Thursday, July 7, 2011

Short descriptions of the archetypes

I think this is going to be the final "maintenance" post (where I'm collecting and organizing information on the archetypes) for a while. I certainly hope so! It's taken a LOT of time and effort to pull all the information on the archetypes and organize them (even though my Hestia loved it) and it's time to focus on other stuff.

... For a while at least. Until Hestia gets the cleaning bug again :)

So this post is going to be a short description of the archetypes which is pretty much completely lifted from the Library of Halexandria. I'm just doing this for the sake of convenience of any readers who come to QotN and want to narrow down what their archetype might be before exploring deeper.

Short descriptions of the archetypes


Aphrodite was one of the four "virgin" (beholden to no man) goddesses. She was the Goddess of Love -- the sexual, romantic, platonic, soul connection, deep friendship, rapport, and empathic understanding type, with a desire to know and be known.  Her consciousness was focused, yet receptive, taking in what was attended to, what was affected by.  Her style was to be genuinely, momentarily involved in whatever interested her.  She attended to another person as if he or she were fascinating, beautiful and profound.  She was always present in creative work (including solitary work), and facilitated change and growth.  “Whenever Aphrodite consciousness was present, energy was generated: lovers glowed with well-being and heightened energy; conversation sparkled, stimulating thoughts and feelings.” 

Aphrodite as mentor was possessed of the power to transform and was never victimized, valued emotional experience with others more than independence from others or permanent bonds, sought to consummate relationships and generate new life, was a vision carrier with the power of positive expectations on the behavior of others, enjoyed love and beauty, sex and sensuality, was demanding, creative, fell in love often and easily, was loaded with sex appeal, and became a tremendous force for change (because of her passionate creativity), had intense relationships, enjoyed the moment, attractive with a natural unselfconscious sensuality, an innocent flirt, not focused on long-range academic goals or career, unemotional work of no interest, preferred variety and intensity, gravitated toward men who were not necessarily good for her or to her (but may have made major changes at mid-life: ready to settle down with a better choice of males), and had a tendency to act on desires without considering the consequences.  (Cards: The Queen of Cups/The Lovers)


Another of the virgin goddesses.  Artemis was independent, nonrelational, untouched by the heat of emotion or passion, not moved by love, sexuality, or infatuation, one-in-herself, belonging to no man, with an active, focused consciousness, with little apparent need to become vulnerable (to give and receive love and comfort and support growth in others).  Artemis’ adaptation mode had been to separate from men and their influence, and join other feminists. 

Artemis is the personification of the independent feminine spirit, capable of feeling whole without a man, seeking her own goals on terrain of her own choosing, competent, capable of achievement, concerned for victimized and powerless women and young (including her mother), safe childbirth goddess, sister, back-to-nature, capable of at-oneness with herself, active rather than passive, felt strongly about her causes and principles, interests of no or limited commercial value, competitive, individualist, recreational sex advocate, where relationships were secondary, sexual intimacy as another dimension of friendship, “Wonder Woman”, a female bear (protecting girls on the threshold of being women), could be very vengeful, could be merciless, needed to develop compassion and empathy, and “the Far-Distant Artemis”.  While Artemis might rescue women and feminine values from the patriarchy, she could also require women to sacrifice and devalue what had traditionally been considered feminine (receptive, nurturing, related-to-others and willing to make sacrifices for the sake of others). (Cards: The Page of Wands/The Moon)


Another of the virgin goddesses.  Athena was like Artemis, but in Athena’s case, her adaptation mode was identification with men -- she became like one of them.  She became, in fact, the “father’s daughter”, valuing rational thinking and standing for the domination of will and intellect over instinct and nature.  She was protector, advisor, patron, and ally of heroic men, ruled by her head rather than her heart, kept her head in the heat of emotional situations, was invulnerable, avoided emotional or sexual entanglements with men (but with whom she worked closely as companion, colleague, or confidante), she thrived in the business/academic/ scientific/military/political areas, knew the “bottom line”, went for the practical and pragmatic, not swayed by “unprofitable” emotions or sentiment, understood the value of having a mentor, expected two-way loyalty, Goddess of health, planed ahead, analytical, uninterested in feelings and people, an affinity for computerese, thought linearly and clearly, attention to detail, organized (er), accepted reality and adapted, attracted to powerful men (“power is the best aphrodisiac”) and usually chose her man (and planed his “capture”), deliberate rather than impulsive, lived in her head, lived for her work, and never a child (she was born an adult).  Her Medussa qualities manifest in her “ability to intimidate others and to take away the spontaneity, vitality, and creativity of people who are not like her.”  She enjoys the companionship of others, but lacks emotional intensity, erotic attraction, intimacy, passion, or ecstasy; thus spared the deep despair and suffering that may follow bonding with others or needing them.  (Cards: The Page of Swords/Justice)


