descent into the depths of the earth

Lisa Lawrence’s Archetypes and Symbols List

Archetypes and Symbols


1. The Quest – This motif describes the search for someone or some talisman which, when found and brought back, will restore fertility to a wasted land, the desolation of which is mirrored by a leader’s illness and disability.

2. The Task – This refers to a possibly superhuman feat that must be accomplished in order to fulfill the ultimate goal.

3. The Journey – The journey sends the hero in search for some truth of information necessary to restore fertility, justice, and/or harmony to the kingdom. The journey includes the series of trials and tribulations the hero faces along the way. Usually the hero descends into a real or psychological hell and is forced to discover the blackest truths, quite often concerning his faults. Once the hero is at this lowest level, he must accept personal responsibility to return to the world of the living.

4. The Initiation – This situation refers to a moment, usually psychological, in which an individual comes into maturity. He or she gains a new awareness into the nature of circumstances and problems and understands his or her responsibility for trying to resolve the dilemma. Typically, a hero receives a calling, a message or signal that he or she must make sacrifices and become responsible for getting involved in the problem. Often a hero will deny and question the calling and ultimately, in the initiation, will accept responsibility.

5. The Ritual – Not to be confused with the initiation, the ritual refers to an organized ceremony that involves honored members of a given community and an Initiate. This situation officially brings the young man or woman into the realm of the community’s adult world.

6. The Fall – Not to be confused with the awareness in the initiation, this archetype describes a descent in action from a higher to a lower state of being, an experience which might involve defilement, moral imperfection, and/or loss of innocence. This fall is often accompanied by expulsion from a kind of paradise as penalty for disobedience and/or moral transgression.

7. Death and Rebirth – The most common of all situational archetypes, this motif grows out of the parallel between the cycle of nature and the cycle of life. It refers to those situations in which someone or something, concrete and/or metaphysical dies, yet is accompanied by some sign of birth or rebirth.

8. Nature vs. Mechanistic World – Expressed in its simplest form, this refers to situations which suggest that nature is good whereas the forces of technology are bad.

9. Battle Between Good and Evil – These situations pit obvious forces which represent good and evil against one another; typically, good ultimately triumphs over evil despite great odds.

10. The Unhealable Wound – This wound, physical or psychological, cannot be healed fully. This would also indicate a loss of innocence or purity. Often the wounds’ pain drives the sufferer to desperate measures of madness.

11. The Magic Weapon – Sometimes connected with the task, this refers to a skilled individual hero’s ability to use a piece of technology in order to combat evil, continue a journey, or to prove his or her identity as a chosen individual.

12. Father-Son Conflict – Tension often results from separation during childhood or from an external source when the individuals meet as men and where the mentor often has a higher place in the affections of the hero than the natural parent. Sometimes the conflict is resolved in atonement.

13. Innate Wisdom vs. Educated Stupidity – Some characters exhibit wisdom and understanding intuitively as opposed to those supposedly in charge.


1. Light vs. Darkness – Light usually suggests hope, renewal, OR intellectual illumination; darkness implies the unknown, ignorance, or despair.

2. Water vs. Desert – Because water is necessary to life and growth, it commonly appears as a birth or rebirth symbol. Water is used in baptism services, which solemnizes spiritual births. Similarly, the appearance of rain in a work of literature can suggest a character’s spiritual birth.

3. Heaven vs. Hell – Humanity has traditionally associated parts of the universe not accessible to it with the dwelling places of the primordial forces that govern its world. The skies and mountaintops house its gods; the bowels of the earth contain the diabolic forces that inhabit its universe.

4. Haven vs. Wilderness – Places of safety contrast sharply against the dangerous wilderness. Heroes are often sheltered for a time to regain health and resources.

5. Supernatural Intervention – The gods intervene on the side of the hero or sometimes against him.

6. Fire vs. Ice – Fire represents knowledge, light, life, and rebirth while ice like desert represents ignorance, darkness, sterility, and death.

