Are you playing the innocent child, full of unsullied love for the world, the jackal-like jester who laughs at others’ expense, the witch who has had her heart-broken so many times that she becomes cold and aloof, separating herself from society? Or how about the inventor and scientist, the visionary who brings ‘new’ information to the world’s consciousness through their uncanny ability to lead the pack?
Hopefully, you are also the hero, having battled all the monsters, most of them arising from your deepest, darkest, tossed-aside self, who has slain the villains and having seen the world for what it truly is, arrive home again, wiser and more conscious than ever before. There are literally thousands of archetypes that we utilize to evolve spiritually, but there are seven that are so common it is beneficial to understand them.
Both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have outlined archetypal patterns that we fall into while in manifest form. You can think of these as myths, or stories that we tell ourselves in order to process the experience of living.
Campbell described the ‘hero’s [heroin’s] journey,’ as one we must all take in order to separate the ‘ordinary world’ from oneself, and to sacrifice oneself to righting all the wrongs we observe in the world. We answer a ‘call to adventure’ in order to begin this journey into the ‘out there,’ but really we are exploring what we have to learn inside of ourselves in this incarnation. The hero [heroin] is, in fact, the first of the of seven archetypes. He or she is the protagonist. Without them, the story would fall flat, and so it is our experience in flesh and bone. Though some will argue that the mono-myth falls short of describing all the characters within the play of life, they certainly are helpful in understanding that we all play a role, and that we can choose a different one, just as easily as changing a costume in a Shakespearean play.
In a nutshell, here are the seven other primal archetypes in which we all find ourselves playing a part (of thousands of possibilities). In many cases, others will play their part too, so that we can continue on the journey:
1. The Hero
The hero [heroin] is everywhere. It appears in every ancient myth, popular culture, ancient culture, and epic story. Gautama Buddha is a hero, just as the Iron Man is a hero. So is Amelia Earhart and Joan of Arc. The hero or heroin is often born under unusual circumstances, either under unusually precarious conditions or into royalty, and once they receive the “call to adventure” they leave their homes to continue their journey. They often have super-natural gifts (clairvoyance, and clairaudience, among them) and must face many trials in life in order to atone with the father archetype, thus annihilating their egoic selves, to gain spiritual boons. The hero[in] serves as an idealized person who can deal with trials and tribulations in ways that the average person cannot.
“In a sentence, heroes contribute to the society’s necessary business of reproducing itself and its values. For most of history, religion has been the main force of reproducing the dominant society’s traits by using mythical figures to illustrate moral and societal principles that help form a common social conception of such things as death and gender roles.
An excellent example of a modern hero performing this social conditioning is Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Luke affirms our belief in the power of mankind over technology’s “evil” invasion of our world. Computers were beginning to become fairly common in the late 1970’s, and many people had anxieties about their dominance in society; hence, the hero is refashioned into a triumph of human spirit over technology’s evil plans.”
2. The Mentor
Sometimes the mentor appears as a teacher, or a sage. Their purpose is to test the hero’s will, their commitment to the task at hand, and their ability to stay the path on their epic journey. The mentor can guide the hero, but they can also guide any of the other archetypes represented in the play of life.
3. The Shadow
This is usually the antagonist of the story. You may find that depending upon your relationship to another person, you are their antagonist. Someone else might be yours. The shadow’s function is to get in the way of the hero or heroine obtaining their objective, but more importantly, represents subconscious detritus that has not been brought to the surface to deal with consciously. Just as Carl Jung explained, the shadow is not all bad. It is simply the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger, or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness. It is when the shadow comes to life that we realize our hero’s journey and succeed.
“Whatever we deem evil, inferior or unacceptable and deny in ourselves becomes part of the shadow, the counterpoint to what Jung called thepersona or conscious ego personality. According to Jungian analyst Aniela Jaffe, the shadow is the ‘‘sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life.’’
4. The Ally
Think of Batman’s Robin, or Huck Finn’s friend Jim that traveled with him down the Mississippi. These are the companions that help us on our journey. They show faithful support, and often reflect the positive aspects of our selves we forget about, but that need reflection during certain meetings with other archetypes like the shadow self.
5. The Shapeshifter
This is the element of the story, your story, that provides doubt. It is the non-believer, the cynical mother-in-law, the voice in your head that tells you the story cannot proceed. The shapeshifter will make it difficult for the hero [heroin] to stay the course, providing all manner of diversion and questioning about the hero’s true purpose.
6. The Trickster
Also known as the clown, or the jester, the Trickster is similar to the shapeshifter, in that its purpose is to throw the hero off-balance. The trickster has the directly opposite role as the Guardian or Mentor. They represent temptation. Think of the steaming hot man or woman at your office who would tempt you into an affair, or the time-consuming, clowning friend that tempts you away from your responsibilities.
7. The Seeker
Also known as the wanderer or the dreamer, the seeker is perpetually looking for answers. They can seem like a ‘lost’ soul that never finds an anchor, but they also help to drive the story forward, by all manner of inquiry. The seeker is so driven for answers that they will even put themselves in danger, and act in spontaneous or knee-jerk ways just so that they can ‘seek’ more. Think of Siddhartha. The seeker is very valuable, but only the hero finds the ultimate truth.
Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, because there are so many roles we can play. His archetypes have been so profound that they’ve been used in films, including George Lucas’ Star Wars, as well as almost every Hollywood movie to speak to audiences that will identify with whatever archetype they are currently playing in their own lives.
The goal is always the same – to endure trials, to escape the belly of the beast, to live a great adventure, and come back all the wiser to share this knowledge with fellow human beings. Also known as the departure, initiation and return cycle, this great journey is one we are all participating in – which is your archetype?