Another virgin goddess, like Artemis and Athena, but having an adaptation mode of withdrawing from men, becoming anonymous in appearance and alone.  Hestia focused, instead, on the inner subjective experience, totally absorbed when she meditated, sought quiet tranquillity, solitude, found keeping house a meaningful activity (kairos time -- participating in time) or even a form of worship, above and out of intrigues and rivalries, avoided being caught up in the passions of the moment, never elated or devastated, wise, detached and connected, centered, quiet, unobtrusive, warm, peaceful, self-sufficient, the original “old soul”, lacked ambition and drive, did not value power or recognition, viewed sex as a nice, warm experience, nonorgasmic, “still waters run deep”, rejected the intellectual and emotional forces that might pull her away from her center. (Cards: The Page of Pentacles/Temperance)


Another of the virgin goddesses.  Hecate was independent, nonrelational, untouched by the heat of emotion or passion, not moved by love, sexuality, or infatuation, one-in-herself, belonging to no man, with an active, focused consciousness, with little apparent need to become vulnerable (to give and receive love and comfort and support growth in others). 

Hecate has the ability to concentrate intensely on whatever was important to her and to be undistracted (either by the needs of others or by competition from others), concerned for the victimized and powerless, capable of at-oneness with herself, “moonlight vision,” felt strongly about her causes and principles, interests of no or limited commercial value, individualist. Could be very vengeful, could be merciless, needed to develop compassion and empathy, and “the Far Seeing Sage.” “Outrage at wrongs done, loyalty to others, strength to express a point of view, and a propensity to take action can be very positive characteristics of [Hecate]. (Cards: The Queen of Swords/The Priestess)


One of the vulnerable goddesses.  She was [is] relationship-oriented (dependent upon a significant one), had a need for affiliation, tended to experience powerlessness and responded with rage and jealousy, accepting, diffuse awareness. Fundamentally incomplete without a marriage partner, Hera yearned to be a wife, stately, regal, a Nancy Reagan, beautiful, honored and humiliated, with the capacity to bond, loyal, faithful, enduring, committed, predisposed to displace blame from her mate (on whom she was emotionally dependent) onto others, vindictive (a mental sleight of hand which made her feel powerful rather than rejected), derived emotional security from a high-status male, work was secondary, placed minimal importance on female friends (husband’s primary friend), preferred a man who was emotionally dependent upon her, saw sex as a duty, could oppress other women, could be very destructive, and judgmental of other women (and really hated Aphrodite types!).  He style of “limiting herself to being a wife results in limiting her growth and ability to adapt, if death or divorce brings her wife role to an end.”  She is only a half of a whole, fulfilling a culturally determined role.  (Cards: The Queen of Wands/Strength)


Another vulnerable goddess.  Demeter was [is] also relationship-oriented (and like Hera, dependent upon a significant other).  She had a need for affiliation, tended to experience powerlessness and responded with depression, accepting, diffuse awareness.  She was the epitome of the maternal, an instinct fulfilled through pregnancy or through providing physical, psychological, or spiritual nourishment to others, the provider (food and spiritual sustenance), nurturing, Mother Nature, generous, Lady Bountiful, dependent upon her maternal role (after which her life lost its meaning), solid, dependable, fertile, long-suffering, unconcerned with status, envious or jealous only with respect to children, mixed feelings about feminism and the women's movement, relied on women friends for emotional support (vice her husband), did not choose her mate, just as soon cuddled as made love, huggy, preferred breastfeeding to intercourse, and tried to be indispensable.  (Cards: The Queen of Pentacles/The Empress)


