FIERCE FEMALE INITIATIONS: claiming authority & selfhood through trials

Dec 31, 2020

a red image of an Egyptian goddess illustrates the idea of female initiations.


Myths and fairy tales depict female initiations into authority and adulthood. Hades abducted Kore (maiden) into the underworld; Snow White choked on a poisoned apple and lay in stasis; Aphrodite punished forsaken Psyche with arduous tasks. As all these women were blossoming into the fullness of their beauty and fertility, all were also in thrall to innocence complexes that blinded them to realities of envy, aggression, and power, imaged as rapist, step-mother, and mother-in-law.

Women’s initiation into adulthood and authority involves encountering shadow, finding inner fire, taking action, and wielding power. Kore became queen of the underworld; Snow White metabolized the poison and revived; Psyche reclaimed her mate and ascended to Mt. Olympus. Female initiation involves relational trauma and the sacrifice of a naively romantic and other-oriented stance. This mythological pattern points to the potential for finding clear-eyed selfhood, life direction, and the will to achieve goals.

 Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I was playing a concert with a famous elder statesman of bluegrass. We play a funny song about a cat that travels with its owner in a semi-tractor trailer, across the USA.  The song begins with me playing the bass and with the cat making some kind of meow. My cat (all grey, yellow eyes, born without a tail) was lying next to me on stage, curled up on top of a stool. The cat’s presence gave me comfort, humor, and warmth. At end of song, the lights went dark. A spotlight forms above the elder statesman, casting shadows across his features. He turns to me and gets very close to my face. I feel pressure at being the focus of attention. He produces a large stack of cards below his chin and starts showing them to me, one by one. At first, the cards and numbers don’t make sense. He draws 10 then 13 – maybe he can’t guess the numbers my mind is picking. All of a sudden the “trick” begins to work. He picks 24, 48, and 72. He is drawing the cards I’m thinking of and from a very large stack. These numbers are bigger than a deck of playing cards, yet they are similarly designed, quite intricate. I’m shocked, not afraid, that he knows the numbers. The elder smirks a slight, knowing smile.”


Michael Meade. The Water of Life: Initiation and Tempering of the Soul. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0976645041/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_9Sd3Fb68NYJ5D   

Mary Pipher. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. https://www.amazon.com/dp/052553704X/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_aUd3FbF0FTZC5

Carol Gilligan. In a Different Voice. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0674970969/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_UUd3FbNSX9KDW

Paul Foster Case. Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of Ages. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1585424919/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_kVd3Fb1ZPA0DK


Learn to Analyze your own Dreams:  https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/


  1. Mamie Krupczak Allegretti

    I’ve been teaching the different variations of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale for years. I suggest the 2007 movie Penelope for an interesting variation on this theme and related to this podcast.

  2. Lany

    This was probably the best episode this year. But then I listened to your Scrooge episode! Top 2 episodes! Bravo!

  3. Elena

    Really good episode as usual. I have one observation that may reflect on my own complexes and I am looking into it, but I felt Mr. Lee’s views on this topic are off. It is like he needs to soul search and get out of the typical male view about women’s use (or manipulation) of a power we don’t have, but it is projected on us by the male.

  4. Pia Ossorio

    I so very much appreciate this podcast! I am exploring complexes, more specifically my own, and this has been so very helpful for me. I think I will listen to it more than once! Thank you.

  5. LAB

    Awesome episode. I agree with Elena’s comment above, too. Many girls and young women experience sexual abuse and violence when they are in their teens – an age that many male aggressors seem to target, and one that, ironically enough, Joseph seems to suggest is an “empowered” time for females. I can say, both from personal experience and from data, that this perception of sexual power among teenage girls is a harmful mythology. It makes me wonder if boys and men who have violated teenage girls’ boundaries did so partly under the false pretense that the girls were “manipulating” or “seducing” them from the start. By NO MEANS am I saying that Joseph is espousing this behavior – I don’t think he is. However, I do wonder if many men and boys might have an unconscious desire for something, perhaps the power to BE seductive and vulnerable at the same time, that might explain many men’s tendency to project these fantasies of seductive power and “feminine wiles” onto young women and teenage girls.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *