We have long known about the Hero’s Journey, whether we’ve called it that or not. The concept was developed by Joseph Campbell, who was an American Professor of Literature working in comparative mythology and religion, most well-known for his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).
In this book, he shared his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero and the mythical cycle of man’s journey to victory of his own life-the model of the heroic quest. It has underpinned the most notable stories in our era from Star Wars and Top Gun to The Wizard of Oz.
In her desire to understand how a woman’s journey related to the journey of the hero, Maureen Murdock, a psychotherapist working with women in private practice, spoke with her teacher, Campbell, about it back in the 1980’s. She felt that while a woman’s journey incorporated aspects of the hero’s journey, there were key elements related to feminine spirituality that were missing from Campbell’s model.
She was stunned and dissatisfied with his response to her assertion, as he stated that women don’t need to make the journey. Campbell: “In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to. When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male.”
Murdock found his answer deeply unsatisfying. That the women she worked with did not want to be there, or “be handmaidens of the dominant male culture, giving service to the Gods,” as she put it, “they need a new model that understands who and what a woman is.”
And so she went about creating that model which she outlined in her groundbreaking book, The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness. It would explain so much about women’s psychology, their lives and how to become whole by reclaiming the feminine aspects of themselves.