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The Star

BY Mark C.E. Peterson March 19, 2023

“Le Stelle” from the Soprafino-Gumppenberg Tarot. Art by Carlo Della Rossa (1840).

Hence in a season of calmer weather

Though inland far we be,

Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea

 Which brought us hither,

 Can in a moment travel thither,

And see the Children sport upon the shore,

And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

(Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth)

The vernal equinox marks the transition from winter to spring here in the northern hemisphere, and our friends in Australia can now breathe a sigh of relief as a tough, hot summer transitions into autumn. Regardless of where you are, this astronomical moment marks a boundary both factually and symbolically. Appropriately enough, this month our MythBlast family has been musing on the seventeenth trump card of the tarot: the Star.

The Star is one of the goddess cards in the tarot. There are a number of such cards representing different aspects of the “Divine Feminine,” that is to say a variety of characteristics ascribed to the symbol as “feminine” based partly in a socially constructed and culturally inflected set of experiences and conceptual structures and then projected into that misty ganz andersein (Ultimate Other) lying just beyond, or below, normal waking consciousness. 

I’m being careful in this description, because describing something as “one aspect of the Divine Feminine” suggests that these representations are prototypes, as if they describe a set of “divine” characteristics or Platonic Forms to which human beings are supposed to aspire and against which human lives are to be judged. I think this view is exactly backwards. Symbols like these are projections of our psyche captured in metaphor—the metaphors can be beautiful, but their value depends upon the degree to which they effectively disclose, or direct our attention to, deeper parts of our own experience. Metaphors like these put us in relationship with the world and, when our understanding of the world changes, so too must those metaphors. As civilization moves into a less binary understanding of life and culture, these metaphors will have to morph as well.

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In any case, while women can be stereotypically understood using these aspects of the Divine Feminine, the symbolic topography of Divine Feminine must first be understood as having been determined by what a particular culture, situated in a particular time and space, deemed to be a “woman.” The same goes for the masculine side of this traditional binary. There is a chicken-and-egg analogy working in the background here, but it’s important to get the order of signified and signifier right.

With that safety lock in place, let’s get starry eyed.

The Star, as a verb instead of a noun, seems to work regardless of current social constructions. Operationally defined, she symbolizes the boundary layers and the mode of transit between daily, mundane consciousness and that which lies beyond.

Discerning readers will have noticed that in some sense the metaphors that link us to what lies beyond mundane consciousness will, to mundane consciousness, often seem to be understood as lies. What lies beyond often seems to lie. That’s always the problem with metaphors. The fact that it’s ironic and corny at the same time is always the first indication of a deeper hermeneutical, and hermetic, mystery.

The Star card typically shows a woman at the water’s edge, sometimes a river, sometimes a pond, but the water always represents the Great Sea. She kneels beside it wielding two jugs, one held aloft pouring water (or starlight) onto herself and the other slung below, pouring that water out into the world. She inhabits the shoreline, marking the tide, straddling the boundary between Here and There, making accessible the Yonder Shore or, at least, the watery starlit pathway that transits Here to There.

In normal life you may have had the experience of walking the beach at night when the water is still, rippled by hushed zephyrs, and felt the sea dew gentle itself against your face: a barest intimation of the vast and mostly opaque ocean depths rolling out of sight to the horizon. Arguably, most days, our unconscious selves communicate in the same way, as the slightest, almost unnoticeable mist bringing material to consciousness from what seems a mostly opaque and inscrutable depth rolling out of sight beyond the horizon of normal consciousness. It whispers misty intimations (I really want to say mythsty intimations). Sometimes we recognize and rejoice in these mythsty intimations of immortality, but, more often than not, we perceive these whispers as nothing more than a spray of healthy hydration that keeps the hardening skin of adulthood softer, and more pliant, and more functionally alert.

So, to normal waking consciousness, the Star card represents a kind of humidifier—although, admittedly, sometimes a fire hose—powered by the unconscious. We notice it only when we shut it off or when it runs out of starlight … I mean, water … and our skin, or the protective membrane of mundane consciousness, dries out and hardens, or cracks.

The metaphor here suggests how we can share in this transverberation by absorbing the sea dew, the spilled starlight, and then acting as a conduit, spilling it out into the world. Spilling starlight into the world is a pretty dense, if twinkly, metaphor, but it would come down to something like this: once one is in touch with the Great Sea—and the “Great Sea” here is a kenning for the Jungian unconscious or even for the universal architecture which Aristotle reminds us is accessed through wonder—one cannot help but spill the water from that Grail out into the world.

Twinkle twinkle.

Thanks for musing along.

Mark C.E. Peterson is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and former President of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture.  He began his work at the University of Toronto focused primarily on Hegel’s natural philosophy and its links to the history of science and technology. These interests evolved to constellate around the larger questions of how humans are related – scientifically, philosophically, and spiritually – to nature. A practitioner of both taijiquan and kundalini yoga for over 40 years his academic research is currently engaged in a semiotic analysis of the relationship between explanatory and narrative/mythological accounts of nature and an Aristotelian re-examination of environmental ethics.

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Pagan Meditations: The Worlds of Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hestia

This book is Paris’s contribution to “imaginative” feminism.

A work of Archetypal Psychology. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to meditate or recollect the Divine in daily life. Also highly recommended for university libraries; theater, speech and communications collections; and for classical and psychological studies.

Reviews for Ginette Paris’ Archetypal Psychology Book

Sheila Cogill
The Small Press Book Review

An appreciation of three Greek Goddesses as values of importance to our twentieth-century collective life: Aphrodite as civilized sexuality and beauty; Artemis as solitude, ecological significance, and a perspective on abortion; and Hestia as warm hearth, security, and stability. As the author’s contribution to imaginative feminism, this book addresses both the meditative interior of each person and the community of culture.

