Discover more from The Hungry Feminine
The Heroine's Journey: A Feminine Reunion
An archetypal shift from the hero's journey we know so well
The heroine’s journey seems to be needed now. As this post has sat in my drafts for some weeks, I debated about whether I should share from an informational standpoint or a more personal one. Meanwhile, others — real-life friends, online friends, strangers on the internet, etc. — began sharing about the heroine’s journey more publicly. I realized then that my internal debate was missing the moment; it wasn’t about how I delivered the information but that I delivered it at all.
We’ll go for the informational perspective first so that later personal tales have context. Let’s begin where we may be more familiar.
The Hero’s Journey
You might be familiar with the monomyth of the Hero’s Journey. This is a narrative structure described by Joseph Campbell that has been prevalent in storytelling throughout history. The hero's journey follows a specific set of steps that a protagonist undergoes during their quest for self-discovery and triumph over adversity. It also outlines the archetypal experiences that will be encountered along the way.
This initiation process is one not only told in our favorite stories (think: Harry Potter, Star Wars) but is also one that we each have carried out at various times in our life. It goes a little something like this:
The Call to Adventure: The hero is presented with a challenge or a call to action that disrupts their ordinary life. This call may come from an external source or arise from an internal desire for change.
Refusal of the Call: Initially, the hero may resist the call to adventure due to fear, self-doubt, or a sense of inadequacy. They may need further motivation or guidance to overcome their hesitation.
Meeting the Mentor: The hero encounters a mentor figure who provides guidance, wisdom, and sometimes supernatural aid. The mentor equips the hero with the necessary tools, knowledge, or skills to embark on their journey.
Crossing the Threshold: The hero must leave their familiar world behind and enter the unknown. This step symbolizes the hero's commitment to the adventure and signifies the beginning of their transformation. This also signifies a shift from consciousness where the hero begins to relate more to their unconscious material.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies: Along the hero's journey, they encounter a series of tests, obstacles, and adversaries. These challenges are essential for the hero's growth and development. They may also gain allies who assist them in their quest.
Approaching the Inner-most Cave: The hero faces their most significant obstacle or confrontation, often represented as an inner fear or a formidable enemy. This stage requires the hero to summon their courage, face their limitations, and delve deeper into their journey in order to overcome challenges and temptations.
Ordeal and Revelation: The hero endures a life-threatening ordeal or a critical moment of truth. Through this experience, they gain valuable insights, acquire a reward, or achieve a significant victory, marking a turning point in their journey.
Transformation: After the hero's triumph, they begin their journey back to their ordinary world. This stage may involve further challenges or confrontations. As the hero seeks to integrate their newfound wisdom, their transformation takes place.
Resurrection: The hero may face a final, often life-threatening, challenge that tests their newfound transformation and growth. It is a moment of profound self-realization, where the hero rises above their limitations and emerges stronger than before. Otherwise called an atonement, the hero must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in their life.
Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to their ordinary world, bringing back the knowledge, wisdom, or treasure gained from their journey. This elixir symbolizes the positive change or transformation the hero undergoes, which they can use to benefit themselves and their community.
The hero's journey represents a universal narrative pattern, reflecting the human experience of growth, self-discovery, and overcoming obstacles through symbols, archetypes, and experiences of the collective unconscious. The hero’s journey is an external one where the obstacles exist outside of the hero’s inner experience, and while they will need to call on spiritual growth along the way, the events take place out loud. In psychological realms, it is often said that when someone denies their hero’s journey, they will experience great suffering. To embark upon it and answer the call is to find a personal sense of freedom.
The Heroine’s Journey
Now that we have that groundwork, let’s explore its alternative. To begin, let’s note that, just like discussions about feminine and masculine, hero and heroine function better when we see them archetypally rather than literally, which is to say they transcend gender. These are not journeys separated by sex or gender but rather states of the soul. We each should explore them both.
First introduced by Maureen Murdock, the heroine's journey is a perspective on transformation distinct from the more familiar hero's journey.
Here are those steps:
Separation from the Feminine: The heroine’s initial step involves a separation from their archetypal feminine aspect. It is a pivotal moment when the heroine recognizes the conditioning and societal expectations that have shaped their identities. Acknowledging this separation allows them to embark on a quest for self-discovery, where they can shed societal limitations and explore the depths of their authentic selves.
