Gods and Archetypes: Jung and Postmodern Spirituality

I am writing a series of posts that focus on Archetypes and Gods. As a Polytheist, I am often told that the Gods are Archetypes and vice versa. As I explore this topic, I want to state that I do not subscribe the notion that Gods are Archetypes.

Margot Adler in her book, “Drawing Down the Moon,” asserted that the theoretical basis for a modern defense of polytheism came from Jungian psychologists. (Note 1) The basis for her statement was Carl Jung’s theories about Archetypes, (Note 2) which he regarded to be the Gods and Goddesses of mythology and religion. From studying Jung, I perceive that he strove to merge psychology and spirituality. By declaring that spiritual forces arose from and were empowered by humanity, Jung could weld psychology and spirituality into one belief system. This became the basis for Postmodern Spirituality (Note 3).

When the West became Monotheist, the center of focus for religion moved from the home to the church. Instead of devotions by individuals, God was worshipped by a congregation. Therefore, punishments for missing services were codified in the Monotheistic religions. The God of the congregation was placed on a throne in heaven. Following the availability of printed copies of “The Bible,” individuals could do personal devotions. However, they had to adhere to the official versions and interpretations of Scriptures by centralized religious authorities.

During the Scientific Revolution, God became the Divine Watchmaker or the First Cause, and was further removed from humanity. Moreover, the rise of Humanism focused on the individual determining “The Truth” through reason and science. Furthermore, the Romantic Movement of the 1800s challenged the divine power of God.

Modernity, in the form of the World Wars, brought about the fragmentation of communities which led to less participation in group religious activities. Society placed the emphasis on the individual instead of the community, thereby sidelining religion. Thus in the various “Star Trek” series, the Gods were always depicted as space aliens.

In today’s postmodern society, the individual focuses on their own religious impulses. Religion is now something that is created by humans for their own uses. People are “spiritual but not religious.” Their spirituality is now centered on obtaining transcendental experiences to achieve an “enlightened consciousness.” Therefore, Atheism can be combined with Neo-Paganism to form a distinctive religion. In Atheo-Paganism, the individual strives for a spiritual transformation that is solely grounded in empirical rationality (i.e. science).

Jung’s blend of spirituality and psychology is a major basis for Postmodern Spirituality. He hypothesized that the ultimate Archetype within the human psyche is the Higher Self. (Note 4) Jung add that God was the Archetypical Light (i.e. the Higher Self (or the Christ Archetype according to Joseph Campbell)). He believed that addiction was the spiritual hunger for this Higher Self.

Because the Higher Self is rooted within each person, Jung said that belief in the Gods was the primitive view of the world. This is the common meme in Western intellectual thought about religion. Belief progresses from primordial superstition to Monotheism to Atheism, the highest form of intelligence and civilization. Raven Kaldera, Northern Tradition Shaman, calls this as Urdummheit, the idea that everyone who lived in “…ancient-historic times was less intelligent than modern man, and that the progression of culture has been a progression of IQ.” (Note 5)

Jung’s bias formed the widespread belief that Archetypes are Gods, which arise from human unconsciousness. This belief promotes an “I-Higher I” relationship instead of an “I-Not I” or “I-Other.” Religion in the West is now centered in each individual and their needs.

Note 1. As a Polytheist, I do object to Adler’s assertion.

Note 2:  Archetype. “Primary structural element of human psyche. The archetype is a predisposition for specific human experiences such as birth, motherhood, death, love etc. It is on the psychic level the correspondence of the pattern of behavour of biologists.”

Archetypal image. “The form or representation taken by the archetype in dreams, fantasies, cultural and religious (mythical) products.” From Carl-Jung Net

Note 3: Postmodern Spirituality can be described as people are “spiritual but not religious.” It includes the New Age religions, Neo-Paganism, and Neo-Shamanism.

Note 4: Jung called it “the Archetype of the Center,” where The Center is the unity of the Unconscious and the Conscious of the person. “Enlightened Consciousness” is the awakening of the Higher Self.

Note 5:Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities,” Page 2.

Works Used:
Dino Felluga, “General Introduction to Postmodernism,” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/postmodernism/modules/introduction.html
Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities.”
Romanian Association for Psychoanalysis Promotion (AROPA), Resources for Carl Jung. carl-jung.net/index.html
Ken Wilbur, “Postmodern spirituality by Roland Benedikter: A dialogue in five parts.” http://www.integralworld.net/benedikter1a.html

PSA: Submissions for the Sobek Devotionation.