Ginette Paris began her archetypal studies with this book. It has since become a foundation for the study of goddesses and how they imaginatively fit into our lives today.


Review By David L. Miller
Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Her truly remarkable work on the mythemes of three Greek religious figures is frankly feminist in perspective, but imaginably feminist and polytheistically so. « We are all Greek, » she writes (3), and she means by this to include the aphroditic, artemisian, and hestian aspects of men as well as women (192).

Paris writes: “There are as many feminisms as goddesses” (199) and she adds: “I do no think of polytheism as superior to monotheism – that would be contradictory” (198). True to these assertions, the text avoids literalisms and nominalisms. …Sensitive to the fact that “it is uninteresting if one only wishes to imitate the Greeks” (172), indeed, was uninteresting as imitatio Christi, Paris’ purpose is to make mythemes available “as a focus for questioning ourselves [individually and socially], for creating images” (172). …

The word “meditations” in the title is apt and should be read in the sense associated with Martin Heidegger and Marcus Aurelius. When Heidegger contrasted meditative with calculative thinking in his “Memorial Address” for Conradin Kreutzer in 1955, he claimed for the former the qualities of an “openness for mystery” and a “releasement toward things,” i.e., a humility in the face of the anxiety for certainty and control which could be correlated to a sensitivity for the body experience, qualities Heidegger thought were lacking in the encroaching sociologizing and scientizing of an-aesthetic life and thought in the academy.

That Paris’ work is meditative in this Heideggerian sense is especially seen in the way she handles the myth/history problematic. “The entanglement of history and myth is only embarrassing, “ she writes, “when we try at all costs to hold to the facts rather than to the spirit” (157). … Such modality leads Paris, and the reader, into a sensus communis that is reminiscent not only of Heidegger’s characterization, but also of the actual quality of text in the case of Marcus’ Meditations.

Like Marcus’ writing, this work is an essay…Indeed to this reviewer that the essay may well represent the mode, more and more, of thinking on the frontier as well as on the margins. One may recall other recent works: Anne Carson’s Eros, an Essay. James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games, and Susan Sontag’s, essay on Roland Barthes. These move the marbles. Besides Marcus Aurelius, there are Emerson, Montaigne, and the zuihitsu of the fourteenth-century Japanese writer Kenko … Paris’ book belongs to this company of the scholarly essay… This book is not without passion and body … In fact, this meditative essay, in the view of this reader, demonstrates its author’s saying: “More complexity, fewer complexes.”



More Reviews of Pagan Meditations: Aphrodite, Hestia, Artemis

« Ginette Paris treats her subject with the utmost respect and seriousness; her prose – like the very concept of « Pagan Meditations » – is lush and extravagant, sometimes frankly erotic, but always thoughtful and thought-provoking, always fresh and surprising.

« In her hands, the myth of Aphrodite becomes « an alternative to both the Judeo-Christian attitude of sexual repression and its corollary, contemporary sexual promiscuity and the insignificance which accompanies it. »

-Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Review of Books. August 24, 1986


« Imaginatively conceived and written, thought-provoking to read, Pagan Meditations offers something new – a vision of multiple feminisms, each as vibrant and varied as the real life situations which engender them. At the same time, Ginette Paris has recovered something old, something ancient – the realm of the pagan goddesses and their celebration of life. The book’s genius lies in its bringing the two together and allowing us to see three of the Greek goddesses as values of extreme importance to our twentieth-century collective life.

« Like Spignesi’s Starving Women, Paris’s book is an essential contribution to feminist psychology. Both authors share a passionate, daring approach to their subjects yet are able to present their discoveries: in very readable, accessible, form. »

-Mary Helen Sullivan
« Ginette Paris’s Pagan Meditations is a gem of feminine wisdom sparkling with the inner light of the author’s own deep convictions as a woman. Her rich personal experience and her wealth of knowledge as a social psychologist give this work an impressive scope. It radiates with a feminine power that reaches into the psychic life and spiritual inner workings of each person as well as the community of culture. She calls her spellbinding approach an « imaginative feminism. » With this she is able to weave together the objective wisdom and spiritual power of the archetypal perspective, as well as the mystery and artistry of the Eternal Feminine into a feminism worn weary by desiccating polemics and poisonous invectives on its political altars.

« This is an important book for both men and women at this pivotal time in cultural history when the Goddess is being reclaimed and invoked by collective effort to help prepare us to meet the New Age and its challenges. At this crucial point Ginette Paris « has sought in our cultural past whatever could be useful in nourishing the new gender identity and a renewed set of values for us to live by » (p. 197). Through tapping ancient sources she has succeeded in resurrecting a world view of the feminine that confronts the very spiritual and philosophical roots of the old patriarchal age and some of our most pressing social issues and problems. »

-Julie Bresciani Excerpted from Quadrant, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring, 1987), 102-104.

Featured Work


Joseph Campbell brought mythology to a mass audience. His bestselling books, including The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces, are the rare blockbusters that are also scholarly classics. While Campbell’s work reached wide and deep as he covered the world’s great mythological traditions, he never wrote a book on goddesses in world mythology. He did, however, have much to say on the subject. Between 1972 and 1986 he gave over twenty lectures and workshops on goddesses, exploring the figures, functions, symbols, and themes of the feminine divine, following them through their transformations across cultures and epochs.

Editor Safron Rossi, a goddess studies scholar and professor of mythology, collected these lectures to create Goddesses. In this evocative volume, Campbell traces the evolution of the feminine divine from one Great Goddess to many, from Neolithic Old Europe to the Renaissance. He sheds new light on classical motifs and reveals how the feminine divine symbolizes the archetypal energies of transformation, initiation, and inspiration.

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