Of Gods and Heroes, the Veneration of Archetypes
“But the very fact that this process is unconscious gives us the reason why man has thought of everything except the psyche in his attempts to explain myths. He simply didn’t know that the psyche contains all the images that have ever given rise to myths, and that our unconscious is an acting and suffering subject with an inner drama which primitive man rediscovers, by means of analogy, in the processes of nature both great and small” ― C.G. Jung
Story telling has always been an important cultural staple to the communal experience. It is stories that draw us together, guide us in moral principles, and bind us in common culture. Why is it then that a good story holds so much power. I feel that it because they are an extension of our true nature expressed in a way that we don’t normally experience in our day to day lives. All good stories have three important elements, the characters, the conflict they must face, and the resolution they find. Through these elements we have a means to project our desires and explore our aspirations.
Beyond the character is the archetype, the patterned set of behaviors that sets the character apart from others within the story but acts as a common thread to to qualities of which we are familiar in ourselves and others. Throughout history we’ve looked to these archetypes as models to pattern our own behaviors, from fables to cautionary tales, acts of heroism to remembrance of those important to us. In times past folklore and myths had a soul and life of their own that took on a very real quality in peoples lives. Just as people imbued their stories with their own nature so too the story imbued its nature into the people.
Unfortunately we live in a modern age of doubt and literalism, warm intuitive understanding giving way to cold intellectual rationalization. It has become easy to get lost in a jaded perception of our world around us as stories become entertainment without substance, flat and emotionless descriptions of current events, or worse yet propaganda to deceive us. I feel that as skepticism and dismissiveness prevail we replace our heroes and hopes with self identifications and agendas.
So what does this all have to do with Asatru? Part of embracing heathenism is to embrace the sagas, to learn the stories of the gods and heroes. As with any other tradition or ritual the practice is mechanical without the substance of meaning. The archetypes of the sagas provide us not only with a rich culture to celebrate but role models to imitate in our own lives as we strive to honor them. With each saga we find a part of ourselves in the Gods and so commune with them as they become a part of us in our daily lives. When we desire to have the same resolutions to conflict in our lives as those of the characters we emulate, we meet the challenge of behaving as the archetypes we venerate and thus become like them with stories of our own to tell. In a time where the next distraction is the only concern, good stories give us roots to our true selves.