Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The word archetype derives from the Greek, archetupon. meaning something like, first-molded. It combines arche, the beginning and tupos, a pattern, model or type. (My source is Wikipedia.)

According to one on-line dictionary I used, it’s come to mean:

1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

I bring this concept up because my husband, Jim, and I have a favorite "discussion"; "What is an archetype?" We often lapse into it lying in bed, waiting for sleep; I love when the room is dark and we talk. If I bring up our archetype discussion he’s likely to pose the question; "If there were no people, would archetypes exist?"

I think he believes that "archetypes" are human constructs. For instance, he'll say, "our pre-historic ancestors are out in a terrifying storm, the lightning blazing and the thunder booming so loud their teeth chatter. For that ineffable power they’ve experienced, they create an archetype, the God/Goddess of Thunder or Storm, the ultimate source of all this power.

Well, it makes sense. The purpose of it, I suppose, is to interact with this power in some approachable form in order to see if you can get IT to go easy on your neighborhood.

No people, no archetypes seems to be his thinking, but maybe it’s no people, less pressure on the Archetypes to make it better. Here's how I see it:

Archetypes are Energies that have been intuited by humans from the dawn of our habitation here on earth. They are energies experienced universally by woman and man of any race, in any culture, at any time in history. I don't think we create the Energies, although I think we create the forms they take in our personal or elected cultural mythology. These Energies can shape shift into many forms and can be recognized in stories, myths, religions and now, the mind-bending science of contemporary physics.

Because the Archetypes are actually Energies not subject to one permanent form, I think it's a waste of time and an invitation to trouble to fix the Energy, say of Divine Love, into one immutable aspect of itself. Especially when that concrete image excludes other aspects of that same energy vital for it to flow and do its job. For instance, God the Father definitely suffers from a lack of God the Mother.

In our dreams, the archetypes show up in many forms and communicate a lot of useful information. Jung identified some common ones as: the Self, the complete person, integrated in her or his many aspects, body, mind and soul; the Animus/Anima, the opposite gender aspect of each person’s psyche, one we’re likely to project on to the person with whom we “fall in love.” In dreams, this archetype can be tracked in the opposite gender characters peopling our night adventures; the Shadow, which contains the disavowed aspects of ourselves we commonly project on to others, shows up in characters we dislike, envy or of whom we are in awe, usually the same sex as the dreamer; and the Persona, is the mask to meet the faces that we meet, the one Ego dons to face the public. Sometimes when we dream of ourselves naked in public, it may have to do with how we think we’re perceived or how we desire to be seen.

There are many Archetypes; the Major Arcana of the Tarot is a gallery of universal archetypes preserved through centuries in a pack of playing cards. The greater the Archetypal figure in our psyche, the stronger the energy that accompanies its appearance. How I feel about a figure in my dream is often the first clue to who I’m really dealing with.

In my next post, I’ll tell you my Howling Mary dream. This is a Big Dream in my life story, a visit from the Mother Archetype. It came some forty years ago, before I had any idea what its message was, but to this day, it’s my moral compass and spiritual paradigm.

Although we may name the Archetypes, we don’t invent them and we certainly don’t control them. In my opinion, religion tries to bottle these archetypes and sell them under their brand name. I see no point in denying that the Archetypal Energy manifests in a myriad of metaphors and shape shifts according to each persons needs. That is normal. What's not normal is trying to claim absolute TRUTH status for one manifestation.

Being in tune with personal revelations in our dreams can save us from believing the projections of those whose intentions may be to manipulate us where we are most vulnerable, our imaginations. Dream work helps us claim our imaginations for our own ends, making us far less vulnerable to the myths of others.

What are “archetypes” is a popular conversation with many people, in and out of bed. The wonderful astrologer, Caroline Casey, suggests that we consider “composting” the word; her Trickster Redeemer is a wonderful manifestation of her composting work with archetypes. I’m grateful for my own on-going dialogue with such a wit as is Jim; and now, I’m opening the discussion to you. Your comments are most welcome.

Video courtesy of Jim and Chango.


  1. Please let me clarify: I never said the energy that compels us to create the archetype does not exist. There are thunderstorms, people or no. We experience events, we see correlations and synchronicities ( or LACK THEREOF!) and reach certain understandings: these we cobble into archetypes. It's a human construct. No people = no archetype.

  2. But just so, my dove. You say tomatoe, I say tomahto. No archetype = no people. Now where in the loop did that chicken lay that egg?

  3. I'm sure not going to be winning this one! However...

    The world is filled with "first things." (I could argue that I'm the archetype for me.) It's the recognizing of "first thing" status that creates the archetype, not the thing itself, which may or may not be self-aware and able to make the distinction.

    Blah blah blah.