Originally posted on Per Sebek: We’re a month in and I’ve had some submissions so far, but I would love to have more. If anyone’s thinking of submitting something, please send it in! This devotional can’t happen without your submissions, so please get in touch. sobekdevotionalATgmail.com

PSA: Send me things for the Sobek Devotional! — A Polytheist’s Ramblings

Sobek was the Egyptian god of the Nile which was believed to have been created from his sweat. As Sobek possessed the strength and nature of a crocodile, which the Egyptians both feared and respected, he became a symbol of the Pharaoh’s power. The Nile, which was full of crocodiles, was important to the livelihood of the Egyptians.  It therefore made good sense to have a god like Sobek who could appease these ferocious beasts. From: http://www.artyfactory.com/egyptian_art/egyptian_gods/sobek.htm



A Roman Polytheist Looks At Core Shamanism

My experiences with Core Shamanism (Note 1) started with people I met, who had studied under Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman. They opened their own schools of shamanism and added their own “twists” to the basic teachings. I also encountered it in various books published by New Age and Alternative Publishers such as Inner Journeys/Bear Company and Sounds True, whose authors included neo-shamanists (Note 2) such as Itzhak Berry, Evelyn Rysdyk, and Linda Star Wolf. Finally, I read articles from the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner. (Note 3)

Core Shamanism began to bother me, but I could not figure out why. Then I heard about the attendance of Ereshkigal, the Babylonian Goddess of the Underworld, at a ritual to call upon the Goddesses to end the patriarchy. I could not believe that Ereshkigal, Who demands that the other Gods have to come to Her, had left her domain. Not only that but She also attended a ritual given by humans, who believed that the Gods are archetypes created by humans. What was reason for Her doing this? Why did this Great Goddess respond to these Core Shamans’ requests to attend their ritual? They neither had offerings nor did divination for Her or the other Goddesses.

In “Wyrdwalkers,” Raven Kaldera, Northern Tradition Shaman, compares and contrasts Core Shamanism and Classic Shamanism. He notes that Core Shamanism will downplay the “literal existence” of spirits. Moreover, it will encourage an equal relationship or total mastery over the spirits. Because Gods are not a part of Core Shamanism, practitioners can devise their own Gods. They usually “create” Gods, which are archetypes arising from the collective unconscious of humanity.

Kaldera discusses Classic Shamanism in terms of suffering a “traumatic death and rebirth experience” which results in being dismembered and rebuilt. In contrast, Core Shamanism is something that a lay person can dabble in. Sandra Ingerman says, “The purpose of initiation is to carve away what is on the surface of our ego and personality, so that the depth of spirit can shine through.” (Note 4).

Without any structure and with emphasis on helpful spirits and animals, Core Shamanism encourages people to construct moralistic therapeutic deities (Note 5). These deities look out for people but do not require anything such as offerings from them. They are the “nice guy Gods.” In addition, Nature becomes a helpful ally that teaches people how to heal and live a healthy life.

With all this power at their fingertips, why did the people, who held the Goddess ritual, still feel that they were victims of the patriarchy? One answer is that Core Shamanism itself is rooted in the ego or self. Rather than being a structured belief system, Core Shamanism stresses “here are some tools to help you in this friendly universe.” I think that rather than empower people to overcome their fears, it enables them to remain where they are. They can believe themselves to be powerful and victims at the same time i.e. “heroic victims.”

Instead of confronting the shadow self, Core Shamanism allows for spiritual by-passing. (Note 6). It encourages people to find spiritual solutions to physical and mental difficulties, rather working in concert with the physical world. After all we are physical beings rooted in this world. Meanwhile, Core Shamanism allows people to continue having spiritual activities without penetrating the darkness.

Acceptance of the darker side of human behavior is required for emotional maturity. It entails rigorous and honest self-awareness. I found a prejudice amongst these Core Shamans against seeking mental health professionals, claiming that they only reinforce society’s norms. My experience with mental illness is that the physical aspects of a malfunctioning brain have to be addressed. Without doing that, there can be no spiritual nor mental solutions.

Core Shamanism is safe because a person does not have to change their lives in any concrete way. A person can experience the fire without feeling the heat, since they remain in control. They do not have to face their true shadows.

