I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Wisdom Council member and retreat contributor Aisling Richmond’s reflection “The Alchemy of Archetypes.”
Over the years of my embodied spiritual practice, archetypes have become daily sources of wisdom, healing and transformation. Most mornings after waking, I’ll sit in meditation, dwelling in the liminal space just after sleep and before the day’s activity begins. Tuning in, I’ll notice what I’m present to – an emotion perhaps, lingering as an embodied echo from a dream the night before, or a yearning to be of service, to bring greater well-being and wholeness. As I connect within, I call on the archetypes for guidance, to open to the wisdom and mystery that lies beyond my conscious knowing.
Supping a tea, I’ll draw cards from my archetype cards, from the Mother Mary deck, from the Celtic animals and plants, the Goddess or the Animal deck. Today, the “Power” card jumped out from the Labyrinth deck. At the time it didn’t really resonate, but as my day unfolded, it became clear that I really needed this archetype, as a part of me emerged that felt powerless and unworthy when a work venture did not go quite according to plan. Arriving as a shrinking, heavy feeling in my body, the impulse was to curl in and hide from the world. A feeling of shame arrived, of being powerless. It felt like a very young part of me, that was familiar. I remembered my archetype card from that morning, and took it into my hands, studying its image, letting it slowly permeate my consciousness.
The image began to alchemise my state, gradually allowing a new impulse to arise. I felt drawn to play a song which carried the warrior energy, and my state began to be uplifted. My arms began to move, and I could feel the power in my muscles arrive, then gradually my whole body took part in the dance. At its end, I still carried the vulnerable part with me, but it was accompanied by another part that felt more hopeful and empowered. I was able to return to my task, and move forwards with it, taking a setback in my stride instead of being sunk by it.
An archetype at its most potent, not just as an image imbued with mystical meaning, is an experience that is felt in the body. Noticing where it is alive in you through your body’s sensations, where you feel it in your cells, organs, muscles, and bones, allows it to dwell more fully within you and therefore becomes more potent. Embodying the archetype through movement can be such a powerful way to unlock its power. To really sense and feel an archetype, as well as visually see its image, activates its potential more fully as we commune with its essence with our whole being, through body, feeling, mind and energy.
In my work as a Somatic therapist and facilitator of deep transformation, I will often invite a participant to connect to an archetype, to support them to overcome a struggle they are entangled in, or to access capacities they did not realise that they held. This can be as simple as calling in “the Friend” and asking for the guidance of this wise and loving archetypal presence. People are always amazed at the wisdom that comes from within, with guidance that gifts them in ways that seem to speak deeply to their needs. Through working with archetypes, we can expand beyond our normal self, to access these “resources” or “re-Sources”, fragments of the soul that we may be disconnected from due to our cultural conditioning, but that are there nonetheless, beneath the surface of our day to day lives.
Archetypes can be found throughout human history and across all cultures. I am especially drawn to the Celtic archetypes, as their sense of the sacred was so connected to place, as land, trees, animals, and elements, were all imbued with archetypal presence. As I spend time in nature, I try to hold this bifocal vision, open to the possibility that there are messages in the mountains, revelations in the rivers, and stories whispered in bird song.
Although appearing in different guises, archetypes often contain repeating themes that transcended place and time. As such, they can create a feeling of the local and the universal intertwining, placing our personal experience within much larger repeating patterns. This often gives me a blessed feeling of belonging; that my life experience has a reflection in the archetypes, and that these can guide our way.
Jung described archetypes as a pool of collective wisdom that sits in the unconscious, that can become allies to our hero or heroine’s journey, enhancing our capacities for wisdom, love, empowerment and truth. They may be understood as expressions of the soul, situating the daily rhythms of our local lives within a more cosmic, timeless pulse. Beneath our surface lives exists a world that can go unseen, filled with dreams, deities, animal guides and otherworld allies. Together they form what Jung called the Animas Mundi, the greater embodiment of Soul that spans human, nature, and cosmos.
Although less and less visible in our secular modern world, I truly believe that working with archetypes is more important than ever. As Einstein famously said, we cannot fix a problem from the same consciousness that created it. The epic times we live in, with multiple crisis both social and ecological, call for capacities that exist beyond our normal ego identity. The archetypes of Visionary, Warrior, Healer and Sage that Christine weaves together in her upcoming course, can become potent catalysts for these capacities to be unfolded within each of us.
I wonder, which of the archetypes do you most resonate with, and how do they enter your life? Or is this new terrain for you, waiting to be discovered? I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote from one of my teachers, Jean Houston, who says,
“A psychology with a mythic or sacred base demands that we have the courage both to release old toxicities and diminishments and to gain access to our inner storehouse of capacities and use them to prepare ourselves for the greater agenda–becoming an instrument through which the source may play its great music. Then, like the hero or heroine of myth, we may, regardless of our circumstances, become an inspiration for helping culture and consciousness move towards its next level of possibility.”
The journey through Visionary, Warrior, Healer, Sage: Archetypes to Navigate an Unraveling World begins May 8th.
Aisling Richmond is a Somatic Therapist and transformative guide who is deeply inspired by nature and the wisdom of the soul. Aisling is currently undertaking a PhD in Psychology and Transformative Leadership to work with cultural change. She shares a home with her partner in the rugged wildness of Donegal, North West Ireland. Aisling works as a therapist, supporting people to resolve trauma and life challenges through body-psyche-soul wisdom. She also mentors people in finding their deep soul purpose, and teaches a rich range of transformative programs online. Aisling is passionate about soul centred living, where nature and the feminine are deeply valued. Having worked collaboratively with many organisations including Amnesty International, Aisling has also been a guest lecturer with both Galway and Limerick Universities. AislingRichmond.com