A is for….oh noes, not THAT!!!!!   11 comments

930a640d20af343b21d071ef0d073079(i could make a case as to why a hiddleston-in-heroic-garb-with-pretty-pony pic is perfect for this post, but really, it’s just- hiddleston.)

i’m currently reading tori amos’s autobiography. i like tori. i like some of her music (virtually everything on ‘little earthquakes’ but not much else), i like her quirky beauty, her faery-ness, her fierceness, her sensuality, her openness, her vulnerability, her deep love of myth. a friend recommended i read this because she has her book broken into sections devoted to gods whom i love, which made me think ‘oho! she’s also a polytheist! i need to buy more of her albums!’

but as is so often the case, when i began digging in, it turns out that tori isn’t a polytheist at all. she views the gods as …..

drum roll…..

you know what’s coming, right……..

the dreaded A word……..



i still like tori, but i must say, some of the sparkle has gone out of the book for me.

now, having established myself as being firmly in the ‘fuck me, the gods are GODS not fucking ARCHETYPES, what the hell is the matter with you?’ camp, i shall now proceed to hem and haw, add caveats, throw in some nuances and dance around cheerfully with the ‘the divine dwells within us all and we access it in the form of archetypes’ crowd, even though we don’t really agree, because i actually adore most of the ones i’ve met IRL. we only run into trouble when someone insists that their view isn’t just their view but The Right View and only simple superstitious morons who are steeped in wishful thinking and too many fantasy novels could possible view the gods as real, and many, and only exist as archetypes. and i tell you true, i’ve mostly only met that ilk on line. as i recently learned at the PLC, people tend to much more courteous, interesting and just plain fun in person.

and i’ll take it even further, and alienate my last 2.5 polytheist friends- 

i like archetypes. a lot. 

and i think that most of our most compelling and enduring archetypes ARE based on gods, and can help us (some of us!) delve more deeply and satisfyingly into relationships with ACTUAL gods. and….er…..people, for that matter. 

unfortunately, if you even bring up the A word in polytheist circles, you are immediately banished with fire and sulphur to the outer reaches and the password into the Real Polytheist clubhouse gets changed and they throw cat turds at you. 

so it makes it hard to have useful conversations with anyone else who does Work with archetypes, and compare notes. and it’s so much fun to compare notes! i am blown away sometimes as to how often UPG and solitary conclusions and odd bits of seemingly headscratching messages from the gods are shared and validated by others, when we actually talk to and LISTEN to each other. 

but if you want that to happen, you’ve got to pick your crowd carefully. i can’t really compare notes with the Archetypes are Gods people because we’re on two totally different tracks, and no right-minded polytheist wants much to do with the group who thinks we’re insane. (we are, many of us, but for different reasons.)

i think archetypes are more useful to me as a CM than in my religious life, it’s true. when i put on a telesmatic image it could be a godform (among other things), i don’t think i’m actually becoming that god. i’m taking on an archetypal mask of the nuance of that god which will help me in the Work i’m about to undertake. and while the particulars change somewhat if what i’m Working with is, say, elemental, or archangelic, there’s still a keenly archetypal cast to the visual, and the emotional feel of the veil i wrap around myself. (disclaimer- the angels with whom i have acquaintance are way more like christopher walken than roma downey. and i don’t profess to internalize any of them. that would be Very Bad for my ongoing existence as a Live Person.) 

i’ve only once experienced what i believe was a true enthousiasmos event. and that was very, very different from any of the created or summoned beings i’ve worked with. and it’s one of the reasons why i’m very clear in my own mind as to the vast difference between archetypes and gods.

archetypes are also really, really useful for writers. sometimes i get really stuck, and playing around with archetypes can get me back into my characters’ heads and open up the channels of communications again. and when the storyline seems to be bogging down, reminding myself of how the mythic arcs of the archetypes flow often galvanizes the action again.

and sometimes an archetype will introduce me to a side of god i never knew existed. i did a ritual i called the Wonder of Women for a wonderful group of homeschool girls and moms a few years ago. they seemed to enjoy it, and so did i. but it wasn’t until a few nights later when i was in the pool in the moonlight and ran through the ritual again by myself in order to experience it from the perspective of a participant (as opposed the priestess role), and when i got to the part of the ritual i called the Hall of Archetypes a wonderful thing happened. the many lovely and disgusting archetypes in my own psyche whom i met led me to a goddess with whom i’d had limited contact- Artemis. and oh my gads, how kind, and empowering, and deeply deeply healing She was. my relationship with Her has been so much richer and more satisfying since then, even though she’s still not one of the primary gods of my regular practice.

