May suggest a holier than thou attitude, a reluctance to change opinions in the face of criticism or condemnation, rightly or wrongly. Willingness to suffer for convictions. The sacrifice of part of yourself because of convictions. As a dream symbol this is not really healthy, in that all aspects of the nature come alive and are useful in your wholeness. Moving toward wholeness brings a resurrection of the dead or repressed parts of yourself, made clean and harmonious. See: archetypeof the scapegoat/martyr.

One can be a martyr in giving oneself to a cause, or one can be a martyr in that one forever feels one is being abused or used by others. There may be a sense of being asked too much by those around you or by the events of life. In such martyrdom there may be a hidden belief that if one does what is asked, if one sacrifices ones life for another, then one will be appreciated and loved. If one gives enough, maybe one will be recognised and rewarded.  

Parents, but especially mothers, often have a sort of inbuilt martyr at work in them. It is from this they manage so many years of self giving.

P. W. Martin, writing in his book Experiment In Depth about archetypal influence and how it overpowers the person if they are possessed by it, says, ‘A man so driven will not necessarily be self-regarding in his action. He may be completely disregardful of his own personal interests, a fanatic, a martyr even, for the cause. But archetypal energy is inherently ambivalent, as destructive as it is constructive, a dynamic which in the end is self-annihilating.

Orpheus was a man, a prophet and a teacher of divine wisdom. He was martyred and his tomb developed into a holy shrine. Later he was seen as a Christ like man, who kept alive the roots of religious feeling connected with agriculture and nature, with its cycles of birth, growth, flowering, fertilisation, harvesting the seeds, decay and death. These were seen as natural and a reflection of human life, with its renewal in the spring that followed – a resurrection through a natural process, the mysteries.

Christianity as it developed into an organisation fought against anything which linked it with past beliefs such as the Egyptian statement that a virgin mother had existed before Christianity, as it had in the statements of Buddhism. So it killed out any beliefs in its connection with natural cycles – which are obvious because the birth of the sun/son takes place as the sun is born in its yearly cycle. The Son of Man is said to have its start in heaven, not in the body of a human child – and yet we are all the creations of the great creative act. Even Christianity says the same – “And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” In his own image – it cannot be any clearer than that.

 Example: Although my father appeared to be passive in sending us away, his values governed our household, and these (as I interpreted them) included: – don’t give up at all costs because that is weakness; – if it hurts it’s worthy (martyr); – what you feel about something is not the point: what you are doing and achieving materially is what counts – don’t worry if you’re in a pickle because God will look after you: do what God wants and you’ll be alright (NB this tends to be the opposite of what you want because you’re sinful – another justification for why hurt is good for you).

Example: Rob is my son and he finds it hard to forgive himself.  I associate myself with Rob here.  I had always struggled with what God’s will is in my life.  Maybe I was supposed to stay in the marriage…be a martyr.  Back and forth I would struggle with this.  I had no one to talk to about any of this until my job change and meeting this supportive priest.  I know today, that by leaving the marriage it was the absolute best thing I could have done for every one of us.  We are all much healthier because of it.

Example: The mother of one man who goes to church every Sunday and labors every day cooking and sewing for charity. Her eyes are ever lowered in meekness and humility. In time of strife she dissolves into tears, and if things go too badly she has a heart attack. She is the most unfortunate, put-upon woman that ever lived—her face proclaims it. But she has driven her husband to impotence and drunkenness, and rendered her children helpless, dependent slaves to her every whim. Her whole family has literally been destroyed by the guilt she laid in its path.

Her son grew up obsessed with the idea of his own wickedness. Not until he realized that his sense of evil was a gift from his mother, not until he had ascertained that what she called evil was simply what displeased her or conflicted with her interests, did the pall of his self-hatred begin to lift. Finally, in one shattering revelation, he saw behind her mask of innocence the hidden monster, saw the transmuted fury and vengeance she had poured upon him, the cruelty of the psychic damage through which she had manipulated him. Only then did he learn to free himself.


Useful Questions and Hints:

Do I feel others have abused me?

Am I happily self sacrificing, or do I try to get acclaim or love in that way?

Am I ready to die for a cause – if so what cause or belief?

How would I describe the martyr in my dream?

See Archetype of the MartyrAvoid Being VictimsBeing the Person or ThingLife

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