The Bard's Grove

"There are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body."
Charles DeLint, The Onion Girl

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Emerging Archetypal Themes: Capricorn, Fathers and Fly Away Home

            January is often a dark, depressing month.  It doesn’t have the anticipation of December or the hope of February.  January is also when we’re deep in Capricorn’s territory.  Just remember that the old sea goat enjoys both the high snowy mountains and cold, dark depths of the ocean. 

            There are many themes associated with Capricorn.  The sign of Capricorn symbolizes worldly power and our collective structures: government, finance, law, education, the environment, corporations.  I thought about finding a movie that fit those themes, and the list is extensive when it comes to Capricorn’s shadow side: “ambitious, materialist, power hungry.  . . . Calculating, manipulative, quick to exploit any weakness…the epitome of slick, insidious opportunism.” (Steven Forrest, The Inner Sky, p.81)   Network, Wall Street, and Erin Brockovich are all find examples of Capricorn’s shadow.  Or just look at what’s going on in our society, especially since Pluto entered Capricorn in late 2008, exposing the corruption in our social system.   There are great documentaries made in the past five years about the negative impacts of our social system, from food to fracking to waste and water.  

            The deeper truth of Capricorn is that it represents our inner freedom to act according to our own nature and contribute that nature to our society.  In the East, it’s called Dharma.  Dharma is to cultivate the knowledge and practice of laws and principles that hold together the fabric of reality, natural phenomena and personality of human beings in dynamic interdependence and harmony. “ (Wikipedia)  When our inner life and our personal values shine through our public life, we achieve Capricorn’s goal.  Capricorn is where our destiny shines.

            But for us to accomplish our destiny, we need good role models.  And the most important role models are our parents.  So I decided to look at another aspect of Capricorn we often neglect to mention.  Just as Cancer symbolizes the Archetypal Mother, Capricorn is the sign of the Archetypal Father.  Just as the “archetypal Mother is the matrix—the form into which we pour our experiences, the archetypal Father represents the dynamism of the archetypal, for the archetype consists of both form and energy.” (C.G. Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, p. 101-102)  Mother and feminine consciousness comprise our being, while Father and masculine consciousness make up our doing.

            Like the Tarot card of the Emperor, the Father archetype stands for law, order, authority and the world beyond the home.  The Father stands for the rules of our society, the structures that support our community.  He is responsible for teaching his children to respect and obey the rules of his society so that they can take their place in the world.  Under patriarchy, the Father rules supreme.  In many societies, it’s his ‘way or the highway’.  The rules are what’s important, not the individual emotional body (the Mother, feminine consciousness). At his best, the father serves as the bridge between home and society, and the self and our life purpose.   Instead of telling his children what they CAN’T do, a great father finds out what his child needs to do and helps him/her to do it.  

            As fathers go, one of my film favorites is Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.  There is a sense of strength and morality that shines through his role.  But the film that really expresses for me what the great father can do to help his children is the film Fly Away Home.

Fly Away Home

The 1996 movie, Fly Away Home, is a gem of a movie.  Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin play Tom and Amy Alden, an estranged father and daughter who are reunited after many years when Amy’s mother dies in a car crash.  It’s a wonderful story about how our kids teach their parents to grow up.

The movie begins in the rain.  Anna and her mother are driving home together in New Zealand, and we can see how connected they are as they laugh and discuss their day.  And then suddenly, the car is forced off the road.  Anna wakes up in the hospital with her father by her side, come to take her back to Canada now that her mother has died.  Tom tells Amy, “I’ve come to take you home.”

        Neither Tom nor Anna know what to do with each other.  Tom is an artist, a metal sculptor, and a bit of a rebel. He tells Amy ‘I’m going to be busy.  I have a lot of work to catch up on.’  Her answer is, ‘ I’m not a baby.  You don’t have to hold my hand.’   They are definitely prickly with each other.  Anna retreats into herself, not wanting to be there at all.

Tom seems to be one of those men who never grew up, what Jung would call a puer.  He’s constantly trying to fly with his own home-made wings.   The first morning in Canada, Amy wakes up and watches her father’s attempt to fly, which ends with him crashing in the field.  As Amy watches, he slowly gets up and starts laughing like a lunatic, without any thought for how Amy might feel seeing her only living relative crash and perhaps die.  