7. Colors

A. Black (darkness) – chaos, mystery, the unknown, before existence, death, the unconscious, evil

B. Red – blood, sacrifice; violent passion, disorder, sunrise, birth, fire, emotion, wounds, death, sentiment, mother, Mars, the note C, anger, excitement, heat, physical stimulation

C. Green – hope, growth, envy, Earth, fertility, sensation, vegetation, death, water, nature, sympathy, adaptability, growth, Jupiter and Venus, the note G, envy

D. White (light) – purity, peace, innocence, goodness, Spirit, morality, creative force, the direction East, spiritual thought

E. Orange – fire, pride, ambition, egoism, Venus, the note D

F. Blue – clear sky, the day, the sea, height, depth, heaven, religious feeling, devotion, innocence, truth, spirituality, Jupiter, the note F, physical soothing and cooling

G. Violet – water, nostalgia, memory, advanced spirituality, Neptune, the note B

H. Gold – Majesty, sun, wealth, corn (life dependency), truth

I. Silver – Moon, wealth

8. Numbers:

A. Three – the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost); Mind, Body, Spirit, Birth, Life, Death

B. Four – Mankind (four limbs), four elements, four seasons

C. Six – devil, evil

D. Seven – Divinity (3) + Mankind (4) = relationship between man and God, seven deadly sins, seven days of week, seven days to create the world, seven stages of civilization, seven colors of the rainbow, seven gifts of Holy Spirit.

9. Shapes:

A. Oval – woman, passivity

B. Triangle – communication, between heaven and earth, fire, the number 3, trinity, aspiration, movement upward, return to origins, sight, light

C. Square – pluralism, earth, firmness, stability, construction, material solidity, the number four

D. Rectangle – the most rational, most secure

E. Cross – the Tree of life, axis of the world, struggle, martyrdom, orientation in space

F. Circle – Heaven, intellect, thought, sun, the number two, unity, perfection, eternity, oneness, celestial realm, hearing, sound

G. Spiral – the evolution of the universe, orbit, growth, deepening, cosmic motion, relationship between unity and multiplicity, macrocosm, breath, spirit, water

10. Nature:

A. Air – activity, creativity, breath, light, freedom (liberty), movement

B. Ascent – height, transcendence, inward journey, increasing intensity

C. Center – thought, unity, timelessness, spacelessness, paradise, creator, infinity,

D. Descent – unconscious, potentialities of being, animal nature

E. Duality – Yin-Yang, opposites, complements, positive-negative, male-female, life-death

F. Earth – passive, feminine, receptive, solid

G. Fire – the ability to transform, love, life, health, control, sun, God, passion, spiritual energy, regeneration

H. Lake – mystery, depth, unconscious

I. Crescent moon – change, transition

J. Mountain – height, mass, loftiness, center of the world, ambition, goals

K. Valley – depression, low-points, evil, unknown

L. Sun – Hero, son of Heaven, knowledge, the Divine eye, fire, life force, creative-guiding force, brightness, splendor, active awakening, healing, resurrection, ultimate wholeness

M. Water – passive, feminine

N. Rivers/Streams – life force, life cycle

O. Stars – guidance

P. Wind – Holy Spirit, life, messenger

Q. Ice/Snow – coldness, barrenness

R. Clouds/Mist – mystery, sacred

S. Rain – life giver

T. Steam – transformation to the Holy Spirit

U. Cave – feminine

V. Lightning – intuition, inspiration

W. Tree – where we learn, tree of life, tree of knowledge

X. Forest – evil, lost, fear

11. Objects:

A. Feathers – lightness, speed

B. Shadow – our dark side, evil, devil

C. Masks – concealment

D. Boats/Rafts – safe passage

E. Bridge – change, transformation

F. Right hand – rectitude, correctness

G. Left hand – deviousness

H. Feet – stability, freedom

I. Skeleton – mortality

J. Heart – love, emotions

K. Hourglass – the passage of time


1. The Hero – In its simplest form, this character is the one ultimately who may fulfill a necessary task and who will restore fertility, harmony, and/or justice to a community. The hero character is the one who typically experiences an initiation, who goes the community’s ritual (s), et cetera. Often he or she will embody characteristics of YOUNG PERSON FROM THE PROVINCES, INITIATE, INNATE WISDOM, PUPIL, and SON.

2. Young Person from the Provinces – This hero is taken away as an infant or youth and raised by strangers. He or she later returns home as a stranger and able to recognize new problems and new solutions.

3. The Initiates – These are young heroes who, prior to the quest, must endure some training and ritual. They are usually innocent at this stage.

