TRIGGER WARNING: I’m about to go all Jungian on you. If actualizing your archetypes causes you difficulty, you might choose to stop reading here.
Are you in touch with your inner Ares? Donnie Trump sure is. And Hillary’s inner Athena? She’d be nowhere without it. Fact is, the archetypal gods and goddesses of mythology are at work in all of us, to greater and lesser degrees, and each have their particular qualities of expression. Viewed scientifically, they are epigenetic in nature; passed from generation to generation, they interact within each individual’s genetic framework to influence personality and behavior. From a Jungian perspective, these archetypes exist beyond any individual personality; they are the common heritage of all humanity.
Some of you may feel Greek mythology you studied in 9th-grade was just superstitious ignorance of primitive people, outlandish stories developed to explain nature’s mysterious power. Sorry kids, Greek mythology is all about people – me, you and everybody else.
Take Donnie Trump, for example. His inner Ares has taken over, and the whole world now suffers from Trumpitis. Ares, the god of war, thrives on conflict, respects no boundary, is vengeful, cruel and turned-on by the sight and smell of battle. Even his father, Zeus, holder of the lightening bolt of insight, is repulsed by Ares, and in Homer’s “Iliad” rebukes the wounded Ares thusly: “Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar. To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympus. Forever quarreling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.” Author Robert Graves notes that his fellow-immortals hate Ares, except Aphrodite who harbors a perverse passion for him and Hephaestus, god of the underworld. Oh, by the way, like Donnie, Ares has two sons. Named Deimos and Phobos, Deimos means “Terror” and Phobos means “Fear.” Ok, I know it’s kinda creepy.
Ares sons are his children with Aphrodite, the goddess of sublime beauty, love and pleasure. Graves notes she wears a “magic girdle which made everyone fall in love with its wearer.” Ivanka, Marla and Melania are Donnie’s serial Aphrodite. For those of us who have been lucky, and I certainly have been, I’ve been with my Aphrodite for 41 years; expressing and accepting love are gifts of the goddess.
Hillary’s Athena, the warrior goddess of wisdom, tactics and strategy, has been working overtime for decades. Just as Hillary bests Donnie, Athena always bests Ares; she is a more skillful fighter than he, though she takes no pleasure in battle and prefers diplomacy and mercy. Is any of this resonating with you?
There is, of course, Apollo, the oracular sun god of knowledge, and Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods, and Circe, who literally could turn men into pigs (now that’s timely!); Greek mythology embodies all of human psychology. Yet this is not merely an academic subject. The archetypal gods and goddesses are embodied within each of us, and through their resonance our lives play out themes of culture as old as humanity itself.
Like Tarot, Astrology, Buddhist realms of Samsara, or even psychiatric diagnoses, Greek mythology can be a useful tool for understanding self and others, and can reveal universal truths about being human. We can choose to externalize such narratives and treat them as entertainment, or we can study and use these archetypes to increase self-awareness.
That’s my Hermes talking.