Perfect Timing

May 2, 2007

Toko-pa is right on the money with the Heroine’s Quest!

For some time I have been questioning my vision quest experience. One of my guides believed that the physical suffering and discomfort was an important part of the experience. We talked about it a bit before my solo – and she felt confident I would change my tune later. Maybe I will :)

My interpersonal experience of the quest centered on feeling unmothered, unsafe, and not taken care of on the most basic levels – shelter and water. Yet even in the midst of that horrible, lonely experience, I was able to admit to L that I was at the end of my rope – what a lovely metaphor the knots were for me!

She wasn’t the first person I approached. The first person I approached was just as desperate as I and was struggling to keep herself together. She was unable to help me. I could have been defeated in that moment. I could have felt empathy for her. But my instinct for survival kicked in instead.

I wonder sometimes why I chose L. Did I choose her because she is a mother? Did I choose her because she is a competent woodswoman? Something in me was willing to fall apart in front of her, to feel vulnerable, to cry, to feel defeated, and to allow her to care for me. And she did…tenderly, with no judgment or shame.

She mothered me like a five year old. She asked if I wanted her to show me how to tie knots to set up my tarp shelter? She saw my tears and asked if I wanted her to just do it for me. In the eleven months since – all my knots have unraveled and hers are strong and true. A reminder of her gift to me.

One day I will say more about the intrapersonal experiences of my quest – but today I am excited and all abuzz over The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock. I don’t recall this book being on my preparation list for my quest! My quest was the Hero’s Journey – the journey that a good Athena, daughter of the dominant culture, embraces, conquers, and survives!

Two experiences in recent months brought me closer to the Great Mother. First was my experience with A and the other women at Kripalu. I saw A’s ability to be BOTH pink AND fierce. She shared her literal and figurative scars with me. She mirrored my insecurities and doubts with my guide experience. She absolutely convinced me that women don’t need to fast and suffer in the traditional male Heroic Journey of Campbell to be visionary!

Our guide Lauren, and the other women  formed a tender sacred container of mothering. We were women doing what women do best – tending and befriending. Not judging one another, not competing, not in conflict, no need for power and dominance. Instead, with great tenderness, we mothered one another, mothered our creative artistic inner children, and expressed ourselves on multiple levels. Rarely do I come together with a group of women who so quickly dive in and get moist, messy, and intimate!

A second recent experience is mothering the mother with my friend S as she journeyed deep inside herself to birth her son and allowed me to continue to heal the mother/daughter split in me. I mothered her the way I longed to be mothered as I labored to birth my son nearly sixteen years ago. She received that mothering with grace and gratitude – gifting me with acceptance and a blood bond.

Each of these powerful experiences of the feminine are pieces of my quest for wholeness. Not my “vision quest” but the deeper quest that pulls me into my larger life.

In the Heroine’s Journey  – the wheel goes something like this…

Separation from the feminine –> Identification with the masculine –> Meeting ogres and dragons –> Finding the boon of success –> Awakening to feelings of spiritual aridity –> Initiation and descent to the Goddess –> Urgent yearning to reconnect with the feminine –>healing the mother/daughter split –> healing the wounded masucline –> integration of masculine and feminine

All I can say is as an Athena in recovery – this is AMAZING! The Heroine’s Journey waited on my wishlist for a long time and one day last week – I wondered if it was the next puzzle piece. It is!

Where are you in the Heroine’s Journey? How is the journey different for you if your dominant archetype in youth is Persephone or Demeter? Do only Athenas make this journey?

I am so excited! Wait until Procrustes and I meet for tea and cookies!!!!!



  1. I adored this book and have since gifted it many times to womenfolk who are making the descent.

    As much as I love JC, I think he was limited by his gender and barely examined the feminine plight. He said some really irritating things, like “In the whole mythological tradition the woman is *there*. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to. When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male.”

    Murdock points out that women do not have the same issues to resolve as men do, and that by trying to follow a Hero’s journey, we set ourselves up for failure. I was deeply moved by this book, back when my own illusory boon was shattering. And it was reassuring at a time when I was separating from the collective and receiving a great deal of criticism for it.

    There’s a lot of controversy amongst mythologists because some say supporting/guiding the hero, childbirth & rearing are, biologically speaking, the equivalent journey for women. Of course, those of us who have chosen not to go that route, or who are partnerless, disagree. Many women are as compelled as men to do the outside-world journey.

    In dreamwork, we learn that the ultimate task is to make an inner marriage happen between outside and inside worlds. Between masculine and feminine. Between conquering and contemplating.

    Still, having our own map to coniunctio, one that says hello to underworld work, earth-interconnectedness and healing the mother/daughter relationship is a huge relief.

  2. Thanks Toko-Pa. The cycle Murdoch describes feels much more aligned to my already lived life and creates new possibilities for the future. Who knows where I will be with all this next year? It’s a mystery!

  3. Perhaps you already know of the exceptional women percussionists “Innana” (www.inanna.ws). Their sound may complement your work with this myth.

  4. Catharine,
    Thanks for the tip on the women! I am not familiar with them but will explore them soon.

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