Story and the Zodiac
Ageless Wisdom & The Hero's Journey
in Story and Myth
It was Joseph Campbell who, in the 1940's, first brought to the
public's attention the Mythic and Archetypal principles embedded in the
structure of stories.
In his book "The
Hero with a Thousand Faces", Campbell identified the underlying
patterns in myths, stories, and the spiritual traditions. In so doing,
Campbell created a standardized language which made it possible to uncover and
communicate the underlying archetypal structure of these narrative traditions.
Later, in the book "The
Writer's Journey", Christopher Vogler took Campbell's work to the next
step. Vogler expanded on the language of the Hero's Journey, developing it
into a detailed framework for analyzing both plot and character development in
fiction, and into a guideline for developing satisfying and successful stories.
In this section, we'll take Vogler's work a step further, by
providing a more accurate set of keys and demonstrating their crucial link to
Cosmic Law - the Laws which govern all creation, natural, human, and
divine. The same keys which govern the Universe and which are present in
all things, are also present in the structure of story and myth.
Vogler's Map of the Journey
Vogler breaks down the "Journey" into seven archetypes and twelve
The Seven Archetypes:1
- Hero: "The Hero is the protagonist or central character,
whose primary purpose is to separate from the ordinary world and sacrifice
himself for the service of the Journey at hand - to answer the challenge,
complete the quest and restore the Ordinary World's balance. We
experience the Journey through the eyes of the Hero."
- Mentor: "The Mentor provides motivation, insights and
training to help the Hero."
- Threshold Guardian: "Threshold Guardians protect the
Special World and its secrets from the Hero, and provide essential tests to
prove a Hero's commitment and worth."
- Herald: "Herald characters issue challenges and announce
the coming of significant change. They can make their appearance
anytime during a Journey, but often appear at the beginning of the Journey
to announce a Call to Adventure. A character may wear the Herald's
mask to make an announcement or judgment, report a news flash, or simply
deliver a message."
- Shapeshifter: "The Shapeshifter's mask misleads the Hero
by hiding a character's intentions and loyalties."
- Shadow: "The Shadow can represent our darkest desires,
our untapped resources, or even rejected qualities. It can also
symbolize our greatest fears and phobias. Shadows may not be all bad,
and may reveal admirable, even redeeming qualities. The Hero's enemies
and villains often wear the Shadow mask. This physical force is determined
to destroy the Hero and his cause."
- Trickster: "Tricksters relish the disruption of the
status quo, turning the Ordinary World into chaos with their quick turns of
phrase and physical antics. Although they may not change during the
course of their Journeys, their world and its inhabitants are transformed by
their antics. The Trickster uses laughter [and ridicule] to make
characters see the absurdity of the situation, and perhaps force a
The Twelve Stages of the Journey1
- Ordinary World: "The Hero's home, the safe haven upon
which the Special World and the Journey's outcome must be
compared." The Journey begins in the Ordinary World, travels to
the Special World, and returns to the Ordinary World.
- Call to Adventure: The Call to Adventure sets the story
rolling by disrupting the comfort of the Hero's Ordinary World, presenting a
challenge or quest that must be undertaken.
- Refusal of the Call: "A Hero often refuses [or is
reluctant] to take on the Journey because of fears and insecurities that
have surfaced from the Call to Adventure. The Hero may not be willing
to make changes, preferring the safe haven of the Ordinary World. This
becomes an essential stage that communicates the risks involved in the
Journey that lies ahead. Without risks and danger or the likelihood of
failure, the audience will not be compelled to be a part of the Hero's
- Meeting with the Mentor: "The Hero meets a Mentor to
gain confidence, insight, advice, training, or magical gifts to overcome the
initial fears and face the Threshold of the adventure. The Mentor may
be a physical person, or an object such as a map, a logbook, or other
- Crossing the Threshold: "Crossing the threshold
signifies that the Hero has finally committed to the Journey. He is
prepared to cross the gateway that separates the Ordinary World from the
- Tests, Allies, Enemies: "Having crossed the threshold,
the Hero faces Tests, encounters Allies, confronts Enemies, and learns the
rules of this Special World. The Hero needs to find out who can be
trusted. Allies are earned, a Sidekick may join up, or an entire Hero
Team forged. The Hero must prepare himself for the greater Ordeals yet
to come and needs this stage to test his skills and powers, or perhaps seek
further training from the Mentor. This Initiation into this Special
World also tests the Hero's commitment to the Journey, and questions whether
he can succeed."
- Approach to the Inmost Cave: "The Hero must make the
preparations needed to approach the Inmost Cave that leads to the Journey's
heart, or central Ordeal. Maps may be reviewed, attacks planned, a reconnaissance
launched, and possibly the enemies forces whittled down before the Hero can
face his greatest fear, or the supreme danger lurking in the Special
World." The Approach may be a time for some romance or a few
jokes before the battle, or it may signal a ticking clock or a heightening
of the stakes.