Another vulnerable goddess, like Hera and Demeter.  She adapted to the experience of powerlessness by responding with depression, acceptance, and only a diffuse awareness.  She fulfilled the dual figure of the Maiden (Kore or young girl) and mature Queen who claimed for herself whatever she wanted.  On the one hand, she was carefree, compliant, passive, acted upon by others rather than active herself, did not know “who she was” and unaware of her desires and strengths, malleable, innately receptive, adaptable (to meet a man’s wishes), and unaware of her sexual attractiveness, innocent, lacked passion, nonorgasmic, demure, youthful, vital, young in spirit, receptive to change, willowy, conformed to circumstances or stronger personalities, open, flexible, uncertain of getting married (“bartered bride”), introverted or dormant sexuality, and the most indistinct and unthreatening of all the goddesses.  Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.  Persephone avoided anger, but could become narcissistic, devious, dishonest, and manipulative.  Her work was unimportant until she entered the underworld and became Queen -- whereupon she became possessive, creative, spiritual, psychic, artistic, unorthodox, deeply personal.  Only when she lacked someone to do things for her or someone to blame could she grow.  (The Page of Cups/The Star & Death)


The rejected son.  He was physical, manual rather than mental, and motivated by emotions -- did not use his mind or words.  “Ares could be stirred to fight by rage or loyalty, using weapons for a destructive purpose.”  Often ridiculed or called names by others, his self-esteem was affected.  He was the son of a devalued, angry, impotent mom.  Ares is the image of masculinity, physical power, intensity, and immediate action; dancer and warrior, lover, loyal, in touch with his feelings and his body (good for lovemaking), often uncontrolled and irrational, brawler, emotional, protective of his children, assertive, active, embodied, reacted before thinking, capable of licking his wounds and going on, success often depended on luck (which then became a surprise to everyone, including himself), here-and-now, most compatible lover for Aphrodite, exuberant lover, neither planed on marriage nor avoided it, generous father, impulsive, lost out to his siblings, discouraged, and repressed.  As a developed lover, he was a man who loved to make love, a man who loved women’s bodies, a man who could spend hours making love, a man who preferred a grownup, sexually liberated woman who enjoyed sex as much as he.  In the patriarchy, his fate was often sealed by mid-life. (Cards: The Knight of Wands/The Devil)


The favored son.  He was emotionally distant and mentally active, into words, negotiations, and commerce, well-traveled, but avoided physical conflict.  Apollo never had a wife or consort.  He was the patron of medicine, the instigator of Know Thyself, Nothing in Excess style thinking, favored thinking over feeling, distance over closeness, objective assessment over subjective intuition, sought clear definitions, valued order and harmony, and preferred surface over underlying appearances, not a dreamer, wanted to go, accomplish and win, All-American, minimal humility, fair-haired son (but never quite made it to the top), out of touch with feelings, preferred Bach, brother to his siblings, valued prudence, avoided physical danger, unriled by emotions, and preferred being an observer, ideal organization man, lacked passion with respect to women (not a lover) and preferred to control women (particularly psychic women who were his opposite), pursued in order to possess (rather than woo), could be underhanded, narcissistic, arrogant, and unable to be intimate.  George Bush (reminds women of their first husbands).  Unsuccessful in love, not sexually spontaneous.  Mother was probably physically undemonstrative.  His life mission was “I will reveal to mankind the exact will of Zeus.”  When he rose above his competence, trouble occurred -- he was unprepared to fail or falter.  When he defeated a rival, he showed no mercy.  A streak of cruelty, exercised within his legal rights.  To grow, Apollo needed a streak of Dionysus (a place for him to be honored, as at Delphi for 3 months).  “The woman who most needs to be liberated is the woman inside every man.”  (Cards: The King of Swords/The Sun)


Ambivalent.  He was [is] nurtured, mothered and fathered by Zeus.  Preferred to be with women and often came to their rescue.  Women liked his influence, while men reacted strongly with ambivalent feelings. 

Dionysus was close to nature and women, familiar with the mystical realm and feminine world, often an unwelcome and disturbing element, a cause of conflict and madness, “the god of ecstasy and terror, of wildness and the most blessed deliverance”, mystic or murderer, divine child (specialness of person or destiny), actively repressed in men, regularity and constancy were foreign, shaman, psychological androgynous, capable of major emotional shifts precipitated by minimal events, focused on the moment, dancing and lovemaking were especially important, intense, spontaneous, sought full sensual experience (all five senses), tantric yoga advocate, individualistic (not a team player), non-competitive, wildly promiscuous or celibate, erotic nature easily evoked, impersonal in lovemaking, sex experience more important than conquest, anorexic?, needed to leave behind the divine child image and become the hero.  Rescued his mother from Hades. 

