Examining Our Shadows – The Symbolism of Monster Archetypes
How about some Halloween Spirit-uality?
Before we begin examining the monster archetypes, it’s important to realize that they don’t just represent a dark, malevolent side of us, but rather the part of our being that is least familiar to our conscious mind.
They become hostile only when it is ignored or misunderstood–expressing themselves through behavior that often sabotages our wishes or image of ourselves. But they serve us by nudging us toward the light. The important thing is that if you feel some resonance these or any other symbolic roles, you should examine what they represent to YOU.
Let’s think of our inner monsters as our as unexplored power, bringing light to what is in shadow.
- Vampires survive by feeding off the life-force of another. Carolyn Myss describes the vampire archetype this way: “we sometimes form attachments to others because we desire their energy, a desire that manifests through the need to have the ‘other’ take care of our survival. What has been defined as a co-dependent relationship could easily fall under the vampire template. You may find it hard to identify yourself as a vampire, yet it is essential to review this archetype personally. Patterns of behavior such as chronic complaining, overdependence, holding on to a relationship either emotionally or psychically long after it has ended, and chronic power struggles are all indicators of Vampire patterns.”
- A mummy is someone who has died and been wrapped up for preservation. The ones that walk among us in fiction are undead. I can imagine that someone who has been hurt in life would "die inside" and wrap themselves up to heal their wounds, and might feel like the walking dead. But their wrapping would keep them from fully engaging in life. They would be tied to that old way of thinking, preserved within the wrappings. They might need to awaken to the realization that they are still able to walk, and to gradually let the old ideas fall away so they can be fully reanimated.
- A wolf man goes through unwanted change much like a teen struggles to identify with physical changes. But I can also see the werewolf as someone who is part something else, and being part one thing and part another makes you fully neither. Maybe those struggling between two worlds could identify with this archetype. Another way to interpret the werewolf could be for someone who has something inside that is struggling to get out, that they may be keeping in for fear of the havoc it could wreak if let loose. A werewolf would need to find a way to balance his two worlds in a way that brings him (or her) peace.
- A witch is someone who uses magic to defy natural laws. So maybe someone who is always trying to change a situation could be identifying with a witch archetype –if they want to cast a spell to control things, rather than be mortal and human and deal with them. They might need to focus less on an easy way out, or controlling another’s actions, and instead learn to face harsh realities with grace, changing only what they can within themselves.
- A ghost is all spirit without a body. So perhaps someone whose words are insubstantial and transparent can be considered a ghost. By only talking and not participating, they are only barely there, not tangible. Their challenge would be to walk their talk, and stand in their truth.
- The Frankenstein Monster is one who has been patched together with things that have died. So maybe someone who has been through a series of traumas could feel like Frankenstein, pieced together with old wounds, events, experiences. And yet he lives anyway, with the help of a friend who reanimated him, he walks on, waking people up to his existence (who often chase him with torches and pitchforks—I didn’t say it was easy!) Like the Mummy, he may need to focus on the fact that he is alive and aim to knit his various parts into the cohesive whole of who he is.
A skeleton is all bones – no soft parts left to hurt, no parts to make pretty. They are dead, but they grin and dance. In the Mexican celebration known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, people dress up skeletons doing everyday things, to show us our grinning mortality. Maybe they tell us not to be afraid of death? If we are feeling skeletal, perhaps we have lost touch with our humanity and need to nourish ourselves. Maybe our eyes look empty, and we need to reinhabit our bodies.
Written by Malayna Dawn as part of a Halloween Sunday talk at Unity Community Church in 2005. Read more like this at Malayna's blog, Symbolic Themes, or at Unity Community's blog, where Malayna acts as webmaster (or webmistress!).