As for the people who conducted the ritual, I believe that the Ereshkigal who did attend was not the Babylonian Goddess. Perhaps She was a construct of their hopes and desires. Perhaps, She was an archetype of the “Dark Goddess.”

Note 1: According to the Foundation for Shamanic Studies: https://www.shamanism.org/workshops/coreshamanism.html
“Core shamanism consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. As originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner, the principles of core shamanism are not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective.”

Note 2: Neo-shamanism dilutes Classic Shamanism into a set of techniques for Westerners. The difference from Core Shamanism, is that they have a particular focus from what they learned from an “indigenous” shaman.

Note 3: The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, https://www.shamanism.org/articles/index.html

Note 4. Sandra Ingerman, “Walking in the Light,” page 90.

Note 5: Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton coined this term in 2005 to describe the beliefs of American teenagers. They define Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as:
1. A God exists who created, ordered the world, and watches over human life on earth.
2. The God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in The Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. The God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life, except when this God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Note 6: Psychologist John Welwood first coined this term to describe what he saw occurring amongst American Buddhists in the 1980s. Welwood said that the people whom he observed were using spiritual practices to avoid confronting their wounds. Psychologist Robert August Masters refined Welwood’s concept by adding that it disconnects people from their authentic spiritual-emotive selves.

Works Used:
Foundation for Shamanic Studies. https://www.shamanism.org/index.php. 2017.

Ingerman, Sandra, “Walking in Light.” Boulder (CO): Sounds True. 2014.

Kaldera, Raven, “Wyrdwalkers.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2007.

Masters, Robert August, “Spiritual Bypassing.” Website. http://robertmasters.com/writings/spiritual-bypassing/. 2013.

Each-Uisge (Water-Horse): Be Cautious, Be Aware


More tales of European lake monsters.

Throughout the lands surrounding the North Sea, stories abound of dreaded lake monsters who lurk below the surface. These tales describe many of the monsters as “water-horses.” This beast resembles a seal with two sets of flippers, a long neck and a small head. People usually divide “water-horses” into two types – the long-necked Nessie and the maned Each-Uisge. While Nessie of Loch Ness is more benign, the Each-Uisge, also of Scotland, is more sinister. Haunting lakes and lochs, this shapeshifter kills and eats unwary humans (leaving only the liver). The Each-Uisge usually lures people by pretending to be a docile horse.

From ancient times, the Each-Uisge has filled people with dread and fear. The Picts depicted Him in all his ferocity their pictographs. The Romans recorded deadly sightings of this beast during their time in Britain. Described as a glistening black horse with a greenish patina, the Each-Uisge would appear on the roadside as a tame horse. Seeing relief, the weary traveler would mount Him, only to find themselves firmly affixed to the beast’s back. After that, the “horse” would quickly trot off. When the Each-Uisge smelled water nearby, He would race into the lake drowning the unfortunate victim.

One blood-curdling account tells the killing of several children by the Each-Uisge. This creature had appeared to several children as a pretty pony. As each child sat on his back, the “pony” would lengthen it to fit more children. When commanded by the Each-Uisge mount, a frightened boy ran away. As the boy escaped, he heard his friends scream as they were drowned in the lake. The next day, the sorrowful villagers only found the children’s livers floating in the water.

The Each-Uisge is called by many names throughout the North Sea region. In Norway, this beast is Backahasten or Nokken, the “brook-horse.” In The Faroes, He is known as Nukur, and Nuggle in the Orkeys. The Irish call Him, the Capall-uisce, and the Manx, the Cabbyl-Ushtey.

In Wales, the Each-Uisge is known as the Ceffyl Dwr. This small beautiful “horse” lived in mountain pools. Once someone mounted Him, the Ceffyl Dwr would fly over the water and, then melt into a mist. After the victim drops into the water, He would reform and eat the body. At other times, this beast would transform into a frog and leap on the victim’s back.

No one is quite sure what the Each-Uisge is. Is this creature, an undiscovered mammal such as a new species of otter or seal? Or are the stories too fantastic for an ordinary animal? Whatever the Each-Uisge is, everyone will agree that He is deadly and vicious.

The Each-Uisge is real to those who believe the old myths. Something lives in those lakes, pools, and lochs; Something that will kill and eat you. Ignore the myths at your own peril. Be cautious and aware that not everything you encounter is benign.
Note: The Kelpie is similar to the Each-Uisge, except that She dwells in rivers and waterfalls.

Lake Monsters: Expect the Unexpected


Along with Water Gods are other Beings that dwell in lakes and rivers.

