Central Symbolism of the Feminine
Thera jug

Three Archetypal Spheres of Feminine Symbolism:

Two Characters of The Feminine (Elementary And Transformative): the two ways in which the archetypal feminine manifests itself to consciousness, two tendencies which shape feminine archetypal symbolism. This terminology, the concept of the structure of the feminine archetype, and the following diagram are adapted from Erich Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype (Princeton University Press, 1963).


All parts of the diagram should be interpreted from the perspective of the individual ego, usually symbolized by a hero figure. Thus the same sort of imagery may appear as positive or negative depending on the perspective of the hero (e.g., containment is positive when the ego needs protection and negative when it is ready for growth). Since elementary figures are always depicted as superior in power to the ego, these are labelled on the diagram as M+ or M- (for mother); as peer figures, images of the transformative feminine are designated as A+ or A- (for anima). Click on the intersection of the circles and linear axes for more information and images; if your browser does not support image maps, you may click on the following terms instead: Positive Elementary—red circle, green circle, blue circle; Negative Elementary—red circle, green circle, blue circle; Positive Transformative—red circle, green circle, blue circle; Negative Transformative—red circle, green circle, blue circle. Close the extra winow to return to the diagram.

feminine archetype diagram Negative Transformative 3 Negative Transformative 2 Negative Transformative 1 Positive Transformative 3 Positive Transformative 2 Positive Transformative 1 Negative Elementary 3 Negative Elementary 2 Negative Elementary 1 Positive Elementary 3 Positive Elementary 2 Positive Elementary 1

Elementary Character of the Feminine:

Transformative Character of the Feminine:

March, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
Topics, Assignments, Notes