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Redefining the Sacred: Divine Archetypes

Myths and archetypes are one of my favorite ways to connect with the sacred.

What do I mean by “the sacred?”

Here’s an article called “Redefining the Sacred” where I talk about what I mean.

I wound up coming up with a few of my own definitions for “sacred”:

- Existing both higher than and deeper than the trivialities of everyday life, with all its seeming lack of meaning.

- Bringing an individual closer to the eternal within themselves, within others, and within the Universe as a whole; a source of, and point of connection with, awe and with love; a source of wisdom and love; a source of connection with life.

 ***

So with that in mind, let’s talk about archetypes.

Archetypes are story patterns that recur in myths and legends the world over.

Archetypes are why we tell pretty much the same kinds of stories in the US, Mexico, Japan, Africa, etc. etc.—all over the world. Archetypes are why stories created thousands of years ago can still resonate with us today.

These patterns also occur in individual human beings as behaviors and psychological “stuff.”

Good old dictionary.com puts it this way:

“In the psychology of Carl Jung, archetypes are the images, patterns, and symbols that rise out of the collective unconscious and appear in dreams, mythology, and fairy tales.”

The definition leaves out the information about how archetypes can appear in our behaviors. But hey, I forget information too sometimes. I’m not throwing any stones at an internet dictionary.

In a nutshell, archetypes make me feel connected to my fellow human beings and to the eternal.

***

In ancient societies certain archetypes were literally sacred.

(Actually, some of these archetypes are STILL considered sacred by people, such as the God on the tree—like Jesus and Odin and even Osiris—but that’s another topic for another article.)

In ancient times, they were deified as gods.

The “gods” were often forces or drives that ancient people noticed and could not ignore, rather than arbitrary sky fairies that they dreamed up and decided they had to placate.

Some of these forces were part of nature, including the sea (Poseidon) and the sun (Apollo). Other “forces” were human drives, including sexuality (Aphrodite), creativity (The Muses), and the insuppressible habit we have of going berserk and destroying things and killing each other (Ares).

Ancient peoples basically looked at what was going on all around them, then looked at each other and said, “So I guess we can’t deny this shit, huh? We better do something about respecting it, then.” And they created gods to help them live more harmonious lives, and to understand the Universe in the best way they could.

So for example, let’s take one of the most famous goddesses: Aphrodite.

I’m sure she won’t mind serving as our example. Aphrodite loves attention.

Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love, sexuality, pleasure, desire, creation, and self-expression.

Yes, self-expression. Don’t you feel more genuinely attractive to the right kinds of folks when you’re genuinely expressing yourself and feeling really awesome? Aphrodite is all about that.

In fact, Aphrodite demands self-expression and self-acceptance, especially in the area of sexuality and love. If I have sex with someone I’m not genuinely attracted to, that is going to be uncomfortable (and maybe even painful) for me—emotionally, intellectually, and physically. It’s going to feel wrong.

You can fake an orgasm. But you can’t fake love. You can’t fake connection. You can’t fake who you are and what you want. You can be in denial about it, but that’s not the same thing.

If you try to fake the sexy stuff, and then you experience the natural consequences of that, you’re going to experience what ancient people might have called “the wrath of Aphrodite.”

That is why we might benefit from understanding and honoring the Aphrodite archetype today.

***

It’s not that I want to return to a paganistic form of worship.

Society (and humanity as a whole) has evolved out of the pagan cosmology. We couldn’t go back even if we tried because we are rational evolving animals. But there is wisdom in the symbols that has been thrown out with old forms of worship.

Archetypes are not morals. They aren’t symbols of “right or wrong.” The archetypes in our mythologies paint pictures of our psyches. They show us why we might be behaving in certain ways, and some can show us what kinds of behaviors might bring us more peace. 

I was going to write about how these archetypal symbols have no inherent meaning apart from the meaning we give them.

But upon reflection, I have to question that.

I wrote an article several months back called The Virgin and the Whore and the Devil Wears Prada. It’s about how this archetypal relationship between two “characters”—the Virgin and the Whore (both also archetypes, respectively), plays out in a pretty predictable way. A naïve young woman goes to work for a dragon lady boss and has to learn to set boundaries in the name of self respect, so she doesn’t become just like her boss. The pattern is dramatized in The Devil Wears Prada.

Sure, it’s a story we tell over and over.

But it’s also a pattern we live over and over. I lived that particular one myself, almost point for point. It’s eerie the way these things can play out in our lives.

Another archetypal relationship we keep playing out is the Hades-Persephone abduction. And it’s another one we’ve dramatized—you can see this one in 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight.

We also play out the story between Artemis and Acteaon. It’s not a very fun one.

***

I do think some archetypes pop up more than others in different people, circumstances, and cultures. But that doesn’t mean the others are irrelevant. I think they’re waiting just out of sight—like big fish swimming in deep water that can come up to the surface at any time.

I personally feel more connected to the Artemis archetype (or we can call her Diana, or we can focus on any similar figure in myths across cultures; I’m just sticking with the Greek pantheon for now), which isn’t really interested in romantic relationships. But that doesn’t mean my inner Aphrodite can’t step up and light my fire when the time is right. 

So on my ramblings to redefine and recognize the sacred, I focus a great deal on archetypes and myths. They make me feel I have a path of connection with and comprehension of my fellow people, with my human kin through history, with the divine, and with the entire flow of life in the Universe.

***

PS: In my last article, the “Redefining the Sacred” one, I mention Joseph Campbell talking about the “faces of God.” Maybe Campbell really did use that phrase, but the one I was looking for was “masks of God.” Sorry about that.

***

L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter, and suitcase entrepreneur—which is a hipster way of saying she travels and works from her laptop. Her memoir, “Working Girl: 132 Somewhat Moral Values I Learned from a Sex Worker,” tells about when she answered a shady classified ad and wound up working as a sex worker’s personal assistant. Follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

© Leslie Hedrick 2015. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.


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