Archetypal Dream Interpretation (part one)

Last night, I dreamt of Janus…

…odd, because I don’t really work with this deity, and significant because the dream had clear signs of “archetypal numinosity.”

Recognizing when your own dreams indicate that powerful archetypes are afoot is a vital magical skill, because it serves as an omen of your future. 

Janus, due to his rulership of time and liminal spaces, one face focused on the future, is connected to auspicious signs such as these.

In this and my next post, I’ll break down how to recognize and interpret these archetypal dream encounters for yourself…

…and how doing so will integrate your psyche and supercharge your power and magic in waking life.

First things first:

We can think of our psyche as existing on a gradient from conscious to unconscious with infinite shades in between

The more something (a thought, feeling, image, what have you) travels from consciousness toward the unconscious, the more archaic, mythical, and larger-than-life it becomes. 

An example…

We’re seven years old, and dad is taking us out for ice cream as a special treat. 

We’re extra grown up today, because we’ve been allowed to order for ourselves, and we even get to reach up and take our chocolate-dipped cone directly from the server. 

The air just beyond the sliding window is arctic-ly AC, giving us a trippy sensation of reaching into another realm while the rest of our body is firmly planted in sweltering summer. 

And then…we drop it. The cone catches the counter’s edge, leaving a chocolate-y smear before it splops on the concrete. 

The kids waiting in line snicker and whisper, and dad, exasperated, with a sneer of contempt: “Are you serious? Jeee-sus…”

Our face burning as we realize how utterly, hopelessly un-grown up we are–it’s only fitting we’re not getting ice cream today because we’re clearly undeserving.

Okay, so what just happened here?

Well, this is an example of an emotionally charged, formative situation. 

We could pick out any number of “slices” to focus on from this one memory, but let’s choose the high of feeling capable, confident, and grown-up…

…followed by the crash of humiliating failure and helplessness.

If this little slice stays conscious, it can change and adapt over time. We might gain perspective as we mature, seeing that we were just a child, it was purely a mistake, this sort of thing happens to everyone, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.  

But if all or parts of this slice sink into the unconscious, it can form what’s known as a complex…

…drawing to it other associations, like the sound of dad’s voice, the experience of being laughed at, the weird hot-cold sensation as we reached from summertime into ice-cream frigidity, etc.

If any of these elements are activated in daily life…

…we might experience the original wash of humiliation and shame, ranging from mild to intense.

When this happens and we’re not conscious of the underlying complex, we’re temporarily thrown back in time to our seven-year-old skills and maturity, without realizing what’s happening.

Complexes are a topic too…well, complex to fully go into here, but suffice it to say that when complexes get activated, our responses are less conscious and more compulsive.

These are the moments, if we remember them at all, that we might ask ourselves, “What the hell came over me?”

In Jung’s word association tests, where participants offered whatever word came to mind in response to a cue word, when a complex was triggered, people would take longer to respond and they might not have a clear memory of their response later.

In short, complexes can overtake the ego, sometimes for a mere blip of a second, other times longer, and we’re temporarily ousted from the driver’s seat, even though the car is still moving. 

To connect this to archetypes…

All of the complex’s associations orbiting around the original ice cream memory are now also related to an archetype. (The short version: This is because all complexes have an archetypal core.)

Let’s say this particular complex gathered around the Father archetype.

Archetypes are ANCIENT. They’re primordial and they’re collective, meaning, they do not live on an ordinary, individual human scale. 

The archetype of Father is the grand totality of ALL energies related to the concept of Father throughout all time.

If we compared this to an actual, human father, the difference in scale is truly beyond comprehension. 

Due to this complex, we now have a massive, archetypal conduit plugged into a personal memory…

…and when something triggers this memory, consciously or unconsciously, it can potentially release larger-than-life levels of energy. 

The more unconscious this memory becomes, the more our human father’s contemptuous tone of voice takes on epic proportions…

…potentially shapeshifting into an unconscious soundtrack, lurking in judgment of our every move.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at how this shows up in daily life (trust me, you’ll be able to recognize how often this happens as soon as you read this)…

…and how spotting it allows you to see your future in your dreams.

Stay tuned.