What is an Alter Ego and Why do You Need to get One (or more)?
In Latin, alter ego literally means “second I” which is believed to be distinct from a person’s normal or everyday personality.
In a literary analysis of fiction and other narrative forms, the term alter ego is used to describe a key character in a story who is perceived to be the work’s author (or creator) intentional representative of, by virtue of oblique similarities. Princess Isabelle, the main character of my fictional series The Adventures of Isabelle is an example of this sort of alter ego.
While many famous alter egos such as Diana Prince’s “Wonder Woman,” Beyoncé Knowles “Sasha Fierce” and Tony Stark’s “Iron Man” represent a heroic second self this is not always the case. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is a good-hearted, honorable man; but after taking a potion, his alter ego, the loathsome and diabolical Mr. Hyde, takes over his personality!
The type of alter ego we will be discussing in this article can be defined as, “a second-self created by an individual to live out a better, more heroic version of the self.”
So, why do you need to create an alter ego? There are several benefits!
Some of the benefits of having an alter ego:
- It’s empowering, helping you step out of your comfort zone or Ordinary World*.
- It provides you with a character through whose eyes to see your life as a heroine’s quest or journey. [You may want to check out my FREE course, “Write Your Own Heroine’s Quest”]
- You have a persona through which you can channel your genius.
- It can give you distance or objectivity from yourself.
- You have a template to use in difficult situations, a sort of WWJD shortcut but instead, it would be WW (fill in name of your alter ego) D.
What are Female Archetypes?
An archetype is “A very typical example of a certain person or thing, An original which has been imitated; a prototype or a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology” (Oxford Dictionaries).
*The mundane world in which the heroine lives prior to heeding the Call to Adventure (Vogler, 2007).
In Carl Jung’s psychoanalytic theory archetypes are highly developed universal elements: archaic patterns and images, that derive from the collective unconscious* and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. Jung believed there were four primary archetypes contained in the collective unconscious: the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus or the Soul.
According to Jungian psychology, the Anima represents the feminine aspects of our souls or “true selves”. In his theory of psychoanalysis, the Anima is a feminine image in the male psyche, and the animus is a male image in the female psyche. The anima/animus represents the “true self” rather than the image we present to others and serves as the primary source of communication with the collective unconscious.
Archetypes are not static and can be seen as infinite depending on one’s interpretation.
For our purposes, I will be focusing on four types or clusters of female archetypes that are not necessarily elucidated by Jung: 1. Witch/Sorceress, 2. Love Goddess, 3. Warrior Princess/Huntress and 4. Wise Woman/Priestess. I will also only be focusing on the positive aspects of these archetypes because it is from this vein that you can mine the best they have to offer to incorporate into your chosen powerful alter ego.
Characteristics of the Four Archetype Clusters:
1. Witch/Sorceress (Medicine Woman, Cook, Midwife, Healer, Doctor, Artist, Seamstress): These archetypes are very powerful, able to cast spells, control natural forces, heal illness and create something out of nothing or very little. They may live outside the bounds of traditional society but not necessarily. They also possess strong powers of influence often being charismatic, magnetic or seductive but overt or covert sexuality is not crucial to fit this category but merely one possible expression of her immense personal power. The Witch/Sorceress can also be nurturing and sought out by others for help, healing and succor.
Click image to view video from 10.31.18
This grouping also includes the Crone or elderly wise woman. The Crone is often associated with the Celtic “Triple Goddess” (Maiden, Mother, Crone) and she represents the waxing phase of the moon, wisdom, repose and endings such as the end of our life cycle. However, the Witch archetype, like the others I will discuss is not bound to any age group. The Witch/Sorceress can be represented by maidens, mothers and spinsters alike.
Examples of the Witch/Sorceress archetype include: Oya (Yoruba), Isis (Egyptian), Maman Brigitte (Hatian), Circe, Hecate, Medea, Medusa (Greek), Brigid (Celtic), St. Brigid (Irish Catholic), Spider Woman (Navajo), Pele (Hawaiian), Cailleach-The Witch Goddess a.k.a. the Old Woman, the Winter Crone, the Veiled One, the Old Hag, and the Old Crone (Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man), [Pre-Christianity] Baba Yaga (Eastern Europe, Central Asia), Morgan La Fay (Arthurian Legend), Glinda a.k.a. the Good Witch of the South (L. Frank Baum, 1900).
2. Love Goddess (Seductress, Vixen, Wife): There are two sides to this very powerful archetype. One is concerned with love and marriage and the other more associated with sex and lust. The side associated with marriage is represented as the Wife or a believer/protector of the institute of marriage and views sex as a means to express love and to procreate within the context of marriage. The power of this side of the goddess of love is in her ability to provide a safe nurturing place for her mate and children. She may also use her sexual powers in this context to bond her man to her in love and to ensure the security and sanctity of her home. The expectation of monogamy from her mate is an important aspect of this archetype that she takes very seriously and if not respected can bring great punishment on her erring mate!
Click image to view video
The other side of the Love Goddess archetype is more concerned with lust: hot, romantic love affairs and seduction. Both the Seductress/Vixen and the Wife archetype are concerned with beautifying themselves and their surrounding but in different ways. The Seductress side of this archetype is mischievous, playful and often uber feminine, as expressed via her manner of adornment: makeup, scents, clothes, jewelry. She has immense sexual powers that draw people (both men and women) to her. She moves through the world exuding sensuality and those in her presence feel as if they are under her powerful spell.