- Ordeal: "The Hero engages in the Ordeal, the central
life-or-death crisis, during which he faces his greatest fear, confronts his
most difficult challenge, and experiences "death". His
Journey teeters on the brink of failure. The Ordeal is the central
magical Stage of any Journey. Only through "death" can the
Hero be reborn, experiencing a resurrection that grants greater power or
insight to see the Journey to the end."
- Reward (Seizing the Sword): "The Hero has survived
death, overcome his greatest fear, slain the dragon, or weathered the crisis
of the heart, and now earns the Reward that he has sought. The Hero's
Reward comes in many forms: a magical sword, an elixir, greater
knowledge or insight, reconciliation with a lover. Whatever the
treasure, the Hero has earned the right to celebrate. The Hero may
have earned the Reward outright, or the Hero may have seen no option but to
steal it. The Hero may rationalize this Elixir theft, having paid for
it with the tests and ordeals thus far. But the consequences of the
theft must be confronted as the Shadow forces race to reclaim the Elixir
that must not see the light of the Ordinary World."
- The Road Back: "The Hero must finally recommit to
completing the Journey and accept the Road Back to the Ordinary World.
A Hero's success in the Special World may make it difficult to return.
Like Crossing the Threshold, The Road Back needs an event that will push the
Hero through the Threshold, back into the Ordinary World. The Event
should re-establish the Central Dramatic Question, pushing the Hero to
action and heightening the stakes. The Road Back may be a moment when
the Hero must choose between the Journey of a Higher Cause verses the
personal Journey of the Heart."
- Resurrection: "The Hero faces the Resurrection, his most
dangerous meeting with death. This final life-or-death Ordeal shows
that the Hero has maintained and can apply all that he has brought back to
the Ordinary World. This Ordeal and Resurrection can represent a
"cleansing" or purification that must occur now that the Hero has
emerged from the land of the dead. The Hero is reborn or transformed
with the attributes of the Ordinary self in addition to the lessons and
insights from the characters he has met along the road. The Resurrection
may be a physical Ordeal, or final showdown between the Hero and the
Shadow. This battle is for much more than the Hero's life. Other
lives, or an entire world may be at stake and the Hero must now prove that
he has achieved Heroic status and willingly accept his sacrifice for the
benefit of the Ordinary World. Other Allies may come to the last
minute rescue to lend assistance, but in the end the Hero must rise to the
sacrifice at hand. He must deliver the blow that destroys the Death
Star (Star Wars), or offer his hand and accept the "magic"
elixir of love."
- Return with the Elixir: "The Return with the Elixir is
the final Reward earned on the Hero's Journey. The Hero has been
resurrected, purified and has earned the right to be accepted back into the
Ordinary World and share the Elixir of the Journey. The true Hero
returns with an Elixir to share with others or heal a wounded land.
The Elixir can be a great treasure or magic potion. It could be love,
wisdom, or simply the experience of having survived the Special World.
Even the tragic end of a Hero's Journey can yield the best elixir of all,
granting the audience greater awareness of us and our world (Citizen Kane)."
To recap the Hero's journey2:
- Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD, where
- they receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE.
- They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
- are encouraged by a MENTOR to
- CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World, where
- they encounter TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES.
- They APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
- where they endure the ORDEAL.
- They take possession of their REWARD and
- are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
- They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and are
transformed by the experience.
- They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary
Ageless Wisdom and the Hero's Journey
While Vogler breaks down the Journey into 7 and 12, there are some additional
ways of looking at the Journey:
|As a dance of Unity.|
|As a Journey of Separation and a return to Unity|
|Beginning - Middle - End
|Journey to the Four Corners of the Earth.
|The Seven Stages of Spiritual Unfoldment. |
Also, The seven chakras, the seven holy planets.
|From Fool to Sage - Completion of the series 0..9|
Also, the Ten Spheres on the Tree of Life.
| The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac.|
Also, the twelve basic personality types.
|All the Archetypes.|
22 Keys of the Major Arcana of the Tarot. 22 letters of the Hebrew
1: Excerpts from MYTH AND THE MOVIES ISBN 0-941188-66-3
Reprinted with permission by Michael Wiese Productions www.mwp.com
(800-833-5738 or 818-379-8799)
Copyright 1999 Stuart Voytilla
2: Excerpts from THE WRITER'S JOURNEY ISBN 0941188701
Reprinted with permission by Michael Wiese Productions www.mwp.com
(800-833-5738 or 818-379-8799)
Copyright 1998 Christopher Vogler