boatAre you ready to go on a sleight of hand journey into your own mind? Well, get set to row, row, row your boat gently down the stream of consciousness. You are entering a great ocean of  inherited symbols and instincts. This vast reservoir is a collection of all the spiritual and mythological symbols, experiences and instincts known as the Collective Unconscious.

Unlike your personal unconscious, which is made up of suppressed memories, traumas, etc, that your ego doesn’t want to deal with, the collective unconscious predates your unconscious mind. It is made up of psychic and ancestral material and is common in every person. It is inhabited by what Carl Jung called Archetypes – spiritual forms that are the pre-existing prototypes of things and situations in the world we all exist in – everyday life.


An archetype is an original pattern or symbol that all other characters, personalities, objects or concepts are derived or modeled on. Jung suggested that universal mythic characters dwell in our collective unconscious. Although hard to put a number to, Jung focused on 12 primary archetypes that symbolize our basic human motives. Each has its own personality and meaning. Most of us have many of these archetypes playing out at once, though one seems to dominate more than the others

These archetypes are a useful resource when you get back to the shores of the conscious mind, as not only do these archetypal characters exist in books, movies and myths but we also live out these stories in our daily lives. In knowing these archetypes you will discover insights into the motivations and behaviors of yourself and of others, as we live these stories through our relationships. A notable example is a boy unable to take on the responsibilities of becoming a man, who finds himself retreating back to the world of childhood; this person could be said to be living out the story of Peter Pan.

Listed below are twelve common archetypes – see which one makes the biggest splash on you! Like all aspects of character they have a light and a dark side. This dark side is known as The Shadow – it’s the archetype of all the things we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves. It gets its name from the fact that the ego prefers to cast this shadow on others rather than facing up to the facts that these traits lay inside us and need to be dealt with. Otherwise, like weeds, they’ll take over. Jung said we must accept this darker side of our nature to become a whole and authentic human being.

The Twelve Main Archetypes


aliceThe Innocent has a childlike and optimistic view of the world. Trustful in nature they desire unconditional love and acceptance. The shadow side of the innocent can contain irrational optimism that can get them into trouble – as in unquestioned acceptance of authority figures. They also tend to leave a cry for help too late. Their enduring qualities are their positive energy and enthusiasm that brightens others. They also tend to be void of negative human motivations such as greed & vanity. A good example of this type of character is Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.


funny-faceThe archetypal nature of the Orphan is that of independence and self-reliance. Although they are likely to accept help from others, they fear being exploited in any way. There is often a mistrust of others and especially authority. The Orphan may have a lot of empathy toward others, but the dangers of the shadow side of this archetype mean the person can fall into cynicism and callousness. The Orphan archetype is motivated by love, kindness, and compassion and be make for a very loyal friend. An excellent example of this archetypes is Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Though he doesn’t want to save the world, he takes up the task because it’s the right thing to do.


heroThe Warrior’s goal is usually to win or to make a change. They fight for things like truths or what is important. They have courage, discipline, and the skill to slay dragons, rescue princess or lead others to victory. The negative side of this character is seeing everything as a threat (especially anything deemed different), an obsessive need to win – no matter what the cost – and cold ruthlessness. Arrogance is usually this archetypes downfall. The Warrior’s strength comes from their courage and determination. Excellent examples of these character types are Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, Neo from The Matrix and Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road.


the-ticklerThe Caregiver’s goal is to help others, often through self-sacrifice. They are happiest when making someone else’s life better as compassion and generosity make them a great protector. The danger with their self-sacrificing ways is they can use up all their energy helping others and can become the suffering martyr or devouring mother or father. A common lesson for the Caregiver is to learn how to love themselves and how to properly love others (through ‘tough love’ and learning to say ‘no’) as they tend to be people pleasers. The Caregiver is a naturally nurturing, and people who lead by this archetype tend to become nurses or art therapists. Oskar Schindler is a golden example of this archetype.


