Touring the Archetypes
From the depths of humanity, the spiral Serpent Queen issues forth in the drive for genetic expression; our DNA embedded within Her coils. The quest for being is a primary and potent goal. It is housed in the strange, murky shadows of our nature, seething in a chemical stew of decay and rebirth. A product of the ancient reptilian brain, it knows no logic, has no use for compassion. And yet, it is there that the Midnight Queen also resides. Aphrodite… Astarte… She who weaves the webs of haunted love. Not idealized love. Not happily-ever-after love. Those concepts belong to the brilliant light of day. Her realm is night and Her spell is cast in darkness.
Stories of star-crossed lovers abound. In the sad strains of Tristan and Isolde, we find the classic archetypical tale and all the hell and savagery, bliss and tragedy one could want. But what are star-crossed lovers? Why is this situation so germane to our nature that it permeates our myths and legends?
“Star crossed” is an archaic astrological term that means the match is contrary to the edicts of faith and culture. It is literally against what is supposed to be. Such lovers fall into states of mad obsession, despite the fact that this love is contrary to the laws of their gods and countries. Often one or both is already married or at the very least promised to another. Or, as in that most famous of doomed duos, Romeo and Juliet, their families are old and mortal enemies. In the legendary tale of Helen of Troy and Paris, a star-crossed love causes nations to collide. The forbidden desire of Lancelot and Guinevere destroys Camelot, the mythical seat of patriarchal piety and order. And Deirdre of the Sorrows warns yet again the terrible price to be paid for a union that demands fulfillment in direct and destructive contradiction to the good of social order.
This archetype is all about nature’s chaotic edicts clashing with social convention. It illustrates the desperate quest of patriarchal society to control mating behavior in order to engineer its own genetic agenda. Star-crossed lovers everywhere know the conflict and tragedy of their lot. When such a haunted love comes knocking, it never takes no for an answer. In many stories we find its irresistible calling card in the form of a magical potion such as the one Aphrodite gives to Helen. In nature, such love is very much like an injection of poison delivered straight into the very core of our beings. Once a genetic pair bonding begins, the body is hijacked and the mind sent reeling. Logic goes on hiatus and common sense takes a vacation.
This is the kingdom of the Chaos Mother and the Crone. The Goddess abounds… Magic is prevalent… Seers reside on every corner… In this place genetic attraction is the prime mover, and no conscious effort will change its path. The potion is introduced and the die is cast. The players fret and weep, for to have this love they must forsake all else, often having to betray a kindly king, father or other benign male figure of security and light. He is patriarchy… established social order… and He represents the deeply ingrained masculine need to control female choices. He is family, religion and the notion of ideal romantic love with big weddings and happily ever-afters. He shuns the forests and haunted glens. He has no time for magic and inserts His moral caution into every tale of this kind: Follow your heart and the kingdom will fall. It will end badly for everyone.
Instinct versus social law. It truly is the oldest of all conflicts. In my work, how many Deidres have brought me the tales of their sorrow? How many Guineveres come to me broken with grief for their Lancelot? The potion is given without warning. Disruption comes despite every effort to divert it. It is the truest lesson of the negation of free will in the face of nature. However even archetypes alter over time. Is it not interesting that in Lawerence’s Lady Chatterley, instead of a benign old king we find a crippled husband, impotent and dying, while Constance and her Game Keeper prepare to start a life of their own without the castle crumbling to ruin? No longer does the rebellious lady need to fear the beast of her own nature. Her Goddess within has, with a very hard effort, become her own.