There’s A Wolf Inside All Of Us: How To Use Archetypes.
The archetype view has helped me to negotiate, accept and love my whole self. I use archetypes in my daily life; calling on my priestess, my she-wolf or my wild woman whenever I feel they would be helpful to me. It is a way of looking at all the different aspects of us, metaphorically.
Metaphor: a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.
Metaphors are very helpful to us; we are storytelling creatures, and metaphors and archetypes are the characters and ideas in the story — our personal story.
Story: a narration of events in the life of a person or the existence of a thing, or such events as a subject of narration.
When I first came across the concept of archetypes, I didn’t even know what it meant — I had to look it up!
Archetype: the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.
Then being asked to use archetypes in daily life had me confused. I can be quite logical, and the idea that you would pretend to be a certain character had me shying from it; “That’s just pretending! It isn’t real.” It seemed more like acting, but now I have a personal array of archetypes, and I use them often — it is not acting.
We do not act a character, but embody the qualities, skills and characteristics of an archetype. We do this by allowing them to come out of us — not by pretending we have them, but by truly feeling them. After all, we are multifaceted beings, and we can embody any quality (or flaw) in the range of human attributes.
Using archetypes makes it easier by giving us a sensory experience of the qualities we wish to embody; they give us a blueprint to work from.
Sometimes it takes practice to embody an archetype, especially one that has characteristics we may be confronted or triggered by. Below I give suggestions on how to embody archetypes, and these ideas can be particularly helpful for these trickier ones.
The main thing to realize is that we do have these characteristics inside us; some are just more difficult to bring out than others.
Archetypes are different from masks. We all wear masks every day — the work mask, the walking-down-the-street mask, the talking-to-new-people mask, the mother mask, the child mask.
Masks are necessary to a certain extent if we want to fit into society (although some people would probably say this isn’t true and part of me does too!), but we wear them to hide something. Masks cover up the blemishes we feel are there, whereas archetypes harness these blemishes and more.
We wouldn’t be human, enjoying this human experience, without embracing and accepting all the colors in the rainbow of us. Archetypes helped me to truly feel this in my whole being.
Thinking of all these different colors as different archetypes — animal and human — has helped me to understand myself more.
I used to hate hypocrisy in others and in myself. I would strive not to be hypocritical, but seeing that different archetypes embody different traits, some of which are opposing, has helped me understand the rich tapestry of being human. We are all hypocritical! It is human to be so.
We are not just flat pictures, but 4-D, moving, feeling, living beings. We have so many nuances and hypocrisies inside us.
Thinking of myself as many different archetypes has also allowed me to pick and choose the qualities I use at any given moment. For example, my anger and boundary-installer is my inner she-wolf. She is strong, powerful and fearless. She has an overt sense of justice and fairness, and she loves fiercely.
When we feel a prickle of anger, it is often because someone or some situation is trying to cross a boundary (or already has), so I use my she-wolf. I allow her out of her cave to fight by my side. She helps me assert myself, to say things that need to be said, and to stop people walking all over me.
I find that using archetypes in general life situations helps me love the things I once hated or feared within me. My she-wolf is my anger — but seeing anger as an animal, especially one I adore, has made it easier to accept it into my life. Before embracing her, I swallowed my anger or pretended it didn’t exist. Now I relish having it in my life.
Contrasting (and hypocritical!) to this is my Maiden — or my inner girl-child. She encompasses my needs, my gentleness and softness. She tells me the hidden things I want. She craves touch and gentleness from others and from myself. She is innocence.
I let her speak when I know I need something because I feel irritated by others or I am tired. She comes out during my Moon-time so I can remember to be quiet, reflective and spend time alone. Without her, I forget these things. Without her, I am incomplete; just as I would be incomplete without my she-wolf or any of my other archetypes.
Archetypes create space from our emotions and thoughts. They help us see them as separate from our higher self. This gives us permission to identify with them or not. There is freedom and power in this. I can put my she-wolf to bed and know that, although she is always there, she doesn’t rule my life; in fact, I rule hers.
Different archetypes to explore:
- Women/Femininity: Maiden, Mother, Crone, Slut, Priestess, Wild Woman.
- Goddesses/Gods from various religions: Shiva, Shakti, Kali, Isis, Hecate, Demeter, etc.
- The Ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses: Aphrodite, Zeus, Hermes, etc.
- Animals: wolf, fox, rabbit, sheep, snake, lion, owl, etc.
- Family: father, mother, son, daughter, etc.
Below you will find some tips for embodying different archetypes. These ideas will help you feel and use specific archetypes, especially if the archetype is a difficult one for you.
If I know a particular archetype would be helpful for me in a specific situation, I will call it up, with my eyes closed and during a quiet moment. If you have preparation time, these tips can help you bring out all the qualities of the archetype, so, in the new situation, you can feel better supported.
For instance, if I am going into a new situation and I am anxious or nervous, I will imagine my Priestess is supporting me in the background. I will call her up just before I go into the situation, and feel her presence inside me. This helps me feel supported and safe.
Symbolism: Make an altar, wear something and/or hold something that represents, and is dedicated to, the specific archetype you wish to embody. You could choose a color, a word, a specific scent, a crystal or a piece of music that you feel represents that archetype.
When you look at, wear, hear or smell this symbol, you will be reminded of the archetype, and it will allow you to bring those qualities out of you.
Dance: Take time to dance the archetype (using music that symbolizes it for you) and allow all the characteristics and feelings to bubble up during the dance. Dance alone to fully allow all the aspects of the archetype out without feeling self-conscious.
Have fun: No one archetype is you. Equally, all of the archetypes are not you either. But they are helpful to gain deeper insight and acceptance as some of the flavors of you, so use them, enjoy them and play around with them!
Individualize: We can use and embody as many archetypes as we want to. They are our own, to name and use as we will. Please do not subscribe to a predetermined model of anyone else’s; we are all different.
Use story: If it helps to fully embody an archetype, create a story about it, as I have done with my she-wolf who lives in a cave. Where they live, what they eat, likes and dislikes, what they do, all create a sensory picture for you. Weave a story about them, and they will reveal hidden treasures for you to use in your life.
Kien Hannah is a teller of stories, transmitter of ideas, and creatrix. Her art always begins in a notebook with her trusty pen, and usually ends up at her website or in print somewhere equally as awesome. She writes about our shared human experience, focusing on feminism, motherhood and personal growth. Besides her website, you could also connect with her on her writer’s page.