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Archetype of wise old woman – wise old man

Jung classifies the Wise Old Man/Woman as a ‘mana personality’. The word mana is Melanesian and means holy or full of power. They are of course father and mother images, and carry many of the same features. The difference is in the quality of wisdom and sense of deep insight we find when we meet them in our dreams.

The wise old man may appear in our dreams as a king; magician; prophet; guru; guide; god; sage; authority figure; counsellor, philosopher, priest, professor, judge, head-master, doctor, alchemist, medicine man, sorcerer, wizard, necromancer, warlock, and others of like kind, or any man older that yourself and radiating insight or power, creating in you a feeling of veneration.

In general he depicts and offers guidance and rational wisdom gathered not only from your own life, but also from cultural or universal experience – or as an unpredictable or unforeseeable factor which disturbs you.

The wise old woman may appear as a grandmother; ones mother in old age; a goddess; a female figure depicting fertility; an old woman whose face you cannot see; naked female with large breasts, vagina or buttocks; queen or princess; old woman who radiates wisdom, authority and unconditional love.

In general these archetypal figures offer guidance and feeling wisdom gleaned from personal and cultural experience. They are a help or advisor in meeting the big changes we meet in life, dealing with the massive adjustment during teenage, middle life crises and old age and the end of life. One may even note from the wise old woman, the signs of deep wisdom that is a synthesis of what has arisen out of the pain and strength of the women in your family, stretching back through time, but sometimes they push you beyond your fears to a new level of experience..

Both of these figures tend to appear in our dreams at times of great transition – perhaps because we need fuller access to our resources of insight and information at those times. During such periods of ones life, the aid these figures give can lead to greater self-actualisation. In general these figures depict our inner awareness or contact with the enormous but subtle influence of our generations of ancestors, and the power of our cultural background.

The negative side of this archetype appears as a vengeful and destructive figure. In the case of the woman as perhaps a witch, or devouring female figure, such as is seen in the Indian goddesses such as Kali. See: the great mother under archetypes.

Useful questions:

Have I been able to accept what part this figure plays in my life?

Am I aware of how much influence my culture and ancestors have in my life?

What is my relationship with this dream figure?

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