Jung spoke about the Puer aeternus, which is Latin for eternal boy.   In Greek and Roman mythology, the term designates a child-god who is forever young.   Psychologically, a man who is a puer typically leads a provisional life, fearing to be caught in a situation where he might not be able to escape, such as marriage or a regular job. He covets his independence and freedom and tends to find any restriction intolerable.  He chafes at boundaries and limits because his emotional life has remained at an adolescent level.  We would say he had a Peter Pan complex.  He loves to fly. 

            I think Tom has a bit of the puer in him as most of the baby boomers do who seem determined to act young until they die.  But he makes a successful landing when his daughter comes to live with him. He begins to grow up and take responsibility, even though he doesn’t know how.   He’s one of those self-centered artists, living alone although his lover Susan comes and goes in his life.  He later admits to Amy, when she asks him why he rarely came to visit her, that he was afraid and angry for letting her mom and her go, and besides, New Zealand is far away.  He was an absent father because he couldn’t find the father within himself.  But now with Amy living with him, things start to change.

            As a puer, the idealist and rebel in Tom has been focused on his concern for the environment.  His love of the land is one of the things that ties him down to Earth.  There is a developer who illegally tries to bulldoze some land near Tom.  While Tom and Susan hurry off to a Town Council meeting to protest the project, Amy wanders the land.  She comes to where they’ve bulldozed the trees and discovers an abandoned nest with eggs.  She takes the eggs back to the barn in her old ‘snuggly’ and hides them in a drawer, wrapped in her mother’s old scarfs that she discovers in the barn along with her baby carrier.  Unbeknownst to Amy, in saving the eggs, she begins to reclaim her mom.

Soon all the eggs hatch, and Amy discovers that she’s become mother to a flock of Canadian geese!

            Geese are interesting.  They attach themselves to the first moving thing they see.  If the mother or father goose is not there, they bond with whoever is.  And so Amy becomes their surrogate mother.  

            Symbolically, geese are found in a number of fairy tales, such as The Goose Girl and The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. There is something magical about them.  They were sacred to the Roman goddess Juno, goddess of marriage.  Perhaps you remember the Mother Goose Tales?  Stories and imagination seem to be part of their mythology.  And their migration patterns gives them a solar aspect (the golden egg), disappearing south in the autumn and returning north in the spring. 

            Even more interesting is the fact that in Celtic lore, the goose symbolizes parenthood and the responsibilities of raising a family.  Geese mate for life and both parents raise their young.  The geese perfectly symbolize the lesson Tom is learning about being a father.  It is by example that they teach their young how to migrate south; it is by example that we teach our children to succeed. 

            As Amy becomes more and more connected with her geese, Tom begins to take more of an interest in Amy.  And as Amy begins to mother the geese, she influences Tom, her uncle David, Susan and even Tom’s flying buddy, Barry.  Her mothering changes the whole feeling of the household.  You can see the love growing.  

            Here is where Tom develops into a great dad.  Realizing that the geese won’t be able to migrate without their help, Tom and his friends devise a plan to lead the geese south in a small plane they build.  When Amy wants to keep the geese with her in the barn all winter, Tom asks her if she thinks that’s fair for the geese.  They were made to migrate and be free.  And so he offers to lead them south.  But when they keep following after Amy, Tom realizes that she’s going to have to do it.  He respects her enough to give her the opportunity to spread her wings and help these birds that she loves.  He’ll build two planes to fly with her as she leads her geese south.

            Meanwhile, the local animal officer, while speaking out on behalf of the wildlife in the area that was bulldozed, is too ready to obey a set of rules that would imprison the geese instead of setting them free.  Just before Tom and Amy plan to lead the geese to a bird sanctuary in North Carolina, he steals them from the farm.  And so they steal them back and head out on their journey.

            As they fly south, they are forced to land at an air force base, then fly over open water and even through a foggy city.  It isn’t a surprise that the media picks up the story.  People know they’re flying south and watch for them to fly overhead.   At the bird sanctuary, people gather to await their arrival, while a developer also waits to bulldoze the area if no birds make their home there by November 1.  That’s one of the reasons for bringing the flock south—to save the sanctuary.  Just before they get there, Tom’s plane goes down in a field and Amy has to fly the geese there alone. When she tells him that she can’t find her way without him, Tom says he knows she can do it.  She’s strong and brave like her mom.  

So Amy and the geese arrive just at sunset and save the sanctuary.  Her geese know how to migrate and they have a home.  And now so does she.

            Fly Away Home is a beautiful movie about how a father can help his child follow her vision and her bliss.   As more and more fathers take a bigger role in raising their children, I can only hope that they remember that their job is not only to protect and provide for their families, but also to guide their children as they make their way in the world.

From the Bard’s Grove,


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