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Jungian Psychology in Wiccan Study

Jung and Wicca

Myths, Archetypes and Fantasy in Wicca

(Contributions from Jungian Psychology and Pagan Fiction)

by Merlyn


During the first half of the 20th century, the psychoanalyst Carl Jung studied the world of our conscious and unconscious thoughts. Jung considered the search for meaningful religious experience to be the driving force of the human psyche. He also explored the concept of gods and goddesses as archetypes.

Fantasy and science fiction literature are booming. Easy-reading novels set in past Pagan societies or future utopias have led many people to explore neo-Pagan and Wiccan paths. Unfortunately in this space, I can review only a very limited slice of Pagan-oriented fiction. Works by Robert Heinlein, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Starhawk, Katherine Kurtz, and others will be briefly reviewed. These and many other authors present us with positive stories about our Pagan past and optimistic stories about a future when Paganism is again a major influence in our society.

Jungian Psychology – Where Deities Only Exist in Our Minds

In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler wrote that much of the theoretical basis for a modern defense of polytheism comes from Jungian psychologists, who have long argued that the gods and goddesses of myth, legend, and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within our psyches. Many neo-Pagans see the gods in Jungian terms. For example, Adler quotes the late Gwydion Pendderwen, a well-known bard, as saying that “the gods are really the components of our psyche. We are the gods.”

Jung examined the role of archetypes, developed the concept of the anima/animus concept (the undeveloped feminine or masculine side in each of us), and believed we had to explore our dark (shadow) sides in order to achieve psychic wholeness or “individuation.” He defined individuation as maturation that comes as the psychological opposites in each of us are resolved. For Jung, the psyche was composed of the conscious and unconscious. The collective unconscious is that part of the psyche that is universal and shared among all individuals.


At the beginning of the 20th century, while studying medicine at the University of Basel in Switzerland, Jung became interested in the occult. As part of his research, Jung visited a spirit medium, Miss S. W., and read volumes of occult literature, according to Richard Cavendish. Jung later applied psychological terminology to the insights that occultists and mystics described. In later decades, he also studied alchemy while trying to understand the alchemical symbolism in drawings by one of his patients, Kristine Mann.

In 1917 Jung wrote the book Seven Sermons to the Dead, which he attributed to Basildes of Alexandria, a historical Gnostic writer who lived in Alexandria, Egypt early in the Common Era. Here he equated the importance of obtaining gnosis (knowledge) with his concept of individuation. The Seven Sermons and other mystical writings by him in the same period summarized of all his creative ideas, Stuart Holroyd wrote in The Elements of Gnosticism.

Greek goddesses and gods as the personification of Jungian archetypes is the subject of two popular books, Goddesses in Everywoman (1984) and Gods in Everyman (1989), by Jean Shinoda Bolen, a trained Jungian psychiatrist. In a Foreword to Goddesses Gloria Steinem wrote that “we imagine god and endow her or him with the qualities we need to survive and grow.” According to Bolen, these powerful inner patterns or archetypes representing these qualities can explain the major differences observed in women’s behaviors.


Goddesses express potential patterns in the psyches of all women. Different archetypes are activated in each woman at any given time. The Great Goddess of ancient times is one powerful archetype present in the collective unconscious. Stereotypes of women are based on our culture’s positive or negative images of goddess archetypes. Examples include Persephone as the maiden, Hera as the jealous wife, Demeter as the mother, and Aphrodite as the whore or temptress.

While lecturing, Bolen also encountered men who identified a part of themselves with a specific goddess. Conversely there are also “gods” in women, she wrote in her book on Greek archetypal gods. Gods and goddesses represent various qualities in the human psyche that can be expressed in an individual, regardless of a person’s gender.


Greek gods personify some of the following archetypes: Apollo is the ambitious, rational type whose mottos are “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess.” Hephaestus is the skilled craftsman and an intense, introverted person. Hermes is the inner guide or voice and the source of Hermetic wisdom. Dionysus is the god of eternal youth and drugs. Many rock stars have imitated this last archetype, too often with tragic results.


Jung helped make the world of our imaginations a respectable academic study and his views of the gods as archetypes have been adapted by many modern neo-Pagans.

Myths, Legends and Fantasies in Pagan Fiction

Myths (both old and new) are heroic stories considered by most people as having never occurred. This does not mean that myths are “false,” but only that to understand them we must separate their metaphysical truth from literal reality, according to Margot Adler. Myths and fairy tales describe a culture’s popular archetypes also.