Throughout the world, mysterious “monsters” are often sighted in deep water lakes. Known as “Lake Monsters,” these freshwater beasts both frighten and intrigue people. Nessie of Loch Ness is the most famous representative of these animals.

Worldwide, there are about 1,000 lakes where Lake Monsters are often seen. Most of these lakes lie in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from the northern boreal forests to the southern hardwood forests. In contrast, sightings in the Southern Hemisphere have only been in Argentina and Bolivia.

Cryptozoologists have classifications for Lake Monsters, which they consider to be undiscovered or unknown animals. The most prevalent species of Lake Monsters is the “water horse.” Nessie is a typical long-necked water horse. This type has a small head on a long neck, with a rounded body and two sets of flippers. The water-kelpie (Each-Uisge) who drowns people is an example of a maned water horse. Other famous water horses include Champie of Lake Champlain (US), Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan (CA) and Storsie (Storsjoodjuret) of Storsjon Lake (SD). Rarer species of Lake Monsters include the giant beaver of Utah, the giant shark seen in Alaska, the giant turtle of Vietnam, and the mystery dinosaur seen in China. No one is sure what They are but scientists keep investigating to determine whether They exist or are only a myth.

Often sighted but never found, Lake Monsters exist just beyond human science. Various theories as to what They are range from prehistoric plesiosaurs to primitive whales. These beasts could be new species, unknown species, or simply mutated animals. Nobody knows for sure.

Whatever Lake Monsters are, They inspire fear and curiosity in people. Fear because of They attack and drown people. Many are vicious monsters who attack unsuspecting victims in the water. Curiosity since people want to know more about Lake Monsters. These elusive beasts pop up when people least expect them. Before anyone can react, these mysterious animals disappear from sight. Learn to expect the unexpected teach Lake Monsters. Just remember to be on guard lest They attack you.

Gods and Spirits of the Land and Waters



Dead and Kennebec Rivers, The Forks


My first experience with a God was with the River God of the Kennebec River in Maine. When I met the Kennebec, She was wild and untamed in spite of being dammed for over a hundred years. (Note 1) (Note 2). My family lived at the meeting of this river with the Dead River at The Forks. Although the Dead River is considered a branch of the Kennebec, it has a different nature. According to my late grandfather (former Maine Guide), this river was called “Dead” since it took so many lives of people trying to travel the river. While the Dead was quiet and menacing. I could sense that the Kennebec did not tolerate humans very much either.

Since then, I have met the acquaintances of other River Gods. The ancient God of the Potomac of Washington D.C. is so primordial that He is beyond language. The New River of West Virginia, although more primeval, is amused by humans and their activities.

Echoing my experiences, Regis Boyer wrote in his forward of “Demons and Spirits of the Land,” by Claude Lecouteux. (Note 3), “We evolve within an inhabited ‘natural’ world, one in which the gods themselves, or the deified dead, are the cornerstone of reality. As a result it is a world that cannot conform to appearances.” (Note 4) Boyer further observed that the “Spirits of the Land” (Genii Loci) have been devalued, starting with Christianity. Even in modern times, the devaluing continues, but the Sacred still manifests Itself.

In examining ancient and medieval customs, Claude Lecouteux concluded that people once understood that they cohabited with the Spirits (Gods). Because of this, ancient peoples performed rituals, listened to oracles and made sacrifices. The folk customs of the medieval peoples such as the “rite of crossing a river” continued to fulfill this contract with the Spirits (and various Gods). Lecouteux continued, “they left us one essential law: mankind should live in harmony with the surrounding nature…. In order to prosper then, we must continue to honor the genii loci.” (Note 5).

Lecouteux interprets the ancients as asserting that the world is neither human nor spirit centered, but is full of spirits. Some are Gods, some are land or water spirits, but none are human. A wise person understands that they would have to co-exist with all of these Spirits, since they will encounter Them at times.

Recognizing the power of the Gods, Christianity sought to tame Them. The Church renamed various Gods as Saints, and built churches by sacred fountains and in groves. Those Spirits (and Gods) they could not tame, the Church called demons, who had been expelled from heaven. Meanwhile, lay people often saw these Spirits as dragons, fairies, or simply “The Little People.” No matter how much the Church (and later Science) sought to de-sanctify Them, the Gods still remained powerful.

