Monday, December 06, 2004

The Heroine's Journey - Part 2 - The Mythic Cycle

The Mythic Origins of ROMANCE
Descent into the Labyrinth
The story of True Love was defined back in the Mythic era, as were all other hero tales. Joseph Campbell exquisitely detailed the Hero’s Cycle in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but his is a heroic journey for the male half of the race.

Nowhere does Campbell cover the journey for The Heroine with a Thousand Tears.

But the heroine’s cycle is there, in some of the first stories ever written – the story of "Innana" from Mesopotamia, the cradle of Civilization. A later rendition of this same story is the Greek "Rape of Persephone" and even later is the Roman "Psyche and Eros".

The Myth:
Both Innana & Persephone have pretty much the same story. It all starts with the loss of a loved one and/or a trusted man's betrayal. Innana goes in response to a family death – death is a betrayal of abandonment. Zeus, Persephone’s father simply allows Hades to take her.

And so, cast out or kidnapped, the heroine sets out to deal with the situation with what weapons and armor she has.

When the heroine enters the underworld labyrinth, (willingly or unwillingly) she is stripped and devoured by the goddess of death - a ravening beast of a woman, representing unbridled and violent sexuality.

There are versions where the heroine is killed and hung out to dry, (Inanna) another where she's a pampered consort, (Persephone) and still another version has the heroine working for the beast/goddess as a slave. (Eros & Psyche - In this myth both Eros and his mother Aphrodite play the sex-beast).

Somebody upstairs panics and starts trying to get her back. Unfortunately, the only thing that will free the heroine is: the beast herself, and that means somebody has to figure out what it is the beast really wants – and find a way to give it to her.

In all cases the beast is suffering from Loneliness. The beast/goddess wants to be loved. ometimes a helper upstairs figures this out; sometimes it's the heroine herself.

Sympathy for the beast is expressed, and the heroine is allowed to revive / return - under a condition. The heroine must return or supply a substitute - a sacrifice.

The heroine makes her promise and begins her journey back to the surface. But the heroine has seen the darkness and assumed a part of it into herself, usually involving a second betrayal, (pomegranate seeds anyone?) So, when she comes out of the labyrinth, she's not a pretty sight, in fact she's near bestial herself. There is no hiding where she has been.

The heroine goes home to find: her betrayer.
One of two things happens - if he is unworthy, she kills him. If he has suffered because of his betrayal she forgives him. Either way, the betrayer suffers.

After that, the heroine wraps up her affairs, and willingly returns to the labyrinth or somebody else willingly goes in her place - and the beast isn't lonely any more.
The end.
Think carefully.
Where have you heard this story before?
Try these on for size:
Beauty & the Beast
Red Riding Hood
East of the Sun West of the Moon
Vasilisa & Baba Yaga
Mother Holle (Mother Holy?)
And every Romance novel you ever read.
Every Romance written focuses on:
“Physical Love and the Importance of Trust”.
  • Nowhere in Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is any of this covered.
  • Nowhere in popular movies is this story told – except in fairy tale movies meant for children.
  • Nowhere are these important issues of sexual love and trust dealt with – but in Romance.
Tell me again that Romances serve no purpose.
I Dare you.
The Filthy TRUTH about Real Sex & Real Love
Sexuality = Need for Love? NOT!
I have had more than one woman read this article and complain bitterly that this cycle implies that a woman can't live without a man's love. If that's the message you came away with - YOU are Not Paying Attention!
This cycle is about Accepting the Body's need for Physical Love.
Accepting that you are Sexual
- does NOT mean you Need someone to Love.

This isn't the Victorian Era where people died of old age while still virgins. This is the modern Era where sooner or later Everyone Has Sex.
Acceptance of one's Sexual Nature does NOT mean that they MUST find someone to Love. One does not need a Significant Other to be Sexual. I don't have a Significant Other in my life and I'm Quite sexual, thank you very much.
Oh, and while we're at it, no matter what the Romance novels tell you, physical attraction does not mean you are in love. (Guys already know this.)

The acceptance of ones sexual nature - Male or Female - means the acceptance of the Physical Body's driving needs. It means accepting the fact that your body is an animal, like every other fur-wearing critter out there. And All animals have the same Physical needs - Food, Shelter and Sex.