Legends are stories that have some basis in historical fact, or possibly could have been true. Over time, legends become greatly embellished. The many legends of King Arthur are a good example of how a very few documented facts and lots of imagination have combined to produce enduring stories.

According to Margot Adler, science fiction and fantasy come closer to each other than any other type of literature in systematically exploring the acceptance of diverse behaviors, since science fiction writers are bound less by the political, sexual, and racial mores of their societies. “Where anything may be true sometime, someplace, there can be no heresy,” Robert Scholes wrote in an essay on science fiction that Adler quoted. All the books reviewed here are based on myth, legend, or fantasy rather than on documented historical events.

Robert Heinlein Inspires a New Pagan Religion

The Church of All Worlds (CAW) is a neo-Pagan group with a unique history because its origins are based on the ideas in a modern science fiction book, Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, and two novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, a pro-capitalist and anti-environmental author popular in the early 1960s. CAW’s origins go back to 1961 when a group of high school friends that included Lance Christie in Tulsa, Oklahoma began discussing Ayn Rand’s novels. When Christie attended Westminster College in Missouri, he led an informal group which explored the self-actualization concepts of Abraham Maslow.

Later, the group, which now included a fellow student named Tim Zell, read Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born on Mars of Earth parents and raised there by Martians. Smith has come to Earth and feels himself an alien on this planet. He forms the Church of All Worlds, which is organized in subgroups called nests that teach “grokking” or the intuiting of the “fullness” of all things and beings. God is immanent in all things, Smith teaches, and church members greet each other with the statement “Thou art God,” a very Pagan statement indeed.

While still at Westminster, Christie and Zell then formed a group called Atl, an Aztec word for “water” and also meaning “home of our ancestors.” The water sharing ceremony from Stranger in a Strange Land was an important part of the practices of this group. Atl remained an informal group of friends living around the country who shared a common desire to explore human potential and social structure.

In 1967, Zell founded his own version of the Church of All Worlds (CAW), which gradually transformed itself into a neo-Pagan religion as it evolved away from the ideas of Ayn Rand, who passionately hated all forms of reverence for nature and religious expression.

In the late 1960s, CAW was the first ecology-conscious group to apply the word “Pagan” to itself and helped define the modern Pagan as a nature lover. Later, Tim (then called Otter) Zell began writing about the earth as a deity, a single living organism called Gaea. This idea became the CAW’s central myth. Officially CAW has no creed, but an endorsement of the Gaea hypothesis is accepted by most members.

Starhawk’s Utopia by the Bay

In the early 1990s, Starhawk wrote The Fifth Sacred Thing which describes a threatened Pagan utopia in northern California in the year 2048. The fascist-run Southlands (based around Los Angeles where water is very expensive and, consequently, the lives of most inhabitants are miserable) are planning to invade their peaceful northern neighbor to seize their timber and water. The northern utopia lacks an army and the weapons to defend itself, because instead of arming themselves, they have used their scarce resources to feed everyone for the past twenty years.

Bird, who is about age thirty, has just spent ten years in prison in the Southlands after being captured during a raid aimed at destroying a nuclear power plant. He escaped from his prison near Los Angeles and walked all the way back to the San Francisco Bay just before the invasion. Maya, age 98, has lived in the Bay Area since the 1967 Summer of Love and is still a radical at heart. Madrone, around Bird’s age, grew up with Bird in Maya’s large cooperative house, the Black Dragon.

Madrone is trained in both conventional and alternative (including herbal and magickal healing) medicines. When Bird tells her about the need for healers in the Southlands, she decides to go there and teach natural healing to the people, whose health depends on drugs, dispensed by their rulers. The Southlands’ invasion army, composed largely of recruits from minorities who suffer severe discrimination from the ruling class, also depends on these drugs.

While the Southlands’ army advances north, the utopians debate in lengthy community meetings about the best means for defending themselves. A few want to immediately switch their limited industrial production over to arms manufacturing. The majority, however, agrees to practice only non-violent behaviors while at the same time they refuse to cooperate with the invaders. The majority hopes that by displaying open, loving and non-discriminatory behavior toward the minority recruits enough will question their own unjust society and desert the Southlands’ army.

In her book, Starhawk describes both the delights of a future Pagan society and the perils it would face while trying to survive in a world populated by hostile governments pursuing opposing goals.