4. Mentors – These individuals serve as teachers or counselors to the initiates. Sometimes they work as role models and often serve as father or mother figure. They teach by example the skills necessary to survive the journey and quest.

5. Hunting Group of Companions – These loyal companions are willing to face any number of perils in order to be together.

6. Loyal Retainers – These individuals are like the noble sidekicks to the hero. Their duty is to protect the hero. Often the retainer reflects the hero’s nobility.

7. Friendly Beast –These animals assist the hero and reflect that nature is on the hero’s side.

8. The Devil Figure – This character represents evil incarnate. He or she may offer worldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the protagonist in exchange for possession of the soul or integrity. This figure’s main aim is to oppose the hero in his or her quest.

9. The Evil Figure with the Ultimately Good Heart – This redeemable devil figure (or servant to the devil figure) is saved by the hero’s nobility or good heart.

10. The Scapegoat – An animal or more usually a human whose death, often in a public ceremony, excuses some taint or sin that has been visited upon the community. This death often makes theme more powerful force to the hero.

11. The Outcast – This figure is banished from a community for some crime (real or imagined). The outcast is usually destined to become a wanderer.

12. The Earth Mother – This character is symbolic of fulfillment, abundance, and fertility; offers spiritual and emotional nourishment to those who she contacts; often depicted in earth colors, with large breasts and hips.

13. The Temptress – Characterized by sensuous beauty, she is one whose physical attraction may bring about the hero’s downfall.

14. The Platonic Ideal – This source of inspiration often is a physical and spiritual ideal for whom the hero has an intellectual rather than physical attraction.

15. The Unfaithful Wife – This woman, married to a man she sees as dull or distant, is attracted to a more virile or interesting man.

16. The Damsel in Distress – This vulnerable woman must be rescued by the hero. She also may be used as a trap, by an evil figure, to ensnare the hero.

17. The Star-Crossed Lovers – These two characters are engaged in a love affair that is fated to end in tragedy for one or both due to the disapproval of society, friends, family, or the gods.

18. The Creature of Nightmare – This monster, physical or abstract, is summoned from the deepest, darkest parts of the human psyche to threaten the lives of the hero/heroine. Often it is a perversion or desecration of the human body.


The following list of patterns comes from the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster who teaches at the University of Michigan. If you are serious about literary analysis, then it is highly recommended that you buy this book. It goes into detail what is just briefly mentioned and is written in such a lively, witty voice that it does not read like a textbook at all! It will be well worth your time and effort to read it.

Ø  Trips tend to become quests to discover self.

Ø  Meals together tend to be acts of communion/community or isolation.

Ø  Ghosts, vampires, monsters, and nasty people and sometimes simply the antagonists are not about supernatural brew-ha-ha; they tend to depict some sort of exploitation.

Ø  There’s only one story. Look for allusions and archetypes.

Ø  Weather matters.

Ø  Violence and be both literal and figurative.

Ø  Symbols can be objects, images, events, and actions.

Ø  Sometimes a story is meant to change us, the readers, and through us change society.

Ø  Keep an eye out for Christ-figures.

Ø  Flying tends to represent freedom. What do you think falling represents?

Ø  Getting dunked or just sprinkled in something wet tends to be a baptism.

Ø  Geography tends to be a metaphor for the psyche.

Ø  Seasons tend to be traditional symbols.

Ø  Disabilities, Scars, and Deformities show character and theme.

Ø  Heart disease tends to represent problems with character and society.

Ø  So do illness and disease.

Ø  Read with your imagination.

Ø  Irony trumps everything!

Ø  Remember the difference between public and private symbols.

MLA Citation (7th Edition)

Lawrence, Lisa. “Archetypes and Symbols.” West Morris Central High School. West Morris Regional High School District, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. <…/Archetypesandsymbols.pdf>.


