Marion Woodman, a psychoanalyst whose popular books and lectures on mythical archetypes resonated with millions of women longing for a language to explore the primal, unconscious elements of feminine identity, died July 9 in London, Ont. She was 89.
The Marion Woodman Foundation confirmed the death but did not specify a cause. She died at a long-term care facility and had dementia.
Ms. Woodman’s own self-transformation, in her mid-40s, stood as an example to the many others for whom she would become a catalyzing influence. In the early 1970s, after a long career as a high-school English and drama teacher, she moved from Ontario to England with her husband, Ross Greig Woodman, a college professor who was on sabbatical at the time. There she entered analysis with E.A. Bennett, a renowned practitioner of therapy rooted in the work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and collaborator with Freud.
That experience drew her to the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, where she completed training in 1979 before setting up practice back in London, Ont. She adapted and applied Jung’s ideas about the mythical archetypes underpinning the psyche to help her clients resolve problems such as depression and eating disorders. Centuries of “patriarchal thinking,” she concluded, had obscured elements of primal feminine consciousness, in both men and women.
In a series of books, including Addiction to Perfection, The Pregnant Virgin and Bone: Dying Into Life, Ms. Woodman found an international audience, giving women a poetic, mythically vivid sense of femininity in the same way poet Robert Bly did for men through the 1980s and 90s, most notably in his bestselling book Iron John.
In 1998, she and Mr. Bly wrote a book together, The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine, arguing that both genders needed to incorporate elements of the other to become whole.
She elaborated on those themes to increasingly large audiences around the world, in what she called “BodySoul workshops.”
“She had that dramatic flair to her, and a poetic sensibility, that really came out when she was speaking,” said Dorothy Gardner, a Jungian analyst in Toronto and a former collaborator. “She was very present to others, and she had an amazing gift of making you feel you were the only one in the room – that she was talking to you alone – though many others were there.”
Marion Jean Boa was born in London, Ont., on Aug. 15, 1928, the first of three children of Andrew Boa, a minister, and Ila (Phinn) Boa, a homemaker. She studied at the University of Western Ontario and taught for more than 20 years at the South Collegiate Institute in London. Her husband was a professor of English at the university and the author of several books.
After returning from Zurich, she and one of her brothers, Fraser Boa, also a psychoanalyst, helped found the Ontario Association of Jungian Analysts. He died in 1992. Another brother, Bruce Boa, a film and television actor, died in 2004. Her husband died in 2014.
Ms. Woodman leaves 12 nieces and nephews and 11 great-nieces and great-nephews.
“As consciousness develops, the body will act as a donkey for only so long,” Ms. Woodman wrote in one of her books. “Men as much as women need to know that their soul is grounded in their own loving matter: ‘This is who I am. Every cell in my body tells me this is of value to me – not to my persona, to me.’”