Myth & Folklore

Gods, Myths & Archetypes

I have been preoccupied lately with my writings on Psychology & Magick. I have been trying to focus my writing effort and I have had several breakthroughs with direction and scope – I now have a better idea of where I am headed with this book. But this has meant that I have been unable to work on this web site blog or even send out much in terms of mindless rants in my personal Live Journal blog.

And just as recently, I found myself embroiled in a discussion on an international Wiccan list, discussing mastery and genius. I will probably share some of it here eventually.

But for now I decided to share a section from my work-in-progress. Sort of a word from our sponsor …


sunset 64In many creation myths, the world is formed out of the void, the ocean, the chaos, or the dark mirror of space. Each of these is a symbol for the collective unconscious. A light is born from an explosion, from a word, from the droppings of a sacred bird, from the eruption of ecstasy or something or someone falling from the heavens. Consciousness is born from within the unconscious, and life begins anew.

As the first couple, the single cell organism or the demi-gods move toward higher levels of consciousness they eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and gain self-awareness, they crawl up onto the dry land, begin to walk and later fly, and they steal the fire to illuminate even the night. In other words consciousness breeds further consciousness. And as these first ancestors, prehistoric creatures and gods advance they cast off more and more of their universal applicability and become more specific – they even acquire names. Further consciousness seems to also lead to less universality and more specificity. In short, they began to exhibit preferences.

sunset 65Some prehistoric creatures become birds, some become cattle; some gods are solar while others are lunar. Some ancestors traveled to the mountains, while others traveled across the seas. And for every preference, something else fell into disuse. The cattle had no use for wings, and the birds had no use for horns. Solar deities controlled the planting seasons, while lunar the procreative cycle. All these non-preferences fell back into the collective unconscious. As each race of humans adopted, forgot and created anew the solar and lunar deities, these too came and went into and out of the collective unconscious.

The collective unconscious became after a time, not only the source of consciousness but also the repository of discarded forms of consciousness, the ultimate source document and reference library.

Over time some of the content of collective unconscious coalesced into stable and consistent forms. Some forms, such as lunar gods versus solar gods, or fertility gods versus death gods, or mountain gods versus ocean gods became what Jung called archetypes. These specialized forms became the model for every lunar and solar deity, every fertility and death deity, or every mountain and ocean deity called into existence by a human tribe.

Goddess iconJung in his time identified many forms within the collective unconscious. He called these forms universal archetypes. Mother, Wise Old Man, Divine Child, Trickster, Maiden, Hero, and Fool are but a few of the many archetypes identified and analyzed within the Jungian pantheon. Many of these were related to characters within ancient legends, myths and folktales. Marie-Louise von Franz, a prominent Jungian, in particular was quite adept at using folktales to illustrate key points concerning how dreams are made of the same raw material as myth – unconscious content.

One of the most misunderstood concepts among magickal practitioners is Jung’s concept of universal archetypes. Many erroneously assume that Jung was somehow minimizing or discounting the existence of the divine, relegating the gods to simply psychological entities.

This misunderstanding is understandable given the way Jung (and I for that matter) described the process of archetype creation and retention. But a closer inspection reveals an important point. Jung spoke almost exclusively in psychological terms, because frankly, that was his language of choice. He even used psychological terms when referring to his own spiritual development. Jung did not believe that the gods were simply psychological complexes; he simply approached the existence of the gods from the perspective of psychology and proved that their existence was a psychological necessity for our development as a species. He ultimately proved that we need the gods to exist in order to be and to become human.

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