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Metis, Goddess of Practical Wisdom in Mature Women
Metis: Mature Goddess Archetype of Practical Wisdom
The Wisdom of Metis
Lately I have been reading many books about something called “The women’s spirituality movement.” It started when I began the study of a tarot deck called Motherpeace, based on ancient matriarchal cultures, whose purpose was to live a life based on peace, love, family, and nature. After that almost every book I picked up was a study of women’s issues of some kind. I just finished reading The Mists of Avalon, a story about the priestesses who worshiped the goddess and nature at the time when Christianity was just beginning to be practiced in Britain.
I learned that many women were actually burned alive for not giving up their “pagan” ways, and called witches because they knew how to use healing herbs and to aid as midwives to women during childbirth. Remember, God’s punishment for Eve’s perceived “sin” was to be sure women suffered while delivering their children. Next I heard about a wonderful author named Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., who embarked upon a holy pilgrimage to Britain to heal herself from a traumatic divorce. She has written two other interesting books that have captured my attention, one titled The Goddess in Every Woman, and one I want to discuss here, Goddesses in Older Women.
In times past, many women felt that their lives were over after their childbearing years were done. But thankfully we live in times where age seventy is like the new forty, and we have so much to look forward to in this last third of our lives! This is a very exciting time for women, and there are particular archetypes, or stereotypes of older, wise women, (known as crones in the maiden, mother, crone trilogy), who embody their own kind of wisdom based on their life experiences. Dr. Bolen has discussed four specific Greek goddess archetypes that are commonly found in this period of women’s lives, and you may recognize yourself in either Metis, or other Greek goddesses in mythology with the traits I will describe.
Greek Goddess in Mythology: Metis of Practical Wisdom
Metis is the Greek goddess in mythology of practical and intellectual wisdom. She uses her intelligence to master skills that result in having something tangible to show for it. Metis is someone who likes to use her hands or her mind to make something that engages her attention on a soul level. She brings many of her life experiences to her crafts. She is a woman who can quickly grasp what is going on in a situation, then acts wisely and skillfully to decide what actions should be taken. Metis runs an organized, smoothly run household, because she creates harmony. She brings all her skills and knowledge to any work she does, and mixes them all in a very imaginative way which brings about almost inspired results.
She can be a good doctor or diagnostician, will excel at business, politics and law, and steers a wise course, often cutting straight to the heart of the matter. She easily settles conflicts through discussion and mediation, and likes to work in groups so that everyone can find a satisfying outcome together. Women who have traits such as the Greek goddess in mythology, Metis can take the long range view to see what the best outcome will be.
She is a discerning, creative thinker who looks for patterns in her research, and she enjoys exploring for evidence. Metis rules over the creative and artistic realm, giving others mysterious and divine inspiration which turns a technically skilled person into an artist, craftsman, actor, musician, or a master of their medium choice. Metis is a person well described by the old saying, “Still waters run deep.”
As a Greek goddess in mythology, Metis was the daughter of two Titans, Tethys, Goddess of the moon, and Oceanus, who ruled all the waters surrounding the Earth. Zeus wished to overthrow The Titans, and decided he could get to them more easily through Metis. He pursued Metis but she ran away, disguising herself as many colorful shapes, but Zeus finally caught her and she became his first wife. Zeus had to free his brothers who were swallowed by Cronus.
Cronus previously castrated his own father to steal away his throne. Now Cronus feared that if his wife Rhea bore him a son, his son might do the same to him. So he swallowed each of their five children immediately after they were born. Soon Rhea was pregnant with Zeus, and wanted to save this child. Right after he was born she hid him in a cave, and in his place wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes. Her actions fooled Cronus, who swallowed the stone.
Later, Metis counseled Zeus in her wise way, and found a way for him to succeed. She put an emetic in a honey drink for Cronus, who then regurgitated 1 stone, 2 sons, and 3 daughters. They were now grown and very grateful to Zeus. Poseidon and Hades wanted to help fight with Zeus against the Titans and he gained them as allies. Zeus defeated the Titans and overthrew Cronus, and killed his father with a thunderbolt. Metis beomes pregnant with Zeus’s child and an oracle told her that this one was a daughter, but that if Metis conceived again, she would bear Zeus a son who would be better than him. Zeus approaches Metis and cleverly charms her and coaxes her to sit close by him. Before she knows it, he puts a spell on her to make her small, and swallows her!
How Do Greek Goddesses in Mythology relate in Today's World?
How do Greek goddesses in mythology relate to everyday life in our times? This is also the story of many of the first wives of successful men. The wife provides the ways or means so the man can reach the top, then treats the woman like Zeus treated Metis. A woman can be a member of a group of people her husband aspires to be like or to rise above. She may be more educated and have more money than him. She may provide ideas, introductions, or have connections to further his goals. Once his ambitions are realized, she may become involved in having children and running a household.
Now she is diminished in his eyes, and tricked into being insignificant, or “swallowed.” After a divorce and the ex’s remarriage, this woman, like Metis, may simply disappear from the social scene. When a wife’s ideas or creative work are attributed to her husband, she is often given no public credit. Einstein’s wife was a brilliant physics student, but he never mentioned any of her contributions to his theories. This pattern often occurs in the work world, where a “Zeus” steals work or ideas from a woman and then describes her as “only a helpmate.” Another example of a woman being “swallowed” is when she begins and nurtures an organization, and it is taken over by men once it begins to gain status.
Metis is a wise counselor, who uses time, energy, talents, and resources in a judicious manner, so she will rebound. Metis often comes into your life when you are feeling powerful or when all your resources are not taken up by furthering a husband’s career or having so many childcare duties. Metis can guide you through a serious illness, the worst loss or most terrible betrayal. She urges you to use introspection and solitude, meditation, and even therapy. You must find room for solitude and reflection in your life for Metis to find you, which is often in midlife.
Metis is discerning, and a combination of intuition, intellect, and experience that you have acquired because you are more seasoned by your own life. You are looked upon now as a respected elder who others look to for perspective on their own lives. You set your own goals and normally achieve them. Metis is there when you become involved in social issues of justice, ethics, and accountability. You may develop more female friendships at this time in life, become an environmentalist or a late bloomer to the spirituality movement. You may find you can make a living doing a hobby you only had time to dabble in before this period of life. (At 62, I do this casting and interpreting astrology charts, something I never had time to do). If you chose to be childless, you may feel sad for the road not taken.
If you stopped work to raise a family, you may feel like you sacrificed too much and missed opportunities. But wise Metis will help you find your bearings. You will analyze your life, put those feelings of loss behind you, and use your intelligence and wisdom to decide what you want to do with yourself as a crone or a wise woman in this last third of your life. Now you are realistic and harbor no illusions about yourself or others. Listen very closely to your inner voice, where you will hear Metis’ wise council. Once you have come this far, you will know the path to take that will be the most fulfilling one for you at this time of your life, and happy people just happen to share their happiness with all whom come into their circle.
© 2011 Jean Bakula