When we examine dreams with an eye to their meaning and structure, we discover that dreams speak a universal language of metaphor and symbol.
According to Taylor, understanding the archetypes and how they interrelate is both a complex and subtle task seeming without end. But, briefly, here are some of the archetypes one may encounter in dream work. Another way to get a grasp on some of the archetypes found in dream work is to study the major arcana of the Tarot, which is composed of 22 archetypes.
- Persona: The part that shows; the “mask” we wear. This is made up of our choices of how we wish to be perceived, individually and collectively.
- Shadow: The part that is denied and repressed; the dark, scary, immoral, unpredictable, and unconscious/unknown part of ourselves.
- Light & Darkness: Archetypes of consciousness and unconsciousness; the quality of light in dreams is most often a metaphor of the extent to which the main theme of the dream either is or is not already known and acknowledged in waking life.
- Animus & Anima: The man inside a woman, and the woman inside a man, respectively; figures representing our deepest intuitions and feelings about the opposite sex.
- Trickster: A figure representing human consciousness itself–simultaneously knowing and foolish, overblown, yet the source of all the gifts culture.
- Divine Child: A figure representing new consciousness and self-awareness; born amidst trouble, yet most often surviving with its miraculous powers and the aid of:
- Animals:Figures often representing instincts and natural drives; elements of life that are vital but not yet consciously differentiated, creatures and servants of:
- Great Mother: Mother Nature, Mother Earth, cyclic time, the divine perceived in feminine form, the feminine principle(s); multiplying, dividing, nurturing, bringing forth all life, and simultaneously condemning all to inevitable death.
- All-Father: The thunderer, the law giver, linear time, the divine perceived in masculine form, the masculine principle(s); abstracting, constructing, judging, and calculating with objectifying will.
- Spirit Bird: A figure representing and embodying communication with the divine; unites the realm of the sky with the plane of the earth.
- Wise Old People: The figures representing the oldest and wisest and most loving possibilities of our being; figures sometimes referred to as mana-personalities.
- Willing Sacrifice: A figure representing and embodying the increasing consciousness of interior and exterior oneness; the One dividing itself in to Many, and the many in the act of dying to rejoin the One.
- Mandala: An image uniting the circle and the angular figure exhibiting radial symmetry and a defined center; an image of harmony, beauty, balance, order, often used as a visual aid in meditation and worship.
- Spiral: Image of evolution; the spontaneous archetype of cyclic, repeating rhythmic processes occurring amidst the forward flow of time; visible at all scales and levels from the shape of galaxies to the DNA helix.
- Perilous Journey: Image of life and being alive, often a sea journey, a descent into earth, or into a labyrinth or maze, the journey to the land of the dead, the search for treasure, wisdom, immortality.
- Death & Rebirth: In the realm of dream and myth, as in physics, energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed. Each dream death is a liberation of psychic energy from specific form and is linked inevitably with a new birth.
Taylor notes that theoretically there is no end to this list. “The archetypes inter-relate and metamorphose into one another in complex and subtle ways,” he says, “and like the organs of the body, they form a living whole.”
Acknowledging our Shadow aspects is the most difficult thing to do when it comes to dream interpretation because we often are afraid of or dislike those parts of ourselves. Yet we must face them over and over again in order to evolve and grow. The Shadow is most easily visible in the shape of those whom we most dislike and fear, Taylor says, both awake and asleep; that is, in both our waking life and in our dreams. These are the people we perceive as our “Enemies.”