Goddess Archetypes of Downton Abbey


Guilty pleasures. The older I get, the more of them I have.

Heavy cotton sheets stretched tight over my firm mattress.

Every single win, no matter how procedural or small, at the law.

Roasted garlic, smeared over melted brie, on slices of a fresh baguette.

Warm socks in the deep midwinter.

Sweet hot coffee for my morning meditation.

And, I admit, Downton.

On New Year’s Day, Landscape Guy took me up to Delaware to see an exhibit of the costumes from Downton Abbey. If you’re even a bit interested in women’s clothing, the period covered by the show — late Victoriana, to Edwardian, to Flapper — is fascinating. Women went from being confined inside long dresses, tight corsets, huge crinolines, lots of frills, and layers of clothes to dressing in short, unconstructed, loose gowns with fringe and beads that were meant to show how much the women could move.

Lately, I’ve been reading Goddesses in Older Women, which reminds me how much Goddesses in Every Woman meant to me when I was new to Goddess worship and Witchcraft. And, so, lately, I’ve been considering which Goddess archetypes show up on Downton Abbey.

A few are obvious.

The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) is Hera. She’s concerned with family, propriety, legal inheritance, and, oh, did I mention, family? Position matters to her, propriety matters to her, and, as I may have mentioned, her family matters to her. She’s Hera in action.

And Anna is clearly Venus. She’s even married to crippled Hephaistos, although, unlike the Venus of legend, she’s faithful to him, good English wife that she is, at least except for when she’s forced — as English wives sometimes were in morality tales — not to be. She’s always beautiful, she’s always in love, and she’d always love, as she says, to just once sleep until she wakes up natural.

Lady Mary is Athena, the father’s daughter, sprung full blown from Lord Grantham’s brow. She’s never as comfortable as when she’s surrounded by men, employing strategy, engaging in local politics, figuring out how to turn a herd of pigs into a fortune.

Ivy is, I think, Flora, although she has elements of Persephone. Ivy is young, beautiful, full of potential. She is mothered by Mrs. Pattmore, a Demeter if there ever was one. Yes, she was forced into an underworld marriage against her own better judgment, but Ivy came through with the farm, a future, a life bound up with the land. Flora? Am I right?

Edith is, far more than Ivy, Persephone. Edith has, from the beginning, been the dreamy dezien of the underworld. All of her loves have been forbidden: the burned veteran, the older man, the married editor. And Edith wanders through the underworld, moving through the fog and trying to reunite with her child, slipping back and forth between the real world with her daughter and the world of illusions in which she and her family live.

Thomas is, I think, the Trickster. He’s always trying to get something over the other members of downstairs Downton. To what avail? There’s really nothing for Thomas, but he can’t help himself; he has to try and be the trickster. I think he’s a brilliant exemplar of how the trickster is bound up in his own tricks. We tend to see the trickster as a free agent, but he has fewer choices than we think. He has to keep on tricking. Charles Grigg, who shows up to introduce chaos into Mr. Carson’s life, is another exemplar of the trickster, especially given his association with the stage.

Mrs. Huges is Vesta, Hestia, the guardian of the hearth. She’ll do whatever must be done to keep the home fires burning, including sacrificing her own chance at happiness. She deals with everyone else’s problems and keeps the secrets that need keeping.

There are several exemplars of Columbia, Marriane, Brittania. In addition to Sybil there’s Sarah Bunting and, to some extent, Rose. Rose, and given her name it’s obvious, is a bit of a Flora, but she’s also the modern woman, wanting a wireless and a relationship with a man who would shock her mother. Mary’s line is wonderful: “Your niece is a flapper. Accept it.”

Picture found here.

3 responses to “Goddess Archetypes of Downton Abbey

  1. who is the goddess of the cold, the frozen, the stilled to near absolute zero where the atoms themselves stop moving? The goddess of passivity, who goes through the rituals because she knows them, not because she believes they are worth a bucket of chilled spit any longer? Who looks on the dances and debaucheries and debacles and despairs with disinterest, waving a feeble hand with a last twitch of sympathy for the latter only? Who sees that the circles of the other deities have moved elsewhere, leaving behind only Death who moved into the back bedroom where love has gone away? He’s no trouble, doesn’t make messes, just sits there. He’s lost the power to move or frighten any more. When you always win but can’t quit, the game takes on a screaming boredom apparently.

    “the juicy crone.” Nice image, sounds like she’s enjoying it. Maybe she’s got an archetype for this one too.

  2. By Ivy do you mean Daisy?

  3. Pingback: Linkage: Tarot, William Blake, and more tarot || Spiral Nature

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