Maureen Murdock is generally regarded as the first to chart an alternative to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey narrative paradigm that she believed is more appropriate for women’s life journeys. As a student of Campbell’s, Murdock, came to believe that the Hero’s Journey model did not adequately address the psycho-spiritual journey of women. She developed a model of a heroine’s journey based on her work with women in therapy. When she showed it to Campbell in 1983, Campbell reportedly said, “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.” Perhaps Campbell viewed the hero’s journey as a journey toward wholeness, and in a patriarchal society in which men subordinate qualities traditionally associated with the feminine, the search for wholeness would lead to their reclaiming so-called feminine qualities and values. However, it appears that Campbell was either uninterested in women’ reclaiming qualities that had been lost to them through enculturation or those that had never been viewed as rightfully theirs, or he was blinded by the fact that the myths that he was examining involved male figures. At any rate, Murdock became convinced that women were involved in their own psycho-spiritual journeys and quests and developed the following model.
- HEROINE SEPARATES FROM THE FEMININE. The “feminine” is often a mother/mentor figure or a societally prescribed feminine/marginalized/outsider role.
- IDENTIFICATION WITH THE MASCULINE & GATHERING OF ALLIES. The heroine embraces a new way of life. This often involves choosing a path that is different than the heroine’s prescribed societal role, gearing up to “fight” an organization/role/group that is limiting the heroine’s life options, or entering some masculine/dominant-identity defined sphere.
- ROAD/TRIALS AND MEETING OGRES & DRAGONS. The heroine encounters trials and meets people who try to dissuade the heroine from pursuing their chosen path, or who try to destroy the heroine.
- EXPERIENCING THE BOON OF SUCCESS. The heroine overcomes the obstacles in their way. (This is typically where the hero’s journey ends.)
- HEROINE AWAKENS TO FEELINGS OF SPIRITUAL ARIDITY/DEATH. The heroine’s new way of life (attempting the masculine/dominant identity) is too limited. Their success in this new way of life is either temporary, illusory, shallow, or requires a betrayal of self over time.
- INITIATION & DESCENT TO THE GODDESS. The heroine faces a crisis of some sort in which the new way of life is insufficient, and the heroine falls into despair. All of the masculine/dominant-group strategies have failed them.
- HEROINE URGENTLY YEARNS TO RECONNECT WITH THE FEMININE. The heroine wants to, but is unable to return to their initial limited state/position.
- HEROINE HEALS THE MOTHER/DAUGHTER SPLIT. The heroine reclaims some of their initial values, skills, or attributes (or those of others like them) but now views these traits from a new perspective.
- HEROINE HEALS THE WOUNDED MASCULINE WITHIN. The heroine makes peace with the “masculine” approach to the world as it applies to them.
- HEROINE INTEGRATES THE MASCULINE & FEMININE. In order to face the world/future with a new understanding of themselves and the world/life, the heroine integrates the “masculine” and “feminine” qualities/perspectives. This permits the heroine to see through binaries and to interact with a complex world that includes the heroine but is also larger than their personal lifetime or their geographical/cultural milieu.
Below is the journey laid out in chart form.