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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
  Home  > Helping Professionals  > The Orphan Archetype

The Orphan Archetype

Madonna Kolbenschlag, in Lost in the Land of Oz, develops the orphan archetype as a powerful metaphor for breaking through our defenses, our denial of our pain, and our refusal to accept our true condition—our inability to own our shadow. The orphan is a metaphor for our deepest, most fundamental reality—our experiences of attachment and abandonment, of expectation and deprivation, of loss and failure and loneliness—the losses and catastrophes of our life that we need to get in touch with, mourn, and befriend so that we may heal them. It is only when we accept the reality of our orphan-self that we can begin to live.

The disappearance of the Great Mother (symbolic also of the earth, nature, embodiment, feeling), that is so central to the legitimization of our dominator culture, has left us orphaned from the feminine and the Goddess, from Her life-giving powers, from our feelings, vulnerabilities, interdependence, and reverence for all life forms. However, She is returning, and “... shatters our illusions of omnipotence and separateness that we are fed by a cultural mythos of individualism and ego.”

Kolbenschlag writes that we live in a stage of social fragmentation brought on by the American myth of individualism and the rapid advance of technology. Our overwhelming reality is that we are alone and there is no safety. The spiritual orphan becomes a healing metaphor, presenting us with a social and psychological reality in which anything and everything can be at risk. Our old myth of self-reliance and the autonomous personality cannot survive in the new situation of today. The pressing reality for growing numbers of people is an inability to master their environment as they are engulfed by sweeping social, economic, and environmental tidal waves. We need to learn to parent each other and give sanctuary, to create new holding environments in place of the lost mothering of our civilization. We must live in the context of connection, out of a consciousness of interdependence.

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