Archetype cards and the Astro Muse
Carolyn Myss’s Sacred Contracts and Archetype Cards were my introduction to oracle cards and what I think can be called soul-exploration. I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the book and rejected it unfinished the first time I got it from the library. I tried again months later and found myself gobbling up her idea that we each carry certain archetypes that express our soul’s truth.
Since then I’ve played with her ideas and the Archetype cards over and over again to find guidance in my path and in the inner work I’ve been doing. I will often draw archetype cards and lay them out according to the 12 houses to answer questions about my life, work, direction and interpersonal relationships.
The beauty of the cards is that they are not telling us what to do. We chose the cards that resonate deeply and let our own souls and the cards interact in an alchemy that we express through writing. At least that’s how I do it.
I don’t agree with Caroline Myss that you should pick your archetypes and keep them for a lifetime. A lifetime is a long time and we learn lots about ourselves as we go. What seemed like a part of us could simply be a habit of being in the world rather than the truth of who we are. When I first started playing around with archetype cards, I had the Rescuer and the Companion among my twelve. Now I know that, for me, those archetypes are part of my “good girl” persona, a comfortable persona for which I was rewarded, but not one that is true to my soul. For another person, Rescuer and Companion may speak deeply to their soul’s longing. There’s no right or wrong, just true for you.
I was always a bit frustrated by Myss’s descriptions of the houses, but as I started studying astrology I developed some of my own questions for exploring the archetypes in relation to each house.
Below are some of the questions that help me explore the way an archetype works within a particular house. Other things I’ve discovered along the way:
You can use any oracle card - drawing one for each house - to prompt your self-exploratory writing. I’ve even used a deck made from favorite postcards - any images we’re drawn to have meaning and messages for us.
Natalie Goldberg’s technique of timed writing is effective in working with the archetype cards. I set a timer for 4-5 minutes and keep my hand moving across the page as I write out any associations that come to mind - stories, memories, characters - when I think about the archetype and the house. If I get stuck I look to the questions to see what they spark and keep writing. Sometimes I’m just writing a string of words, not even trying to make sentences, just to keep my hand moving. At some point my mind will say I’ve written all I can, but if the timer hasn’t dinged yet I keep going and often am rewarded with surprises or deeper insights.
Or don’t set a timer. Just let words and insights bubble to the surface of your mind and write them down.
Highlight the words and phrases in your writing that have particular punch or significance and make a poem out of them. Or capture key phrases to make a pithy and supportive reminder.
Post the reminders/poems/gems somewhere you can see them for regular inspiration.
The First House is the arena in which we take a stand for ourselves, acting with enlightened selfishness as we lead our lives. This is the house of our Mask, the way we present ourselves to the larger world. We “prepare a face to meet the faces that we meet,” as T.S. Eliot writes, but not in a shallow way. We must present an organized persona that helps us navigate the world in a way that supports self-actualization. Looking at the card you’ve drawn, think about
How does this archetype support self-actualization?
How could this archetype serve as a bodyguard?
How could it help you claim your right to exist, to reach for what you need, to ask for what you want?
How would courage be called for in learning this archetype’s lessons?
Can you develop a mantra or affirmation that supports your courage?
Can you think of an example of this archetype (from real-life, history, books, movies, TV, etc) who reminds you that you have a right to exist, to claim your desires and lead your life?
How does this archetype encourage you to be “enlightened selfish” - creating the boundaries that support your well-being and self-actualization?
What would healthy boundaries look like for this archetype?
Write from the prompt, “Willing to be less saintly….” and see where the archetype might take you. (The prompt is borrowed from a Julia Cameron phrase.)
The Second House is traditionally the House of Money. Fundamentally it’s the arena in which we develop our sense of security in the world, gathering the resources that we need to live and developing the resourcefulness - the skills, network of friends, habits, etc. - that makes us feel confident that we can take care of ourselves. This is the house where we prove ourselves to ourselves so we know we have what it takes to survive in the world. This house is associated with Taurus, a very body-centered, natural, physical sign, so listening to the body and acting on the body’s instincts is 2nd house behavior. In exploring the archetype you’ve drawn for this house, consider
How would it feel to embody this archetype - literally, how would your body feel if you were this archetype?
What actions would you take as this archetype?
How does this archetype demonstrate resourcefulness?
What skills, abilities, survival instincts does the archetype call up in you?
What would be a source of self-esteem for you?
What next steps could help you prove yourself to yourself?
Do you have doubts about your ability to embody this archetype?
Is there a way this archetype could impact your finances/money-making?
How does this archetype affect your security and sense of self-worth?
How can this archetype help you overcome any limiting beliefs or frozen trauma related to your worth and money-making abilities?
The Third House corresponds with Gemini and Mercury and is the House of Communication. It shapes how we perceive the world around us. When we read, learn, listen, talk, teach, converse we are in the 3rd house arena. Asking questions and letting curiosity be our guide are 3rd house behaviors as are open-mindedness and information gathering/sharing. In exploring the archetype for this house, ask yourself
How might this archetype speak, listen, communicate?
How would this archetype help you find your voice?
How would this archetype follow his/her curiosity?
How would this archetype see the world?
How would you see yourself from the perspective of this archetype?
How would you see your life from the perspective of this archetype?
Write a letter to this archetype, explaining any challenges you’re facing. Then walk around a bit or drink a glass of water and have the archetype write you back.
What stories or characters does this archetype call to mind?
How can reading, conversation, learning, listening, writing help you embody this archetype?
The Fourth House is the House of Home. Located at the bottom of the natal wheel, it’s the often unseen part of us. It holds the unconscious - that which must be made conscious for us to live with self-awareness and freedom. It’s the arena of our family of origin - how they shaped us - and of our ancestors and our rootedness in the land. Dreams, home, imagination, introspection and self-care are the domain of 4th house. In considering the archetype for this house, think about
What images of this archetype resonate deeply for you- are there stories, characters, books, songs, dream images through which this archetype has called to you or spoken to you?
Are there examples in your family/ancestry, hometown?
How would rooting into the land support you as this archetype?
Is there a landscape that reminds you of or enables you to ground into this archetype?
What are the unconscious underpinnings that come up for you regarding this archetype? What about this archetype appeals to your heart and soul?
If this archetype were an inner nurturing, generative adult to you, what would he or she say?
How does this archetype open your awareness to your familial/cultural conditioning?
Is there a way this archetype could bring you comfort during dark times in your life?
Is there a way embodying this archetype brings you home to your soul?
Write a story, create your own myth with this archetype as the central character.
How can this archetype encourage you to explore your inner world?
How does this archetype support you in finding your soul-family - a group of supportive, kind loved-ones?
Can you develop what Sharon Blackie calls an Imaginarium about this archetype - collecting images, poetry, stories, myths, art, found objects that are resonant of this energy for you?
Has this archetype visited you in dreams?
The Fifth House is the arena of creative self-expression. Corresponding with Leo and the Sun, it’s the arena in which we shine. This is the House of Pleasure and the House of Children. It’s where our inner child is allowed to play and seek delight and to say, “Look what I did!” This is an exuberant domain where we unabashedly seek applause. In considering the archetype for this house, ask yourself
How can your inner child help you live this archetype?
Is there a way this archetype delights your inner child?
Does this archetype embody pleasure for you?
If so, how can you cultivate this pleasure?
How open are you to experiencing and expressing pleasure?
Are there ways you can show your work with this archetype and say “look what I did!” like a proud 5-year-old?
Are there ways this archetype serves your self-expression?
Can you creatively express this archetype?
Is there a way this archetype makes you feel alive and vital and joyful?
Can you find an audience (even an audience of one) to whom you can express, personify this archetype?
How can you be witnessed/seen as you embody this archetype? How does this archetype support and express your core identity?
The Sixth House is the arena of skillbuilding, developing competence in an area of meaningful service. This is the house of Monday mornings - do you dread them, or do you bounce out of bed eager to do your work in the world? In the 6th house, we are humble enough to admit what we don’t know and to commit to developing our abilities. We meet our mentors, we learn and develop competence and, in time, we teach what we’ve learned. This house corresponds to Virgo, who can be a perfectionist inviting you to consider the ways perfectionism impedes you. In thinking about this archetype and house, consider
What skills might you need to learn to move toward embodying the light attributes of this archetype?
If this archetype were your mentor, what would you learn from him/her?
Where might perfectionism rear its head leading to procrastination or resistance?
How does the experience of drudgery come up for this archetype?
Is there a way this archetype can guide you toward meaningful work rather than drudgery?
How could this archetype help you love Mondays?
What mentors could help you embody the light attributes of this archetype?
How does this archetype ask you to examine the way you serve others?
The Seventh House is the House of Marriage, traditionally, but that definition can be widened to include all long-term relationships and friendships. This house often points to the traits that aren’t in our wheelhouse, the characteristics that don’t come naturally to us. This is why we need other people, so we can learn from them the ways of being that might be helpful but don’t come naturally. In thinking of the archetype for this house, consider
Are there traits within this archetype that don’t seem to be in your wheelhouse?
Do you have loved-ones who are models of these traits?
Does this archetype come into play in your friendships and partnerships?
Can you enact this archetype in a way that serves your relationships?
Are there ways you let others carry this energy for you rather than learning to carry it for yourself?
Is there a way you embody this archetype within your relationships?
Let yourself step into this archetype in your imagination. How would embodying this archetype affect your long term relationships/friendships?
In what ways would learning to embody this archetype serve your soul’s evolution?
If this archetype exemplifies the kinds of people who might be helpful friends/partners, what characteristics might they have?
The Eighth House corresponds with Scorpio. This is the House of Death, Sex and the Occult. It’s the domain of the shadow of the cultural taboos that polite society tends to push into closets and sweep under the rug. This is the house that we navigate by instinct. It requires courage to stand unblinkingly in this arena and face psychological truths and the things that scare us. In considering this house and archetype, ask yourself
Does this archetype represent a shadow trait for you?
Are there things about this archetype that bother you, annoy you, scare you?
How can you get more comfortable with those qualities?
How could this archetype serve you in the shadow realms, the underworld - through the halls of death or in navigating taboos or the occult?
Is there a way that making death your counselor could help you embody the light attributes of this archetype?
Can this archetype help you heal your sacred wounds?
If this archetype was your soul guide, what would he/she show you?
Do you have examples of this archetype from real life or fiction or myth?
If you followed him/her to the underworld, what would happen? Write a story about it.
If this archetype represented something taboo or off-limits, what would it be and how could it actually empower you?
Can this archetype help you liberate your sensual erotic power?
The Ninth House is called the House of Journeys over Water. This is the domain of Sagittarius, the Voyager, and of Jupiter, the optimist. Here we learn to expand our horizons, to move beyond the confining belief systems of our culture and/or family of origin. Travel and education and religion are 9th house behaviors. Dogmatism is the 9th house shadow - the kind of certainty that closes down questions, wonder, exploration. This is the house for leaps of faith and interesting mistakes. This is the house of the quest. In considering the archetype for this house, explore
How can this archetype take you beyond what you already know, beyond your comfort zone and your cultural or familial beliefs?
Can you let this archetype break up your routine, expand your horizons?
What quest is this archetype on?
Would embodying this archetype require a leap of faith?
How can this archetype support your confidence, your optimism, your faith?
How does this archetype support a sense of festival, a holiday feeling of jolliness?
Do you have an example of this archetype from history or fiction?
If so, how would he/she help you wander beyond your known world?
How does this archetype support you in making interesting mistakes?
If you took this archetype on an artist’s date, where would you end up? What would you do?
The Tenth House is the House of Career, where our actions bring us beyond the realm of our friends and loved ones to the larger community. This house corresponds with Capricorn and Saturn, bringing an atmosphere of discipline and integrity to the work that we do and the prospect of becoming, in time, an Elder within the community. This is the house of our mission, our Great Work. Standing tall in this house requires integrity and means that we will touch the lives of others whom we don’t even know. In considering the archetype for this house, think about
How could this archetype help you take yourself more seriously?
How would it feel to take yourself seriously as the archetype in the card?
What would this archetype's mission to the world look like?
How does this archetype look to the world when she’s getting it right?
How would this archetype use discipline and perseverance to reach his/her goals?
What would integrity look like for this archetype?
How could this archetype support your Unique Spiritual Purpose, as Lauren Sapala calls it - “...the message that only you can deliver to people who are in need of it.”
Imagining yourself with the light attributes of this archetype, in what ways could you become an elder for your community?
