Dionysus as Archetype

Jim Morrison

Carl Gustave Jung introduced the theory of archetypes that impact our personalities, based in the cultural unconscious.   In the 1980’s Jungian psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen used these archetype theories in the form of Greek gods.    First in her book Goddesses in Everywoman and then in the follow-up Gods in Everyman.    In the second book she laid out archetypes of Greek gods, including Dionysus.

Dionysus as an archetype is characterized by similarities to the Greek god of wine and revelry.   Bolen referred to him as a mystic, lover, and wanderer.   A closeness to nature and women is important part of the Dionysus archetype.   Madness and violence followed Dionysus and this is important to his archetype.   

People who are of a Dionysus personality archetype often grew up feeling that their lives had sacred meaning.   This is a connection to Dionysus as a divine child.    Dionysus and Hermes are both archetypes that can be seen to stay as the eternal adolescent (likeliness to never grow up).   The 1960’s hippie counterculture was an expression of the Dionysus archetype.   

This Dionysian archetype of eternal youthfulness has invaded popular culture through rock music.    Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger both personified the archetype in the 1960s.    In the 1970s David Bowie would embrace Dionysus as well.    Then in the 1980s both Prince and Michael Jackson would also embrace the god of wine.   

Dionysus as a rock star is certainly a part of the archetype that is very interesting, and it is something that we as a culture can immediately conjure up images of.    Jim Morrison, especially, was the prime example of all of these to be a Dionysian man.    He was incredibly interested in spirituality, and saw himself as a shaman since he was a child.   Jim took on an ecstatic form of performance during the concerts he performed with the Doors.   This is very obvious throughout the famous Hollywood Bowl show in 1968, and the infamous Miami concert (that ended up in his obscenity trial in 1969).   He had his own personal Ariadne in the form of his long term girlfriend Pamela Courson, who stayed by his side through thick and thin!    Finally the rock and roll groupies that surrounded all of the stars I have mentioned are modern day maenads, worshipping at the altar of Rock n’ Roll!   Bolen, in fact, wrote an entire section of her Dionysus chapter to Dionysus as shaman.   This further connects Jim Morrison to this archetype, as does Jim’s penchant for alcoholism.

Other important factors in a Dionysus archetype include the dualistic personality, the persecuted wanderer, and the dismembered archetype.    The dismemberment portion referred to the fact that dismemberment often had a place in Dionysus myths.

I hope this post has given you some perspective on people in your life who may have be a Dionysus archetype.    Let me know what you think of the god/goddess archetype theory in the comments!   

Note on Image: The above image of Jim Morrison was found on holdenluntz.com

Further Reading

  • Gods in Everyman by Jean Shinoda Bolen
  • Light My Fire by Ray Manzarek
  • Angels Dance and Angels Die by Patricia Butler
  • Rock Bottom by Pamela Des Barres
  • I’m With the Band by Pamela Des Barres
  • No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman