This essay focuses on the struggle some women face when trying to reconcile their good girl/naughty girl desires and offers a fresh framework for allowing both to co-exist peacefully.
It is the nature of our soul to flow towards perfection, and these visions often exist in our mind as archetypes – universal and timeless patterns of human thought and dreams. The archetypal dreams and aspirations that resonate most deeply will vary between individuals. However, we sometimes find ourselves in a state where two contrasting archetypes call to us. This is the case for women who simultaneously identify with the good girl and naughty girl archetypes. When a woman flows within the energy current of one archetype, she is simultaneously flowing away from the contrasting archetype. The tension she feels between those two opposing beliefs causes cognitive dissonance.
The contrasting good girl/naughty girl archetypes were recognized and well described by the ancient Greeks and were represented by Hestia and Aphrodite, respectively. Both goddesses held spiritual importance and both had temples of worship throughout Greek society. It is worth noting that sex, in the times of Ancient Greece, was not considered a sin. It was part of their humanity and celebrated. While the gods of the old world have faded and may not seem to have a role in our modern-day spirituality, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss their relevance. Those timeless dreams and struggles that gave rise to those gods are still with us today.
As I sift through my past and explore my own dreams in search of deeper understanding, I am increasingly confronted with the presence and powerful influence of archetypes. Knowingly or not, they have influenced my life and assuredly those of others. Our draw to them is instinctual and flows from our soul. The influence of Hestia and Aphrodite, whether we are familiar with these goddesses or not, are still very present in our. Let’s look at them a little closer.
Hestia was known to the ancient Greeks as the goddess of the hearth and the eternal flame. She is symbolic of family, stability, and nurturing as well the spiritual center of home and public centers of gathering. The Olympic flame was first lit at the altar of Hestia in Greece well over 2000 years ago. Despite being the center of the home and representing family, she is identified as being a virgin which discouraged her sexualization. Perhaps you have heard the phrase “Vestal Virgins”? Vesta was the Roman equivalent of Hestia and Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta (Hestia to the Greeks).
In contrast, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Aphrodite is highly sexualized. She is fully expressed female sexuality.
When it comes to Hestia and Aphrodite, this can be a problem for women…and men. When a woman’s primary energy flows towards Hestia OR Aphrodite, she will feel content to the degree she fulfills her primary archetypal calling. However, if a woman’s energy flows towards both Hestia AND Aphrodite, she experiences cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual holding two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. A woman cannot be highly sexual and non-sexual. A woman cannot, as a steady state, exist simultaneously as Hestia and Aphrodite.
Fortunately, there is a potential middle ground where women can flow between these archetypes. The Greeks recognized the psychology of transitions, thresholds, contrast, and duality as the archetypal domain of Dionysus – Greek god of wine, ecstasy (spiritual & physical), duality, liberation, and theatre. One of his key symbols is the mask. The mask is a threshold that blocks the outer world from seeing who is behind the mask. It also liberates the wearer of the mask (literally or figuratively) through anonymity to be what he/she wants to be, not what they are perceived to be by others. If we embrace the duality of our nature, rather than repressing or denying part of ourself, we are embracing Dionysian energy.
If a woman feels cognitive dissonance, she should recognize the pull of Hestia and Aphrodite in her life and accept that her feminine spirituality exists at the threshold between two archetypes. It is okay. Both archetypes are important and it is okay to embrace the calling of both…tending to one or the other as needed.
Embracing one’s dual nature can be a challenge and becomes even more complicated when we consider the male mind and desires. A man may also have a preference for Hestia or Aphrodite as his ideal woman. He may dream of and crave Hestia as his anchor and center of his home. He dreams of a wife that is a wonderful homemaker and mother to his children. He may not want to sexualize his wife and finds comfort in her not having these desires. She is above such base desires and is placed upon a pedestal of purity. He may find peace of mind (but low sex drive) with Hestia and her infinite devotion and fidelity. Men also dream of and desire Aphrodite, the sexual and eroticized goddess. We want her for reasons that Hestia doesn’t fulfill. However, men face the same challenge women face. Men can’t have both goddesses in their infinite and perfect forms in one woman. Like women, man’s desire for both leads to cognitive dissonance and damaged relationships. In its extreme, this is also known as the Madonna – Whore complex.
How might we find our way through this cognitive dissonance? Understanding the seven forms of love can help frame this struggle. In Seven Forms of Love I explored three elements – passion, commitment, and intimacy – that intermingle to create seven forms of love with consummate love being the highest order.
Aphrodite can give us Infatuation, Romantic Love, or Fantasy Love. Hestia can provide for Friendship Love, Empty Love, or Companionate Love. Neither goddess fulfills the highest love – Consummate Love. What we need is a combination of Hestia and Aphrodite to reach Consummate Love.
From a man’s perspective, I need to understand my desires clearly. I need the archetypal energy of Hestia AND Aphrodite. However, I must recognize that I can’t expect them to exist simultaneously in their divine, infinite perfection in a woman. They are conflicting states of perfection. I need to be more forgiving when my lover isn’t channeling her inner Aphrodite when I want her to be. I also need to support her efforts to fulfill her inner Hestia and acknowledge this as equally important to her (and to me). I must recognize that she also faces her own internal struggle trying balancing the archetypal energies.
While it may seem that men are highly focused on sex, the Hestia archetype does call to us. Men do appreciate Hestia even if we aren’t aware of it or seemingly take her energy for granted. When we don’t express our gratitude for Hestia, remind us why it is important to you and the value you receive from fulfilling your inner Hestia. Your nurturing and tending to your family fulfills a goddess in you that isn’t sexual but one that is equally important to your spirituality.
Women are also faced with situations where her man may place a higher value on Hestia and discourages Aphrodite. Some men deny their lover’s sexuality and consider it too wild, as if it is wrong. We must acknowledge that women are also sexual beings with physical needs and desires. While women may honor and tend to their inner Hestia, most don’t want to be Vestal Virgins. Part of the challenge for men, as lovers, is to create emotionally safe situations for our lover to release and fulfill her inner Aphrodite. Men need the presence of this erotic goddess and so do women.
While I have focused on Hestia and Aphrodite in this essay, there is a somewhat equivalent archetypal state of cognitive dissonance for men. Do we aspire to be the steady, logical, brilliant, and polished Apollo or does the original bad boy – the wild, ecstatic Dionysus call to us? What archetypal energy does our lover crave from us? The discussion for this follows the same pattern as Hestia vs. Aphrodite with the same conclusion. As lovers, we can all do better for each other and ourselves. Awareness of these archetypes is an important first step. Tapping into and balancing the eternal flow of archetypal energy is a lifelong quest and journey worth taking…for yourself and your lover.