Carl Jung's Archetypes: A Definition And 25 Examples

What is an archetype? We take a look at Carl Jung’s theory and the collective unconscious.

Carl Jung's archetypes represent society's collective unconscious. This is something that all human beings have in common regardless of their culture, biological sex, or the period that they lived in, according to the Swiss psychoanalyst and disciple turned enemy of the controversial Sigmund Freud.

In this article, we define archetype and give 13 examples  of common archetypal characters and events that Jung proposes through his analysis of popular stories, myths, and other forms of art. Beyond the usual application of this theory, we'll also discuss the 12 brand archetypes created by Mark and Pearson.

What are Carl Jung's archetypes?

According to Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), archetypes are patterns that repeat themselves in the collective unconscious of human beings. This could be in the form of dreams, stories, art, or even in myths (including religious ones), which don't seem to have cultural boundaries. These are then seen as universal and thus embody a hereditary factor of the human psyche.

Jung's first findings link the archetypes to one's cognitive, emotional, and behavioral tendencies that make themselves more apparent at certain points in time. However, whether one displays these traits depends largely on the culture that one is raised in.

Carl Jung breaks down this theory in his book "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious." This publication takes a close look at the collective unconscious  which is something shared by all people throughout the history of humanity in this author's opinion. Besides, you'll find an analysis of popular stories and other cultural and artistic representations, like the mandala, for example.

10 Archetypal characters

The most common archetypes are characters or figures that represent specific social roles or mental states. Some of these are fundamental to Carl Jung's therapy, analytical psychology, while others are merely associated with specific attitudes or cultural products.

1. Persona

Along with the Shadow, the Anima, and the Animus, the Persona is one of the most critical archetypes mentioned in his book and Jungian therapy. In his definition, this psychoanalyst highlights the relationship of the Persona to the different roles that we take on. For example, every profession is linked to a different behavioral pattern.

The 'Persona'(which means 'mask' in classical Greek) represents how we portray ourselves  in public in front of others. However, this is also often present in the vision we have of ourselves, which is usually way off base. The function of the Persona is often to hide undesirable aspects of our personalities from ourselves and our psyches.

2. Shadow

The Shadow is comprised of repressed thoughts, instincts (sexual, aggressive, and other types), desires, and weaknesses, to name a few. With this in mind, the concept of the personal unconscious described by Freud in his works could be considered an equivalent.

The Shadow is the part of the Self that we find unacceptable and that we only uncover through the negative characteristics that we project upon others. According to Jung, accepting the Shadow is a formidable challenge, but it is absolutely necessary to gain self-knowledge. 

3. Anima and Animus

On a superficial level,  the Anima and the Animus represent the feminine and masculine archetypes respectively. To be more specific, Jung describes the Anima as the feminine image in a male psyche, while Animus is the masculinity found in the feminine.

Remarkably, Carl Jung describes how Animus works to bring balance in the feminine mind by contributing creativity and rationality. However, it's a good idea to put this whole idea of Anima and Animus into perspective considering the grossly chauvinistic society that this psychoanalyst lived in.

4. Father

The father archetype stands for authority, protection, law, and discipline, just to name a few facets of this figure. Associated with order, dominance, and productivity -in stories, the King often represents this character.

5. Mother

The mother archetype embodies unconditional love, someone who is both nurturing and compassionate. In children's books, this figure often appears in the form of a fairy godmother who has magical powers. On the other hand, the dark side of this matron is the evil stepmother.

6. Child

The child can take many different forms, from  the eternal child or puer aeternus, (like Peter Pan), or the orphan (Oliver Twist) or the injured child, linked to childhood traumas -for example, Regan, the protagonist of The Exorcist.

7. Wise old man

The wise old man is knowledge, truth, and morality, personified. This masculine figure that acts as a guide is a common character in works of fiction from all different time periods. Gandalf from the Lord of The Rings is an excellent example of this archetype.

8. Hero

The hero, also known as the 'warrior,' has both positive and negative characteristics. This figure is associated with bravery, strength, and talent, but also arrogance, aggressiveness, and competitiveness. Luke Skywalker, Simba, and Jon Snow are a few examples of this model. 

