There are stereotypes of these characters and there are archetypes. I’ve been asked how to tell the difference, and the answer for me lies in the archetypes’ numinosity, their mysterious, otherworldly numen (divine will), a kind of shining. A stereotype is a widely recognized but oversimplified image that exists to flatten, dull, make less or more dangerous what is being described. It is what comedians mock.
The natural world has archetypes; many are used symbolically, and many can be stereotyped:
- Colors – we ask “if you were a color what color would you be?” on one hand, referring to the archetype sense of that color; we also use colors to create stereotypes of race.
- Numbers – we prefer/dislike certain numbers. The number 13 used to be lucky (a baker’s dozen was 13; age 13 marks an initiatory journey) but now often is seen as negative.
- Directions – Solar E, S, W, N and Lunar/Star Cross-Quarters are orientation energies, invoked in ritual ceremony; flattened stereotypes are like South vs North, or “Go West, Young Man”
- Plant realm: Tree, flower – found as symbols everywhere, often carrying an archetypal understanding “rooted like an oak”, “the rose at the center of the fire”.
- Natural world realm: ants, fox, fish, horse, bird (Firebird, Mother Goose), others appear as helpers in fairy stories. They have archetypal significance: ants sort seeds, fox are savvy, horse is guide and companion, bird in a cage…
Some natural world archetypes become major cultural icons like Raven, Turtle, Eagle, Coyote. Tribes, organizations, teams align themselves with animal archetypes, like the Bear Clan or the Lions Organization. My website’s major image is the archetypal transformer Raven.
For a master list of archetypes it is worth looking at the indexes of the first Dungeon Master books from the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Quora will also provide useful information.
In this role-playing game your character joins other players’ characters in a setting determined by the Dungeon Master. The party travels together through a Road of Trials (though not called that usually). I love that characters earn experience points and skills that they take with them into other adventures.
Archetypes can be beings that take shape in your dreams, from your personal un/sub/conscious and whose formation is usually a message from yourself to yourself. When going through a transformation about diet and weight, a voracious eater something like an unintelligent Chewbacca arrived in my dreams and waking moments; I named her Galumpf. A series of Turtle dreams marked a major life transition and became a foundation for the short story Turtle Dreams.
One major clue to being on a Road of Trials is that beings (human and otherwise) in the literal world double as archetypes on the interior journey. It’s very important to not paste your Father archetype on your real father or your boss or the leader of your country, for examples. It’s also very important to realize beings show up carrying archetypes and interacting with us as archetypes because it is useful to our current transformation. You have to stay awake to do the dance.
The stories tell us when you recognize the presence of the Other, approach with your best manners, with a clean heart, and a clear motivation. When asked a question, answer it, telling the truth. These beings are not here to serve you. They may be there to test you, or stop you from getting ahead. They may choose to offer aid and information. Do not mistake them for your imagination.
Road of Trials Maps and Tasks
Roads of Trials occur as we travel through our lives. It’s useful to be able to recognize when you are traveling along one. The Hero/Heroine’s Journey is a map to the transformation process; we live one arc that begins with our birth and ends when we return to Home. Our ancestors left us the fables, myths, and stories as specific maps for specific journeys. Joseph Campbell suggests it is useful to know what story you are in, and where you are in the story. Reading stories is one way to find a map; ask yourself which stories resonate with you right now, what are you reading or watching that is sustaining you.