the heroine and the damsel

the heroine + the damsel


Who is making the choices right now, my inner heroine or my inner damsel?

A question I've been asking myself a lot over the last six months.

There are many different archetypes, or universal psychological patterns, that we will not only come across as we begin to dive into feminist spirituality but also that we have to choose to be inspired by as women.

We have the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. We have the innumerable panthea of goddesses; the fairy tale princesses, their godmothers, and wicked step-relations; the priestess, the shieldmaiden, the witch, the queen, the wild woman, and on and on.

I have read several books over the last two years devoted to various groupings of these archetypes and how women's experiences are shaped by them. The general premise of each of these books is that we carry these archetypes (whatever particular group of archetypes that book happens to focus on) within us as potential energies, but that some of them are more dominant than others, either consciously or unconsciously.

But, of course, while archetypes are universal, the way we understand our seemingly different attitudes and behaviors largely depends on which group, or paradigm or 'flavor', of archetypes we are paying attention to.

But the one archetype of womanhood I have come to be most intrigued by is the heroine.

Because what makes a heroine, really?

When I say the words goddess, priestess, queen, witch … I think we each have a vivid image in our minds and feeling in our hearts of what those energies represent.

But the heroine has felt, to me, very much like a blank slate. She is unformed clay, she is the pristine canvas. Coming and going, here and there, she is nebulous, mysterious, not easily definable.

To be a heroine on her own heroic journey, a woman must begin with the attitude (or even at first act ‘as if’) that her choices do matter. In the process of living from this premise, something happens: a woman becomes a choicemaker, a heroine who shapes who she will become.

Jean Shinoda Bolen
Goddesses in Everywoman


This is my conclusion, then:
The heroine is not an archetype; she is a consciousness.

The heroine consciousness that is present, if not active, in each of us at all times is the choicemaker, the will, the enthousiasmos. The heroine is the consciousness within us that embraces our own agency, our personhood, our humanity. She is the seed of growth, the self-generated force of empowerment.

The counterpart of heroine consciousness is damsel consciousness. The damsel is the consciousness within us that denies personal responsibility, that blames or gives credit to outside forces, that looks outside of the self for meaning. She is the wait, and she is the resignation to it.

In each moment of our lives, we are living from either of these consciousnesses. The question for us, then, is:


Will we awaken the heroine within us and choose to choose to choose to choose to choose to choose to choose … ?