The Lover, The Rebel, The Priestess, The Child, and The Mother – the wisdom in archetypes


I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. Rabindranath Tagore

Joy. What’s not to love about it? Odes have been written to it. Perfumes, dishwashing liquids, and magazines named after it.

Joy is my sixth intention, and although one possibly should not play favourites with such things – it is mine.

With joy anything is possible. Being mildly broke seems bearable. The assault on the environment and human rights still irks me, but I feel less pessimistic and more hopeful of solutions when I come from a place of joy. Joy makes mundane tasks pleasurable, singing whilst doing the dishes, chatting with the other mums whilst watching three hours of cricket.

The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt. One of the most important discriminations we can make in this matter is the difference between things that beckon to us and things that call from our souls. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Joie de vivre. Pure, unadulterated delight in just being. That’s what calls to me from my soul.

Yet somehow, along this wild and wacky journey called life, I have been shamed out of feeling joy. I have been labelled as lightweight and fluffy, overly naive and annoying optimistic. Shallow even. What’s all this about then? I think it has to do with the misconception that joy is childish, when in fact it is childlike. And as we all have an aspect of self that resonates to the child archetype, I think its people’s unhappy child that wants to take a swipe at my joyful one.

Journeying into the psyche through Chakradance has been enlightening in myriad ways, none more so than the exploration of archetypes.

Maidens who stay maidens turn into saints. Old women become sorceresses. Tough jobs, both of these. Tanith Lee

Now you may believe that you have little knowledge or archetypes or even less use for them. However, you may be surprised to realize that archetypes are being used all around you every day.

A classic example is advertising. Watch any ad for nappies or breakfast cereal and right there is a woman we all instantly recognise as a “mother”. Or the prosaic car ad, with a devastatingly sexy man or woman, “the lover”, and even a car so sleek it turns into an animal archetype of speed and grace such as a jaguar.

Even done a Myers Briggs personality test? Or one of those Facebook quizzes on which Game of Thrones character are you? Yep, all archetypes. In fact the art of storytelling is implicitly archetypal, based on the narrative path coined the Hero’s Journey, from Joseph Campbell’s seminal work on myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.archetype

Have you ever seen a Disney movie without a witch, warlock, magician or some variation of these?

The bad guy in all movies usually is involved in some kind of alchemy, whether dark magic, or production and sale of illicit substances. Magic traditionally gets a bad rap from the uber-conservative and religiously pious Hollywood.

If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman,
don’t worry, there is still time. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

So these are tangible and obvious manifestations of archetypal representation, but what of the archetypes Jung wrote of, what exactly ARE they?

You are a slave of what you need in your soul. Carl Jung

Carl Jung suggested that every society ever created shared its knowledge through storytelling.

Originally all societies were oral and pictorial storytellers, then many moved to written, and now electronic technologies, to tell their stories. That Facebook update or SMS you just sent, is a story. In these stories are characters, and throughout all cultures, thought the details may be different, the essence of the characters in these stories are the same.

Whether it was a Hollywood movie or an indigenous tribe, the same characters show up. According to Jung, this is how our minds store information about the human psyche and its relationship to the world. These archetypes allow our mind to access and process emotions, people, relationships, and stories into personal meaning, guidance, and wisdom.

Let’s hear what the man himself had to say on the subject…


Jung used archetypes as a theory to describe the human psyche. These universal, mythic characters reside within the collective unconscious of all people, regardless of race, culture, creed. These archetypes provide a symbolic representation of the evolution of experience human experience, and are deeply held, operating unconsciously, and intricately entwined with our emotions.

Archetypes are, at the same time, both images and emotions. One can speak of an archetype only when these two aspects are simultaneous… By being charged with emotion, the image gains numinosity (or psychic energy); it becomes dynamic, and consequences of some kind must flow from it. Carl Jung

Jung described 12 major archetypes, but there are many more. Caroline Myss describes over 70 in her book Sacred Contracts, and says that new archetypes emerge when technological development causes new aspects of evolution in the human psyche, characters such as “the geek” and “the networker.” There are ever developing subtleties in the field of archetypes.

Each archetypes has a unique set of meanings, motivations and personality traits. Listen to the way you describe people over the next day or so, “Oh she’s a real go-getter, she’s a total drama queen, he’s a phony” – all archetypal.ITWOP

It is the function of consciousness… to translate into visible reality the world within us. Carl Jung

So why should you care about archetypes? Well, not only are advertisers using them to tap into your unconscious and create emotive reactions in you, learning about your dominant archetypes can be a profound insight into the way you operate in the world, your communication style, those areas where you get stuck, and an insight into your relationships with others. And well, it’s fun and absolutely fascinating to boot!