there’s a subject that requires it’s own blogginess!

studying archetypes has also impacted my vestigial forays into hero-worship. the folks who have a much more regular and evolved practice all seem to get very, very angry at the mere notion that archetypes and heroes have anything to do with each other, but for me it’s been not only there, but key to exploring the ways in which heroes can have a real, measurable impact on my life and my development as a priestess. i’m sure my favorite, theseus, was, you know, just a dude, who farted and had spinach in his teeth and occasional bouts of halitosis, but it’s Theseus the Wanderer, Theseus the Absent-Minded, Theseus the Monster-Slayer, Theseus the Bad Boyfriend who walks with me, and frustrates me, and pushes me, and really really pisses me off, then makes me go deeper again. it’s of relatively little importance to me to know whether or not he existed historically, or how his historical self may have differed widely from his mythic self, or if his giant bones did actually get excavated from Skyros and returned to Athens. i may morph into someone for whom the tombs are central to hero worship- but i’m not there right now. i don’t think this is disrespectful, any more than i was being disrespectful to the gods when i was a wiccan n00b and thought all the gods were the Lord and Lady. 

and boy, howdy! how i do LOVE the Hero’s Journey and star wars shit! i don’t always love joe campbell. he’s hardcore in the ‘gods are archetypes’ camp. but it’s no sweat off my nose, so long as he’s not being an asshole to me about it, and some of his stuff is pure gold.

the gods are much more kind about how worshippers evolve, mature, and move through phases than humans are. rather to my surprise, They seem equally relaxed and groovy when people move from hard polytheism to much softer varieties. They even seem to be shockingly cavalier when some people are just fucking WRONG. (bitter aside- i spent years- literally- battling and raging and honing and polishing my ABSOLUTELY RIGHT perspective on the contentious demeter/persephone/aidoneus rape/love story/abduction/murder debate. finally Demeter Herself sat me down and gave me a come-to-jesus talk about butting out of Her relationship with other humans. apparently if it’s important to Her as far as those stupid wrong people go, She’ll handle it without my ABSOLUTELY CORRECT AND VALID information and interference. go figure.)

so, there ya go. i like a good archetype. i’m no expert, and don’t favor jung or swear by caroline myss (although i confess a delight in sherri s. tepper’s ‘a plague of angels’ with its Archetype Villages). i just wish my co-religionists wouldn’t hiss and break out the bastinadoes when i confess to it.





Posted July 29, 2014 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

11 responses to “A is for….oh noes, not THAT!!!!!

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  1. I think that if more people had a sense of the value that archetypes have as structural elements of the psyche, and could conceive that there is more than one way for a being to be non-physical, then there would not be this issue of trying to make the Gods out to be archetypes. Instead, it would be understood that the psyche is a receptacle with a certain shape, so to speak, and the archetypes speak to this shape. Since we receive what the Gods impart to us through a vessel of this shape, it of course, along with other factors, affects how we grasp our experience of Them. Moreover, the structure of this psychical receptacle is itself a work of the Gods: hence we Platonists speak of the psychical order of Gods. Technically, this order is known as the hypercosmic order, because They operate just beyond the natural cosmos, organizing the motions that give life to natural beings, namely soul motions. In principle, the structure of the psyche expresses Their work. In the Hellenic theology, most of the Olympians are active on this plane.

    The problem that people have is that, in a culture where a very strict materialism is the default ideology, the psychological domain becomes the place where everything else goes, because it is all experienced in the psyche, and the psyche is at least determinately linked to this or that body and everything happening in it can somehow or other be reduced to physical processes. So not only do the Gods become psychological entities, but so does every kind of idea, or even things like logic and mathematics. All of which results in the most benighted sort of skepticism-cum-dogmatism. I would argue that the psychologization of religion has profoundly affected Christianity as well, though in ways harder to recognize. Psychology, however, is far too valuable a discipline to be co-opted by religion, just as much as religion will never be properly conceived as long as it is confused with psychology.

