Thursday, September 29, 2011

Temperament archetypes for men and women

This article was originally published in the Lughnassadh 2007 Issue of Mirror of Isis:, under the title "Which Goddesses or Gods are You?"

Over the years, I have done considerable study on the subject of personality types, especially as relates to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This test evaluates your preferred methods of gathering, assessing, and making decisions based on the information, as well as the your preferred attitude for thinking. The site, Similar, ( offers free tests to find your type, if you haven't already done so through work. (The MBTI is one of the most popular personality tests used in communication training and business.)

Author David B. Keirsey and Marilyn Bates developed a set of four super-groups of Temperaments from the sixteen MBTI preference types, which they evaluated in the context of male Greek archetypes that they felt best represented the fundamental character of each Temperament. The result is their landmark book, "Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types", and subsequent books for understanding how temperament affects people at work, among others.

These 4 temperaments go back to Classical Greece and the 4 elements, and were called Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic, and Choleric through the Middle Ages ( With the advent of Jungian psychology and the MBTI, Keirsey and Bates evolved them into masculine archetypal characters based on Greek mythology (

In working with Keirsey and Bates' "Temperaments", I came to feel that the masculine archetypes simply did not work well for women, especially based on work I was doing with Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen's Jungian books, "Goddesses in Everywoman" and "Gods in Everyman". Based on her work, and my own knowledge of Greek archetypes, I formulated a responsive series of four Temperaments for women showing how particular Goddesses manifested through their Temperaments.

The purpose of this article is to recap that work for you, the readers, and to give you ways in which you can evaluate yourself and see which Goddesses and Gods are prominent in your preferred character. Please note that these Temperaments only represent preferences, not an absolute assignment to one type or another.

Every person has the ability to act in any one of the preferential modes, and goes back and forth between them at all times based on the circumstances they encounter. The impact of preferential modes is that acting in a non-preferred modality will tend to cost you a lot of energy-it tires you out more quickly-than if you approached the task in a preferred modality. So keep in mind that all of the Goddesses and the Gods are available to you, you just have to spend a little extra energy to summon some of them to your aid.

Assessing your Temperament Type

Let's look first at how you determine your preferred personality. If you already know your personality type from Myers-Briggs, this will be easy for you to follow. You can simply read the article and find what types suit you best. There are a couple of sites that provide self-tests (, to determine your personality type:

A self-test to determine your temperament can be taken at the Advisor Team website, which offers a modified Keirsey-Bates temperament test instrument. To use this site, you must sign in as a non-professional user, take the test, and then request the free version of the results. (You can choose to pay for the more detailed reports, but the free one will tell you everything you need to know for this article.) Another self-test can be found on the PTypes-Personality Types website, which will give you a similar test and free results.

A qualified MBTI practitioner must administer the MBTI test, in part so that the practitioner can fully and clearly explain the results to you. The Myers-Briggs Foundation provides online access to the test instrument, and connects you with a qualified practitioner, for a fee. Other sites may have similar or lower fees.

Another personality assessment you may find of use is Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), which correlate to some degree with the Temperament types. In his MI theory, people have eight different types of fundamental intelligences, or proficiencies at doing things, and preferences among them. They are Bodily-Kinesthetic, Verbal-Linguistic, Musical, Visual-Spatial, Naturalistic, Logical-Mathematical, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal.
Now, keep in mind that one of the results of these tests may be to tell you that you are not one particular type, but a mix of types. This is a perfectly normal result, and indicates that you do not have one preferred mode of behavior, but several, which makes it easier to respond to situations in a fluid and adaptable manner. If you do come out to be strongly identified with one temperament, that simply means it's your dominant mode of expression, and you can choose other modes with the understanding it may take you a little more effort to perform in those manners. All of us have all of the preferences available at all times.

The Myers-Briggs Preferences

First, let me introduce you to a little bit of terminology. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which underlies the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, assesses communications preferences along four two-fold axes. (Details can be found on Wikipedia.) The preferences concern how you gather, process, and make decisions on data, and how it affects your lifestyle.

Typically, you will fall somewhere towards the center of each range, with only a small preference for one modality over the other, but in some cases, your preference may be very strong. Again, all functions are available to you, but non-preferred modes take a bit more energy to perform.

The first preference concerns "attitude" toward life and gathering information. The range is between Extraversion (E) and Intraversion (I) (which is not the same as being an introvert). Extraverts draw energy from being with people, thinking out loud, and moving around while they think. Intraverted thinkers need space and quiet time to consider the information coming in, and tend to prefer small groups of people with whom they are familiar over being in larger groups. They tend to lose energy in large groups, and may become overwhelmed by the inputs.

The second preference range concerns how we gather data, and ranges between Sensing (S) and Intuition (N). People who have a strong Sensing function draw their data from their five senses, and prefer concrete, detailed, demonstrable sources of information. People with a strong Intuitive function draw data from sources beyond the physical, and prefer more abstract, theoretical, and associative sources. Intuitives also tend to be self-described psychic, which is a rather classic means of collecting data from outside of the physical senses.

The third preference range concerns how we evaluate the data we've gathered, and ranges between Thinking (T) and Feeling (F). Thinking refers to the use of logical, rational, and analytical approaches to assessing the gathered data, whereas Feeling types prefer an empathetic, associative approach to evaluation. A classic example of the difference is where a Thinker will look at something and say to themselves, "What does this mean?" A Feeler will look at the same thing, and say to themselves, "How does this affect me, and those around me?" Neither modality is better than one another; however, our culture has a strong preference for the Thinking modality, and tends to denigrate the Feeling modality, which we see as manifesting in the repression of the Goddess.(This is the only range with a gender-based profile; 60% of men in the USA favor the Thinking function, and 60% of women prefer the Feeling function. This can make things difficult for the 40% whose preference does not match their gender!)

Finally, we come to the preferences concerned with how we use the information to take action in the world. The preference ranges between Judging (J) and Perceiving (P), where Judging types prefer closure, tasks to have clear schedules, and sometimes making decisions to meet their need for closure, ahead of all the data. Perceiving types prefer a more "wait and see" attitude, wanting all the data before making a decision, to leave matters open until required to meet a deadline, and to change plans if new information comes along.

Now, this information is mostly helpful in understanding the terminology used in studying the Temperament Types, not to be heavily dwelt on. It is provided mostly to avoid confusion if one of the test instruments quotes type preferences in the results.

For example, I come out fairly balanced on the Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving scales, and tend a little more towards the Intraversion end of the Extraversion-Intraversion scale, but I'm way off the Intuitive end of the Sensing-Intuition scale. This works out to a suite of MBTI types called INTJ (Scientist), INFJ (Author), INTP (Architect), and INFP (Questor), based on Keirsey and Bates's book (p. 70). This indicates areas where I prefer to center my activities, methods in which I prefer to function, and, to some extent, careers that I find most comfortable. However, I am perfectly capable of being an Extravert, when I need to, or operating in the Sensing modality for gathering data, if I'm performing research that requires it. It's just a bit more tiring than acting in my normal, open to the winds, airy headed mode!

The Keirsey-Bates Temperaments

Keirsey and Bates took the 16 possible MBTI types, and aggregated them into Temperaments according to a scheme involving the latter three preference scales; Temperaments don't include your attitude of either Extraversion or Intraversion. These are covered in detail in their many books on the subject, but I'm drawing most of this article from their original Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, which is available from Amazon or any other book resource. 

The Dionysian Temperament

The God, Dionysus, who represents the Sensing-Perceiving (SP) group of MBTI types (ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, ISFP), characterizes this temperament. Using older models, such as that of Galen (200AD), this temperament is known as Sanguine, and corresponds to Plato's (340BCE) artisan temperament. Keirsey and Bates later revised this temperament to be the Artisan, like Plato's characterization. Other models, such as the Personality Spectrum developed by Joyce Bishop (Carter, 2007), describe this temperament as the Adventurer.

People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for freedom and spontaneity. They can learn from studying the myths of Dionysus some of the more transformative traits the God possesses, such as his compassion, tolerance, and ability to sacrifice himself for the needs of others. Living in the moment is key for these folks, who tend to abhor planning for the future, to store up things, or to live by rules and regulations.
Dionysian personalities seek stimulation and adventure, and may take up skydiving, fire-fighting, or other adventurous activities, and become very stifled, restless, and unruly in restrictive, overly structured environments.