You think all those copulating animals KNOW they're getting pregnant? Not Hardly! They just know that it's that time again where they get to make whoopee! Puppies and kittens are just that other thing that happens in the spring.

Humans, clever beings that we are, know how to avoid pregnancy and STDs, so we can enjoy our Sexuality without having kittens in the spring. Isn't that nice?
The point of this Mythic Cycle is - if you are going to have sex, TRUST who you have it with! Because there are ALWAYS Consequences! - Physical and Emotional.
Want ALL the dirty details?
Go To:
The Filthy TRUTH about Sex verses Love - In Fiction
Using the ‘Heroic Cycle’ for Writing:
A heroic cycle is best used as a guide for Character Arc, describing the emotional lessons learned in addition to the events (plot) that occur in a story.
Unlike the traditional heroic journey, my Heroine's journey focuses on the mythic cycle of the female, or more precisely, her introduction and acceptance of her sexual nature.
Stages of the Heroine's Mythic Journey
- Abandoned
Something emotionally important is stolen or destroyed
Betrayal by a loved one - father / brother / lover
Into the Wasteland - Donning Armor and Sword
The Beast Guide - Hidden Sexuality
- Within the Labyrinth
Stripped & Devoured by the Beast - Dark Sexuality
Trapped / Enslaved / Suffering - Serving the Beast
Recognition - Sympathy for the Beast
Bargaining for release - Promise to Return
- Facing the Door of Razors
Submission / Sacrifice / Death - Transformation is begun
Escape / Rescue - Following the Beast Out
Seduction / Betrayal at the Last Gate - transformation is completed
Release / Reborn - A Devouring Beast
- Return from the Abyss
Confronting the Betrayer - Revenge / Forgiveness
Mourning / Cleansing / Acceptance - Goodbye to Childhood
Willing Sacrifice - Welcoming the Beast
Balance - Beast and Woman

The HEROINE's Journey
Part 1 - The Fairy Tale Cycle
Part 2 - The Mythic Cycle

Morgan Hawke (C) 2005
All rights reserved. All Wrongs revenged.

Morgan Hawke
Author of Erotic Romance – and damn proud of it.


  1. I agree... but it's exactly that purpose that annoys me in romance.
    Why the Hero's journey is focused on different things, and the Heroine's is all about her sex life? What, a woman's exitence has no other important thing besides physical love, finding a man, and baby-bearing? Is sex & family the center of her universe? Is a woman's universe so much more limited and earthy than a man's?
    The romance novel says, yes. Who needs that cool career in NY when you could live on a farm having great sex and giving birth to cute babies? Who needs that creative endeavor when you could spend the time catering to your romance he.. sorry, husband?
    Whereas the Hero's journey is about the Big things, like conquering the worlds :)

  2. In Response to Daria…
    - You are forgetting something. The myths of my Heroine’s Cycle were written and codified before it was acceptable for women to have a life BEYOND a husband. This is also true of the male myths that form the Heroic Cycle. They were written during a time where the ONLY way to gain a family was to go out a GET a woman, literally, by kidnapping.

    That doesn’t change the fact that Romances are about LOVE and TRUST– not career building, or conquering the world. The traditional male heroic cycle works just fine for career building, or conquering the world stories because those feats are traditionally male aspirations.


  3. I'm going to disagree. I love the descent of Inanna but I think the story you want is
    "Enlil and Ninlil"

    here is one version:

  4. Ameira sweetheart, "Enlil and Ninlil" is a later version of the Same Story, just as 'Psyche & Eros' and 'Beauty & the Beast' are also the same story. Each one was shifted and adjusted to suit the culture they came from but the root of all of those stories is the 'Decent of Innana'.

  5. I think you all are missing something here. "Female" is not the same thing as "feminine". Neither is "male" the same as "masculine". Heroine's journey is the journey of the feminine aspect of the psyche. It also applies to that aspect, the anima, of the male.

    The male/femaleness of it is the proportion of anima/animus in the individual's psyche. I'm sure we know women who wouldn't be caught dead reading romance novels, preferring blood-thirsty action and not a bodice in sight. I'd even go so far as to say that about 20% of the population is balanced opposite to their sex.

    That being said, I think it adds to the depth of story to be able to choose which way any particular story will lean and that mastering the Romance assures any writer that she will be able to touch the whole person and not just the genitals.