The Lady Athena, Warrior, Craftswoman


We are not given to understand that Athena, sprung fully formed from her father’s head, clad in  armour, clutching a spear and bellowing a war-cry, was really that into a life that could be described as playful.  And yet as the goddess archetype identified by Jean Shinoda Bolen as The Craftswoman she certainly must have known the pleasures associated with play. But the image of this fierce energy got me thinking about whether and how the craftsperson can be reconciled with the warrior? I wondered what practices and skills are common to both?

Athena’s legend has it that she “was involved with making things that were both useful and aesthetically pleasing. She was most noted for her skills as a weaver, in which hands and mind must work together” (JSB, 81). Curiously, Sennett, for whom craft is just this combination of ‘concrete practices and thinking’ invokes from mythology not Athena but Pandora, the troublemaker Zeus sent to punish Prometheus. [The disquisition is really worth a read and can be found here in the Prologue.]

Athena, one of the virgin goddesses, is at one with herself. Her boundaries are set and well-guarded. She is known, too, as goddess of Wisdom and has as a familiar the owl.


Is this wisdom to do with the integration of martial energy and craft? For women trying to carve out a space for the work of making, an image like that of Athena, in all her berserk glory, may be just the thing to fire us up!


Images: Athena from the Greek Masterpieces (Exhibition at Nat’l Museum of Singapore, hslo, Flickr, cc); Coin with Owl and Athena from the Numismatic Museum of Athens (Xuan Che, Flickr, cc)


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