Your Archetypes Want a Word With You
You’ve got some old beliefs and thought patterns that need shifting.
I recently wrote that I’d decided to read all 72 books from a vintage collection of story and philosophy books that my grandfather left me. I started this endeavor after a breakup, hoping that the books would help me sort out my feelings and heal.
I guess I’ve had this idea in my head that Grandpa’s got a plan from the beyond, that the books will come to me precisely when I need them, in the order I need them to. So I’m steadily going from one book to the next, letting the conversations between my own lived experiences and the authors’ percolate as I go about new routines, examine my beliefs, and navigate myself out of depression.
I’m also turning 30 soon so I’m getting the very first baby glimpses of my own mortality, and there’s a fun new voice in my head that keeps scream-whispering, “Purpose. Purpose. What’s your goddamn purpose?!”
To put it lightly, I’m uncomfortable in my skin right now. But my discomfort is your gain because I’m finding some helpful tools.
Years ago, I’d stolen a deck of tarot cards from my parents, who are the type of parents that have tarot decks lying around — along with crystal singing bowls and didgeridoos and books their friends wrote on how to have meaningful sex.
The deck was based on Carl Jung’s archetypes (the hero, the joker, the innocent, etc.).
I always found this deck, and the archetypes themselves, endlessly fascinating. I was enraptured with the idea that these same characters/concepts could be found in myth and literature throughout history, were part of a collective unconscious, and could help me to better understand my world.
Whenever I watched television or read a book, I’d flip through the cards and try to determine which characters in an ensemble matched with which archetypes or whether they were shifting from one archetype to another over the course of their character arc.
What? You didn’t do that too?
I still have that deck. As I was digging through my bookshelf for a bookmark for the first of Grandpa’s 72 books, Alice in Wonderland, I stumbled across these old archetype cards and had an idea…
What if I facilitated active reading by invoking the archetypes?
“If you know your archetypes — and not just yours, if you know how to perceive the world in archetypes, through archetypes — everything changes. Everything. Because you have two things: you can see through one eye which is impersonal, and through the other, which is personal. That’s the way the game is written down here.”-Caroline Myss
What if, for each book I read, I pulled an archetype card and used that card as my bookmark, keeping the archetype in mind as I read? The archetype on the card would, of course, have special significance in relation to the book and what I was meant to glean from it.
To my absolute delight, I discovered that there were 72 archetypes in the deck (the total deck is 80 cards, but 6 were purposefully blank and two were mysteriously missing) Seventy-two was the exact number of books in my grandfather’s collection! That had to be a sign, right?
“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland