Jung's Collective Unconscious
Carl Jung believed that there was a pool of knowledge or understandings that we as humans access on a subconscious level. He called it the "Collective Unconscious."
The theory holds that certain archetypes are remembered in the deep recesses of our mind. Jung's theory holds that our conscious mind is influenced by our subconscious whether or not we are aware of it.
In fact, sometimes the issues we experience consciously are influenced by our unconscious.
Therefore, developing a deep understanding of the cultural archetypes common to our ancient cultures and unlocking the hazy memories we have inherited can help bridge the unconscious with the conscious and lead to a more holistic view of the self and the wider world.
Inherited Memories, Family, and Mythology
When we combine the new research on inherited memories with Jung's research, we see that bonds of inheritance are connected both closely through your more recent ancestors, but can also reach back into the ancient recesses of the ethno-cultural repository of knowledge that we know as "mythology."
Jung believed if we are disconnected from our unconscious, that our conscious mind could experience dysfunction. Hence, not understanding our own heritage and where we came from can have profound psychological impact upon the individual. And the myths and legends of your own cultural heritage, whatever it is, hold deep insights to help you understand YOU.
Jung explained that archetypes are figures and themes that we we see repeatedly over and over again in myth, legend, and fairy tale.
Examples are the bearded old man, the wicked step-mother, the beautiful princess lost in the woods, trickster figures, and helpers like fairy godmothers and elves.
These "types" might seem repetitive and "flat" if we're looking at them the way we view high literature where we expect characters to be complex and unique.
But, myth and legend is a distinct and separate genre that developed in a completely different way, and thus, the characters found therein are to be understood differently.
Whether he be Gandalf, Merlin, Santa Claus, or Odin, we see the bearded old man and we automatically know that he stands for wisdom, cunning, magic, and knowledge beyond the grasp of us mortals. We also know that he is benevolent and will assist us, but don't cross him for he is very powerful.
In the case of the bearded aged wise man, this archetype has remained active and common in our cultural literature and media, even our holidays.
So, one might argue that the "memory" of this man is known through his conscious prevalence in our culture rather than tapping into your unconscious.
But, there are other cases where figures are more hidden and not consciously recognized, but yet continue to pop up for reasons that are inexplicable apart from an unrelenting unconscious memory.
Our Lost Springtime and Dawn Goddesses
The ancients seemed to make connections between various Earth and life cycles. You probably are familiar with the concept that the moon is associated with the female due to both operating with recurring monthly cycles. Spring was equated with the "dawning" of the year cycle in the same way that sunrise was the dawning of the day.
Therefore dawn goddesses and spring goddesses go together, and often their names are etymologically related to the East, wherein we see the sun rise each day.
European goddesses that fit that description are the Greek Eos, Roman Aurora, Baltic Ausrine, German Ostara, and Anglo-Saxon Eostre.
These goddesses were so incredibly important to the cultural psyche of many groups that despite great effort by the new order of the Church, their imagery could not be wiped out from the cultural consciousness.
The effort to stamp out the Spring Goddess from Teutonic cultures started with the same Church campaigns that oppressed native European culture during the conversion period, but have continued into the modern era where heavily biased historians have argued viciously that Eostre/Ostara never existed to the Germanic people.
The Question of Eostre and Ostara
Through solid investigation and building off the work of renowned scholars in the field, I argue strongly that Eostre/Ostara certainly did exist.
I don't mean to say that she existed as a living being, as that is a theological and personal philosophical matter.
But I argue that as a figure who held a cult following of religious devotion, that she most certainly existed in German and Anglo-Saxon society.
Imagery that we relate to the holiday of Easter today is difficult to trace historically and give solid historically sound evidence for a connection to the figure of Eostre/Ostara.
This, in my opinion, is where the discipline of history can gravely fail us at getting to ancient truths.
Anthropologists now assert that fairy tales are more ancient than we ever knew, upwards of 6,000 years old.
Philip A Shaw's book is highly recommended to understand the archaeological and etymological evidence for the existence of the cult of Eostre. However, this is heavy academic reading.
The Spring Goddess Archetype
Afterall, unlike most other holidays, Easter is always celebrated in the morning. Our families do not gather for Easter dinner, but usually for Easter brunch.
