The Divine Hermaphrodite

The Divine Hermaphrodite

It’s on. You are cordially invited to the Royal Wedding! Which seems just perfect for discussing the archetype of the Hermaphrodite. In the first half of my Jungian themed essay I shall explore my personal reflections and in the second, I will continue that journey in the shape of a long prose poem. The joint presentation of each feels right, bringing the Solar King and Lunar Queen together in a way I have never worked before. I hope you enjoy!

In Greek mythology, the Goddess Aphrodite and the God Hermes produced a beautiful child they named Hermaphroditus. Being most handsome he received much interest including the unwanted attentions of a lustful nymph called Salmacis who begged the deities, once she had spied him, that they never be parted. Hence, their bodies were fused into one form and they became “a creature of both sexes” despite keeping their individual heads.

On reading this Greek myth recently I resonated deeply, as since childhood, I have been strongly drawn to androgynous souls, those who seem to inhabit both genders. Drawn and repulsed in equal measures as a child, I couldn’t speak of my conflicting feelings for years, not until my early thirties when I came out as a gay woman. Today, nearly twenty five years later I realise I’m undertaking another soul journey as I explore the archetype of the Hermaphrodite, one that’s been with me all my life.

Having spent the past three years slimming down my animus whilst fattening up my anima during The Animus Diet, I felt a clear sense that my psyche was turning towards something new. I remember it began nine months ago following a dream in which I met a talking hermaphrodite statue. On waking I googled ‘Hermaphrodite’ and many ancient Greek statues flashed up. I was spellbound as I thought my psyche had made the image up, but no, the (non-talking!) statues existed.

In my dream I walked past a group of statues and stopped when a hermaphrodite statue started talking. They laid down a gold and silver sword in front of me and told me to jump on a statue of Pegasus and kill the monster (which was another statue). There were animal statues there as well but I can’t remember what they were. As I jumped on Pegasus the statue came to life (and to colour) and we flew up above the planet. After much battling, I seized my opportunity and thrust the sword into the monster’s heart, killing it.

Then, as dreams do, a shift took place and I found myself entering a tattoo parlour, where I watched people of many genders (I can’t explain it any other way) having their genitals tattooed with colourful symbols, including flowers, birds, geometric patterns and swirling serpents. A young androgynous tattooist came over with ink pen in hand and asked me what I would like and I said I’m not ready but I’ll come back when I am. I wanted to ask for a red square with a white circle inside. The dream ended there yet something within awoke. At first I didn’t understand why but I guess androgyny has always been there and now, after nine months of pregnant darkness, I feel ready to explore. Interestingly, just before this dream, I had written the final part of my Animus Diet and was wondering what would happen next!

Growing up I realise I didn’t want or accept my sexual orientation or gender for years. I didn’t want to become a woman like my mother, nor did I want to become a man like my father or some 1980’s stereotyped version of either. I wanted something different, but not on a physical level as I was happy with my feminine body, yet somewhere within I hungered for decades never knowing that spiritual androgyny could be a choice, until my I reached my mid-fifties.

As a student of Carl Jung I am greatly informed by his work on the archetypes (CW9i) in which he concludes the symbolism of the Hermaphrodite represents an image of the Self: “…a symbol of the unity of personality, a symbol of the self, where the war of opposites finds peace. In this way the primordial being becomes the distant goal of man’s self-development.” (ibid). This book has quickly became my favourite in his Collected Works book series!

Briefly, let’s return to the dream that brought this archetype into my consciousness, and the realisation of the fight I’d been having all my life in accepting my anima and animus, twin souls of the psyche. I was captivated by the work of the tattooist reassigning gender through symbolism and, as for my future tattoo, the red square and white circle within … well this article feels like the tattoo itself, with the Red King and White Queen coming together in their essay and poetic forms.

A short note about the Rosarium Philosophorum which is a sixteenth century alchemical treatise, first published in 1550. It includes 20 woodcuts and is recognised as one of the most important texts of European alchemy. Fortunately, there is a lot of information about them online and the image I have used below is woodcut number 17.  Now for the second part of this essay.

The Divine Hermaphrodite

The Divine Hermaphrodite

In the luminous cave of my heart
a mystical wedding takes place,
as the sun king and moon queen
merge to wear one single crown,
joining as they do to transform
into the Divine Hermaphrodite.
How this soul journey transpires
my mind will never understand,
for such ceremony comes to pass
only below all conscious thought,
where the crowning of nature,
death and rebirth remain hidden.

Yet from alchemy’s great work,
the Rosary of the Philosophers,
twenty primordial inscriptions
of joy, sorrow, glory and light,
we can chart the body’s renewal,
all the while keeping our heads.
In this way, after devoting over
one thousand and forty nights
slimming down my fat animus,
by eating up fruits of mystery,
I am relishing the end of dieting
as I turn into a hermaphrodite!

Strange, as it’s taken me forever
to figure out who my anima is,
let alone embrace my inner man,
that ingenious spirit, my animus.
Then, just as we become friends,
off they go to marry each other!
Even though alchemy’s bidding
brings numinous soul evolution,
like the thirteenth Doctor Who,
I feel I am regenerating again,
as the blending of the opposites
within form a time-warped state.

Behold the holy Hermaphrodite!
Quintessence of the cosmic self,
symbol of perfected wholeness,
who is returning to our universe
while the king and queen marry
in order to create divine syzygy.
A sacred ritual offering freedom
from the violent, heartless wars
of opposites, above and below,
bringing them to a welcome end.
Thus mind, body, spirit and soul
can at last find harmony within.

Under the beautiful flag of Earth,
beneath each lunar and solar tree,
each double-gendered alchemist,
true embodiment of yin and yang,
is showing us how to carry light
as our DNA restores androgyny.
Let us hold our hands in prayer
with both our divine genders
and incarnate this elixir of life.
Let our soul and spirit say “I do.”
Let us witness this royal couple
transfigure, let two become one.

Today, with the eyes of a crone
and my hair turning silver-grey,
I see my spiritual androgyny
as a truly wonderful blessing,
one that is helping me discover
a new star in the constellations.
Oh, how I salute the light found
in the modern shaman’s eyes,
gender fluid rainbow bearers
who together bridge the world,
helping me seek out wholeness
while wholeness seeks out me.

Come Sophia, great spirit of love!
Most hallowed of all androgynes,
restore me to your realm of light,
bring together my riven genders
in your heavenly bridal chamber.
Spiritually, I know I am intersex,
part of your ancient gnostic myth
that brings dual nature to light,
revealing how gender took shape
following the painful separation
and descent of your twofold soul.

As I write, light floods the room
and the memory of home fills me
with a longing for my lost family,
somewhere in the midst of space,
where spirit and matter converge
into the Divine Hermaphrodite.
From whence I came and to which
I will return, I am uncertain,
yet along this pathless labyrinth
I go on with my journey of love,
beneath the sky I was born under,
until I can remember who I am.

Happily the world is expanding
with love for transcendent others,
whether lesbian, gay, bi-sexual
queer, questioning, transgender,
intersex, asexual, pansexual or
straight, one size never fits all!
All are spiritual hermaphrodites,
whose completeness takes them
to where the brightest stars sing,
“Come home, come home to Self!
To Sophia’s everlasting embrace
from which each soul is created.”

Nine months ago an invite came
by way of dreams, as I was called
to attend a wedding in Heaven,
joining the lover and the beloved.
But first I was to train to become
a celebrant under Sophia’s wing.
Later that night a hermaphrodite
tells me I must kill the guardian
of my old beliefs around gender.
I am told that my life is too short
to live this lie, for I am masculine
and feminine at the same time.

What does this mean in my life,
here in my mid-fifties to become
a spiritual rights campaigner?
I feel like I have climbed a wall
to spy on the celestial gardeners
and dropped over the other side.
Like a caterpillar I do not know
what I am yet to become, as I
inch deeper into the alchemy of
disintegration and reintegration,
aware my task is to remember
that we are all hermaphrodites.

