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Six Classical Archetypes: employed in Branding and User Experience

Can you find one that relates to you? Who, why; why not?

Bryce Maynard Winter

Visionary (Dreamer, Prophet, Seer–see also Guide, Alchemist)

The Visionary archetype lets you imagine possibilities that are beyond the scope of your individual life and that benefit all of society. The Visionary brings into view what could be if certain choices are made, or what is inevitable given choices that have already been made. The Prophet proclaims a message associated with divine guidance, as in the Hebrew Prophets, some of whom also appear in the Quran. (Islam reveres both Jesus and John the Baptist as prophets).

Both the Visionary and the Prophet engage their abilities in behalf of humanity rather than for personal use, but while many Prophets are rejected by the group they were sent to enlighten, Visionaries tend to be celebrated for their capacity to read what is just over the horizon.

The shadow Prophet or Visionary manifests as a willingness to sell one’s visionary abilities to the high bidder, or to alter their vision to make it more acceptable to society. In extreme cases, tainted visions may lead entire societies into murderous or destructive rampages; then the Destroyer archetype may supersede the Visionary, as in the case of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

Films: Eriq Ebouaney in Lumumba; Peter Finch in Network (shadow).
Religion/Myth: Hebrew Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others who often chastised powerful leaders while calling the people’s attention to their own failings); Muhammad (the final Prophet of Islam, who directed God’s message to the Arab people through the Quran); Baha’u’llah (nineteenth-century Iranian prophet who founded the Bahai Faith, spreading his vision of “one universal Cause, one common Faith”); Cassandra (in Greek lore, daughter of the king and queen of Troy, who was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo in an attempt to seduce her; because she refused his advances, he made all her prophecies fall on deaf ears); Zarathustra (prophet and founder of Zoroastrianism).
Religion/Myth: Isaac (son of Abraham whom God orders Abraham to sacrifice); Heracles (seized by Busiris, mythical king of Egypt who sacrificed all strangers to the gods to avert famine, Heracles avoided being victimized by using his great strength to break his chains and slay Busiris).

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Virgin (see also Celibate)

This archetype is associated with purity, applied primarily to young girls. The Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome lived in service to a goddess and were often severely punished if they lost their virginity. The Virgin Mother of Jesus represents the purity of motherhood, bringing forth the perfect form of male life, a god. Your identification with the Virgin needs to be explored symbolically as a pattern that represents as association with purity as well as the beginning point of creation. To bring forth virgin ideas is as much an aspect of this archetype as is its application to maintaining virginal aspects of Mother Nature, as in virgin forests.

The shadow side of the Virgin is the prudish disgust with or fear of genuine sensuality. Resisting sex not to save one’s energy for other endeavors, but because it seems inherently repellant, is not a virtue but a denial of an essential aspect of oneself. Celibate Monks or Nuns ideally learns to channel their sexual energy rather thanmerely repressing it.

Films: Sean Connery in The Medicine Man; Kirstin Dunst et al. in The Virgin Suicides;
Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Religion/Myth: Parthenos (Greek for “Virgin,” an epithet of the goddess Athena, who was the virgin mother of Erichthnonius). Hestia/Vesta (the Greek/Roman virgin goddess of the hearth, and, by extension, domestic life.

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Prostitute (see text for extended description)

The Prostitute archetype engages lessons in integrity and the sale or negotiation of one’s integrity or spirit due to fears of physical and financial survival or for financial gain. This archetype activates the aspects of the unconscious that are related to seduction and control, whereby you are as capable of buying a controlling interest in another person as you are in selling your own power. Prostitution should also be understood as the selling of your talents, ideas, and any other expression of the self–or the selling-out of them. This archetype is universal and its core learning relates to the need to birth and refine self-esteem and self respect.

Films: Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Save the Tiger, The China
Syndrome, Mass Appeal; Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday; Fred MacMurray in Double
Indemnity; Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
Drama: The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
Religion/Myth: Ochun (Yoruba Orisha of love, marriage, and motherhood, who was forced for a time to become a prostitute to feed her children); Temple prostitutes (in ancient Greece, Rome, Asia Minor, and India, women who engaged in public intercourse as a way of sympathetically activating the energy of fertility).

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Queen (Empress)

Besides having a rulership position in a court, the Queen represents power and authority in all women. Symbolically, her court can be anything from a corporation to her home. The image of the Dark or Evil Queen has been largely represented by male authors of fairy tales and folklore as a wicked, dark force. She may also be depicted as prone to hysteria and dark powers, influences, or plots, as in the story of Snow White. Gulliver’s Travels presents a benevolent Queen who rules the land of the Giants, but that is a rare exception.

The Queen archetype is also associated with arrogance and a defensive posture that is symbolic of a need to protect one’s personal and emotional power. Queens are rarely portrayed as having a trustworthy support system; instead, they are lonely figures surrounded by a court filled with potential traitors, rivals, and back-stabbers. Women who have identified themselves as Queens in my workshops tend to have these qualities in common, suggesting that were it not for their aggressive personality characteristics, they would be vulnerable to others’ control.

Challenges related to control, personal authority and leadership play a primary role in forming the lessons of personal development that are inherent to this archetype. The benevolent Queen uses her authority to protect those in her court, and sees her own empowerment enhanced by her relationships and experience.

The shadow Queen can slip into aggressive and destructive patterns of behavior, particularly when she perceives that her authority or capacity to maintain control over the court is being challenged. The Ice Queen rules with a cold indifference to the genuine needs of others–whether material or emotional. The Queen Bee is a mixed image–the astonishing ability to power the entire hive without leaving her “chamber,” yet at the cost of enslaving the rest of her community.

Films: Joan Crawford in Queen Bee; Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great in The Scarlet
Empress; Geraldine Chaplin in The Three Musketeers; Greta Garbo in Queen Christina; Judi
Densch in Shakespeare in Love; Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.
Drama: Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare
Religion/Myth: Mary (Mother of Jesus later elevated in Catholic tradition to Queen of Heaven);
Mab (Queen of the faeries and often a trickster who steals babies, possibly derived from the
Welsh Mabb or Gaelic Maeve); Anatu (Mesopotamian queen of the sky); Antiope (in Greek
myth, the queen of the Amazons); Marisha-Ten (Japanese queen of heaven); Guinevere (King
Arthur’s queen).
Fairy Tales: Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs (shadow).

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Rebel (Anarchist, Revolutionary, Political Protester, Nonconformist, Pirate)

Our images of the Rebel may be too closely aligned with cliches of youth culture to let us see the deeper significance of this valuable archetype. Whether politically inclined like Martin Luther King, Jr., Betty Friedan, or Lech Walensa, or an artistic innovator such as Van Gogh, Joyce, or Coltrane, the Rebel is a key component of all human growth and development. The Rebel in a support group can be a powerful aid in helping the group break out of old tribal patterns. It can also help you see past tired preconceptions in your field of professional or creative endeavor. The Rebel can also lead you to reject spiritual systems that do not serve your inner need for direct union with the Divine and to seek out more appropriate paths.

The shadow Rebel, conversely, may compel you to rebel out of peer pressure or for the sake of fashion, and so become mired in another manifestation of conformity. The shadow Rebel may also reject legitimate authority simply because it is asking you to do something you find difficult or unpleasant. Be especially careful in evaluating your rebellious impulses; even if the Rebel is not part of your intimate circle of archetypes, you probably have it to some extent and should pay attention to its urgings.

Films: James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause; Marlon Brando in The Wild One; Kirk Douglas
in Spartacus; Sally Field in Norma Rae; Meryl Streep in Silkwood.
Fiction: The Rebel by Albert Camus; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
Religion/Myth: Iblis/Lucifer (in Muslim/Christian belief, a rebellious angel who refused to worship Adam or acknowledge the supremacy of God).
Folklore/Fairy Tales: Jack and the Beanstalk; Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
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Rescuer

In its empowered profile, the Rescuer assists when needed and, once the rescue mission is accomplished, withdraws. A Rescuer provides an infusion of strength and support to help others to survive a difficult situation, crisis, or process that they lack the stamina or the inner knowledge to maneuver through themselves.

Unlike the Knight, to which it is related, the Rescuer is more common among women, especially in its shadow aspect. The shadow Rescuer often surfaces through a romantic connection in which one party seeks to establish an intimate bond by lending emotional support, with a hidden agenda that assumes the rescued party will return the Rescuer’s romantic feelings. Such romances are destined to fail, because the shadow agenda has to keep the “rescuee” in need of being rescued, lest the Rescuer lose her significance.

Healing and empowering the Rescuer within is a common emotional challenge, because being needed is essential to our nature. Most people can relate in part to the characteristics of this archetype which somewhat parallel the Knight, Healer, Hero, and even Servant. If you feel drawn to this archetype, then, be careful to compare the characteristics of those others before deciding to add the Rescuer to your family.

Films: Sigourney Weaver in Alien III; Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan; Jason Gedrick in Iron Eagle.
Television: The Lone Ranger.
Religion/Myth: Bidadari (in Javanese myth, a lovely nymph who uses her knowledge of magic to rescue a hero from a dangerous situation and marry him); Lancelot (Knight of the Round Table who rescues Guinevere–with whom he is having an affair–when King Arthur threatens to execute her for adultery); Bran (in Welsh lore, a giant who rescued his sister Branwen from enslavement by her Irish husband).