By Jackie Morfesis
When I first heard that there was going to be a new podcast series entitled “Archetypes” I was understandably excited. As someone who loves and embraces world mythology, the writings of classical literature, and the exploration of concepts that speak to deep diving into our collective unconscious, I eagerly awaited the birth of this worthwhile project.
However, within seconds, I realized that my excitement was duly misplaced. Archewell Audio, under the auspices of Archewell Productions, founded by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, launched the podcast series “Archetypes” with something very different in mind. This was not an exploration nor celebration of the ancient Greek archetypes which have informed great poetry, literature, the arts, and all manner of creativity for millennia. No, this was a clear distortion of the word and concept. This was the misappropriation of the word to hold court speaking about stereotypes with the intent for them to be criticized, bashed, upended, and annihilated.
Archetype is not the same as a stereotype, nor is it a “label or trope,” as indicated in the introduction to the podcast. Archetypes are powerful, potent, important, psychic, spiritual, energetic, and symbolic images that have informed humanity since the beginning of time. They are the stuff of academic research and personal and creative expression. Yet – Markle’s podcast has so distorted its true meaning to be framed within her own political and social context that it is disheartening instead of heart-lifting and fulfilling.
We all have our own reference point. Our own life experiences. Our own cultural and ethnic base and ancestry. One of the gifts of being human is being part of humanity. The world’s treasures are our treasures. At the same time – we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the world’s gifts and, at the very least, to educate ourselves on the true meaning and usage of words and not use them for our own agenda.
“Archetypes” podcast misses the mark. As per the podcast, “Archetypes” will address blatant stereotypes, not archetypes, including as per the podcast: “labels like Old Maid, Dragon Lady, Bimbo, Crazy, Angry Black Woman, …” These are not archetypes. These are stereotypes. We dishonor, divest, disrespect, and distort the gifts of history, culture, and world inheritance when we do not even take the time to know definitions and the correct meaning of words.
Words matter. Language matters. Intention matters. People’s cultural and ethnic inheritance matters.
Archewell Productions is now solidifying on the world stage and in the global consciousness a distortion of the meaning and purpose of archetypes. Allow me to expand. Far from being “Old Maid,” the correct archetype is Crone. In the ancient world, a crone was a wise woman, an elder, filled with sage advice—someone who has seen and experienced life in all its tragedy and triumph. A far cry from the label “Old Maid,” which mocks, ridicules, and ostracizes women for being unmarried. Another female archetype is Queen. As opposed to “Dragon Lady,” which implies a woman who is a shrew, cunning, persecuting, and cruel. Queen is imbued with regal power and self-empowerment. A queen has the authority to lead, guide, signify and symbolize steady power on the throne.
Huntress is another archetype, harking back to the Greek goddess Artemis who was not only the goddess of the hunt, but the protector of all things wild, the creatures, and the one who guided childbirth. Heroine, Caregiver, Artist, Lover, Ruler, Creator, and Explorer, are also archetypal images. Mother, as in the goddess Demeter, is another archetype. As in mother goddess, one who embodies birth and creation. One who nurtures. One who holds sacred space for that which is to come. And Daughter is another archetype, like Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, innocent and unknowing, who experiences her own katabasis, her going down journey and emerges strengthened in ways that enable her to guide others through their own passages through the darkness. She becomes, because of her abduction into the underworld, the guide for those who enter this realm. She is also the bringer of spring when she returns above ground in her personified cycle of death and rebirth.
I can personally attest to the sublime beauty, purpose, and meaning of the archetypes as I explored them during my studies in Greece. Especially as mentioned, the goddess Persephone and her role and relationship to the Eleusinian Mysteries was part of my journey into the depth of myth and goddess lore. And imagery. These stories are not to be made into two-dimensional caricatures and stereotypes to be marketed and commodified, they are numinous and important psychic containers of the human experience to be appreciated and understood.
“Bimbo”, and “Crazy” are two more “archetypes” being explored by this podcast. Really? Are we still really calling women Bimbo and Crazy? This is deeply disturbing given Markle’s proud stance on women’s rights and fighting stereotypes, standing for equality, and equity. Herein, language matters. She hesitates as per the podcast, to use other words that she deems derogatory and that make her “uncomfortable” in reference to women but does not hesitate to use bimbo and crazy when describing the female experience.
I truly wish that before we jump on the bandwagon of finding something that is sensational, salacious, or even scandalous, we stop to think, breathe, and meditate on the power of words and their underlying intention. Under no circumstances is the word archetype to be misconstrued nor misappropriated to mean stereotype. This is such a blatant and basic error that one wonders how with presumably sophisticated writing, production, marketing, and public relations team, which I am sure they employed for creation and content, this was even possible.
They did not bring on board those versed in the meaning of archetype, Greek myth, ancient religions, or depth psychology. The works of analyst and mythologist Carl Jung are a good starting point to understanding the function and role of archetypes in our lives. Especially his groundbreaking work: “Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. The Development of Personality,” was published in 1970. All writers on myth and depth psychology are relevant here. As are the writings of healers who work with holding sacred space to navigate the potent energies of archetypes. Including the fragmented writings of the Greek lyric poet Sappho, and the works of classical literature, including Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.
The “Archetypes” podcast is framed as an exposing of the barricades, hardships, and trials that women face as they navigate a world filled with “archetypes.” It consists of well-known figures giving their stories and personal testimony. No, Ma’am. This is a podcast focusing on navigating a world filled with outdated stereotypes. This in itself is not grounds for criticism. We should all stand against inequity and for just treatment and opportunity for all. I am speaking to framing this podcast as having one intention and then doing something again, very different.
We have much to learn from the work of the ancients. To be clear, though archetype is an ancient Greek word literally meaning “archaios typos” (ancient images), archetypes are found worldwide. They are part of the universal repository of our collective unconscious. They are pre-existing thought forms that enter our consciousness from the unconscious. They reveal themselves in not only the treasures and gifts acknowledged by the ancient Greeks but by all world cultures throughout time.
This alone would give one hope that Archewell Foundation would honor, not dishonor, the true meaning of archetype. There is much to explore, learn, and glean from deep diving into the riches of the past. A past that informs the present. However, if we are to benefit from this experience, it should not be misappropriated and framed in a negative light – dispelling the true meaning of “archetypes”. We would instead be best served by honoring, witnessing, and testifying to the power, strength, importance, and function both psychically, soulfully, and spiritually they have upon our lives, individually and collectively.