They tend to seek risks and adventure, and need to experience a particular activity in order to understand or learn it. Dionysian types constitute approximately 27% of the US population (based on data from Wikipedia).Dionysian folks may also be very kinesthetic, needing to work with their hands, and learn things by doing them, rather than by being shown or told. Dionysian folk tend to excel at Gardner's Bodily-Kinesthetic and Naturalistic intelligences.
The Epimethean Temperament

The Titan, Epimetheus, who represents the Sensing-Judging (SJ) group of MBTI types (ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ISFJ), characterizes this temperament. This temperament is also Galen's Phlegmatic or Plato's guardian temperament, and can be known as the Guardian (revised Keirsey type) or the Organizer (Carter).

People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for duty and belonging. They can learn from the myths of Epimetheus traits to avoid: trusting too much, over-reliance on the status quo, and acting before thinking things through. Remember that "Epimetheus" means "afterthought."

Living in the past is a key aspect for these folks; they want things to happen as they always have, and tradition tends to be venerated. Epimethean personalities tend to be quite conservative, feeling that if it happened that way yesterday then it should happen that way today and tomorrow. This temperament type is the most resistant to changes, but can be convinced to do so if sufficient, tangible proof can be provided. Many Epimethean personalities are drawn to solid, detail-oriented work such as accounting or teaching elementary or secondary school, and activities such as church-work or membership in a specific interest group. They tend to avoid risk-taking, and view those who take "excessive" risks with suspicion.

Epimethean types constitute approximately 46.5% of the population (Wikipedia). Epimethean types often have strong auditory needs, and may learn by hearing a discussion better than others. They remember information by rote more effectively than the other types. Epimethean types tend to dominate in the areas of Verbal-Linguistic and Musical intelligences.
The Promethean Temperament

The Titan, Prometheus, who represents the Intuitive-Thinking (NT) group of MBTI types (INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP), characterizes this temperament. This is Galen's Choleric temperament, Plato's scientist, the Rationalist (revised Keirsey-Bates), and the Thinker (Carter).People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for power, knowledge, and competence, and a tendency to sacrifice personal needs for the greater good.

People should study the myths of Prometheus to see where they can get themselves into trouble: going against the prevailing mores and rules may bring mankind the "gift of fire," but the personal consequences can be dire. Also, there is a tendency not to think about the consequences of the gift to the recipients, merely that the gift is possible - e.g., nuclear weapons.

Promethean personalities tend to need to "see the data" and derive logical, rational conclusions from the information. They need proof of everything, and will make decisions through logic without regard to the emotional (or other consequences). They tend to live in the future, and to be concerned for where their activities will take them, not where they have come from. They only tend to be conservative when the data supports that position; otherwise, they are known for following the data through major changes in the world around them whatever the consequences may be.

Prometheans dominate the hard sciences, and the social sciences, to a lesser extent. Most people in the computer science and engineering industries are of this temperament type, and they are frequently encountered in teaching at the college or university levels. Prometheans represent approximately 10.4% of the US population, and are predominantly men.

Promethean women have a difficult time in our society because people tend to perceive them as being too masculine, or "unfeminine" due to their reliance on facts over feelings.
Promethean types often have strong visual orientations, and may have strongly developed Logical-Mathematical and Visual-Spatial intelligences. They often receive their most important insights and information in a flash of intuition or through a gestalt process, despite the image of the detail-oriented, data-collecting scientific process. They tend to trust the intuitive information quite strongly, as it gives them insights they would otherwise not receive.

The Apollonian Temperament

The God, Apollo, who represents the Intuitive-Feeling (NF) set of MBTI types (ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, INFP), characterizes this temperament. This corresponds to Galen's Melancholic temperament, Plato's philosopher type, the Idealist (revised Keirsey-Bates), or the Giver (Carter).

People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for self-examination, self-development, and self-actualization. People should study the myths of Apollo to see how his characteristics can support their needs, especially in the areas of art, healing, and divination. Apollonians tend to care how their behavior affects others, and be very much aware of the need to help humanity better itself.