Many people will argue that Disney does not represent the "true" fairy tale tradition. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as "the original" when it comes to fairy tales. The Grimm brothers did not invent these tales in the same way that Hans Christian Andersen authored his own stories, they simply recorded folk tales that they heard from peasants and locals.
Furthermore, we are discussing how archetypes live on over periods of time in our collective cultural unconscious. In that sense, Disney is as valid a storyteller as the peasants who relayed their own versions to Grimm.
With this in mind, please compare how Snow White and other Disney heroines are represented in comparison to the representation of the preceding Disney figure who is an overt Spring Goddess.
Unconscious Archetypes WILL Present Themselves
The cultural unconscious is a powerful thing. We WILL "remember" archetypes whether we are aware of it or not.
At Eastertide in the West, it is common to depict Jesus Christ in a way that is strikingly similar to these Disney princesses.
There is really nothing in the Bible that would lend us to depict Jesus as a European fertility figure. Yet, at Eastertide, he is routinely depicted in the early morning Dawn surrounded by European forest animals.
A bit strange for a Jewish figure from the Middle East, don't you think?
Furthermore, at Eastertide, we are told the same story that we are told in Snow White and Sleeping beauty. This figure, who apparently loves European forest animals in the morning, dies and rises again. Odd coincidence, that.
The cultural unconscious WILL push this imagery through to us whether we are even conscious of it or not, even when we consciously ascribe other meanings to it.
The Spring Goddess Archetype in Modern Children's Media
If we look to more recent story worlds devised for children today, the Spring Goddess appears everywhere, and especially in media created for little girls - the keepers of our own future fertility.
Let's take a look at my favourite cartoon from when I was a little girl, Rainbow Brite.
Rainbow Brite is a supernatural figure who lives in her castle high above the clouds. Her land is filled with little worker creatures, somewhat Elf-like, called Sprites.
These Sprites mine "color crystals" which are magical gems that hold great power.
After Winter has run its course, Rainbow rides her talking horse, Starlight, down the Rainbow Bridge to reach the land of the mortals to distribute her color crystals in order to... You guessed it! She brings the Spring!
If you look to ancient animistic belief, it was believed that all plants were imbued by their own spirit. That belief is most often seen today in East Asian cultures where a level of animistic belief lived on, as well as indigenous worldview of North and South Americas. But, this idea was present in indigenous European worldview as well, and I make mention of it time to time in my writing.
A Lost Scottish Goddess of Spring and Fertility
The Queen of Elphame is most famous for her role in the medieval ballad and later fairy tale called "Thomas the Rhymer.
There is so much to say about this figure and her mythological connections. I wrote an in-depth researched article with sources cited for Issue One of Mythology Magazine. If I may say so, it's really one of my best piece of work as it explores deeply what is clearly an Indo-European goddess remembered in the folk tradition, but whom apparently nobody else has noticed as such.
In addition to her appearance in the Thomas the Rhymer tale, she also turns up in testimony from the Scottish witch trials! At least two people accused of witchcraft, one male and one female, tell tales of her during their interrogations.
Separately, both of their testimonies describe elements of vestigial memories of Germanic mythology as well as fertility.
Explore the Hidden World Locked Inside Fairy Tales
The imagery seen in the tale of Thomas the Rhymer also holds very ancient memories from mythology as well as fertility imagery.
Because this is such a common thing, but one that has been seriously neglected, I have started a new European Fairy Tales series. Each little book will explore a different tale from the canon of European folk tradition.
Since there is so much imagery that can often be overlooked without background knowledge on culture, mythology, tradition, and so forth, I introduce each one with an essay that explores the cultural elements found in the tale, followed by a retelling of the fairy tale.
Every book is richly illustrated because, if you follow me, you know I am a sucker for good illustrations.
Next, we explore "Per Gynt," a male fairy tale hero who battles trolls in the fjords of Norway. The introduction discusses elements of Scandinavian historical culture as seen in the tale.
And the new story coming out very soon will explore "Thomas the Rhymer" as found in a book of Scottish fairy tales, and explore the hidden goddess elements we have discussed here and how they are represented in this fairy tale.
The discussion for this booklet will pertain more closely to the fairy tale and therefore will have different information than what is presented in Mythology Magazine regarding the Queen of Elphame.