3 Godly Archetypes for Men's Healing
Archetypes are all around us--in television programs, novels, advertisements, religious iconography--everywhere. They are egregores of the collective unconscious and enzymes of consciousnesses activated when we step into their myths or are triggered to remember them.
Without a strong community of bards, storytellers, and guides, it's easy for us to get lost in our work with these characters. We get stuck in repetitive and toxic patterns, unable to move forward and unsure about why or how.
Below I've assembled a handful of archetypes that men in need of healing at the soul level may find power in. The truth is though that these archetypes are not gender specific. While this particular post is geared towards men's healing, I would encourage people of all gender experiences to sit with these archetypes and others in their healing journey. In my experience, the world of dreams, symbols, and myths rarely restrains itself to the social limitations we impose on one another.
The Horned God
From prehistoric cave drawings to contemporary depictions of Satan, the Horned God permeates our collective unconscious as a recurring character transcending cultural or geographic specificity. He can be understood as an 'original god' who can connect us with pre-colonized mythologies, as a 'father god' who can teach or stand-in for father figures, or as an 'adversary' or 'rebel' who rebukes the dominant paradigm.
The Horned God can remind us of our individual sovereignty. In him we can find the strength to listen to our inner voice, to buck traditions that don't serve us or our families, and to claim confidence in the values we hold as individuals.
When we witness the corruption and hypocrisy of the culture we live in, remembering the Horned God can be a reminder that our resistance to poor values is something that connects us to a long line of other men and their families. The Horned God challenges us to do more than just internally rebel. He asks us to consider how we are actively involved in raising a better world to come.
Names to meditate on: Cernunnos, Janicot, Pan, Atho, Hades, Wodan, Herne, Ba'al Hadad
The Green Man
The Green Man is a character motif commonly found in architectural designs (particularly of churches) throughout Europe and beyond. As an archetype, he is related to ancient pagan deities or folk heroes associated with rural life, the woodlands, and liminal places between the world. He can appear as a disembodied head or full figure, sometimes wearing a wreath of greens or with greens tumbling out of his mouth.
For us he is a reminder of man's essential connection to the natural world. Despite all the ways modern life divorces us from nature, our food, our clothes, our homes, and ourselves all owe their existence back to the greens of the natural world. The Green Man can guide us through exploring our relationship to this world--as farmers, as gardeners, as weavers, builders, and medicine-makers. In this era of climate change and ecological instability, the Green Man can mediate our discernment towards appropriate actions to take in defense of Earth.
For men with seasonal depression, take refuge in the characters of the Oak King and the Holly King, a pair of mythic Green Men who share reign of the Earth throughout the year. For men suffering professional or personal setbacks, the Green Man is a reminder of the seasonal nature of life on Earth. We all experience ups and downs, rest and rebirth. Where one season is not our moment to shine, another that is will be following shortly.
Names to meditate on: Jack-in-the-Green, Bran, Triptolemus, Jarylo, Oberon, Tapio, Khidr
The Wild Man
This character certainly overlaps with both the Horned God and Green Man, but I believe he offers distinct lessons to himself as well. He is a reminder of our animality--the parts of ourselves that exist outside of domestication. Like Bigfoot, he is elusive, encountered often only in glimpses during liminal experiences with the Wild. He is beyond civilization.
Unlike the Green Man, encounters with the Wild Man take place beyond the gates of the civilized and domesticated world. And unlike the Horned God, he is not necessarily tied to a family, home, or social duty. He is an archetypal guide for the world that truly is still wild.
The Wild Man might appear to us as an encounter with a wild animal who reminds us of our inner freedom. He might come to us as a glimpse of something or someone unbelievable. He can cause us to question the assumptions we make about reality, the actuality of the chains that bind us to domestic or civilized life, and the missing link between modern-day and prehistoric man.
Names to meditate on: Dionysus, Silvanus, Silenus, Leshy, Orcus, Guynglaff, Basajuan, Enkidu
From Awareness to Healing
As alluring as each of these archetypes are, they can each become sour if we don't learn to balance our work with them. The Horned God can become a bloodthirsty warrior more concerned with winning polemic battles than properly caring for his world. He can conflate protection of his family or community with toxic ideas like ethnic nationalism and xenophobia. The Green Man can become so enthused by his relationship to nature that he either abandons his throne when it's his time to reign or he grows into a tyrant perpetuating domineering relationships to the natural allies he works with. The Wild Man too can become so distant from civilization or so absorbed in his own spiritual development that his family and community suffer in his absence.
These archetypes give us names to the powers we naturally work with over the course of our lives. The trick is to challenge ourselves to stay conscious in these relationships, to not give over control of our lives to the unconscious. Some men find success in this regard through ritual re-enactment of myth or exploring archetypes through art and poetry. These activities can be engaged in either as individuals or with the support of groups. Importantly, no matter how alienated from one another modern culture may make us feel, these archetypes and others connect us in fraternal bonds.
By being more conscious in our relationships to the world of symbols and the world we share together, we can honor our existence and connection to one another.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to email@example.com