The Wise Old Woman Archetype

The Wise Old Woman (or Man) Archetype


The great Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung postulated a collective unconscious, which represents our inheritance of the collective experience of humankind. This storehouse of humanity’s experiences exists in the form of archetypes (or prototypes) that unconsciously predispose us to organize our personal experiences in certain ways. We are predisposed, for instance, to perceive someone in our early environment as a mother because of the mother archetype; if our biological mother is absent during our early years, someone else (e.g., an older sister) is assimilated into this archetype, providing concrete images for our notion of mother. Jung further asserted that the archetypes of the collective unconscious shape the content of our dreams, emerging in the form of diverse archetypal dream images.

The wise old woman or man archetype is what Jung referred to as one’s mana personality, representing a primordial energy that could assist one in growth and transformation or, alternatively, in destruction and disintegration. In its most positive dream manifestations, this archetype appears as an authoritative guide who leads one in the quest for growth, spiritual knowledge, or self-actualization. Almost any authority figure—a minister, teacher, doctor, parent—can embody this archetype.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.