9. Maiden

The maiden is linked to the innocence, purity, and chastity expected of women, and particularly young women, in many cultures.

10. Trickster

The Trickster shows up as the jester, magician, or sometimes even as a character that's gone mad. This figure is a symbol of intelligence and the knowledge of secrets used to trick others or to mess with established rules.

The trickster has a strong presence in ancient mythology worldwide. This figure is often tied to animals and known to be a shapeshifter. In Nordic myths, Loki represents this character, whereas in some areas of Africa, Anansi, the spider plays this role, and in North America, the Coyote.

3 Archetypal events

Besides characters, certain archetypal events repeat themselves in mythology as well as other works created by many different groups of human beings. Here are the three most relevant ones: the creation, the apocalypse, and the flood. And these don't just appear in the Christian mythological cycle either; these events are present in religious stories across the board.

1. The creation

Creation myths are a fundamental part of practically all religions. These all include metaphors that can be interpreted in a variety of ways, either literally or not. These myths explain the Earth's origins using symbols like the creator deity, the primordial waters, or the cosmic egg.

2. The apocalypse

The apocalypse archetype (the end of the world) is something that most people have on their minds and is often used in fictional narratives of all kinds.

It's worth noting that the apocalypse isn't always seen in a negative light, even though it implies death. This happens because, in the teachings of many religions, people learn that if they have faith, then when they die, they will be compensated, like in the classic Paradise.

3. The flood

This event is closely connected to the apocalypse. However, in this case, the purifying and renewing aspects of this occurrence weigh more heavily. Beyond the well-known Christian tale, Noah's arc, examples can also be found in Greek, Nordic, American, Mesopotamian, and Hindu myths.

12 Brand archetypes

Margaret Mark and Carol S. Person's book “The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes” made Jungian archetypes wildly popular in the world of marketing and branding.

These authors suggest that using the collective unconscious's symbols could be a great tool to create an image and define a brand's personality. Mark and Pearson list 12 branding archetypes that work well for all different kinds of products, depending on the goals and values of each brand.

1. Hero

Brands like Nike represent the Hero by showing characters that achieve the impossible with their strength and skillfulness in their commercials.

2. Outlaw

The outlaw archetype  stands for rebellion against established norms. So, in branding, showing innovation and getting rid of what doesn't work is the key here.

The brand Apple (with a focus on Steve Jobs) gained great fame by linking their product with this image. Apple acquired a very particular following by using this branding strategy.

3. Creator

Brands that want to emphasize the creativity and perfection of their product tend to follow this archetype. Watch commercials use this strategy, generally speaking.

4. Ruler

The Ruler is similar to the Father or king archetype that we mentioned before. Exclusive luxury brands with long and successful business histories adopt this tactic.

5. Sage

Universities, the media, and multimedia content companies (like Google) may choose to use the image of the Sage to strengthen their brand.

6. Magician

Brands that want to "make dreams come true," go for this archetype. Of course, Disney is the best example of this branding strategy.

7. Innocent

The Innocent archetype focuses on achieving an image of simplicity, optimism, and nostalgia as a part of this marketing method. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s commercials usually attract the public using this branding tactic.

8. Caregiver

Household and family hygiene products take this branding approach. One great example of a company that uses this strategy is Johnson & Johnson.

9. Lover

Companies that want to be associated with pleasure  use this symbol in their branding -chocolate and ice cream brands that want to heighten your desire to consume their product use this quite commonly.

10. Explorer

The explorer represents freedom. Car commercials showing their vehicles speeding across open landscapes just waiting to be explored are fantastic examples of this approach.

11. Everyman

This archetype is perfect for brands with a wide target audience, whose branding focuses on the equality of customers. Grocery stores could do well by using this strategy.

12. Jester

Finally, the Jester is an archetype that brands use when humor is a part of their marketing scheme. 

Old Spice, a deodarant company, has gone viral online by using this type of branding in their commercials.