the development of a guru complex.
Jung emphasized that instead the individual should acknowledge and accept the mana personality, seeking to coordinate and integrate its energies with those of the other developmental archetypes.
Wise Woman Archetype in Greek Mythology
The first documented Wise Woman archetype comes from Greek mythology in the form of the Goddess Hecate. Usually depicted as a woman with three faces, Hecate had the ability to see into the past, present and future.
This led to her being called the Guardian of the Crossroads. Hecate was often called upon for protection. She used her powers of vision, both physical and her ability to see into the past and future, to help others make difficult choices and decisions when they were faced with a crossroads in their lives.
Hecate was associated with a number of other aspects, including the underworld, death, dreams, creatures of the night, darkness, the moon, moonlight and magic.
These are aspects that in fact are frightening for many people, leading some to demonize Hecate as a witch – a confusion which has also occurred with the archetypal wise woman in society over the centuries. However, Hecate has largely been viewed as conduit between this world and the next. She is seen as a wise woman with the gift of insight into the past, present and future.
She has been shown as a a midwife who helps people bring life to their truth and creativity, and presence who is able to help people overcome the obstacles that limit their evolvement.
Wise Woman Archetype in Modern Society
In modern society the Wise Woman archetype has come to be representative of an older, mature woman, usually in the later part of her life.
- She possesses, and has embraced, an identifiably feminine energy but is also in touch with the masculine energy and qualities which she also possesses, recognizing the value of these to her.
- She is a woman whose life is spiritually centred, with her in full mastery of her body, heart and spirit.
- She is in touch with her own feelings and in full control of them, with a sensitivity which allows her to full feel and experience life, as well as empathize with and understand others, whilst not overwhelming her.
- She will have experienced hardship and trauma in life but having overcome this experience has taught her valuable lessons about the world and how to live in it.
- She uses this life experience to teach and counsel others.
- Where others may have faced such difficulties and chosen a path of vengeance, anger or resentment, she has chosen a path of forgiveness, compassion, acceptance and love.
Wise Woman Archetype Characteristics & Traits
- The Wise Woman stands up for those who she considers to have been marginalized or wronged in society, in doing so demonstrating a strength, fierceness and protectiveness which belies her age.
- She displays a strong maternal energy in so looking out for those she considers as in need of protection.
- She is strongly supportive of the life journeys of other people, using her knowledge and experience to guide and support them wherever she can.
- Whilst doing so she will seek to challenge them where she feels they need this, holding them to a higher standard where she feels they are not living up to their potential or to the ethical standards they should set for themselves.
- She will walk the path of life with people, helping them in overcoming difficulties and making decisions should her assistance be welcomed and required.
- The Wise Woman understands the value of knowledge, history and tradition.
- She is the keeper of the stories of the ages and is determined to pass these on to the coming generations, understanding the importance of past culture and learning in influencing the future.
- She believes she acts as a conduit of knowledge and experience from our ancestors to future generations and understands to importance of this role.
- She also understands the value of the pursuit of knowledge, never resting on her laurels and always seeking to keep learning something new.
Fun Side of the Wise Woman
Despite this seeming seriousness, the Wise Woman can also see the fun side of life.
She possesses a wit and sense of humour which may not be expected from her wisdom and outer appearance. She enjoys seeing the absurdity in life and laughs often.
She also enjoys mystery and enchantment, believing that there are many aspects of the world which cannot be understood through rational knowledge and thought along, and embraces this unknown dimension of the world fully.
Wise Woman Archetype Examples
English primatologist and anthropologist Dame Jane Morris Goodall is an example of the Wise Woman archetype.
Goodall is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, known for her exceptionally detailed research on the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.
She founded a wildlife Institute, amongst other initiatives, and is a go to figure around the world on issues such as the environment, wildlife and climate change.
Further reading on the wise woman archetype includes:
- The Late Bloomer: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype – by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Sounds True
- The Wise Woman: The Archetype of Knowledge and Wisdom – by Brian Dale
- The Wise Woman by George Macdonald, Fiction, Classics, Action & Adventure – by George MacDonald