For more than 40 years I have been educating women about how to maintain and recover reproductive health using functional medicine and psycho-spiritual modalities. Eventually, everyone’s process has come to the question of nourishment, how to discern and embody it healthfully. Psycho-spiritually, such discernment begins in the archetypal feminine realm and particularly the archetypal mother’s realm. The archetypal feminine appears, both personally and collectively, in a variety of symbolic feminine figures or their attributes; appearing in dreams, fantasies, visions, religions, media, and relationships. I was pondering the importance of such figures for recovering the lost and denigrated feminine, shortly before a friend took a picture of me playfully peaking from behind the branches of a coconut tree. Synchronistically, the photo (Figure 2) yielded a multi-breasted figure, an image that echoes ancient human imaginations of multi-breasted goddesses, such as Artemis of Ephesus (Figure 1). I began to ponder more deeply about the importance of breasts to the human psyche; how they are symbolic of nourishment, from both our earthly mothers and divine mothers.
Our earliest nourishment, if we are fortunate, is at the breast of our mother. If our mother is well nourished and well loved her milk flows abundantly, and we grow and develop happily and healthily. How well our mother was nourished at the breast, physically and psychologically, impacts her ability to surrender lovingly and respectfully to her femaleness and its processes. Nourishment—soul and body—begets nourishment.
It makes sense I should ponder the subject of nourishment, since my own story is devoid of the privilege of the breast and the loss of my mother at an early age. Like so many other in the helping and healing professions my work is influenced by my own wounds and healing, a process informed by the wounded healer or invalid archetypes.
My journey was influenced by Artemis when I was cast as her in my first stage play at 13. I was nourished by all I learned about her; how she is associated with female strength, new life and nourishment, and service to the life-death mysteries. Playing the role of Artemis strengthened and fostered my pubescent sense of worthiness, that was being a squished in a patriarchal milieu that denigrated my femaleness; a milieu devoid of unconditional love and the truth of the feminine. It was turning to archetypal images of the feminine, that saved my body and soul, and that of many others with whom I have worked.
In Greek mythologically, Artemis is the daughter of Leto and Zeus, and twin to Apollo. She is goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, virginity, as well as fertility and midwifery. She is depicted as a virginal huntress with bow and arrows, and with wild creatures at her feet. Her Roman equivalent is the goddess Diana, who is also associated with love, like Aphrodite. The earlier, pre-patriarchal, imaginations of Artemis did not include her wild hunting nature, which are a later Greek interpretation.
Originally, Artemis arose in the imagination of the peoples at and near Ephesus (c700 BCE). There she was Upis or the Great Goddess of Lydia. She was a fertility goddess, associated with the energetic workings of conception, birth, and nurturance. The festival to Artemis, like that of so many other fertility goddesses, was celebrated in the Spring months of March and April, the time when nature burgeons with new life and new seeding for a hopeful harvest. Her breasts were symbols of nourishment, some scholars say they may represent eggs, or figs as symbols of nourishment and renewal. In some depictions her skin is black, associating her with fertile black soil. The Ephesian Artemis is not depicted with bow and arrow nor is she associated with virginity. Rather she is depicted with multiple nodes/breast on her chest and sometimes her whole body. She is associated with fertility, and her breasts emphasize her power to nourish and comfort. There are numerous references In ancient religious texts to milk as one of several sacred fluids, and references to the drinking of the milk of a goddess in order to become immortal. Much of the psychological literature emphasizes the important of secure attachment to the mother through the experience of breastfeeding, for the sake of psychological health and the development of symbolic function, which modifies primitive responses to the world into more creative and ethical responses—the ability to problem solve—make love not war (e.g. Piaget, Kohut, Bion, Klein, Chilton-Pearc, etc.). Problem solving requires that we see the whole truth of a situation, and calmly assess a course of action that will be optimal. It requires the ability to be able to imagine and play. At the good enough breast, we develop symbolic function and experience a way to love and truth. With love and truth at hand we can understand what we like and do not like, what nourishes and starves. An imagination of Artemis serves our renewal and nourishment more than any superfood, other than our mother’s milk.
1 See Eric Neuman The Great Mother: Analysis of the Archetype (1951, 1955, 2d ed. 1963; 1991, 2015). Bollingen, Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-01780-8. For a quick review see Wiki on Neumann's The Great Mother
2 See Matus,G. (2014) World’s Geography of Love Clarifying the Use of the Terms Feminine and Masculine (pp.2-4). Relke, J. (2007) The Archetypal Feminine in Mythology and Religion: The Anima and the Mother. EJOP Vol. 3 (1).
3 See more about the phenomenon of synchronicity.
5 See about the wounded healer archetype: The Wounded Healer: A Jungian Perspective by Kathryn C. Larisey
6 See The Emptied Soul: On the Nature of the Psychopath by Adolph Guggenbuhl-Craig. (1980/99)
7 See Matus G. (2014) World’s Geography of Love (p. 218). Other sacred fluids include, honey, menstrum, and semen for example.