A New Arthurian Legend in The Mists of Avalon

Marion Zimmer Bradley retells the legend of King Arthur from the perspective of Morgaine, Arthur’s half-sister and the mother of his only son, Gwydion (later called Mordred). Since early childhood, Morgaine trained on the Isle of Avalon to become a High Priestess of the Goddess.

She becomes pregnant by Arthur after they mate twice during a sacred ritual where Arthur, donning antlers, symbolizes the sacred stag. As the candidate for kingship, Arthur needs to couple with a virgin High Priestess, a representative of the Goddess, before he can receive the support of his followers.

Soon after their mating, Arthur marries Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) who becomes a most Christian queen. Arthur tries unsuccessfully to honor both the old religion of the Goddess and the new Christianity, but Gwenhwyfar, with the help of bishop Patricius (St. Patrick), prevails and makes Christianity exclusive. Eventually Morgaine loses her status as a High Priestess of the Goddess and is married off to Uriens, a lesser king in Wales.

At the end of the story, however, the Goddess lives on for future generations in Her role as the honored Virgin Mary. Geoffrey Ashe, the renowned British scholar of Arthurian legend, noted that Bradley created a new mythology about King Arthur. I know two women who have said that reading The Mists of Avalon brought them to Wicca. Undoubtedly many more people were inspired to look for a Goddess-based religion after reading Bradley’s popular novel.
Other Stories about Past Pagans

The following four novels represent a sampling of fiction with Pagan themes. In each story a Pagan religion (often described as Gardnerian Wicca) is central to the plot. Except for Lammas Night, all the plots revolve around the actions of a strong heroine.

In the Clan of the Cave Bear (the first in a series of four books) Jean Auel tells the story of Ayla, a young Homo Sapiens girl adopted by a Neanderthal group, the Cave Bear clan. The story unfolds between the two Ice Ages, 25,000 to 35,000 years ago at a location near the Black Sea. The Others, Ayla’s native people, are growing in influence and numbers while the Neanderthals are declining.

The Clan, comprised of thirty related individuals, worships Ursus, the huge cave bear, as their special totem and protector. Only their medicine man, the crippled Creb, really understands the world of the spirits. During trance he consults them before all important Clan undertakings, such as a dangerous mammoth hunt. The Clan also has a rigid patriarchal social structure. Only the men hunt while the women gather plants and stay near their home cave.

Ayla’s nemesis is Broud, the teenage son of Brun, the Clan’s current leader. Broud expects to become the next Clan leader and wants to rule as the Clan’s unquestioned patriarch. Broud has an uncontrollable temper and cannot stand the `uppity’ Ayla who refuses to be subservient. Entering adolescence, she grows to be taller than Broud and the other men, learns more quickly then they do, and secretly fulfills a desire by learning to hunt with a sling (all hunting is taboo for women under the pain of automatic exile and probable death).

The conflict between Ayla and Broud leads to many harrowing experiences for her, ranging from a month’s exile from the Clan to an early pregnancy caused by Broud. As she overcomes each obstacle Broud imposes on her, he becomes more infuriated with Ayla.

In The Heart of the Fire Cerridwen Fallingstar tells the story of Fiona McNair, a Scottish girl growing up in a small rural village during the Inquisition launched by King James VI in the 1590s. Fiona’s grandmother is a Witch and leads a Gardnerian-style coven. As she grows up, Fiona eagerly learns the Craft from her grandmother.

Fiona and Annie, a neighbor girl, are best childhood friends and became lovers when they reached puberty. Annie’s father was a Gypsy who passed through the area. Annie has his dark hair and skin which make her an outcast in this village of blonds and redheads. Annie knows that Gypsies are considered natural Witches by King James’ Witch hunters and are often the first to be taken for torture and the stake.

Annie leaves Fiona and joins a traveling Gypsy group hoping to blend in with them and escape the Witch hunters. Fiona, now alone in her increasingly hostile village, fears that she will be the Witch-hunter’s next victim.

The Inquisition’s horrors became more real to me in this fictional story of two young women struggling to survive, than they had in the numerous non-fiction books I have read about the thousands of women tortured and executed over three centuries by the Inquisition.

