Women's Ancient Stories: Archetype and Meaning


The author interprets three stories from recently Neolithic cultures (Melanesian, African Bushman, and Inuit) and a fourth story from an oral tradition of Haitian women. All four are about women and perhaps, judging by their content, composed by women. The author trained with Edward Whitmont and developed his interpretation technique in decades of practice with dreams as a Jungian analyst. He adds a new tool, the use of repetition, in which the same point is made by a series of different details. Repetition provides an internal test for the accuracy of an interpretation. The author updates Jung’s concept of archetypes to incorporate an understanding of Darwinian evolution (which Jung lacked), new knowledge of the function of genes, and new knowledge of the emergence of complexity in dynamic and adaptive systems. He compares his interpretations of the four stories with other scholars’ interpretations, in particular the extraordinary work of Michael Wessels on African Bushman legends. Though Wessels criticized Jung for imposing his ‘colonial’ theory of universal archetypes, both Jung and Wessels insisted that interpretation requires a dialogue between two agents in which both are subjects, neither being dominated or objectified. In the four stories, the author shows, symbolic consciousness began with women. The anthropologist Chris Knight proposed something similar in 1991 in his controversial book Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture.

Author's Profile

Maxson J. McDowell
Duke University (PhD)


Added to PP

431 (#30,072)

6 months
209 (#6,509)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?