The Eleventh House is traditionally known as the House of Friends, but could more aptly be called the House of Tribe/Community. This house corresponds with Aquarius, the rebel, genius and exile. This is the arena for determining the goals and priorities that matter to you (as opposed to those shaped by your family/culture/society), developing the strategy that helps you achieve these goals and finding the tribe that supports your success. The flavors of this house develop over time - these are long-term commitments. In investigating the archetype that comes up for this house, consider
How this archetype informs your priorities.
What goals does it suggest?
What strategies would help you achieve those goals?
What friends/tribe help you get there?
Who can you hang out with that will support and inspire your efforts?
How would embodying this archetype help you “cast behind you all conformity” (as Emerson would say)?
How does this archetype help you live more authentically?
Are there ways this archetype asks you to rebel against your culture/family/society?
If this archetype were an inner mentor, what would she/he suggest you do differently?
If this archetype describes your tribe, what would that mean for you?
The 11th house evolves over time - is there a way you see this archetype evolving within you or evolving you?
The Twelfth house is the house of spirituality. It’s the house where connect with something greater than ourselves, transcending our small/personal self to see the big picture. Traditionally called The House of Trouble, this is the arena of dark nights of the soul that prompt us to search for meaning and transcendence. Spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation take place in this house, but it's also the domain of silence, imagination, creativity, yoga, movement, music - anything that helps you move beyond your personal story to tap into Mystery or, if you use this term, God. This is the house of the sage and the innocent or fool. It’s the house where laughter helps us move beyond our troubles, giving us a higher perspective of life’s trials. In exploring the archetype for this house, consider
How this archetype serves your connection to something greater than yourself?
Does it inform you spirituality?
Does it allow you to embody the sage or the innocent?
What would this archetype look like as a sage/innocent?
How would this archetype approach meditation or prayer or mindfulness?
How could this archetype help you surrender the struggle, just be with what is?
How does this archetype help you cleanse the windows of your perception to see beyond your immediate personal problems?
Does this archetype connect you to the Mystery/Sacred/Divine?
If the Divine were working through this archetype, how would it communicate with you, what would it show you?
Can this archetype help you cultivate a personal relationship with Spirit?
Can you think of a real-life or fictional example of this archetype?
How could he/she be your guru?
Imagining yourself as this archetype, what brings you amazement and wonder?
What does this archetype help you release, let go of?
How does laughter serve this archetype?
If you’re using Carolyn Myss’s archetype cards, the prostitute, victim and saboteur will come up for you in three of the houses. Here are some special questions to ponder regarding their role:
Prostitute: do you have a history of giving away your power in this arena? Are there ways having more faith in life, yourself, the divine could serve you in this house? What aspects of this house might be costing you too much money, dignity, energy or time? In what way could the arena of behavior in this house empower you? How and why do you betray yourself to stay safe?
Saboteur: do you have a history of refusing opportunities that arise in the arena of this house? Do you doubt your ability to succeed in this arena? Do you have a tendency to avoid responsibility in this arena of behavior? What would it feel like to make choices that empower you in this arena of behavior? What does your gut say about this house and its possibilities for you? How could the Saboteur become an ally, potentially warning you when you’re betraying yourself in this arena? Does listening to your intuition help you navigate this house?
Victim: do you have a history of being victimized or feeling like a victim in this arena of behavior? How can the Victim archetype teach you to take back your power. What would taking back your power in this House look like for you? Can you think of a real-life or fictional role-model for this house? How might the Victim warn you that you are at risk of choosing powerlessness over self-actualization in this arena of behavior? How can the behaviors of this house help you claim your strength and power? How can you act on your own behalf in this arena? Is there a protective image/persona that can remind you that you are worthy and brave? What would it feel like to be on your own side? If you were on your own side, how would that affect your behavior in this arena/house?
As you explore the archetypes, you may find that you need to look beyond Carolyn Myss’s definitions. Look for your own examples of the archetypes - whether fictional characters, historical figures, current pop culture stars or people you know well.
When you discover the archetypes that deeply resonate with you, find ways to honor them through art, writing, crafting, reading. See how they live in you.
I found myself attracted to the Detective archetype, not really understanding why. But at some point I thought of my love of mysteries - Miss Silver, the private inquiry agent who stars in Patricia Wentworth's mysteries, being my all-time favorites. Calm, kind and perspicacious, she embodies the archetype of the psychopomp to me, helping people, especially young women, navigate a dark underworld. That energy resonates strongly for me and I keep her books by me to immerse myself in that energy when I need to.