From Anansi to Merlin, from Don Quixote to Jack Sparrow, archetypes are characters that are larger than life—broad "types" that everyone can know and relate to. Famous figures like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell spoke a lot about archetypes because they say a lot about human nature. Through the way we tell stories, we learn a lot about what's important to us, and how we view the world we live in.
Archetypes become blueprints that we all can relate to, drawing us in based on how we live and what we want for ourselves. Few people feel they're exactly like Batman, Gotham City's brooding guardian, or that they have the roguish charm of Han Solo. But they can reflect on the powerful images those characters create when they're looking for inspiration about the kind of person they'd like to become.
Tarot may have started as a card game. But the figures in that game—the Emperor, the Chariot, the World—are all images of ideas we can connect and relate to. This makes it a perfect tool for self-discovery. The way we tell the story of our lives is powerful stuff. When we choose the stories we tell ourselves and the world, we decide the images that help us reflect on our lives.
Tarot's Major Arcana is where the most archetypical figures dwell. The Major Arcana provide images of many different figures and settings along a long road to self-development and enlightenment. The ideas about what they represent have changed over time and they're still changing. But finding out what those images mean to us tells us a lot about who we are.
Try this exercise to take a look at the archetypes that inform your life:
List three of your favorite characters from any story. Movies, comics, mythology— nothing is off-limits. If you want to list a religious figure you believe literally exists, that's completely fine too. Remember, we're looking at the stories that inspire us and help us grow.
Now look at your list of three figures. For each character, list the qualities that draw you to them the most. I'd suggest at least three things but you can keep going if you like.
When you've created your list, look at the characters and qualities that you've written down. Spend some time thinking about them. Are they male or female? Heroes or villains? Do you relate to them because of things from your own life? From the lives of people you love? How can you use their stories to inform and transform your own life?
This blog post is an excerpt from my new course, Tarot Journeys: Of Mentors and Magic Wands. The course takes a look at the first six cards of the Major Arcana, and how they can serve as guides on our personal journeys. If you like what you see, give the course a look - and sign up to my list! I'll be sending regular updates about Tarot Journeys and all my other offerings, including a free giveaway coming up soon!