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What is an Archetype?

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What is an Archetype?

The Warrior is an archetype found in every culture's consciousness.

Image (c) Sean Justice/Getty Images
Definition:

In some Pagan traditions - and in cultures all around the world - the word “archetype” is used to define a model of a person that stands as a symbol of a collection of traits. As an example, a warrior could be considered an archetype of all that is brave and strong and honorable. A priestess might be seen as an archetype of wisdom and intuition. In goddess-centric belief systems, the triune archetype of Maiden/Mother/Crone is often invoked to represent youth, middle age, and cronehood.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung used a system of archetypes to describe images that are related to a collective unconsciousness. He believed that in any culture or belief system, there were common archetypes that everyone could relate to, whether it be that of the warrior, the priestess, the king, or others. He then carried this theory a step further, in describing how archetypes were connected to our inner psyche.

The hero archetype appears legends from societies around the world. Mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out that individuals from Hercules to Luke Skywalker epitomize the role of hero. To truly fit into an archetype, an individual must meet certain characteristics - using the hero as an example again, to be a true archetypical hero, one must be born into unusual circumstances (Orphan, raised by uncle on a barren planet), leave home to embark upon a quest (Become a Jedi), follow a perilous journey (Darth Vader wants to kill me!), and take advantage of spiritual help (Thanks, Yoda!) to overcome obstacles (Ow! My hand!).

In a religious context, many Pagan spiritual paths - both ancient and modern - rely on archetypes. Some traditions honor a goddess or god, in which the sacred masculine or divine feminine is celebrated. This is often rooted in a system of archetypes.

Pronunciation: ARK-e-type
Examples:
Willow's coven honors the Maiden, Mother and Crone as archetypes of the three stages of womanhood.

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