As the wedding draws to a close
the moon queen and red king,
a white circle inside a red square,
is being tattooed inside my heart.
I listen and look deep within,
love and light flood the chamber
while the Divine Hermaphrodite,
Shiva-Shakti, join together as one.
Mystical God/ess, Divine God/ess,
living all genders, yet genderless,
undivided in their eternal union,
the shape of our new tomorrow.


Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Header Image Credit: Laurel Price (UK Artist)
Second Image Credit: Rosarium Philosophorum

© Deborah Gregory 2021. This essay forms part of a much longer series which includes my four part Animus Diet and three part In the Name of Sophia essays and poems which are presently being gathered to create a new book later this year – Jungian Archives

22 thoughts on “The Divine Hermaphrodite

  1. Dear Deborah, like many who have commented I have come back again to re-read your extraordinary post, and because a few nights ago after intense work on my Anima I had a fabulous dream about being with a hermaphrodite! So I am back again, to re-read and digest in light of that experience. I really appreciate everyone else’s comments too and have now accessed the CW’s mentioned by you and others, so much to further process! Your writing and devotion to your own path cast an incredibly positive light. I feel blessed and honoured to have found your work and feel so inspired to continue on my own healing path, particularly on my Animus and now Anima too! How amazing…

    Thank you again for your beautiful, soulful authentic sharing and for being a guiding light.

    Ps, I too am LOVING Jodie as the new Dr. I am a huge Dr Who fan and the male incarnations have helped me and my Animus tremendously, so this new phase and gender and androgynous incarnation is divinely timed indeed.

    With many blessings and much love, Angela

    1. What a beautiful, open-hearted and generous reply, thank you so much Angela and welcome to my poetry and Jungian thought website!

      It’s taken me decades to even sit down and begin to write out my thoughts and feelings re androgyny and the explore the archetype of the Divine Hermaphrodite. I truly didn’t know where to begin until I came across Jung’s writings and ploughed through them for many a year … until slowly the puzzle pieces (and dreams!) started to join up the whole spiritual androgyny quest I felt I was on. What sacred journeys we put ourselves on?!

      Yes, I love the way others who read and comment here so willingly share themselves too! I learn so much from the links, book suggestions and essays that are pointed my way. The number here are few yet the connections are deep so much so that I’ve left Twitter (for now) to focus on the few rather than the many … or maybe this is just where I am presently on my journey.

      To dream of being in the presence of a hermaphrodite is an incredible soulful experience, even if the ego doesn’t enjoy the event. I hope my humble offerings have helped you learn a little more about yourself and helped on your way. Re: Jodi … What’s not to love above the amazing new Dr Who?! The whole storyline is en trend with current thinking.

      This morning I caught up with your own deeply karmic, soul-evolving poetry! The two pieces I read today are beautiful and heartfelt lyrical poems. I love your authentic voice! Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

  2. Deborah, I read this last week and I’ve finally returned to comment. It took time to absorb the symbolic images and beauty of your words. I’m not sure I’m ready to comment, but here I am. OK, I’m blown away and will have to read a few more times. I had a recent dream of talking to a Jungian man who was overweight and dream me commented, “I could help him with that.” When I woke up, I thought of your Animus Diet.

    What a powerful story and dream you tell. Wow! I know those woodcuts you reference and have studied them (a while back) and used them in my writing for the piece “Wild Nights.” You take this to a whole new level. I love the observation that all these transformations happen while we keep our heads. I love the image you use at the top. I love the mix of poetic beauty and commentary on our social situation regarding gender in the poem. I love that the image of wholeness is the Divine Hermaphrodite or Sakti-Siva. Thank you for sharing our new tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what comes next. With love and gratitude to the poet and you, the woman who does the deep inner work to make it possible.

    1. Thank you so much Elaine for your truly wonderful comment! I really appreciate the time you’ve taken this past week to reflect on my latest post. It’s a long read and there’s much to unpack. Wow, to make that un/conscious connection to my Animus Diet within your dream … I’m simply blown away! It was such a strong image when the whole overweight inner man (animus) idea came to me three years ago.

