Oedipus Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein 1 - Roles of the Hero’s Journey Another archetypal system of roles that probably has as much relevance to us today as any other is the set of roles played out on the hero’s journey and described best by Dr. Carol Pearson in her book The Hero Within (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986).  Pearson says everyone must experience all these archetypal roles in the process of personal integration and in the process of a given lifetime, provided we live long enough, and that it’s easier than ever before for both men and women to experience all of these roles because in our culture and in our time frame it is easier than ever before for women to take on traditionally male roles (accomplishing, performing actions, expressing creativity, dealing with problem solving, etc.), while at the same time men are both more able and even expected to take on the more traditionally feminine roles (nurturance, caring for the family, expressing emotions, sacrificing self for others, etc.) The first role we play is that of the Innocent. Like the Fool in the Tarot card, which is a happy-go-lucky young man dancing along merrily with a little dog yapping at his heels and poised on the edge of a precipice, the Innocent looks at the world and thinks it is good and beautiful and that there is nothing in that can harm him. That’s because he hasn’t lived long enough to know any better. For it is the task of the Innocent to fall. Each of us must fall out of this state of grace; sometimes it happens in childhood; sometimes it happens later; but it does happen or we’d never get on with the lessons of living in the third dimensional world. Once the Innocent falls off the precipice, he rolls down the mountain to the bottom...splatt! And he lies there calling out: "Help! Help! Someone come help me!" But nobody comes, and so the Innocent becomes the Orphan. The Orphan lies there broken and bleeding, and feels sorry for himself because nobody loves him. Whenever we feel that nobody loves us, and everybody hates us, and we should just go to the garden and eat worms, we’re in the Orphan stage of life. It is the task of the Orphan to recognize separation. For as long as we continue to feel sorry for ourselves and to sit moping thinking nothing will ever get any better, we’re in the Orphan state. When the Orphan finally picks himself up, dusts himself off, and with hands on hips says, "Well, if nobody is going to help me, I guess I’ll just have to help myself," and sets his two feet moving in any direction, he has become the Wanderer. It’s the task of the Wanderer to seek for answers, to journey, to find a means of solving problems. Like Odysseus, the Wanderer is trying to get home—to himself, to the truth of who he is, and to love (all of which are likely to be the same thing). Whenever we’re between gigs, whenever we’re looking for answers, whenever we are off on an adventure and don’t know the outcome, we’re playing the role of the Wanderer. The next two roles generally have been played out in most cultures by one gender or the other, but not by both until the last century. The role of Warrior is usually played by males in most any culture; it is the task of the Warrior to learn the right use of power. The role of Martyr has generally been played out by the females. It is the task of the Martyr to learn unconditional love. Men have traditionally been aggressive and action oriented; women have traditionally been passive, receptive, nurturing, and self-sacrificing. But our modern Western culture is unique in that a change has been happening for over half a century. From the time Rosie the Riveter was called up to support the war effort in WWII, women have learned they can be out in the world of action just as men can. And men in the past few decades have learned that it doesn’t hurt them to be more sensitive to feelings, and that they can be nurturing, loving, and giving, just as women can. So women can be Warriors, and men can be Martyrs/Lovers. Pearson says women have brought a new dimension to the role of Warrior. In former myths and fairy tales, a dragon (or sphinx) is besetting a town, burning its buildings and demanding a fresh maiden for dinner daily. Enter the Rambo Warrior, who shouts, “Yo, Dragon!” and before you know it, the dragon has been spindled on a spear and is lying dead at the Warrior’s feet.  So Rambo unties the maiden and says, “Let’s go get married,” and off they go to have a lot of little warriors. (Notice we don’t ever even find out the maiden’s name!) A modern female warrior is much more likely to approach the problem in a different way.  She’ll go up to the Dragon and say, “Oh, Dragon?  Can we talk?”  And the Dragon is immediately disarmed,  so he says, “Say what? Oh, ...uh...sure.”  And she says, “Dragon, dear, why are you besetting our town, burning our buildings, and eating our maidens?”  And the Dragon says, “Well, uh...I’m a Dragon; it’s in my nature; it’s what I do.” And the female Warrior says, “I guess we don’t want to change your nature, but could we deal? How about we give you 20 sheep a week, and you burn the trash on Mondays and Thursdays?” And the Dragon, because he recognizes a win-win situation, agrees.  So he goes off to do his Dragon stuff, and the female Warrior turns to the maiden, unties her, and says: “Now it’s time for you to go on your own journey.” So the times they are a-changin’. The final role in the hero’s journey is that of Magician. It’s a role that has been played by only a few before our time, and that’s because it is the task of the Magician to understand experience, and that means the wholeness of experience, and that means without judgment. But because more and more people are now playing all the other roles and learning the lessons and the tasks of those roles, it is now possible for almost anyone to reach this stage. The Magician is able to look at the world and say: "This is good. This is beautiful. There is nothing here that can harm me." But he does this from a perspective of experience rather than from a perspective of innocence. This is because he has had all the possible experiences, survived them, and knows that under all the illusions of life there is really nothing to fear. We all play many of these roles every day, depending on our interpersonal relationships and the needs of the moment. I once interviewed Pearson and she gave me some examples of how these archetypes work in the real world. She was at the time an English teacher, and she said once when she was counseling students about what to take the following term, three of them came to her office with exactly the same problem on the same day: they had all signed up for one class, but the computer had given them a different class. One student reacted to the situation by saying tearfully, “I don’t know why this always happens to me. I must have been born under an unlucky star.” This student was playing the Orphan.  Another student said: “Well, I’m just going to march right over to the Dean’s Office and demand that they give me the class I requested!” This student was playing the Warrior.  And the third student said, “Gee, I guess if I got assigned to this class, it must mean I’m supposed to take it. I’ll bet it’s the best thing that could have happened.” This student was either an Innocent or a Magician. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily