Have you ever been possessed by a mood or an emotion? Have you been in love, and felt so much agony that you thought you might die if you couldn’t spend more time with the person you loved? Have you ever lashed out at someone in anger or sadness, and then afterwards wondered to yourself, what the heck got into me? Whose voice was that, coming out of my mouth?
The psychologist Carl Jung attributed these types of “possessions” to our unconscious, archetypal energy. He suggested that there are several collective archetypes shared by all human beings. Examples of these archetypes are God (which can have both male and female aspects, or personifications), Mother, Father, The Devil, The Fool, The Wise Elder, and The Child. (There are many, many more.) It seems to be part of the human condition to live out these collective energies either consciously or unconsciously. If you’re interested in learning about archetypes, you might want to start here.
Ritual seems to be one strategy that human beings have developed to enter into a controlled, sometimes mediated, relationship with archetypal energy. If you’ve ever experienced possession by an archetype, you know how powerful and overwhelming it can be. Ritual is a way of accessing the energy in a more conscious way.
Detail from the art journal spread Sunbird, August 2005. Collage and permanent felt-tipped marker on paper. Post-processing with Camera+ and Instagram.