Shopping Cart

No products in the cart.

Reply To: What is the father, exactly?


Welcome, Benjamin!

Determining what any specific mythological motif is exactly can be akin to nailing one’s shadow to the wall – there are numerous parallel and contradictory personal and collective associations  embedded in each image. What the “Father” means in a myth is bound up with one’s experience of one’s own father, societal expectations of a father’s role, and then, as well, the idea of a masculine supreme deity.

Broadly speaking, the image of Mother relates to nature, soul, and the physical world (indeed, when we are in the womb, and for an extended period after birth, especially when nursing, our mother is our entire world). Father, on the other hand, often represents authority, and our responsibilities to the external society.

Even on the home front, we are comforted and nurtured by Mom, while Dad is the lawgiver and dispenser of discipline (“Just you wait till your father gets home!”).

Joseph Campbell points out that we are in a position of dependence on our parents roughly the first twelve years of lives – we rely on them for everything. But as we come of age and embrace the life of an adult, we separate from our parents and make our own way in the world. In our culture we don’t have a clear coming of age initiation after which we know we are an adult (we seem to have replaced that with the vague limbo of adolescence, where one is neither child nor adult), so it sort of sneaks up on us. In one sense you know you are an adult when you realize that, instead of running everything past your parents and seeking their permission, you are the authority over your own life.

Often in mythology a young man goes off to find his father (the twin sons of the Sun in the Navajo myth of “Where the Two Came to Their Father,” or Telemachus in the Odyssey, who leaves Ithaca to look for his father, Ulysses), this is about finding one’s place in the world. We see this theme (“Atonement” – or “At-One-Ment” – with the Father) most often in Judeo-Christian mythology (as opposed to “the Meeting with the Goddess”), but it’s a theme that surfaces in most mythologies at some point.

Of course, I’m just scratching the surface here. Is this making sense, or have I misunderstood your question?