      Those 16th century alchemical woodcuts are incredible, and if you haven’t done so already … do check out the link to an awesome essay I posted in my reply to Henry below. Oh, and I loved your “Wild Nights” essay and wasn’t surprised to hear that you’d scooped up the first prize in the Jungian world for its utter brilliance and the warmest of hearts!

      A post of two halves with 800+ words was the only way I could maintain equilibrium … although I had to stop at 144 lines, it could’ve been so much longer! The header image and dream insights enriched my exploration considerably. Thank you for seeing “all” of me my dear friend, the poet and the woman, two halves of my own emerging wholeness. Love and light, Deborah.

  3. I have to say, the image you’ve used for the top of the poem is not only perfect for your words but also beautiful – I’m off to Google a link for the artist!! I’ve had a look at the Rosarium Philosophorum online – such simple images yet full of wonderful symbolism. More to think on I feel!

    1. Fortunately, there is much information online about the Rosarium Philosophorum. I’ve included a link in my reply to Henry (Hungry Fox) below to an excellent four part essay I recently came across on the woodcuts which you may enjoy. It’s one of the best I’ve read on alchemy, and includes much on the citrinitas stage, (a yellowing or xanthosis) which is often overlooked. Anyway it’s a fascinating read! 🙂

  4. Beautiful work. I admire your quest for wholeness. You illuminate my life with your sublime poetry. Well done Deborah.

    1. Thank you so much Mariquitta for your wonderful gift of words! I’m delighted that you enjoy my poetry, there’s nothing more than a poet could ask for! Love and light, Deborah.

  5. This is amazing work Deborah and what a fabulous dream, knowing you wanted that red square inside a white circle. What a wonderful sign to bring to light the unconscious knowing that the balance of the masculine and feminine within was what you were working towards as you were writing your animus diet articles. Spiritual androgyny – I love that term!!

    Gender is such a hot topic in this day and age, there is so much more fluidity and acceptance of the fact that one-size indeed does not fit all. How I hope that this external acceptance leads us all towards not only the inner acceptance that spiritual androgyny brings but also that it may at some point soon mirror the inner acceptance of spiritual androgyny back at the world to bring harmony and an end to violence, wars, power struggles…oh I could go on!! And I am….!

    What a perfect example the new Dr Who is – I feel they chose the character to be an androgynous dresser to emphasise this need for balance in our Self and the world. There is even more hope in that the current Dalai Lama has stated that the next Dalai Lama could be a woman – now that would be enlightening!

    Well Deborah, there is so much food for thought in your words and the prose poem is so beautifully written…the image that your final verse creates in my mind is one of pure harmony. Thank you for sharing this work – it will keep me pondering the content for many days. Blessings, Sophia

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your beautiful and generous reply, much appreciated! In my dream I never saw the tattoo I wanted, I only knew about the design of it in my heart yet the image (although I wasn’t ready to receive it) of the red square and white circle was deeply imprinted within. Albeit, a tiny glimpse of wholeness, hopefully I’ll shall be inching my way closer over the course of my life. Hmm, maybe I could paint this symbol and embark on an active imagination with it … I know I need to do something with it. Thanks for the nudge!

      During the process of writing I came across the painting I’ve used as my header image and fell instantly under its alchemical spell! So the words, the painting, the image in my heart of that tattoo brought the Divine Hermaphrodite to life in a way I couldn’t ignore! The Animus Diet has and continues to be part of the journey but I’m fascinated at how the balancing out of both anima and animus had to take place over the course of three years before I could even reach this new moment on my spiritual journey.

      Gender, a hot topic indeed, the shape of our new tomorrow I believe! Slowly, in recent years, the work on creating a more gender-neutral language has begun and continues with writers, poets and all manner of creative people setting up the hermaphrodite stage for our future lives. Spiritual androgyny could be the start of something new, something deeply healing for us all. I hope so. To end the wars, above and below. To create more peace, harmony and balance. To stop this insane battle against the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine!