Identification with the Masculine and Gathering of Allies: The heroine identifies with masculine qualities such as assertiveness, independence, and ambition. They seek to navigate the world through a more masculine lens and gather allies and mentors who support them on their journey. These allies provide guidance, wisdom, and support as the heroine moves forward. In the heroine's journey, the recognition of the masculine does not involve suppressing feminine qualities or conforming to societal norms. Instead, the heroine is invited to explore and embrace these traits and how they can support them along the way.
Descent into Darkness/Road of Trails: Unlike the hero's journey, which typically involves physical battles, the heroine's journey is about the unconscious. The heroine is guided into the depths of their psyche, encouraged to confront their inner fears and shadow self. This descent into darkness serves as a transformative catalyst, forcing the heroine to confront their vulnerabilities, traumas, and insecurities. Through this process, they gain profound insights, resilience, and the courage to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Meeting Dragons and Finding the Boon of Success: This step involves the heroine encountering and facing their personal "dragons" or inner demons. These dragons represent the obstacles and fears the heroine must conquer to reach their true potential. By overcoming these challenges, they discover the boon of success, gaining a sense of accomplishment and self-realization.
Awakening to Feelings of Spiritual Aridity and Death: Disconnected from the feminine, the heroine reaches a point where they feel spiritually or emotionally empty, disconnected, or lost. This awakening prompts them to seek deeper meaning and fulfillment. It is a metaphorical or symbolic death, representing the shedding of old beliefs, patterns, or identities that no longer serve them. This death leads to rebirth and transformation.
Initiation and Descent into the Goddess: The heroine undergoes an initiation, descending into the depths of their psyche and confronting their inner shadows, traumas, and suppressed emotions. This descent allows them to gain self-awareness, inner strength, and a profound understanding of their own depths. It is a transformative phase that leads to greater self-discovery and growth.
Yearning to Reclaim and Reconnect with the Feminine: After venturing into the depths of their own darkness, the heroine experiences a strong yearning to reconnect with the inner feminine aspects that they had separated from at the beginning of the journey. This step involves embracing qualities such as intuition, nurturing, creativity, and compassion. The heroine learns to embrace their vulnerability and recognize its inherent strength. By honoring her feminine nature, the heroine achieves a greater sense of balance and authenticity.
Healing the Mother-Daughter Split: A pivotal stage in the heroine's journey revolves around healing the mother-daughter split. This step involves examining and reconciling the heroine’s relationship with their mothers, both externally and internally, and addressing unresolved issues, wounds, or conflicts that have influenced their self-image and perception of the feminine. By addressing any unresolved wounds or resentments, the heroine paves the way for self-acceptance, forgiveness, and a deep sense of compassion. Healing this split enables them to nurture and support themselves, becoming our own guiding force.
Healing the Wounded Masculine: The heroine addresses and heals any wounds or imbalances related to the masculine energy within. This may involve reevaluating their beliefs and attitudes toward masculinity and transforming any negative or limiting perceptions. Healing the wounded masculine allows for a healthier integration of masculine qualities within them.
Integration and Self-Actualization: As we progress through the heroine's journey, we reach a stage of integration and self-actualization. This is a transformative moment where the heroine embraces their true self, unburdened by societal expectations, and balanced with both feminine and masculine aspects alike. The heroine stand firmly in their power, embodying authenticity and self-love. From this place of wholeness, the heroine can contribute meaningfully to their communities, inspiring others to embark on their own journeys of self-discovery and empowerment.
Unlike the hero's journey which begins with a more obvious call to adventure, the heroine’s journey begins with a painful separation felt within. However, for many of us, this separation from the feminine begins long before we are aware of it. We may grow up for a long time being separated from the feminine but it isn't until we confront our suffering in a new way that we begin to realize what's missing and that change is needed.
The heroine's journey is one of the underworld, beautifully encapsulating a transformative process that invites us to reconnect with our authentic selves, embrace our vulnerabilities, and integrate both feminine and masculine qualities within us. It encourages healing, self-acceptance, and personal growth, paving the way for a more balanced and empowered existence.
The Hungry Feminine has essentially been a record of my own heroine’s journey, shared to invite others into their own depths. Still, more specific stories await.
Tel me: what has your heroine’s journey been like? Have you been avoiding it or leaning in?
The Hungry Feminine is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.