Apollonian types need to find out who they are in relation to others, and make decisions based on the impact on the lives and feelings of other people as much as their own. They get their data intuitively, from sources that may have no relationship to the physical senses at all, and they base all their decisions on how that information will impact themselves and others. Many people with this temperament type need to define clear boundaries between themselves and everyone else before they can go on to help others successfully, or they tend to be consumed by the needs and desires of the people they are trying to help.

Apollonians are frequently gifted writers, artists, performers, and spiritualists. They are often drawn to people-related jobs such as the ministry, holistic healing, or human resources. They will balk at jobs that require them to make decisions that could hurt people's feelings or lives, and tend to moralize their own self-identity onto others. They are highly futuristic, and frequently reject tradition in favor of new ideas they feel will better the human condition.

Apollonians make up approximately 16.3% of the US population, and are predominantly women. Male Apollonians have a difficult time because they are perceived as being too "soft", and unmasculine, because of their empathy and focus on the feelings of others.
Apollonian types share the visual orientation of the Prometheans, but may also find auditory stimulation to be important for them. They dominate in the areas of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal intelligence.

Goddesses Associated with the Temperaments

Many women find these male God associations difficult to relate to in their own lives. They don't tend to act in a wildly Promethean or Dionysian way, and they evolve in ways that are not as obvious as the male archetypes do. So I constructed a set of temperament descriptions based on female Greek archetypes to help women better relate to their temperaments.
The Artemis Temperament

The feminine archetype most representative of the Dionysian or SP temperament is the Greek Goddess Artemis. As Goddess of the Hunt, the new Moon, and the Eternal Virgin (complete in herself), she well epitomizes the SP woman's need to follow her own course through life. Artemis ran only to the hunt and to adventure, surrounded by close companions and avoiding contact with those who would try to control her (mostly men). Her myths are dominated by the need to be free of constraint. Of the four types, she is the most likely to remain who she is originally, unchanged by the passage of time in her means of expressing her essence.

A growth path may manifest as the Aphrodite archetype, for whom sexual contact and love are adventures to be celebrated and enjoyed while they last, then return to her essential self as Aphrodite renewed her virginity in the sea at Paphos every year.

The Hestia Temperament

The Goddess most clearly associated with the Epimethean or SJ temperament is Hestia, who was known as Vesta to the Romans. She is the goddess of home and hearth, the center and linchpin of family life, sustainer of traditions-Keeper of the Flame. Hestia is also virginal, not through lack of wanting anything different, but because it is inappropriate to change that state without the formalities of marriage. We can consider her as a woman of faith and belief, many nuns and other religious types are Hestian.

In the course of most women's lives, the person of Hestian temperament will tend to grow into the Hera archetype, that of the wife and preserver of family, community, and tradition. Hera's struggles with Zeus are clear examples of this manifestation, in that she would rage over Zeus' straying with other women-and punish the other woman severely for breaking the sanctity of marriage-but always "stood by her man".

The Athena Temperament

The Goddess most strongly associated with the Promethean or NT temperament is Pallas Athena. Athena is her father's daughter, and competent and at ease surviving and competing in a man's world. She teaches humanity the crafts of agriculture, weaving, and other cultural enhancements, sustains them in logic and in war, and provides a resource of wisdom.

Athenians do not depend on the good graces of anyone outside themselves-they know and provide information as needed. Despite the sense in our society that women should be and are essentially emotional creatures, the Athena archetype in her best manifestation is revered as the competent businesswoman, the scientist, and legalist. She may seem to be virginal, or to lack an appreciation of the need for love and marriage, but will generally, eventually marry.

Athenians will find her fulfillment in areas where her logic and wisdom are valued and appreciated. Athena, like Artemis, may never grow beyond her essential nature, as she is complete and competent in herself. When Athenians are traumatized by society into more negative manifestations of this archetype, they may transition toward the Circe or Medea archetypes, both of whom spend much of their lives in search for greater knowledge of how things work in order to control others, to their eventual downfall.

The Persephone Temperament

Lastly, the Goddess most strongly associated with the Apollonian or NF temperament is Persephone. As Demeter's daughter, she is somewhat smothered under her mother's expectations of her, indeed, in many myths, she doesn't even have a name of her own-she is known as the Kore or Girl. Her inability to stay grounded in her Self and lack of boundaries leads to her capture by Hades while she's out picking flowers, rather than attending to a task assigned by her mother. Hades then attempts to impose his own perspective on Persephone by making her the "Queen of the Underworld", and attempting to bind her to his reality by tricking her into eating the pomegranate seeds. 