She attempts to stand
upon uneven ground
atop a broken earth divide,
awkwardly balancing
between woman and child

Fissures of inheritance
the infectious bane
of her own existence,
formed beneath calloused soles
of sister, mother, grandmother

Charms contained within
the broken locket placed
delicate around her neck;
sacred curse of ancestry adorned,
yet blessed by envious men

Gaping hole expectations
inscribed in faint palm lines
anticipate a descent from innocence,
as brute, unforgiving hands voyage
forging reckless trespass

They emerge in procession
seeking temporary resolve
within the brimstone depths of
her fractured earth pedestal; built
by brother, father, grandfather

Instinctively she continues
heart blind and bound
planting seeds of trust, inside
the empty moral vessel
of a nutrient void society

Bedded upon a shroud
of ivory bridal linens,
virgin hope buried in white
between quivering legs; her
ever consuming crimson tide
an ossuary proclaimed by men

Sabrina Escorcio
September 11th, 2017

Photo credit, Tom Bragshaw

Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

September 18, 2016



With every passing year I am reminded of a few key dates, ones that mark the passage of time in a human life and were once entirely foreign in both concept and practice to me. Towards the beginning I had to be constantly reminded of this particular day and it’s sentiment, not because of the idea that I would turn one year older (because, frankly speaking, that does not apply to me), rather more because of the significance of the idea of a birthday.

I remember the day I was asked the question, after Sam’s birthday had come and gone in May five years ago. Sam had his soul once more and was celebrating a rejuvenation of life and emotion. Dean had made Sam go to a burlesque club in celebration, but he himself had chosen not to accompany his brother. Instead he and I continued working on the case we have been investigating during the time. It was when we were in the middle of looking through haggard books that he asked me about my birthday.

I told him that I suppose I did have one, but that day had never been bound to any sort of calendar in the past. I remember it vividly, the moment of my birth. Angels were created in our Father’s image, programmed to serve and already have a working knowledge of that which we were meant to protect. We did not know everything yet, of course. Knowledge comes with time, but we were far more advanced than a newborn baby.

I was not born like a human, was not raised like one either. I just… existed. For many years I existed and watched the phases of the moon turn, replaced by the blistering sun that looked upon a newborn world. There was day and night, only recorded history began to date days with actual references. My birthday could have been on a Saturday or a Thursday, the specific date could never be determined using contemporary tools.

Dean seemed to understand, but he asked for one anyway. “Just pick one then. One day out of this whole ‘contemporary’ life that you like. You’ve got the ultimate choice here man. Most people don’t get to pick when they were born.” he had said.

I did not know what to choose. There are 365 days, 366 on any given leap year, and yet I did not know what constituted a valuable choice for a birthday. I enjoyed all seasons, each had its own merit, therefore I did not have a preference. I suppose Dean had seen my struggling with the question and answered for me. September 18th. Today.

Today is a rather important day, but it was still that before Dean asked if I accepted this day as the date of my birth. Today, 8 years ago, I was going into battle to save the Righteous Man from the depths of hell.

I remember the preparation for the raid just as vividly as the day of my birth. Two squadrons would enter and combat the demons that held the gates of Hell, a smaller and more agile string of angels would then begin their descent and cover for those that would be extracting the Man from the chains that bound him, or rather, from the chains he himself had since created in the forty years he had been here. Time is not the same as it is on Earth in Hell. I was the one that managed to find Him first and carry him out, my wings nearly incinerated in the process. We lost angels in the raid, good and loyal ones, but there was not time to mourn respectfully. Their bodies remained in Hell, but their grace and essence returned to Heaven after I saw to it that Crowley stayed true to his word. I had been weakened by the fight, carrying the fate of humanity and the one that would stop the world from ending while also tasked with needing to put him back together again. To say the day was grueling would be a vast understatement.

This day is the day that battle took place, the day that I raised Dean from perdition and began a new life. I suppose that is why I accept this as my birthday. I was born again in the very fire I raised a soul out of. Today would be the day my life as I knew it would irrevocably change. Dean had been placed under my protection and I in turn began to learn just as a human child does when they open their eyes to this new world. I was born again.

So much has happened since then. War; Loss; Egocentrism; Grief; Death; A second chance; Falling; A third chance; Family. I lived my life on Earth and began to learn as a human in eight years what I never learned in 4 billion years. 2000 years mankind has lived on this Earth in recorded history, and yet they know so much more than any angel prior to the fall of Heaven.

This is my birthday, and true to his word five years ago, Dean and Sam have celebrated it, have made jokes about my age and partaken in ceremonies I had no concept of until recently. This day was no longer heavy with memories of war and losing my brothers and sisters in hell, of finding a broken body and attempting to put it back together into a man that thought did not deserve to be saved. This was a day to mark the celebration of birth, or in my case, rebirth, and for that I do not know what more to say, therefore I will smile and reflect on the events that have brought me here, to all that has happened these past eight years. I pray that I will be able to live many more.