The Gods of Water have many sacred places throughout Europe, which are still recognized. The Severn of the U.K. is named for an old British Goddess. The Rivers Boyne and Shannon in Ireland are named for the Gods Boann and Sinann respectively. The healing springs at Bath, England is the sacred place of Sulis, the Celtic Goddess of Healing. The Romans revered the Tiber River as Tiberinus. Each of these Gods received offerings from local peoples.

I, as a Roman Polytheist, do not see rivers, springs, mountains, and forests as aspects of “nature.” For me, They are not part of one divine entity such as “Mother Earth.” Each has their own power. Some heal, some kill, but all need to be respected. Bodies of water have yielded offerings of silver made by people, who understood the power of these Spirits. One does not enter a forest without permission nor drink from a spring. The Land and Water Spirits remain vigilant, ready to assert Themselves even in modern times.

Tourists like to white-water raft on the Kennebec and Dead Rivers. However, these rivers will claim lives as their due. The loggers who once drove logs down the rivers to the mills understood this. They knew these rivers took what was rightfully theirs.

Note 1. Gods and Spirits of the Land and Waters include Those of cities, forests, mountains, and streams.
Note 2. The dam was removed in 1997. Since then, She has reasserted Herself as a powerful, wild river.
Note 3. Lecouteux, Claude, “Demons and Spirits of the Land,” translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2015. Lecouteux, who is French, specializes in the study of medieval folklore and magic. He taught at the Paris-Sorbonne University.
Note 4. Page x, Claude Lecouteux
Note 5. Page 182, Claude Lecouteux

Picture of “The Forks Plantation” from Maine Encyclopedia.

When A God Says No

In monotheism, when God says no, it has particular meanings. Usually, God’s refusal is explained that it is a part of His Divine Plan. The believer is to trust in God’s Love and Judgment since God knows what is best for all. Therefore instead of focusing on God’s contravening the request, a believer should pray to know God’s Will for them.

In polytheism, no God has a divine plan either for any human or for the universe. Greek and Norse polytheists believe that The Fates who live outside of time decide people’s destinies. A person’s fate could be determined by their family’s luck, the deeds of their Ancestors, their own deeds, and those of whom they associate with. For Babylonian polytheists, Enlil, the Great Mountain, holds the Tablet of Destines which links the heavens with the underworld. However, this Tablet is not a divine plan for the universe. Slavic polytheists see Mokosh responsible for weaving people’s fate. As the Mother of Good Fortune, Mokosh is also the Spinner of Fate. Meanwhile, the Romans could appeal to Fortuna, who turns the wheel, for better luck.

In polytheism, a God may attach Themselves to a family to guide its future. A God may sire individuals within the family such as Venus with Caesar’s family. Therefore, these Gods may have input in that family’s affairs.

In my case, Woden (Anglo-Saxon Odin), Frigga, and Freya are my Family’s Gods, with Woden directly involved with my son. He has many characteristics of a Woden-blessed person – a thirst for knowledge, beserker rages, and shamanic abilities. So I usually consult Them for guidance in parenting my son. Since he is struggling to find regular work, I asked these three Gods for help. They all said, “No. They were not an employment agency.”

Following their refusal, I decided to make offerings to the “Unknown Gods of Work” and Fortuna for help. The beauty of polytheism is that when one God refuses, another may accept. So asking another God is fine, but as in all relations with the Gods, offerings must be made and Gods have their own agency.

Hercules, the Roman God/Hero answered me. He was the last God that I wanted to have any relations with. Hercules is too male and too anti-woman for my comfort. However, I decided to accept his offer, after finding out more about Him. I realized that Hercules understood my son, since this God/Hero is given to bouts of depression and insanity. To become whole again, He labored at difficult tasks to restore his sanity.

Roman mythology about Hercules differs from the Greek Heracules. For Romans, He is the Protector of Rome and One of the Original Founders, Patron of Quarrymen, and Friend of the Muses. What I learned from Hercules is how to be a mother to a man. (I now have a home cultus for the God/Hero.)

In polytheism, when one God says no, it can have many meanings. The God could be warning the person of spiritual impurity. The God desires not to be involved with a human. The God simply does not want to answer that particular request. Therefore, it is appropriate to ask another God. Bear in mind that no God is a cosmic bellhop. Each human enters into a contract with each God to do rituals correctly, make sacrifices, and heed divinations. Mine with Hercules is to make particular offerings in series of twelve on twelve consecutive days on his various holidays.