Archetypes are… that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature. Carl Jung

Archetypes can be very useful in examining our behavioral patterns. For example, I have always experienced fear and anxiety. This is based in my child archetype and a need for security and reassurance.

The fact is being an adult involves a degree of risk – along with responsibility comes decision-making, which invariably is a calculated risk based on what happens if I do, what happens if I don’t. The inability to make responsible decisions, or to blame others when things go wrong, is a manifestation of the child archetype.

Each archetype has a shadow and a functional side. So, to further elaborate on my example, I want to move from the silent, vulnerable aspect to the joyful, playful aspect of the child archetype. Yet, we must be careful not to fall into moral judgements of “good” and “bad” as ALL archetypes serve a valuable function, and perception of them is somewhat fluid and subjective.

Understanding as had the ancients that angels and demons were identical – interchangeable archetypes – all a matter of polarity: the guardian angel who conquered your enemy in battle was perceived by your enemy as a demon destroyer. Dan Brown

Caroline Myss writes that the apparently ‘negative’ or shadow archetype has power precisely because it remains in the dark; we tend to deny its presence in us because we consider it unacceptable. Only when we face and acknowledge the shadow’s presence can we neutralize its potential negative impact on us, and embrace its wisdom.

Archetypes are not passive entities floating around in the psyche like old family portraits hanging in a dusty corridor of your ancestral castle. They take an active role as guardians and inner allies, alerting you when you are in danger of falling into destructive or “shadow” behavior. The Saboteur, for instance, warns you when you are in a situation in which you tend to sabotage your own best interests. Once you learn to recognize such a pattern, instead of ignoring it or denying its presence, it becomes your friend and can help you avoid selling out. Caroline Myss


Take for example the characters in the Wizard of Oz, the whole journey to Oz resulted in the realisation that they had the powers (agency, heart, brains, and courage) they had sought, within them all along, only their shadow archetypes (The Child, The Prostitute, The Saboteur, The Victim) were dominating their persona.

Yet, it was these very shadow archetypes that propelled them to take the journey to see the great Oz in the first place.

So working with archetypal concepts can be a great way to work through psychological issues, and who doesn’t have some of those? Archetypes have a functional aspect and a shadow aspect. The shadow aspect may be operating in our lives but we are unaware of the dynamic. So to use the example of my child, for many years I was operating from a desire for childlike security and dependence without even knowing it, now I can resolve that by acknowledging the security and independence I provide for myself, and investigate more functional aspects of my child archetype, like play and wonder and JOY!

While archetypes may emanate through us for short periods of time, in what we call numinous experience, no woman can emanate an archetype continuously. Only the archetype itself can withstand such projections such as ever-able, all giving, eternally energetic. We may try to emulate these, but they are ideals, not achievable by humans, and not meant to be. Yet the trap requires that women exhaust themselves trying to achieve these unrealistic levels. To avoid the trap, one has to learn to say ‘Halt’ and ‘Stop the music,’ and of course mean it. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

absolute-sandman-20061013055215200As a side note, I realise I am rather crudely over-simplifying a highly sophisticated theory here, for my own need, as a novice in this field, and to not over-complicate the point for my readers. It does however feel akin to plodding through a Japanese pebble garden in combat boots, so my sincerest apologies to those with a deeper understanding of this theory than mine. And I do hope as my understanding deepens I can share this new awareness with y’all. Or please share yours with me.

Asking the proper question is the central action of transformation – in fairy tales, in analysis, and in individuation. The key question causes germination of consciousness. The properly shaped question always emanates from an essential curiosity about what stands behind. Questions are the keys that cause the secret doors of the psyche to swing open. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Chakradance uses Jungian archetypes as a way to explore each chakra.“The Intuitive” is the light archetype of the third eye chakra, or Ajna, and “The Over-Intellectual” is the shadow. Intuition versus intellectualization – I visualise this as ‘head up’ or ‘head down thinking.’ Head up, gazing at the wonders of the universe, head down in hands, thinking of the worries of the world.

Two men looked out from prison bars,
One saw the mud, the other saw stars. Dale Carnegie

Natalie Southgate from Chakradance writes that Ajna has a two-fold meaning when translated from Sanskrit – to perceive and to command.

The third eye chakra is said to be the centre of perception, that intuitive sixth sense of just knowing, without knowing how we know. It is also the centre of our dreams and memory recall, the chakra where we can tap into archetypal energies. Through active use of our imagination, we can gain command over our vision of the world.

Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

It is in Ajna that we tap into the ‘collective unconscious’ and the world of archetypes. During the Chakradance we work with an archetypal energy in order to allow that energy to enter the physical body and move through it. By embodying archetypal energies in the meditative dance space, we can gain insight into how these energies are manifesting in our lives.

milina.luisvilalon1-300x199So thin a veil divides
Us from such joy, past words,
Walking in daily life–the business of the hour, each detail seen to;
Yet carried, rapt away, on what sweet floods of other Being:
Swift streams of music flowing, light far back through all Creation shining,
Loved faces looking–
Ah! from the true, the mortal self
So thin a veil divides!

Edward Carpenter

Accessing the full power of the imagination is a gift inherent in all of us. The ‘command’ function of Ajna relates to the powers of visual imagination. This allows us to shift from left-brain rational cognition to right-brain creative thinking. This is the shift into our inner visionary. Yes, you DO have one!

The Ajna Chakradance, under the full moon by the sea, was euphoria, bliss, joy, energy, insight, connection. The place and surrounds were deserted. It was just me on the damp grass under the trees and the stars, with the sounds of the ocean crashing in the background.

At first I found being outside distracting, I was over-thinking it, trying to force a vision, also a little nervous about being so alone and isolated. Focusing on the music and movement, I tried to keep my eyes closed, but they kept getting drawn open to the natural beauty that surrounded me.

After a time, I felt an energy shift, the light became more intense as my dancing slowed, I intuitively reached my arms to the moon, I felt she was calling me. At that moment a tunnel of white light came directly from the moon into me, with the most vibrant and loving sensation, I felt completely safe and perfect. An intuitive voice came within the light saying “You are beautiful. You are now a Moon Goddess”ser_espiritual

After that my energy levels spiked and I was dancing like a whirling dervish, I felt I was a faery with wings dancing and leaping around the garden. At one stage my ring flew off my finger and landed near a wand-shaped stick. I decided this was meant to be my wand and I used it to ceremonially cut cords with any negativity.

The lesson of this dance was in reacquainting me with my divinity. When I am over-reliant on my rational mind, I can become quite disheartened about life, this connection with the universal energies of the moon and stars reminds me I am connected to all that is, there is no need to worry, the universe is unfolding, and I am part of its divinity.

Tapping into the archetypal world of the collective unconscious, allows synchronicity to flow in my life. Synchronicity is often discounted as coincidence, and it is acausal in the same way, but it is meaningful. For example, I was sitting at a park bench on my lunch break last week, re-reading my last blog post and thinking about the post I wrote for my friend who died, called “For You, Blue” after a somewhat obscure Beatles song, and at that moment, a man walks past singing that song. Now there is no connection between me and this man, yet at that moment, we were physically co-present, and our conscious minds were simultaneously focused on a Beatles song called “For You, Blue.” That is synchronicity.

To put it bluntly, and I think the process is far more subtle and nuanced than this conveys, events of synchronicity are the collective unconscious’ way of communicating with us that this connection exists. Why? I don’t know. It feels, to me, like sensing a ripple in the sea of the collective unconscious. You know, like in Star Wars “I feel a disturbance in the force”. Or an exclamation mark, “Yes! You are having a meaningful moment in the collective unconscious” – gold star. Okay, I really don’t know…

Like the characters from the Wizard of Oz, our power is always within us. We may search in external powers, like the Great Wizard, only to find he is just a man. Yet he is wise enough to know we have been acting from our power unconsciously all along. Like Dorothy, all we need to do is set the intention and we can go home at any time, the shoes, the incantation are just the point of focus, they bring our truth to our conscious mind, the power is within.

I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Affirmations for third eye chakra from Purely Om:

I open myself to know my inner guidance and deepest wisdom.

I align my consciousness with the source of all life.

I believe I am unlimited in my capacity for joy, healing and happiness.

I open myself to new energy, new people, places and experiences.

I live in the light of my truth and I accept what I know.

I create clarity of mind and unlimited vision for myself.

I am wise, intuitive, and aligned with my highest good.

I open my imagination to see the best in people and things, and to see the best in myself.

I am the source of truth and love in my life.

As I tap into my inner wisdom, I know that all is well in my world.




Women who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype Clarissa Pinkola Estés



Title: Edward Burne-Jones The Mirror of Venus 

Card playing archetypes

Archetypal faces

Wizard of OZ

Archetypal mask

Ajna woman

Moon Goddess


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