Yesterday | Tomorrow

Encounter piece II, AD&D module D1-2: Descent Into the Depths of the Earth by Gary Gygax, TSR, 1978/81.  D1 and 2 are all about a journey through a strange underworld – a place that later would be called the Underdark.  Map II can be used for the illithid encounter by the pool.  Extra map sections are provided for random encounters or for the DM to expand the adventure.  The longer the journey, the more the PCs can learn about the underworld factions and the more experience they can gain before facing the deeper challenges below.


Early Sumerian and Akkadian artifacts show pictures of a tree or pole that is called the “axis mundi,” or the world axis. It is intended to be the center and support of the world. Guarding this tree or pole is a snake or pair of intertwined snakes. We can see here the beginnings of the association between the snake and the rod that we will see later in the Bible and the caduceus. Also, in Sumer, we have a cylindrical seal that has on it the mythical date palm with its two fruits, life and enlightenment. This tree is copied again in the book Genesis in the Jewish scripture. This tree is guarded by a serpent. Again, this is duplicated in the Bible.

In these early Sumerian/Akkadian myths we meet Etana, the chosen king, later a demi-god, who must find the tree that stands at the center of the earth. This tree is the home of an eagle, who has devoured the young of the serpent who guards the tree. The serpent appeals to the Father god, Shamash, for justice, and Shamash shows the tree how to help the serpent capture the eagle. There exists an early Akkadian seal (ca. 2350 BCE) showing the serpent in human form enthroned with the caduceus emblem behind him and guarding him.

–The Divine Serpent in Myth and Legend, By Robert T. Mason, Ph.D., D.D.
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The axis mundi (also cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, columna cerului, center of the world), in religion or mythology, is the world center or the connection between Heaven and Earth. As the celestial pole and geographic pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet.[citation needed] At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms.[1] Communication from lower realms may ascend to higher ones and blessings from higher realms may descend to lower ones and be disseminated to all.[2] The spot functions as the omphalos (navel), the world’s point of beginning.[3][4]

The image is mostly viewed as feminine, as it relates to center of the earth (perhaps like an umbilical providing nourishment). It may have the form of a natural object (a mountain, a tree, a vine, a stalk, a column of smoke or fire) or a product of human manufacture (a staff, a tower, a ladder, a staircase, a maypole, a cross, a steeple, a rope, a totem pole, a pillar, a spire). Its proximity to heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious (pagoda, temple mount, minaret, church) or secular (obelisk, lighthouse, rocket, skyscraper). The image appears in religious and secular contexts.[5] The axis mundi symbol may be found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices or animist belief systems, in major world religions, and in technologically advanced “urban centers”. In Mircea Eliade’s opinion, “Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.”[6]

Wiki- axis mundi
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The Caduceus
Shamanic function

A common shamanic concept, and a universally told story, is that of the healer traversing the axis mundi to bring back knowledge from the other world. It may be seen in the stories from Odin and the World Ash Tree to the Garden of Eden and Jacob’s Ladder to Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. It is the essence of the journey described in The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The epic poem relates its hero’s descent and ascent through a series of spiral structures that take him from through the core of the earth, from the depths of Hell to celestial Paradise. It is also a central tenet in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.[23]

Anyone or anything suspended on the axis between heaven and earth becomes a repository of potential knowledge. A special status accrues to the thing suspended: a serpent, a victim of crucifixion or hanging, a rod, a fruit, mistletoe. Derivations of this idea find form in the Rod of Asclepius, an emblem of the medical profession, and in the caduceus, an emblem of correspondence and commercial professions. The staff in these emblems represents the axis mundi while the serpents act as guardians of, or guides to, knowledge.[24]

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Svirfnebli have many special abilities, including summoning earth elementals and xorn.  They recently reappeared in the 5th ed Monster Manual as “gnome, deep”, with their own plural name changed to match the singular svirfneblin.  (David Sutherland from AD&D module D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa by Gary Gygax, TSR, 1978.)

Thoopshib the Kuo-Toan monk operates a barge across the Svartjet River deep in the Underdark.  (Dave Trampier from AD&D module D1-2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth, TSR, 1981; originally from D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, 1978.)  Trampier usually signed “DAT” in a lower corner, but occasionally put his full last name upside-down across the top.