Persephone is typically pulled in many directions by the expectations of others, until she integrates herself and realizes that she truly is a part of both worlds-conscious and unconscious combined. She must master her desire to help others, and control her own tendency to lose herself in the process. Persephone's greatest challenge is the development of clear and sufficient boundaries.

In her more mature manifestation, she becomes Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads and guide between the inner and outer worlds. Hecate is balanced, wise, and knows herself well enough to give to others from strength, rather than give herself up through excessive empathy.

People of the Persephone temperament may also, often through surrender to the excess pressure and desires of others, become another Demeter, giving life and sustenance to those around her-giving herself away at the expense of her essential Self. The Demeter manifestation is often prone to depression, for Persephone is aware of what's she's "lost"-her connection to her darker, more spiritual side. Or the Persephonean will move back and forth between Demeter and Hecate archetypes in a fashion that is perfectly self-consistent to her, but incomprehensible to others.

Further Study

The study of personality is a fascinating one because the subject is ourselves. Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, developed this idea that we carry around these archetypes in our personality, and enact and reenact their mythic triumphs and tragedies. He tapped into a profound source of resonance between human beings and the gods they create to explain the universe around them, and developed the idea of the Collective Unconsciousness to explain where much of the Intuitive information arises. It is through activation of the Collective Unconsciousness that we engage in direct communion with our gods and goddesses, which we typically call mysteries because the results do not accord with our every-day reality.

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen has made considerable study of the phenomena in her books, "Goddesses in Everywoman", "Gods in Everyman", and "Goddesses in Older Women". In them, she examines how each of the archetypes manifests in every woman and man over the course of their lives, and how we each have preferences for the archetypes we manifest most often. She makes the point that both men and women resonate with archetypes of the opposite gender, and thus makes the point that the study of both the Gods and the Goddesses can help people better understand their behavior.

One of the ways that men and women enact their gender-opposite archetypes is through projection: they tend to find companions who prefer the archetypes they need to see manifested rather than find them within themselves. Thus, a man seeking a traditional wife who will fill the roles he tends to associate with such behavior will be drawn towards someone manifesting Hera, rather than developing the desired qualities of loyalty, faithfulness, and steadfastness himself. A woman, exhibiting the Hera archetype may revert into her negative modality when confronted by her husband's unfaithfulness, and direct her rage towards the "other woman" her husband prefers, which may be an actual person, a job, or sports.

In "Gods in Everyman", Bolen addresses "Father" archetypes, which she depicts through the Gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. She looks at the "Son" archetypes, which she depicts through the Gods Apollo, Hermes, Ares, Hephaestus, and Dionysus. Finally, she looks at the "Missing God", who represents the aspects of men that they typically don't look at in our culture. The book is a valuable tool to help men to grow in self-wisdom and self-worth, and helps them to see which archetypes they manifest most strongly, and which they would prefer to manifest.

"Goddesses in Older Women" addresses the needs and roles of women as they mature and change in life. Here, Bolen draws on archetypal Goddesses of Wisdom from around the world to show women how they become the "wise woman" over time. She also highlights archetypal Goddesses who provide women with their expressions of transformative wrath, healing laughter, and compassion, and then re-examines the original Greek archetypes from "Goddesses in Everywoman" to see how they have changed over time.

Bolen, J. S. :Gods in Everyman: A New Psychology of Men's Lives and Loves. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women over Fifty. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2001.
Carter, C., Bishop, J., & Lyman-Kravits, S. Keys to College Studying: Becoming an Active Thinker. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Keirsey, D. & Bates, M. Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1984.
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(c) 2007 “Goddess Temperaments” by Rt. Rev. Michael A. Starsheen, GKC, ArchDr., SA, H, Temple/Lyceum of Isis of the Stars. All rights reserved.  Photos of Goddess statuary courtesy of Michael A. Starsheen.  Isis of the Stars Lyceum logo, copyright Michael A. Starsheen. Hieroglyphic Isis of the Stars Lyceum logo, copyright Michael A. Starsheen. Other images courtesy of Google image search.

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