The Circle of Nine: An Archetypal Journey to Awaken the Divine Feminine Within, by Cherry Gilchrist
Weiser Books, 9781578636327, 272 pp., 2018
Cherry Gilchrist first published The Circle of Nine: Understanding the Feminine Psyche (Compass of Mind) in 1988. Her new book The Circle of Nine: An Archetypal Journey to Awaken the Divine Feminine Within is much more than just an updated version of the original. She has done an excellent job of rewriting it with the modern reader in mind. This time around she was also able to share the wisdom she’s personally gained over the past 20 years of using this system herself.
History tells us that change happens when women gather together in groups, that’s probably why throughout history they were so often discouraged to do so. Yet, despite that ongoing trend, accounts of women’s groups exist throughout a variety of different traditions spanning decades. The membership of an incredible number of these groups specifically included the number nine. Gilchrist cites historical evidence of many of these accounts and retells the stories and legends that surround them. She has found a way to tie the past with the present and to transform these iconic archetypes into modern terms that every woman can see somewhere within herself and the other women she’s known throughout her lifetime.
While it would be impossible to illustrate every role a woman might play during her long lifetime, the system presented does a good job of laying a solid foundation for finding similarities to one’s own life through the formulae of the nine female archetypes. These nine archetypes lend themselves to an array of practical applications within daily life.
Gilchrist has created a model that contain a plethora of details and attributes for each of these archetypes, which makes it more probable that any woman who reads the book will discover something that she can relate to and apply to her own life. This system allows the individual to develop a personal classification of life experiences. The number of attributes and details she has compiled also make it possible for these archetypes to appeal to a larger and more varied group of women. This also enables us to identify with these archetypes as the roles that often play out over the course of human life in general.
I am certainly able to see some aspect of myself and my life in each of the nine archetypes provided. If I had to choose the one that I identify with the most, it would be the Just Mother archetype. On the surface this is because I have four children ranging in ages from eight years to 25 years old, but there are many layers to each of these archetypes. On closer investigation, the relatability of the Just Mother is also about my personal spiritual ideals and the way in which I choose to live my life. I accept that I am the author of my own story and the creator of my own universe. I always attempt to see the things I have done that lead me to every situation in life, without placing fault on anyone else. Those qualities are at the heart of the Just Mother archetype as Gilchrist describes it.
There are two sides to Gilchrist’s formula: the mundane and the magical. Gilchrist shows us how the practical side of this formula can be utilized in different ways within our everyday lives. She talks about daily tasks most of us perform, such as shopping for groceries, taking care of children, working, enjoying entertainment, and preparing meals. Her formula can be used to aid the individual in overcoming a variety of obstacles and to foster growth opportunities in general within the life of the reader. This application for her model promotes self-realization, self-healing and self-help. These tools have the potential to aid us greatly in the various aspects of our daily mundane lives.
There is also the magical aspect of The Circle of Nine. As she writes, “The mythic figures that surround this place help to activate it’s potential and guard the special inner sanctum where the individual can work and reflect without intrusion.”1 This speaks to me of the magical circle, or space, in which ritual and change take place whether it be physical or psychological.
Women of today are striving to enjoy both the paradox of the beauty and sadness of ephemerality, as well as the beauty and sadness of physicality. They are searching for ways to integrate what they view as spiritual into their everyday lives. A magical woman, whether she considers herself a priestess, witch, or magician, strives to choose her attitude and perspective rather than just reacting to the situation before her. Being a magical woman to me means being able to effect change in and around me through the exertion of one’s divine will.
Magick is widely thought of as a set of mental exercises, rituals, and tools used to achieve these goals. In a sense, it is a completely internal process, the physical actions being a manifestation of the psychological processes occurring within the mind of the individual. Women who use magick are working to actively manifest change within their lives. This incredibly detailed formula could help to perfect those techniques. The Circle of Nine encourages women to take charge of their own universe and so take responsibility for the outcomes they experience.
Gilchrist explains in a clear and concise manner how these archetypes can be integrated from a psycho-spiritual perspective, to connect with the everyday lives of women the world over. In this way, she is encouraging the reader to make spiritual connections within every aspect of their lives. Perhaps through use of this system, the reader will discover that spark of spirituality within even the ordinary and seemingly mundane.
Gilchrist gives us a method of accomplishing the goal we all have as magical beings. She shows us how to tap into the archetypes and weave our power to affect our surroundings, our perspectives ,and ultimately our lives — and she does it in a manner that is clear and concise. Her concepts are well researched and well defined.
I enjoyed the rich retelling of the mythological and historical stories that support the concept of the nine archetypes. Gilchrist is a storyteller with a firm academic foundation, rooted in history, legends and tales who has come up with a formula that could help many women the world over. I would recommend The Circle of Nine to all women, whether you consider yourself magical or not.
Image Credit: Dewa Rengkas
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