Unmasking the Witch: The Power of Archetype Work for Women
Archetypes are models based on patterns and images that represent tendencies in us, which were first introduced by Carl Jung as a way to understand how our psyche contributes to our behaviour. What Jung argued is that we have certain characteristics and highly developed ways of being with our world that unless discovered and uncovered, will continue to run in the unconscious, much like an operating system producing our external reality.
Jung identified twelve types that symbolize basic human drivers at play in each individual. Most of us have several operating at a time depending on the life strategy and situation at play. See the 12 archetypes here.
Archetypes have two sides, one of which is a shadow or hidden side that if not integrated will run unconsciously reeking all sort of havoc in your life that feels fated somehow. Both sides can be expressed at different stages in a person’s life, often the side referred to as the shadow side is the one the most needs integration. By integrating those aspects and owning them as parts of ourselves—acknowledging the light and the shadow inherent in the whole—we can grow toward being more self-actualized.
For example, the archetype of the Hero can be seen in its light as a protective, honourable figure always positive and up for a rescue. The dark side or shadow aspect of this type is weakness, vulnerability, fear, and arrogance. A person who is running this type unconsciously will often not be aware of the underlying fears or weaknesses, in fact, they likely will be doing more and acting more of the Hero out in order to compensate, often creating situations that eventually deplete them. When the Hero can accept and see their fallibility they can bring greater humility to everything they do, empower others to be their own hero and move away from codependency in relationships.
One of my favourite archetypes to use as a tool, especially in my work with women, is The Witch. Long ago in our ancestral societies, witches were the village healers; sought for their wisdom and natural intuitive abilities. They were part of the revered feminine, acknowledged for the sacredness in creation, as bearers of life. They looked to the natural world for answers to help heal the spiritual, psychological and physical problems of the people in their communities. But as the world turned toward away from our natural reverence and respect for such knowledge and societies moved toward more patriarchal rule, the term ‘witch’ became synonymous with darkness, evil and harm. Witches were demonized because of their power and sovereignty, and people began to fear them.
We can probably go into a lot of detail here around the inquisitions conducted by the Church and centuries of harming history, but the most important piece is that witch became a symbol, an archetype that is still used today and still holds a charge for many. As a symbol, it possesses an amazing power—it can be a tool for women to reclaim their power, sovereignty, and agency in their lives.
Most of us were raised with fairy tales where the witch was featured in the role of the ugly, evil person, hell-bent on conniving and destroying, the outcome of which was negative connotations in people’s minds about witches. This, we would say, is the shadow side of the witch, the side we are afraid to see, witness or experience. This shadow side is what we keep in the dark, afraid of her dark destructive power.
For some, when I say witch, these are the images that come to mind. In my work with women, this reaction can point toward a disassociation to or lack of ownership of some pretty powerful and useful emotions. Anger is often one that is difficult for women to not only own as a useful tool but as an acceptable expression. Others, however, have a different reaction to the symbol of a witch. For me, the word witch has always had positive connotations — I think of a healer or medicine woman, a woman in her full power who has reached her full potential. It excites me to think of myself or any woman in this way, and yet, we cannot claim our true power unless we are willing to acknowledge both sides of this remarkable archetype.
Women have lived and survived in a patriarchal world for centuries and many of us have taken on the energetic traits of the masculine to do so. Characteristics of masculine energy are striving, doing, pushing, achieving, and so on. All beautiful energies to propel us forward to achieve great things but what happens when we have taken this on, not in conjunction with the energy of feminine but in conflict with or worse still, in the overriding of the feminine? Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, we all have aspects of both yin and yang, feminine and masculine energy. Put simply, the doing needs to be balanced with the not doing. More and more now, we are seeing the effects of disconnection to feminine or yin energy in our society. A devastating example of not allowing in more love, flow, connection, receptivity and spiritual connection is the increased rate of burnout among men and women!
Though my work is mainly focused on entrepreneurial and Type A women, this can be applied across the board. So why the witch, what’s she got to do with it? The witch as a symbol is a woman (or man) who is not only connected to power but also to their body, nature and the cycles of our world. She is aware of both her power to destroy and to create and understands how to wield this power in herself and her world. When we begin to embody this archetype, not only as a symbol but as ourselves, we can create lives and businesses that are not consuming us with output but rather feeding us. The result is we have more to give to others.
Many of us have lost our connection with the magical being inside us–our deep knowing, intuition, and our ability to follow our own natural cycles and relate them to our business and relationships.
The feminine is rising in this world. We see her all around, expressing her rage and anger at being suppressed and oppressed, and as powerful as movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up are, they are also huge signposts to the need to have Her woken up within. This aspect of God within you wants to rise. It’s her—the witch, goddess, priestess—and she is as real as you make her. She’s the part of you that knows better, that could lead and guide your business decisions and relationships with much greater ease, grace and knowing. She is also the “destructress” Kali who chops the heads of evil forces and provides moksha or liberation in her wake.
Where have you neglected Her? What part of her do you hide? It’s okay if you don’t want to call her the witch, you can call her whatever you like—your inner priestess, intuition, medicine woman, healer, or your badassery, whatever works, but put some thought into where you might have lost touch with her or numbed her out. Maybe you’ve stayed in her anger or force too long and not gone over to her light, creative and nurturing side. The need to integrate the whole is more important now than ever.
Whatever you call her, this witch is within you and when you choose to tap into her majesty and magic, you will find a deep sense of sovereignty and agency. The witch will enable an approach to life, business, and relationships that comes from a place of solidity and groundedness. Burnout will become a thing of the past; worry and anxiety become manageable and maybe even non-existent.
So ask yourself: where is the witch archetype in my life? Is she operating in shadow right now? What is your relationship to her? Notice how you feel when you think about it, and write down questions to ask her, maybe during meditation or a dialoguing exercise. And as much as possible, start to make peace with your inner witch so you can integrate her into your life because she’s a giant power waiting to be unleashed in you.