  2. As long as one draws a proper distinction between the gods and spirits on the one hand and archetypes on the other I think that the latter can provide a very useful framework for understanding elements of human consciousness and culture. Hell, I even work with certain archetypal constructs as part of my religiomagical practice and identity. I just know the difference between categories, roles and being. So, in summation, keep doing what you’re doing and fuck the nay-sayers who are always going to find something to complain about.

  3. yes! yes! it’s mostly a matter of just being clear as to what the hell you’re interacting with, Working with and talking about.
    i’m not sure it would have been the case always. maybe some years ago the lines would have been more blurry? but at this point it seems as if we’re talking chalk and cheese. the gods are so different from archetypes, even though archetypes can embody certain divine traits, it just strikes me as odd that anyone can glom them together.

  4. Taking a theological track, as complement to Edward’s philosophical, astrological-influenced cultus presents structural elements (planets) of the psyche (microcosmos) as intimately related with that of the divinely ordered universe (macrocosmos). Some Gods have chosen to style their expression more closely with one or a few planets, and we see this reflected in various polytheist societies, in even referring to the planets by the names of the Gods. Thus in practice it’s a natural step to call upon a god that has established that relationship and ask them to aid you in experiencing and working with a planetary force/nature.

    The only risk here is that the practitioner/devotee begins to place the God in a box, conceptually limiting the God’s activity, and allowing that to damage their relationship. Like if I run into my doctor at a social event and ask them to check out this weird thing on my neck before introducing myself to their spouse.

    “What! Your a doctor, right?”

    Familiarity with Egyptian theology helps inoculate us against this error, as so many of the Gods choose to express different astrological forces when appropriate, and conversely each force has numerous deities acting through it.

    There’s an interesting genealogy to be traced from theological concessions made by polytheist survivals under Christianity encountering a transition to the materialism Edward mentions. We end up with Thoth is Hermes is Odin is actually the personification of the mercurial archetype in our psyche.

    • cole, my friend, is that you?
      thanks for this. i’ve wrestled inarticulately with the connection between the gods themselves and the planets that humans have named for them. this really helps me unravel that.
      ‘theological concessions’ is a lovely phrase to describe the process. after years of declaring loudly that i have no beef with christianity and am therefore immune to such progressions, it’s coming more clear to me just how very much i’ve been societally programmed.

  5. There’s no doubt that the modern psychologization of religion is the natural successor to Christianity’s drastic truncation of classical metaphysics, which results in a single God in or just beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, with everything below that being soul-stuff. This effectively chops off well more than half of the planes of being lying beyond our immediate physical experience. When the leash got taken off the “occult sciences” to some degree, the occultists piously kept the lid on, leaving the Christian God right where he’d been, in the place of Aristotle’s prime unmoved mover—lower than the Olympians, if we keep score according to the old metaphysics—and restricted all their activities to the spheres below him. Naturally under those circumstances the distinction between the Gods and the planets, which never escaped the ancients, was completely effaced; and the planets of Renaissance astrology more or less become the Jungians’ archetypes. Neopagans, as the inheritors of Renaissance and Early Modern occultism, rarely questioned the accuracy of the transmission of ancient thought and religion through the bottleneck of the Middle Ages. What’s more, they have often embraced the psychologistic and materialistic reductionism inherent in the role of, in effect, junior partner to the Christian God on account of its immanence, oblivious that “immanence” is by no means an unalloyed good, nor the only value worth upholding in theology.

    • and thank you for elucidating it even further, edward. i feel as if i’ve been wearing a corset and it just got unlaced!
      the last sentence isn’t tracking for me, though. can you elaborate?

      • Well, pretty much every Neopagan one meets considers “immanence” to be a synonym for everything good, and “transcendence” as everything bad, and squashing fourteen or more levels of Platonic metaphysics into psyche or into nature sounds very immanent. But of course that also means “It’s all in your head”, so…

        • hee!
          it IS kinda funny, that tendency to assume that immanence is ‘ours’, the presence of gods in the physical world, while transcendence is that monotheistic god who’s considered to be so high above everything as to be snooty and unknowable. i guess it’s another symptom of dualism.

          • In philosophy, one encounters the phrase “trapped in immanence”, which would sound utterly paradoxical in the pop-religious-studies parlance.

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