Simply said, we all have had a childhood and a part of us remains a child throughout our lives. Eight or Eighty we are all still capable of playing wild and free, throwing tantrums, hiding from grown-ups (authority), believing that anything can happen or just being silly for the sake of doing so.
“We are every age that we have ever been.”
The Child archetype resides in us all and is the first that we come to know. The Child archetype is sometimes called the guardian of innocence and it represents our beginning point. This archetype sets up our earliest perceptions of life, safety, loyalty and family. The heart of the Child archetype is one of dependency and responsibility. Addressing the Child archetype within can awaken a new relationship with life, a new start.
There are many aspects of the Child archetype each with their own set of specific expressions. While we can carry expressions of all of these aspects, one will usually be dominant in our childhood as well as our later life. Which aspect best describes your experience of the Child archetype? Review the list below along with descriptions on the following pages.
- Orphan Child (Abandoned Child)
- Magical Child (Innocent Child)
- Wounded Child
- Eternal Child (Puer/Puella Eternis)
- Divine Child
- Nature Child
Orphan Child (Abandoned Child)
The Orphan Child is the major character in most well known children’s stories, including Little Orphan Annie, the Matchstick Girl, Bambi, the Little Mermaid, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, Harry Potter and many more. The pattern in these stories is reflected in the lives of people who feel from birth as if they are not a part of their family, including the family psyche or tribal spirit. Yet precisely because orphans are not allowed into the family circle, they have to develop independence early in life. The absence of family influences, attitudes, and traditions inspires or compels the Orphan Child to construct an inner reality based on personal judgment and experience. Orphans who succeed at finding a path of survival on their own are celebrated in fairy tales and folk stories as having won a battle with a dark force, which symbolically represents the fear of surviving alone in this world.
The shadow aspect manifests when orphans never recover from growing up outside the family circle. Feelings of abandonment and the scar tissue from family rejection stifle their maturation, often causing them to seek surrogate family structures in order to experience tribal union. Therapeutic support groups become shadow tribes or families for an Orphan Child who knows deep down that healing these wounds requires moving on to adulthood. Identifying with the Orphan begins by evaluating your childhood memories, paying particular attention to whether your painful history arises from the feeling that you were never accepted as a family member.
Films:Margaret O’Brien in The Secret Garden; Hayley Mills in Pollyanna; Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter, Matt Damon in Goodwill Hunting, Linguini in Ratatouille
Fiction:David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum., Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Magical / Innocent Child
Magical Child represents the part of us that is both enchanted and enchanting to others. It sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things, exemplified by Tiny Tim in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and by Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary that in spite of all the horror surrounding her family while hiding from Nazis in an attic in Amsterdam, she still believed that humanity was basically good. Her insights offered at a time when most people were collapsing under the weight of war and persecution continue to inspire people to seek out the wondrous side of life, even in a crisis.
One might assume from the name that this archetype refers to only the delightful qualities of children, but as demonstrated by Anne Frank and Tiny Tim, it also embodies qualities of wisdom and courage in the face of difficult circumstances.
Baudelaire wrote that “genius is childhood recaptured,” and in that sense the Magical Child is something of a genius too. The Magical Child is gifted with the power of imagination and the belief that everything is possible. The shadow energy of the Magical Child manifests as the absence of the possibility of miracles and of the transformation of evil to good. Attitudes of pessimism and depression, particularly when exploring dreams, often emerge from an injured Magical Child whose dreams were “once upon a time” thought foolish by cynical adults. The shadow may also manifest as a belief that energy and action are not required, allowing one to retreat into fantasy.
Films: Drew Barrymore in E.T.; George du Fresne in Ma Vie en Rose; Audrey Tatou in Amelie; Shirley Temple in Good Ship Lollipop
Fiction: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter Series