      The new Dalia Lama has already been born, the world awaits! I love the fact that the new Doctor is a woman and that fact has been accepted by millions of fans here in the UK, possibly billions of fans worldwide. If ever there was a hopeful sign for the age of the Hermaphrodite here is a clear one! A beacon of light so strong its beam eternal! I’m so pleased I’ve been able to feed your imagination with my essay and poem, thank you again for reading, commenting and sharing your thoughts, which in turn have fed me! Love and light, Deborah.

  6. I am breathless Deborah at the beauty of your words and how, as a true poet you have expressed the deep longing so many of us feel. The longing is, as I have always thought and felt, is for the marriage of the divine energies of masculine and feminine – the marriage of the divine syzygy so that the separation from our essence is no more.

    Your dream is dramatically powerful and what a blessing! And it is a blessing for those of us who read this too, so a huge thank you. The Rosarium Philosophorum is such rich material. We would do well to go back to this ancient alchemical treatise.

    Your photographs are lovely. The red square with the white circle within is a lovely image. The squaring of the circle comes to mind. As does the rubedo and albedo.

    Blessings to you dear Deborah – I am enriched by you. I will be re-reading this, though it is imprinted in my heart.

    1. Thank you so much Susan for the beauty and poetry of your response! Like yourself, I am but one (of millions I suspect) who long for this mystical, chymical marriage to take place within, and without … for us to learn how to hold the tension of opposites not only with gender but with sexuality and spirituality too (opposites in their own right). What an incredible world that would be, the “only” worthy shape of our new tomorrow I believe!

      I didn’t know what was going to happen next on my Animus Diet, I thought it would continue ad infinitum and then a strange dream led me down a different path, a pathless labyrinth in fact, which led me to a tattoo parlour of all places. Well I could’ve sat in the parlour all day for such was the excitement I felt watching humanity’s gender being reassigned.

      As soon as I saw the alchemical image in an alchemy journal online I knew this would be the one I would use. The image came before the essay or the poem was completed, such was its power. The oil painting is incredible! The second image, woodcut 17, a coloured in version from the Rosarium Philosophorum was just perfect for the Divine Hermaphrodite … gosh, I’ve never written the word “Hermaphrodite” so much as I have in recent days!

      Yes, the squaring of the circle, I couldn’t miss it! I just couldn’t! There’s a (long) essay you must read Susan, if you haven’t done so already, I’ve posted the link in my reply to Henry. It also explores the Great Work of alchemy. Love and light, Deborah.

      1. Lewis LaFontaine saw my shared post on FB and added this in a new post (although I’ve excerpted)

        According to Carl Jung, rebis hermaphrodite symbolism represents the union of opposites. (CW 9i, para. 292) In the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung discusses hermaphrodite symbolism:

        “The hermaphrodite means nothing less than a union of the strongest and most striking opposites… The primordial idea has become a symbol of the creative union of opposites, “uniting symbol” in the literal sense.” (CW 9i, para. 292-4)

        Jung saw that when the hermaphrodite appears in dreams or active imagination it may signify healing:

        “Notwithstanding its monstrosity, the hermaphrodite has gradually turned into a subduer of conflicts and a bringer of healing, ….its power to unite opposites, mediates between the unconscious substratum and the conscious mind. It throws a bridge between present-day consciousness, always in danger of losing its roots, and the natural, unconscious, instinctive wholeness of primeval times.” (ibid)

        Jung realized the hermaphrodite as an image of the Self:

        “…a symbol of the unity of personality, a symbol of the self, where the war of opposites finds peace. In this way the primordial being becomes the distant goal of man’s self-development.” (ibid)


        John Rylands University Library Collection, Alchemy, Image Number: JRL020888tr

        Jung, C. G., The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – CW 9i (1934–1954) (1981 2nd ed. Collected Works Vol.9 Part 1), Princeton, N.J.: Bollingen.

        1. Thank you so much Susan for sharing my “The Divine Hermaphrodite” post on Facebook and Twitter too! Lewis LaFontaine is a Jungian writer whose work I greatly admire so I’m happy to hear he has shared my article, including all those great quotes by Jung. Oh happy days my dear friend, happy days! Much love. x

  7. Bravo dear poet! I’m with Anna, I don’t know where to start. As a writer you share so much of yourself in your work. Authentic and original, that’s you Deborah!