green-guysThe Lover follows their bliss. They tend to have a lust for life, a great attitude towards others and can be very passionate people. Being seduced by this archetypal character can be as exhilarating as a roller coaster ride. Though if they let their shadow side take control they can tend to become seducers without regard for the consequences and can end up hurting others. This archetype is not confined to romantic love, it is also a symbol of parental love and friendship (platonic love). Interested only in true love they will feel uncomfortable in any superficial relationships. Spiritual love or devotion can also be the goal of this character type as it is love in it’s most pure form. A good example of this archetype is Rick Blaine in Casablanca.


punchThe destroyer tends to be an outlaw or rebel who stands for growth and metamorphosis. They tear down the old to make way for the new. The change they bring is always dramatic and fierce – it can take the form of rebelling in order to make for a better world or breaking systems that hold back the poor and vulnerable. They are outspoken and radical in their approach to solving problems, which if they are not careful, can lead to their own destruction. An example of this wild character can be seen in James Dean life and the characters he played on the screen such as Jim Stark in rebel Without a Cause. Hunter S. Thompson is a great real life example of the archetype.


sausage-headsThis archetype always makes for a great artist, though not only limited to this field. They can be visionaries and display a highly developed imagination. On their journey, they tend to give up everything to realize their dreams – including secruity, money, friends and relationships. They don’t tend to conform to social norms, which can cause struggles on the way to finding their true voice. The shadow side of this archetype is they can become workaholics (pushing themselves too hard in order to realize their visions) and can quite often get lost in daydreams. Often motivated by social change and innovation this archetype is easily romanticized. Jim Morrisonfrom The Doors was most likely guided by this archetype.


the-starA natural leader the ruler strives for control. They feel they are at their best when their ‘kingdom’ is prosperous and in harmony – they work in order to benefit themselves and their subjects. The king will lead soldiers into battle to protect their domain and it’s people. The Ruler is at their best when being a peacemaker.  Naturally, the shadow side of this archetype is the ruler becoming a tyrant who eliminates all dissenting voices. So the main task for a ruler is to be responsible and constructive. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook is a good real life example of this archetype.


wizzardThe Magician is the driving force of transformation. They often appear as alchemists or scientists. In books and stories, this archetype appears as an elderly man or woman who is a charismatic visionary who uses spells or technology to help them or others. The dangers that come with this archetype are they may abuse their power and become an evil sorcerer or wicked witch. The Magician is one who realizes that everything is connected and to change reality they must first change themselves. A perfect example of this archetype can be found in Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. A more modern example would be Doc Evert brown for Back to the Future.


the-roseTruth and understanding are important to the sage. They tend to see through appearances and illusions and have wisdom unattainable by others. Though the shadow side of this archetype is they can become self-ostracized feeling ‘above’ others. But the sage uses knowledge and their attained wisdom to help others, as a teacher, mentor, expert or philosopher.  the sage isn’t interested in material wealth or possessions as they are more interested in seeking universal and spiritual truths. Some famous sages are Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi from the Star Wars films and the Oracle in The Matrix.


katzThe jester or sometimes known as the fool and the trickster. They tend to be playful and curious and may toy with others in order to assert life lessons. They tend to be able to play the parts of the other archetypes without facing the perils those archetypes must deal with. Being full of life and enjoyment their shadow is that of self-indulgence and irresponsibility. Life to them is a game to be played, they use their cleverness to avoid tricky situations. The trickster’s strength lies in their wit and willingness to break boundaries and taboos.  The Cheshire Cat from Alice in wonderland is the perfect example of this archetype as is Bart Simpson.

As we bubble our way back up to the conscious mind, we can see how these archetypal characters play out in our daily lives and in our friends and family. They also appear in books, film, and art. Pretty much everything has an archetypal symbol behind it. Now you are back on the dry land of your consciousness, feel the sand between your toes and embrace the realization that you are living a story as old as time and it is waiting for you to discover it. Maybe you already know it, maybe it has popped up in your life before, maybe you are about to discover it and the many other stories you and everyone you know is living out.

The images in this article are from a poster about the collective Unconscious available from

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