The shadow side of the Love Goddess/Seductress is the femme fatale/maneater. The most important distinction between a true Love Goddess and femme fatale is that while the femme fatale seduces to take something from her victims, the Love Goddess gives. She uses her immense power for good and uplifts and fills those she is in relationship with joy, love and power. Often those in the thrall of the femme fatale/maneater are aware of the dangers of falling in love with her but do so anyway because the promise of pleasure is just too great to resist!
One of the best examples of this archetype’s shadow side comes from mythology in the form of the Mermaid or Siren: the mythological creatures who lured sailors with their beauty and enchanting music only to dash them on the rocks or climb aboard their ships and tear them to pieces. (Note: In The Adventures of Isabelle Book II: Journey to Orphalese the mermaid, Mami Wata is portrayed as a Love Goddess).
This shadow side of this archetype is not exploited by true Love Goddesses because they really come from a loving place but they do possess the power to bend others to their will, they just don’t choose to. Examples of this archetype from popular culture include movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Ertha Kitt, Katy Jurado, Anna May Wong and Sophia Loren.
Examples of the Love Goddess archetype include: Inanna/Ishtar (Mesopotamian), Aphrodite (Greek), Venus (Roman), Xochiquetzal (Aztec), Erzulie Freda (Dahomian), Mami Wata (Yoruba), Freya (Norse/Germanic), Hathor (Egyptian), Lakshmi (Hindu), Kwan Yin (Chinese).
- Warrior Princess/Huntress (To be posted by Nov. 14, 2018):
- Priestess/Librarian/Teacher (To be posted by Nov. 21, 2018):
How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego:
According to Marelisa Fabrega there are six steps you can follow in order to create an alter ego. You by no means need to stick to these six steps but if you want help getting started they may be quite useful.
These steps [modified from Fabrega] are the following:
- Determine Why You Want an Alter Ego
- Figure Out Your Alter Ego’s Personality
- Create a Distinct Image
- Choose a Name
- Adopt a Mantra or an Invocation
- Inhabit the Personality of Your Alter Ego (as needed)
The Six Steps in Detail:
- Determine Why You Want an Alter Ego.
What do you hope to achieve by creating an alter ego? Do you want to be more outgoing, confident, or unique? Do you want to create a persona that will propel you toward realizing your vision of success? Give your alter ego a purpose or mission.
- Figure Out Your Alter Ego’s Personality.
What kind of person does your alter ego need to be in order to achieve the purpose/mission for which it was created? How do they think? What’s their mindset? What are their thinking models? Your alter ego’s personality could even be a reflection of your ideal self—the personality that you would like to have.
- Create a Distinct Image.
Maybe you’re a jeans and t-shirt kind of person, but your alter ego is high fashion all the way. Or maybe your alter ego only wears black or favors hooded sweatshirts.
Does your alter ego have any mannerisms? How do they walk? What does their voice sound like? How does she wear her hair? Does he wear hats? The more details you can provide for your alter ego, the easier it will be for you to inhabit their character.
- Choose a Name.
Try to come up with a name that is significant for you and has meaning. You can base it on the name of someone you admire, or the name of your favorite goddess, superhero or archetype. In addition, you can simply add an adjective to your name (like “the Great”), or use your own name spelled differently.
- Adopt a Mantra or an Invocation.
A call to action can help you invoke your alter ego when they’re needed. In the 1970’s there was a TV show called “The Secrets of Isis”. In the series, the Egyptian goddess Isis is the alter ego of Andrea Thomas, a seemingly normal schoolteacher.
When facing a crisis, Andrea would transform into Isis by exposing an amulet –which she found during an archaeological dig– to the sun, and saying “Oh mighty Isis”. You can call on your alter ego with a similar phrase.
- Inhabit the Personality of Your Alter Ego (as needed).
You’re not just creating an alter ego to escape into a fantasy world. Instead, you’re creating an alter ego to help you act in a way that will allow you to achieve your goals. Once you’ve created your alter ego, you need to ask yourself how they would act when it comes to achieving the goal that you created them for. Then, proceed to act in that way.
How Do You Mine Archetypes to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego?
The archetypes presented above represent only a fraction of those that exist. I strongly encourage you to do your own digging to uncover more. In order to mine archetypes for the precious gems or metal that you seek, simply use your intuition and/or follow the above six steps. There are NO RULES for this process so have fun!
If you want a bit of guidance, consider the traits that the various archetypes you are drawn to represent. Examine various archetypes and pay attention to those to whom you are naturally to and to which you connect. This can indicate those aspects of yourself that are embodied within that archetype. This attraction may also signal parts of yourself that are longing to be recognized and developed.
What traits did you identify in step one? Create your alter ego’s personality from these traits combined with any others you envision for your ideal self. Regarding a name, is there a figure from myth or real life that represents the crowning trait of a particular archetype? For example, the Yoruba goddess Oya, who controls the wind and lightning, represents the powers of the Witch/Sorceress archetype. Do you want an alter ego who can control the elements? You can borrow her name, combine it with yours or simply make up your own name! To create and image and invocation, you may continue to consider what is available to you in regards to an image, clothing, invocation or physical traits as well. Really, the sky is the limit because you are creating your most powerful and perfect idealized aspect of yourself. And don’t stress if you feel you haven’t created the “perfect” alter ego. You can always revise, rewrite, reimagine and recreate as your instincts dictate,
*Six steps adapted from “How to Create an Alter Ego (and Why You Should Want To)” by Marelisa Fabrega