    I enjoyed how Sophia fell and gender was created, feels almost biblical. The story of Noah keeps coming to mind and how he took both male and female animals of each species into the ark… I’m thinking is that because he knew they signified wholeness?

    A thought-provoking subject which asks more questions than it answers. A fantastic poem, and a great intro which I’ll be exploring for years. I can’t wait to find out more about those woodcuts.

    Thanks for the inspiration, I’m off to scribble about how the animals came in “two by two” and WHY! Love to you both. HF

    1. Thank you so much Henry for your wonderful, kind-hearted comment! All of the gnostic myths about the Divine Sophia deeply inspire me. In my poem I’ve stretched out the Fall into the separation of gender, perhaps creating a new myth as us poets do. Hmm, Noah? I love the way you think! I think you’re onto something there and look forward to reading more about the animals coming in two by two. Yes, do explore the woodcuts more. Here’s a link to an awesome four part essay I found online which also explores the stages of alchemy: It’s the second article down, you can’t miss it, start with the introduction and enjoy! Love and light, Deborah.

      1. Wow!!! I’m looking forward to reading the essays Deborah. Many thanks for sharing the link. Btw, great dr who reference, I think you’re onto something big..

        1. Jodie Whittaker is amazing in the role of the thirteenth Doctor Who isn’t she! The transition plot is/was ingenious. I applaud the BBC and the programmes writers! Thank you for noticing, I couldn’t resist! 🙂

  8. Deborah, I don’t know where to begin!! It’s going to take me several days if not several months to unpack your brilliant essay and poem on the Divine Hermaphrodite. Watch this space, I’ll be back soon – in the meantime I’ve posted a link to FB. All the best, Anna.

    1. Thank you so much Anna for your truly encouraging response and for sharing my latest work on Facebook, much appreciated! I look forward to hearing from you in the days and weeks to come. There’s no need to rush back (ever!) as I appreciate this is a much longer read! Love and light, Deborah

      1. Hi Deborah, I felt I needed to read more before I commented, so followed the links and found other articles to explore. This is very beautiful work!! I can see how you let your own multiplicity of gender meet and merge on the page. I imagine this could easily have turned into a much longer post. The way you presented your work in two parts was brilliant – each infused with beauty and grace. From sharing your early fascination and repulsion for androgynous folk and your move towards spiritual androgyny in mid-life, I have learnt much – actually, I wanted to read more about this! Re: the shape of our new tomorrow – I believe this is the way forward. Could the hero and heroine’s journey be over? Could the hermaphrodite’s journey be about to begin? I think all the “clever money” will move into this field in the next decade. I will be interested to hear what you have to say on these matters. I’ve never considered these things but feel I will be contemplating them for some time to come. As for your long prose poem, pure alchemy!! All the best, Anna.

        1. Thank you so much Anna for coming back and sharing your deep reflections on the Divine Hermaphrodite! I’m so pleased that you decided to read more on this fascinating subject as there’s many great essays and some wonderful YouTube videos out there on this archetype. Yes, this could’ve been five times longer but that would’ve taken up too much of my time! Hmm, I’ve never written about being captivated by androgynous souls before so hopefully a poem or three will emerge when I can find the true language to describe those experiences.

          Ah, the “clever money” I like the way you describe that! Many have been aware of the evolution and transcendence of gender for years now. For me, the thirteenth Dr Who (played by Jodie Whittaker) is a great example of how in today’s culture we’re beginning to explore the “hermaphrodite” theme of our future lives. And to your questions … Is the hero’s journey over? Is the heroine’s journey over? And are we entering the age of the hermaphrodite? I keep asking myself these questions and I feel I’m very slowly coming to a “Yes” with each one … but not in my time, perhaps my great grandchildren will know of these things and live them. Thank you again Anna for the kindness and generosity of your reply, much appreciated! Love and light, Deborah.

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