Feminine Archetypes Give Insight on Certain Behavioral Patterns—Here’s What They Mean

Whether you're a Maiden or a Lover, an expert explains how these personality traits affect your life.

Have you ever felt like you’re the queen of your life? Embodying your Beyoncé self, devoting yourself to your career, and living your best life possible? Or maybe there have been times in your life where you felt inherently more maternal and relationship-oriented, whether you were in a partnership or within your circle of friends? If this sounds familiar, chances are, you were embodying a feminine archetype.

“Feminine archetypes are universal patterns of energy found in the collective unconscious. They are common traits that we act out,” Dr. Paulette Sherman, a psychologist and author of the books, Dating from the Inside Out and The Book of Sacred Baths. “We naturally express a dominant one, which brings gifts and it has a shadow side when we incorporate them into our lives as well. These feminine archetypes are universal and they guide our path in important aspects of our lives. They give us a prototype or a powerful story about how to live that life stage.”

The idea of archetypes was first introduced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who believed that archetypes were inherent and unlearned patterns of behavior and knowledge passed down from our ancestors. He suggested that archetypes influenced our reactions and actions, which helped inform our personality and characteristics.

If you look at media—from books to TV to film to pop culture—archetypes are everywhere. From the lover archetype (Samantha in Sex and the City or Joan in Mad Men) to the huntress archetype (Diana in Wonder Woman or Black Widow in the Avengers franchise), the presence of these archetypes are not only prevalent but also account for the varying degrees of energy (think: vibe) and personality differences among women.

Each of us can embody different traits of these archetypes at all times but typically, we are consistently drawn to one or two that best reflect our inherent energy and personality. The cool thing about feminine archetypes is that we can call forth their vibe whenever we need it. For example, maybe we’ve been in our lover energy for too long (hey, we’ve all been there) and we need to embody our huntress woman to get shit done. By understanding the different traits of each archetype, including their shadow side, we can direct our energy into the archetype that resonates with us the most depending on where we’re at in our lives and what we need.

While there are many different feminine archetypes, many of which are associated with Greek goddesses, Dr. Sherman shares with us examples of the most popular ones and tips on how to best embrace and incorporate them into your life.

Feminine archetypes:

The Maiden

what are feminine archtypes

Traits: Creative, innocent, full of wonder.

Shadow side: She has not connected beyond the surface and needs to learn to trust her instincts to see more deeply. She needs to separate from her family to become a powerful person in her own right.

Symbolism: She is the symbol of new beginnings and our childlike wonder so we can embrace her at those times. The myth of Persephone also reminds us that trauma can lead to wisdom and individuation, to intuition, and to being a guide for others. Other times, people embody this archetype during a dark night of the soul, during trauma, or when they are in a process of becoming mature and separating from their family of origin.

Actions to embody: Face your fears. Make a list of what you fear and take steps to transform them so you build trust in yourself.

The Mother

Traits: Generous, generative, abundant, compassionate, relationship-oriented. She lives for her relationship with her children and finds joy in caring for others.

Shadow side: She forgets to attend to her own needs and to view herself as more than a mother. She can be smothering and feels empty when her kids leave. She may have neglected other areas of her life.

Symbolism: We relate to the mother archetype when we are caretakers and when we are in the midst of creating a family. At those times we fear losing a child and also the possibility of losing ourselves as individuals and maintaining that balance.

Actions to embody: Begin taking baby steps to mother yourself. Find some new acts of self-care or nurturing to refuel and do them.

The Lover

what are feminine archtypes

Traits: Magnetic, sensuous, romantic. She is confident and fun.

Shadow side: She can be fickle and overly reliant on her youth and looks. She has a hard time committing in a mature relationship with any depth. She often gets bored and cheats or is selfish.

Symbolism: This is the phase of the young attractive woman who feels powerful by turning heads and enjoying life. We relate to this phase when we are in love with love and looking for attention and passion. This archetype may need to develop other sides of herself like her intelligence or spirituality or she may feel lost later in life.

Actions to embody: Take a sensuous bath or dress up and flirt. Dance to some sexy music and get in touch with your feminine side.

The Home Maker

Traits: She makes home warm and loves to keep the energy flowing and things tidy. She is spiritual and centered and in the moment.

Shadow side: She loves being alone and can be a wallflower who won’t leave the house. She may need to be pushed to develop interests in the outer world.

Symbolism: Oftentimes women relate to this archetype when they have a family. When kids are grown or spouses pass away, they may need to learn to venture out more and get more involved in the outer world. It could also be for single women who are content to stay in with their cats and watch Netflix (which is completely okay!). There is also strength at being content and centered and in love with being home.

Actions to embody: You can clean your house, burn sage to cleanse it, then meditate to be present and light a candle to connect with the spirit. Then journal about any messages you received.

The Wild Woman/Huntress

what are feminine archtypes

Traits: She loves nature and is one in herself. She champions animals and children and feels powerful. She is a loner and self-sufficient.

Shadow side: She loses her temper, can be impulsive, and doesn’t have romantic relationships.

Symbolism: She feels whole within herself and often forgoes a relationship or a nuclear family. This is a stage a woman may go through to find herself and to relish her freedom. Some women may prefer to stay alone. Other times, this can shift in old age or later in life if she wants a family.

Actions to embody: Go on a hike or a vision quest alone. Play your favorite times, cook for yourself, and commune with your dog or pet.

The Crone

Traits: The wise elder at the crossroads. She trusts her voice and doesn’t need approval from others. She is in touch with her intuition and her darkness.

Shadow side: She can be scary to some because she has no filter. She is also comfortable with death and many people are not.

Symbolism: The crone is often valued in retirement. She is the grandmother who gives great advice. She is respected and admired. She is someone who wants to pass down her wisdom and leave a legacy.

Actions to embody: Read books about inspiring elders. Begin to use your voice by speaking your truth without worrying about what others will think of your messages.

The Career Goddess/Queen

what are feminine archtypes

Traits: She competes in a world of men. She is great at leadership and accomplishment and shines very bright. She makes a big contribution to the outer world.

Shadow side: She lacks a connection to her feminine side. She fails to appreciate being in the present moment and has trouble connecting with her heart and receiving.

Symbolism: This is a good archetype to model work success and equal partnerships. She wants a mate who respects and supports her as their equal as she rules her career/queendom and makes big plans for herself.

Actions to embody: Create a list of your career goals and if in a relationship, don’t be afraid to ask your partner to support you. You may want to create a vision board to share goals with each other and keep each other accountable. If solo, remain steadfast to your career goals and take action steps towards your dreams every day.