In Greek mythology Dionysus was the only god who rescued and restored (instead of dominating or raping) women, who represent diminished earlier goddesses, and whose people and worship had been conquered.  “By ‘old boy’ standards, the Dionysus man is likely to be either too feminine, too mystic, too counter-culture, too threatening, or too attractive and too fascinating.”  (Cards: The Knight of Cups/The Hanged Man)


A favored son.  Emotionally distant and mentally active, well-traveled, into words, negotiations, and commerce, but avoided physical conflict.  No wife or consort.  Quick, mentally agile, wordsmith, crossed boundaries and shifted levels with ease, lucky, friendly, bachelor, united opposites, inventive, communicator of meaning, guide of souls, ability to think and act quickly (in order to achieve or deceive), rescuer of the child (saving what is innocent and vulnerable, or divine and sacred, by providing meaning for an otherwise terrible experience), problem solver (but seldom worried about right and wrong), messenger, trickster, wily, traveler between levels (integrated the realms of spirit, human life and soul), unplanned eloquence, spontaneous, acted on intuition, precocious, questioned the conventional rules of success, inventive generalist, charming, personal and experiential sexually, “Jack of all trades, master of none”, variety and newness may have overridden passion, the eternal adolescent living in the realm of possibilities, tended to rationalize.  Hermes introduced fluidity, motion, new beginnings -- and the confusion that almost inevitably precedes new beginnings.  A major way for Hermes to grow is through falling in love with a woman who thus becomes his Aphrodite.  She would become the challenge, someone he yearned for, and could not have immediately, who moved him, made him vulnerable and more sensual.  (Cards: The Knight of Swords/The Fool)


A rejected son.  He was [is] physical, manual rather than mental, motivated by emotions, did not use his mind or words.  “Rejected and betrayed, Hephaestus put his feelings into the objects he made, using tools for a creative purpose.”  Often ridiculed or called names by others, yielding low self-esteem.  One who identified himself exclusively with his work, was at a total loss without it.  Craftsman, inventor, artisan, loner, unvalued and rejected by the culture, earthy, passionate, creative, intense sexual and erotic fire, deeply introverted but would suddenly and unexpectedly erupt, crippled craftsman (or wounded artist, writer, healer, inventor, manufacturer) whose creativity was inseparable from his or her emotional wounds, sensitive to impending conflict, peacemaker, hard physical work saved him from depression, strong feelings not articulated, instinctual in his creativity, ill at ease, inner directed, bottled up his feelings, monogamous and faithful and expected his partner to reciprocate, here-and-now intensity, lacked a basic trust due to maternal rejection and neglect, his memory was not facts but events colored by emotions, could be emotionally crippled, constricted in expression, and alienated from others, might have become the buffoon or clown (hey fes' tus), TV couch potato, the strong silent man stereotype.  Son of devalued, angry, impotent mom.  Given a genuine admiration for women with intelligence, assertiveness, or beauty, he was drawn to women with these qualities and then would often give them power over him.  Hephaestus didn't strike back with his fists; instead, he devised elaborate plans to humiliate his persecutors.  (Cards: The Knight of Pentacles/The Magician)


As chief of the gods, Zeus was required to lose touch with the earth in order to gain an overview; to see the forest but not the trees.  The sky was also consciousness, “a perspective that exalts control, reason, and will.”  He was King, “a man’s home is his castle”, husband, father (children as extensions of himself), expected his wife to run the household and parenting (while he was minimally involved), protective, generous, and trusting toward many of his sons and daughters (although his generosity was motivated by his desire to control them and was tied to his expectations of them), sought authority and power, risk taker, entrepreneur, focused and single minded (the eagle), alliance maker, philanderer, ambitious, pragmatist (not an idealist), accepted the world as it was and wanted his piece of it, never an intellectual nor introspective, didn’t waste time on other’s feelings or dwelling on the past, “Power is an aphrodisiac”, everyone was expendable to him, but there is no profit in making enemies, the “alpha male” who had his pick of females, women were a “perk”, not a good lover, not passionate and didn’t bother to try to please women.  (The King of Wands/The Emperor)


Brother to Zeus, but second rated.  His symbols were the oceans and horses, both symbols of the unconscious, the sea’s powerful moods: turbulent, indiscriminate, tremendous destructive force, flood-bringer and earth-shaker, “the undersea is the realm of repressed personal feelings and instincts, and the emotional realm we humans share collectively.”  The patriarchal culture allowed fathers as lord and master of their household to unleash fury there.  They were trained, in a world ruled by Zeus, to devaluate and submerge their feelings and instincts.

