The Father's Daughter


"Brunhilde Knelt at His Feet", Ferdinand Leeke (1859 – 1923), German

In mythological stories there is an image of a "spear maiden", a beautiful woman who uses weapon, but who unlike masculine war gods, who often fight out of pure instinct, fights for ideals. She is not the brute force, she is the intellectual, strategic and civilisational force. This "spear maiden" is not defending it out of duty alone, she has personal attachment to it as well - she is defending "The Fatherworld". She is the defender of the world her father has built. She is the archetypal "Father's Daughter". She is assertive, rational and competent. Weapon adorns her and her intelligence makes her a great strategist. Often, she is valued because she is not interested in the "women's world" - she is a virgin, does not pursue romantic relationships and has no ambition of having children. "The Fatherworld" may condemn other women for staying away from traditional roles of wife and mother, but the father's daughter is exempt from every rule.


In Egyptian mythology, she is Sekhmet, the fierce daughter of Ra who acted as his vengeful power. In Greco-Roman myth, she is Athena or Minerva, the favourite child of Zeus or Jupiter, in Germanic myth, she is Brünnhilde, the favourite of her father Wotan. Aelia Eudocia whose pre-Christian name was Athenais and Hypatia who inherited her father Theon of Alexandria's legacy, are notable historical examples. In the lives of both of these women, the mother is barely mentioned or has died. Both of them were taught philosophy, astronomy, poetry, languages and mathematics by their fathers and both were considered the next in the lineage of their father's principle. They both pursued intellectual and public roles and, were involved in politics and education.


Despite her competence, the father's daughter is not without psychological challenges. The problems occur when the father's daughter tries to find an identity that is unrelated to father or when the love knocks at her door.

The Father's Mind

The most well-known mythological father's daughter in the Western mythological heritage is Athena. She, born out of the head of Zeus is perfectly and completely his. She is fierce and combative, ready to punish anyone who goes against her and her father's ideals - she punishes Medusa, she punishes Arachne, punishes Ajax and she is glad to help Zeus chain his wife. He is the only one she never goes against. She guides warriors and heroes, she picks her favourites and stands by them in the battle. Athena is fully in the "world of men".


A father's daughter who lives in the physical world, occupying physical space, may have a mother, but she is indeed the product of her father's psyche. She is the one who studies and reads while very young and who approaches her father asking: "Dad, teach me." She may be interested in her father's business, in his books, in his values and ideals, anything that is part of the "Fatherworld". Her creativity and her curiosity are sustained by her father. She is moving along him. The father and daughter may eventually develop a psychic, unconscious allegiance against the mother, never allowing her space in the psychological intimacy that the daughter and the father maintain. In the words of psychoanalysis, this intimate microcosm that the father and daughter inhabit creates a psychological incest bond. That does not mean that subconsciously, the daughter wants to sleep with her father or vice versa - it simply means that between the father and the daughter there is an unconscious exchange of creative and sexual psychic energy. He is the one who sustains her and nourishes her and his is the scorn and rejection she fears the most.


This woman develops a very effective relationship with her animus. She easily excels in everything she does and everything she aims for. But what she is not aware of is that while she so easily accomplishes everything she desires, she may subconsciously feed her Medusa. By being so attached to the ideal, to the perfect, she forgets about her humanity. She is always involved in the fantasy of herself and can barely confront the reality of herself - the reality in which she is not the perfect goddess, but a human with feelings and needs. It is not rare, that successful and accomplished father's daughters, who may be in highly paid positions, who wear designer suits and who have closet full of designer handbags and shoes, are also drinking themselves to sleep. This is a successful Athena in the grip of her own Medusa - turned into stone, without life inside of her. Inside she is crying yet she cannot connect to her heart. An adult and no longer moving along with her father, she has lost her creative source and yet her disconnect from the mother makes it hard for her to find her feminine creativity. She may become cruel, ruthless, power driven almost without any conscious involvement in it - she does it to distract herself from confronting the Medusa that is turning her into a corpse.

The Fatherworld Lost

"Siegfried (Sigurðr) awakens Brunhild (Brynhildr), a scene from Wagner's Ring", Otto Philipp Donner von Richter (1828 - 1911), German

Athena or Minerva never finds a lover - she remains a psychological, spiritual virgin forever. She never comes near emotion and therefore forever remains in the Fatherworld. Some women who follow the father's daughter archetypal pattern are the the same - even if they marry and have children, they never truly allow themselves to become "ravished brides", so they remain forever emotionally untouched. She is not a virgin who sits on the lap of Sophia - at the same time virginal and open, the Athenian virgin never opens.


In Germanic mythology, Athena has her earlier mentioned cousin - Brünnhilde. They are the same archetype - warrior maidens who protect the Fatherworld. However, Brünnhilde's story offers another detail that allows to paint a more complete picture of the father's daughter archetype. Brünnhilde, her father's favourite, was a woman completely armored by her father and obedient to his orders. One day, she was ordered by her father not to protect his son Siegmund in the battle. Wotan, the father, had to choose between betraying the hero and betraying the marriage with Fricka, the goddess of earth and vegetation. Fricka is embodiment of a dependable, reliable woman who values the predictability of an impersonal relationship over the personal one. Witnessing love, and being moved by love and compassion, Brünnhilde for the first time made her own choice and disobeyed her father. She took the side of the hero. Her father was furious and to punish her, he put her on a rock where she would sleep forever. She, a proud warrior maiden, said that she did not want be raped and abused by the men unworthy of her and asked her father to create a ring of fire, a ring of passion around her so that only a hero could get to her and release her. Wotan accepted her offer, but made an ultimatum - if so happened, she would have to become a human and cease to be a goddess. The hero Siegfried appeared and woke her up from her slumber.