Clystra Kinstler tells the story of the life of Yeshua (Jesus) from the viewpoint of Mari (Mary) Magdalene in The Moon Under Her Feet. In this version of the story, Mari is not a common street prostitute, as the patriarchal Bible would have us believe. Instead, she is the Magdalene who serves as the High Priestess in the Jewish Temple on the Mount in Jerusalem. Many other priestesses serve under her. But the Pharisees and Zealots loath her and her Goddess and call Mari the “Great Whore of Babylon.”

Almath Mari (the mother of Yeshua, e.g. the Virgin Mary) is the former High Priestess of the Jewish Temple on the Mount. Sharon, her late husband of one night only, is Yeshua’s father. He was willingly sacrificed to end a drought. Seth, Mari’s younger consort of many years, is also known as Judas Iscariot. He leaves Mari in order to follow the wandering Yeshua.

In her story, Kinstler equates the crucifixion of Jesus with the sacrifice of Osiris in neighboring ancient Egypt. Consequently Almath Mari acts as both the Virgin Mary and the Egyptian goddess Isis. Mary Magdeline’s lover Seth or Judas also operates as the dark Egyptian god Seth who executed his brother Osiris. Here he merely betrays Yeshua to the occupying Roman authorities. Kinstler’s interesting book is a product of her imagination, which draws heavily on the feminist ideas of Merlin Stone and Barbara Walker.

In Lammas Night, Katherine Kurtz tells the fictionalized story of the grand coven on Lammas, August 2, 1940 (a meeting of British Witch covens at the same time but in different locations) that raised a protective cone of power over Britain to ward off Hitler’s expected invasion.

Sir John Graham is an MI.6 agent and head of its occult section that is trying to learn what Hitler’s astrologers and black magicians are advising the Fuhrer at this crucial time. Graham is also a white Witch and member of the Oakwood Manor coven lead by Lord and Lady Selwyn.

He is a good friend of Prince William, the youngest brother of King George VI. William, who is kept out of harm’s way by Royal orders, feels useless and is bored with his purely ceremonial role as the Royal prince, who is only fifth in line for the British throne. Gradually Graham draws his royal friend into the coven where William finds a meaningful way to contribute to the war effort.

Kurtz blends two modern Wiccan legends in her story. The first is the gathering of a grand coven in 1940. The second is based on Margaret Murray’s unsubstantiated theory that British Kings or royal substitutes were sacrificed well into modern times.


My first three articles examined known facts about Wicca’s roots: contributions from the writings of Gerald Gardner, Aleister Crowley, and Dion Fortune; the history of important preceding organizations (Golden Dawn and OTO); the role of secret societies (Masons and Rosicrucians); and finally religious practices adopted from the Jewish Qabala and the Eastern- based Theosophy. This last article describes contributions from Jungian psychology and some interesting Pagan fiction. Wiccan ritual practices can be directly traced to practices of the Western Magickal Tradition active in Europe for the last five hundred years.

I believe that Wicca will continue its rapid growth because of its diverse roots. I don’t believe that Wicca should adopt a rigid dogma or creed to be guarded by a select Wiccan priesthood. Gerald Gardner modified his rituals as he pleased and had fun being Britain’s first public Witch.

Wicca today is much more than the semi-secret cult that Gardner claimed to have discovered. Its practices are firmly based in the Hermetic Western tradition as well as on the magick of charms and curses practiced by generations of solitary cunning men and wise women.

Wicca and similar earth-based religions will continue to survive as long as they help people see that their lives are a sacred part of Nature’s endless cycles of birth, growth, death, and rebirth of new life.

Roots of Our Religion
by Merlyn

This article comes to us via the Connections Journal website, which has since closed. With the hope of promoting dialogue and encouraging the analysis of individual beliefs, we are re-presenting the article here in its entirety.


Benham, Patrick. The Avalonians. Gothic Image Publications, Glastonbury, 1993.
Cavendish, Richard, ed. Encyclopedia of the Unexplained. Arkana, Penguin, New York, 1989; 1st edition, 1974.
Crowley, Aleister.The Law is for All. New Falcon Publications, Phoeniz, AZ, Sixth Printing 1993;
Fields, Rick. How the Swans Came to the Lake. Shambhala, Boston, 1992.
Guiley, Rosemary Guiley. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. Fact On File,Inc., New York, 1989.
King, Francis. Ritual Magic in England. Neville Spearman, London, 1970.
Matthews, Caitlin and John. The Western Way Ommnibus. Arkana, Penguin, New York, 1986
Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Phoenix Publishing, Inc., Custer, WA, 1989.