 Poseidon’s temperament was his most characteristic feature.  Bad-tempered, violent, vindictive, destructive, and dangerous, not content with his lot, lost out to others, plotted unsuccessfully against them, philanderer, rapist, fiercely loyal to his children, grudge holder, a placid sea which might erupt in fury, not a good loser, strived to be important (if not in the world, then in his home), sexually potent, indiscriminate and promiscuous, made no distinctions between young and old women, “the wild man at the bottom of the pool”, felt deeply and intensely, spontaneous, directly in touch with his feelings, physically demonstrative, didn’t plan (“It wasn’t raining when Noah built his Ark.”), academic achievement had little meaning, patriarchal attitude and emotionally powerful, capacity for loyalty and emotional depth, insensitive (he actually raped Demeter while she searched for Persephone), and vengeful (“an eye for an eye”).  Poseidon wanted to achieve positions with status and power that would be the envy of others, only to find that the power was personally meaningless.  Poseidon was Zeus’ shadow -- the emotional aspect of the father archetype that was repressed or buried, undeveloped and inaccessible in a man whose conscious identification was with Zeus.  (Cards: The King of Cups/The Chariot)


God of the Underworld.  He was [is] grim, inexorable, sternly just, irrevocable in his decrees; he was not evil in himself, not an enemy of mankind, nor a tempter of evil.  His realm was the unconscious.  He was the god of riches, the cornucopia or horn of plenty, the unseen presence.  Human recluse, unaware of what is happening in the world, without a persona, invisible, without position or wealth, preferred the subjectivity and richness of his interior world, capable of “doing nothing”, a source of creativity, good counselor, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Zeus and Hades), introverted, weak will or simply didn’t get-into-an-uproar, autistic, secretive, “different”, but with an inner orientation which conveyed strength and thus did not make him a victim, cut off from the realm of emotions, emotionally illiterate, dreamer (“Fantasies and active imagination are voluntary descents to be entered and left at will.”).  Both Zeus and Poseidon forced women sexually repeatedly, yet it was Hades who got the bad reputation; the others got away with it. (Cards: The King of Pentacles/The Hermit)

A note:

If you're at all familiar with the archetypes you've probably noticed that there appears to be an extra one, Hecate. While I was working on the Minor Arcana correspondences I noticed that, although there were 8 male archetypes that perfectly matched the 8 court cards, there were only 7 female archetypes, which made me wonder if one was missing. I found out it was, and that it was my own (!) I'd originally associated my subarchetype with Artemis but, on reading Jean Shinoda Bolen's description of a wilderness loving, Outwards Bound type nature woman I realized there was something missing and I went exploring the Greek myths, looking at the various goddesses and voila! I found Hecate!

The description for Hecate is based on Artemis as the two have been conflated both because they're quite similar but also because they're both Moon goddesses - the difference is that while Artemis is the Moon that shines down on the wild places Hecate is the dark side of the moon and it's wisdom. Another difference is that, while Artemis's main relationship is, both in myth as well as real life, with Apollo, Hecate is most closely related to Persephone. One of the upshots of this is that, while even Artemis has an ideal archetypal relationship (with her mythological brother), Hecate is the only archetype that appears to be perfectly sufficient alone. Obviously much of this is still speculative but this is what seems to be true.

I wouldn't have been able to find her if it hadn't been for the James Rioux's amazing tarot card interpreatations and Bolen's book (who originally discovered the archetypes, so the circle comes back around again.) This experience was just one of the many I've had in the few short weeks' I've been exploring tarot that have silenced my inner skeptic and lead me to believe this stuff has a reality of it's own.

Plus, TV Tropes amusing analysis of the archetypes.


  1. I like how you matched up all of the Greek gods with Tarot archetypes. I have a new blog up at, which is an investigation of pop culture from the perspective of Jungian archetypes. If you ever want to guest post, let me know.

    1. Hi Alex,

      This is a really late reply but I've been crazy busy lately, too busy even to post here. Thank you so much for your invitation but I can't even keep up with my own blog. Also, I checked out your blog and it looks a bit different from what I'm doing here, but iff you see something you'd like to cross post, though, please be my guest.

      - Suzanne


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