When a father's daughter, Brünnhilde, decided to disobey father for the first time - she was left without "his armor" and his protection. The privileges that the loyalty to the Fatherworld once gave her, were taken away the first time she wanted to act on her own values.


The separation from the father usually happens during the puberty. The once father's daughter, first time experiences her eros as separate from her father's. The source of her creativity, her life-nectar has been shattered and she finds herself just in the same situation like Brünnhilde - half dead, attached to a stone. She feels abandoned, betrayed and rejected. Since her eros has moved so closely with her father's, she, once in puberty, might experience her own creativity as a rape by the father. She cannot see any part of her own creativity that is not his. When her psyche is split, the father's daughter has the opportunity to fill that void by finding her feminine creativity - by connecting to the Great Mother, but since the Great Mother is almost absent from the conscious even in women, the father's daughter usually has nothing to reach for. There is no positive feminine image for her - women around her are just like her, devoted to constantly manipulating their surroundings to one end or another. Lacking a mother's lap to sit on, and feeling the father's betrayal, she comes to see men as tricksters, rapists, cheaters. She becomes femme fatale - a woman who uses men for the power and pleasure, without a desire to connect. At the very worst, she falls into the full shadow of the virgin and becomes a prostitute, or at least beings to relate to her body as a prostitute would. In the book "The Sacred Prostitute" Nancy Qualls-Corbett gives an example of a young, accomplished woman with this shadow: "Susan was a beautiful woman, extremely bright and talented. With enormous effort she educated herself and achieved a very responsible position, but not without great cost to her body and her self­-image. At one point she took money for sex, and thereafter continued to see herself as a whore. Susan dated often, but without any feelings of love or joy, although she expertly acted these emotions. In her sense of unworthiness, she overcompensated by "performing," as she said, in an extra­ witty, extra­ charming and extra ­exciting way—all counterproductive for the development of her true feminine nature. Relationships were strictly for the purpose of ego ­aggrandizement. "When meeting someone new," she said, "I immediately get out my calculator." She readily gave herself to a man after an expensive evening because, she reasoned, it was expected of her. That was what a prostitute should do. When Susan came into analysis, her denial of the body was complete. "I've been dead a long time," she said on her initial visit. She had suicidal thoughts; she no longer cared to live a life of self­ deprecation, full of depression and extreme loneliness."


Seeking excitement and shallow sex can be an attempt at seeking the vital, masculine psychic energy she once received from her father, yet, she approaches the new relationships without a desire for connection, but as a tool to deal with the feeling of the father's seduction which she as an adult rejects. The more she does it, the more she affirms the Medusa. The more she tries to defy the father consciously, the more she affirms him in her subconscious. She becomes trapped inside herself and the feelings as described by Susan appear. The Medusa threatens to turn her into a stone, a father who she feels betrayed by, threatens to attach her to a rock, in both cases - cold and death are the promise.

Finding Perseus, Finding Siegfried, Finding Metis

"Peresus and Andromeda", Hendrik Jacob Hoet (1693 - 1733), Dutch

Father's daughter spends a significant amount of her life having a positive, creative animus that fertilises her psyche. When she psychologically separates from the father, that animus easily takes on an ugly face and she comes under animus possession. The mind is split from the body and she acts on her never - ending hunger. The hunger comes from her Medusa, her animus possessed woman, who as a symbol of serpentine ego can never be satisfied and makes her always desire for more. Sensory satisfaction will not have it go away as it is not instinctual hunger that she is combating with. It cannot be shut down with a piece of bread. What is present inside of her is the psychic, ego hunger that sensory feeding will not feed. The woman may feel hungrier the more she tries to satisfy it on a superficial level. It is emptiness within that desires fullness, not the belly.


Athena had a mother, who is less known. She is Metis, the goddess of wisdom, expertise, craft and trickery. Athena has inherited many of her own qualities from her mother, including those of wisdom, expertise and craft but she is unaware. Father's daughter who has lost her creativity beacause of the split from the father, can find it within her mother. The need to find the mother and reconnect with the women may also be triggered by the exclusion from the Fatherworld. She could notice that men around her, despite her many accomplishments still see her as a woman, as she overhears their comments about her legs or hair. She is so removed from her body that she will see anyone noticing her body as an insult and something she must fight against. Her surroundings constantly remind her she has a body and that she cannot deny the reality of it. She now has to find wisdom and knowledge that is not about academia, books and theories and finally come to see wisdom in the "grandmother's knowledge". When she connects with the Mother inside of her, she is finally able to connect with the women she considers simple and ordinary - women satisfied with children, husband, home or women who enjoy emotional experiences, make up and are not driven by accomplishments in the "Fatherworld". She finally sees value in life that is centered around relationships, even if she herself remains the accomplished, ambitious woman. She usually does remain that, but she can now dwell in wholeness of her being, without being split between one side and the other.


Perseus is a hero, a positive masculine role who slays the Medusa and frees the Andromeda from her rock. Siegfried find his own maiden to awaken, also attached to a rock. Symbolically, the maiden is no longer under threat of turning into a stone - love liberates her from her own prison. Allowing ravishment, by either an external man or her own inner positive animus, she opens her being to give and she once again receives the fertile animus. Her creativity is finally hers again, not her father's. She is finally born, not as a perfect goddess of her father's mind, but as a human being, imperfect but whole.

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