Home » General » “So what’s the symbology there?”

“So what’s the symbology there?”

In the famous words of Willem Dafoe’s character, Paul Smecker, in The Boondock Saints, “I’m sure the word you were looking for was symbolism.”

Well this image is just chalked full of symbolism (c) Andreco https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

This image is crammed full of symbolism! (c) Andreco https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

With this week’s post, I am wrapping up the major portion of my archetype series with Symbolic Archetypes.  In the coming weeks, Wednesday posts will focus on a specific archetype that highly influences my writing.  All in all, the archetype series will be wrapping up on October 8th.  However, if there is an archetype that you are keenly interested in knowing more about, comment below and I will extend the series to include your topic.

Symbolic archetypes have two facets:
1.  can drive conflict within a plot; or
2. can form an allegorical description (i.e.; colors, numbers, shapes, etc.)

Let us first focus on the symbolic archetypes that drive conflict (because who doesn’t like a good conflict in their story?):

1. Heaven vs. Hell: This archetype typically defines the battle between good vs. evil.  The archetype is also used to identify locations that are out of reach from “mortal” humans as well as characters that hail from these locations:

  • Skies, mountains, etc. = The Gods (good)
  • Caves, bowels of the Earth, etc. = Sinister forces (evil)

2. Light vs. Darkness: This archetype has a tight tie in with the “Heaven vs. Hell” archetype (good vs. evil), but this dichotomy can have different connotations of symbolism:

  • Light = Renewal, hope, intelligence
  • Dark = Despair, the unknown, ignorance

3. Fire vs. Ice: This archetype primarily is the conflict between hot vs. cold, but the symbolism can also be:

  • Fire = Life, rebirth, light, knowledge, strength
  • Ice = Death, darkness, sterility, ignorance, weakness

4. Water vs. Desert:  This archetype has a lot of the same symbolic connotations as “Fire vs. Ice”, just in reverse where the hot Desert is like Ice and the cool Water is like Fire:

  • Water = Life, rebirth, strength, flow / dynamic
  • Desert = Death, weakness, static

5. Wilderness vs. Sanctuary:  This archetype sharply contrasts safety and the aspect of “home”:

  • Wilderness = Unsafe, cold, alone, death
  • Sanctuary = Safe, warmth, family, life

6. The “God” Factor:  This archetype is a supreme archetype where there is no contrast or dichotomy.  It is pure god intervention where the god is strictly:

  • good or evil
  • with or against the protagonist
  • healer or the destroyer

Again, with all archetypes, the list is quite frankly endless.  I could spend my entire life spinning up new archetypes, but for the sake of your sanity I am going to end the conflict archetypes there.

For the allegorical symbolic archetypes, I am also going to keep this list short as it is infinite as well.  I will just give you enough information to get the hamster wheel spinning in your head…

3 – birth/life/death, Maid/Mother/Crone, Father/Son/Holy Ghost
4 – elements, seasons, mankind (4 limbs)
6 – evil, the devil
7 – stages of civilization, deadly sins, colors of the rainbow
13 – unlucky, puberty

Left Hand – receiving, deviousness
Right Hand – giving, rectitude
Feet – stability
Head – intelligence
Heart – love / emotion
Shadow – evil, dark side
Feather – light/lightness, speed
Skeleton – mortality
Hourglass – time
Masks – concealment
Bridge – transformation
Tree – life

Silver –  moon, wealth, indecision, sly, sharp-tongued
Violet –  memory, spirituality, nostalgia, psychic, mysticism
Black –  chaos, mystery, death, evil, the unknown, the unconscious
White –  peace, purity, morality, innocence, ascension
Blue –  water, sky, heaven, rebirth, devotion
Gold –  sun, wealth, truth, majestic, pure

Circle – infinity, oneness, sun, intellect, heaven
Spiral – growth, breath, water, universe’s evolution, deepening
Rectangle – rational, secure, safe, sanctuary
Triangle – fire, trinity, evolution, communication
Square – solid, earth, construction, pluralism
Cross – struggle, martyrdom, air, axis/tree of life

I hope that you have enjoyed the Archetypes in Literature series.  Again, this is not quite the conclusion of the series, but it is the end of the posts that break down the higher levels of the archetypes.  Join me next Wednesday as we take a look at ‘Death and Rebirth’.

If you have enjoyed this topic, be sure to check out other posts in The Archetype Series.

5 thoughts on ““So what’s the symbology there?”

        • That’s the technical writer in me that has to bullet lists 🙂 I am seriously considering writing this book. Thank you for the suggestion of writing the full publication with bulleted lists. I think written in that format will help the reader remember things in a clearer fashion as opposed to narrative form.

  1. Pingback: Life after Death | The Sarcastic Muse

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