Depiction of Inanna, Photo Credit: Sailko, CC BY 3.0
The last station of the Hero/Heroine’s Journey is Home. The Journey has come “full circle”. In some stories and lives Home is the same home, brick/mortar, social context, people. It’s possible to never physically leave home at all, and the journey was a completely interior transformation that just now is complete and ready to extrovert.
For others Home is a new environment entirely, perhaps the journey’s initiating dream turned into a reality. A newly married couple chooses a shared Home. Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) can never return to the uncle’s farm or family. Refugees are in the same situation, individually and collectively living through a forced journey. It may be impossible, physically or emotionally, to return to the original home.
In my Covid Journey blog, To Be As Clean As We Can, we explored how the heroine in the Handless Maiden is betrayed by her father to the devil, but knows how to protect herself. When she wins through, she leaves the home of her betrayal, and wanders into the King’s garden. He recognizes her worth, marries her, gives her silver hands. She is in a new home, and they have a child. But when the King is called away the devil betrays her to the King, who orders his mother to kill her. The mother instead sends her and their son away. In this second journey our Heroine finds and makes her own home for herself and son. The solution for the Handless Maiden is “out of her hands” (sorry). In the wilderness home her own hands grow back. The King return home. He discovers the betrayal, searches for her and his son for seven years, finds them, and restores them to their home. One story, two journeys, three homes: two different places, one Home Again.
The choice for Same Home or New Home often is made after the Nigredo on the way to the Gate Out, or during the Return. The transformed Journeymaker is free to choose. Sometimes it is not until the Hero/Heroine is standing in the threshold of the old home. And sometimes the old home refuses the Hero/Heroine, or is so toxic it is impossible to remain. Then a search for a new Home begins. It may be quickly found, like the King’s garden home, or it may take a long time (seven years?) to find it. That search will be a new journey.
Thresholds: Be Awake, Aware.
The first step at Home is over the threshold, regarded as holy ground in ancient times and in many cultures today. In India I watched as householders swept their thresholds each day, and then created a new mandala there, in stones or flowers, or drawn with chalk.
January, the first month of the new year, is named for the Roman threshold god Janus. The god faces two ways – interior and exterior, inside and out, and in the case of time what passes and what enters. The Journeymaker left home blessed by the interior face. The journey ends, and the exterior Janus face watches over the return. Inherent in the symbol is that it is the same door: returning from the last journey, one enters, and turning around, beholds the face blessing the next beginning.
Meanwhile others in the household have been on their Hero/Heroine’s Journeys. It’s important to know what has changed for them, and in the original Home “situation”. Being aware of the threshold encourages assessment, a watchful and careful entry. The Hero/Heroine returns with a readiness to be seen, felt, heard and understood for who they are now. Giving that same gift to those at Home aids all.
As the Journeymaker assesses, it may be possible to say with T.S. Eliot in Little Gidding:
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.”
The Gift is Appreciated, Bringing about Restoration and Healing
There was a “Situation” that called the Journeymaker away, and the gift brought back can heal that original situation. The knowledge, skills and wisdom gained on the Road of Trials allows healing. The gift is a Water of Life, nourishing those at home.
Our word, Life, comes from Old Norse lif – life, body. Old Frisian, Old Saxon lif “life, person, body,” Dutch lijf “body,” Old High German lib “life,” German Leib “body”), properly “continuance, perseverance,” from PIE root *leip- “to stick, adhere.” (Thanks, Richard Seidman)
When the transformed one is accepted and loved, the Hero/Heroine’s perseverance, the stick-to-it and finish is recognized. All that was received in the Temenos is appreciated, including healing for the original situation. This is a grand completion of the journey. If there have been other forces at work in the Home Situation, the Journeymaker can become a key that unlocks what all have learned, a guide for shepherding the changes.
But What If The Gift is Stolen, Refused, Misunderstood, Rejected
Other times the Gift and/or the Giver finds the Home environment unchanged, unwilling to change, or hostile. During the Return, the Hero/Heroine may anticipate this possibility, having knowledge of those at Home. Wisely an alternative “Home” awaits, another option, another community who will recognize and want the Journeymaker.
In Vasalisa the Beautiful the step-sisters and step-mother run out screeching at the returning Vasalisa, bringing the light she was ordered by them to fetch. She holds up the light, and it burns them to a crisp. She “takes her seat”, as the Buddhists’ say, speaking and acting from her authority, claiming her Home. She lives in the same house, her father’s house, but without the nagging voices and the subservient position.
Brothers in the Water of Life steal the Gift, restore the health of their Father, and tell lies about the Hero to their father and the kingdom. Returning, the Hero is misunderstood and rejected. He chooses to leave. When the truth arrives from outside the nuclear group, the Hero is on the Golden Road to his new Home. In some journeys the truth is never revealed, and the Hero/Heroine remain outcast and misunderstood. The gift is rejected. The original situation remains. But the Hero/Heroine has the knowledge and skills to go forward to a different situation (a new Home) that can use the gift and appreciate the bearer.
One of my father’s Hero Journeys happened at work when he was given an assignment (before computers) to find thousands of people scattered throughout the USA and provide them with information important both to them and the country. He created the plan, found them, and gave it to his direct supervisor who presented it as his own work. When my father found out about the stolen research / stolen plans he applied for a transfer to another department. He was promoted in the process as the other management knew his true worth. Good. But my greatest appreciation for my father in this story is that he then went to the thief, and said he had not reported the thief, but that their relationship was at an end. He was not available for this person in any way thereafter. He shut the door of the old Situation and opened the door to where his gifts were recognized.
Healed, transformed people are encouraged to find supportive environments. If it is important to teach those in the old environment how to be supportive of a transformation; maybe even to warn them before appearing on the threshold. Will they be receptive the changes? to learning how to be supportive? When coming Home, it is well done to be prepared with alternative solutions.
This Life’s Final Home
Many great lights have passed from our world community in recent months. Two of my greatest teachers have gone beyond, as well as a very good friend of many decades. They all journeyed to the other shore, whatever and wherever that may be for them.
Memorial Services are for the Living. It allows the family and community closure on the shared journey they have been living together. At my friend’s service the grandchildren took part, an opportunity to remember their grandfather while standing as adults in an Important Event. In their body they will remember standing, and hearing the sound of their voice saying the prayer or poem. Death opened this door.
Closing This Cycle of the Hero/Heroine’s Journey
When you sign up to be on the mailing list you’ll receive the Hero/Heroine’s Journey PDF booklet. This year I’ve been traveling the journey’s stations every third blog offering. Each blog is available on the website in the Story category on the blog and more information is available in Learn » Story as Transformer from the menu.
I believe the Hero/Heroine’s Journey is foundational, built into our conscious/ unconsciousness awareness, similar to the way our DNA components help create our individual selves. The more knowledgeable we are, the more conscious we can be about what is happening to us and what we can do to aid ourselves. If we are conscious about the Journey archetype, we can observe where those around us are on their journey, and offer appropriate aid or protection.
The Hoop & the Tree: A Compass for Finding Deeper Relationship with All Life, by Chris Hoffman
Joseph Campbell said that to “Know what story you are in” will be useful to you. You are living the story of your life. Chris Hoffman describes the ongoing relationship between the Story (archetype) and the individual.