Archetypes

Carl Jung and other Jungians have explored archetypes as they pertain to the landscape of the psyche. James Hillman proposed that archetypes are little gods at the locus of every complex (in Jungian terms, complexes are not limited to things that constantly trigger us, but make up the primary architecture of the unconscious). We have the major archetypes: Mother, Father, Child, Hero. Other archetypes are shared by the collective. They show up in tales around the world, some specific to a culture, others universal. Hillman suggested that “From the soul’s point of view … we are always in one or another root-metaphor, archetypal fantasy, [or] mythic perspective.” Marie von Franz referred to archetypes as “our inner family of souls”.

I came across a paper delivered to the International Congress of Jungian analysts in 2019 by Marlene Schiwy, called “Following the Gypsy: When the Other is the Self.” Schiwy explains that the archetypal gypsy has an external correlate in the Roma people who have been shunned and persecuted throughout the western world for centuries; the internal archetypal gypsy correlates with mythic figures including the wanderer and the exile, the pilgrim and the musician, the trickster and the magician .

While the word Gypsy derives from the erroneous belief that the Roma originated in Egypt, their true origins have been established as the northern regions of India. The Roma left India a thousand years ago; they constitute the largest ethnic minority group in Europe (numbering around twelve million). Whether or not many or most stay on the move, as Travelers or Wanderers, by choice, fearing incorporation in existing structures, the Roma show us how unaccepting our societies are, how controlling. Nonacceptance of other language and cultural diversity has led to forced elimination of dialects in places like Japan.

Alongside this shadow side, situated on the edge, the archetypal image of the gypsy has become a symbol also of “freedom, beauty, and duende (passion and inspiration) in our daily lives,” Schiwy points out. The archetypal gypsy living in our psyches may stand in for a possibility of expanding beyond “the linear and cramped rationality that dominates our daily lives,” as we yearn toward a more passionate and instinctual way of being in the world, one attuned to the senses and the body, mind and spirit. Schiwy says, “I would suggest that the collective responds to the idealized fantasy of Gypsy life with fascination and longing because it touches a bone-deep hunger for soulfulness, spontaneity, and embodied joy; and for other ways to live that would nurture the social body and feed the communal life of the anima mundi (world soul).”

Schiwy applies these ideas to our current world: “the archetypal gypsy is also a potent symbol for a powerful current of shifting populations, displacement, and homelessness, and for the spiritual rootlessness and restless searching that characterize a technological global society in which many feel cut off from the traditional structures of meaning that provided stability for earlier generations…. [for] renegade psychic energies that cannot be neatly corralled or contained; disruptive “borderline” energies that break conventional boundaries and spill through the cracks of our carefully moderated social personas and behaviours.”  Such archetypal images and numinous symbols in our lives may explain why the gypsy image is evocative. Jungian scholar Alexandra Fidyk suggests, “As an ‘othered’ group [the Roma] represent the intrapsychic conflicts of group/nation members and are unconsciously used to act out a shared collective problem” (2008, p. 18).

Like the The Magician archetype, the gypsy archetype is seen as a carrier of secret knowledge. Jung did not name gypsy or witch or pirate as major archetypes but I see them as a combination of his Sage, Magician, and Jester archetypes.

Witches also faced persecution, sometimes because a woman stood outside the norms of organized society. To not conform puts women at risk of being called witches. Pirates would seem to have little ethical leg to stand on, but for every archetype of this nature, there have been othering forces in an unjust society. These internal archetypes are antithesis to a domestic, predictable, mundane life. Archetypes are instinctive and primal, as they exist both in the mythology of the collective conscious and deep within our own unconscious minds, both shaped by their historical antecedents and living of their own accord. 

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