Friday, October 26, 2007

Carl Gustav Jung on Wotan

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'What is curious is that an ancient god of storm and frenzy, the long quiescent Wotan, should awake, like an extinct volcano, to new activity, in a civilised country that had long outgrown the Middle Ages. We have seen him come to life in the German youth movement, and right at the beginning, the blood of several sheep was shed in honour of his resurrection.

'Armed with rucksack and lute, blond youths and girls were to be seen restlessly wandering on every road from the North Cape to Sicily, faithful votaries of the roving god. Later, towards the end of the Weimar Republic, the wandering role was taken over by thousands of unemployed. By 1933 they wandered no longer, but marched in their hundreds of thousands. The Hitler movement literally brought the whole of Germany to its feet, from five-year-olds to veterans, and produced the spectacle of a nation migrating from one place to another. Wotan the Wanderer was on the move.

'Wotan is a restless wanderer who creates unrest and stirs up strife and works magic. He was soon changed by Christianity into the devil, and only lived on in fading local traditions as a ghostly hunter who was seen with his retinue (the Wild Hunt) flickering like a will o'
the wisp through the stormy night.


'The German youths who celebrated the solstice with sheep sacrifices were not the first to hear a rustling in the primeval forest of the unconscious. They were anticipated by Nietzsche, Schuler, Stefan George, and Ludwig Klages. The literary tradition of Germany has a classical stamp that cannot easily be got rid of; every interpretation of intoxication and exuberance is apt to be taken back to classical models, to Dionysus.

'No doubt it sounds better to academic ears to interpret these things as Dionysus, but Wotan might be a more correct interpretation. He is the god of storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle; moreover he is a superlative magician and artist in illusion
who is versed in all secrets of the occult.
'We are convinced that the modern world is a reasonable place, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors. I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan's character explain more of National Socialism (Nazism) than all three reasonable factors put together. There is no doubt that each of these factors explains an important aspect of what is going on in Germany, but Wotan explains yet more.

'Perhaps we may sum up this general phenomenon as 'Ergriffenheit' - a state of being seized or possessed. The term postulates not only an 'Ergriffener' (one who is seized) but also an Ergreifer (one who seizes). Wotan is an 'Ergreifer' of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler - which indeed has actually happened - Wotan is really the only explanation. It is true that Wotan shares this possession quality with his cousin Dionysus, but Dionysus seems to have exercised his influence mainly on women. The maenads were a species of female storm-trooper, and according to mythical reports were dangerous enough. Wotan confined himself to the Beserkers, who found their vocation as the blackshirts of mythical kings.

'It seems to me that Wotan hits the mark as an hypothesis. Apparently he really was only asleep in the Kyffhauser mountain until the ravens called him and announced the break of day. He is a fundamental attribute of the German psyche, an irrational psychic factor which acts on the high pressure of civilisation like a cyclone and blows it away. The Wotan-worshippers seem to have judged things more correctly than the worshippers of reason. Apparently everyone had forgotten that Wotan is a Germanic factor of first importance, the truest expression and unsurpassed personification of a fundamental quality that is particularly characteristic of the Germans.

'The emphasis on the Germanic race, the Germanic heritage, blood and soil, the ride of the Valkyries, Jesus as a blond and blue-eyed hero - all this is the indispensable scenery for the drama that is taking place and at bottom they all mean the same thing: a god has taken
possession of the Germans and their house is filled with a 'mighty rushing wind'.

'It was not in Wotan's nature to linger on and show signs of old age. He simply disappeared when the times turned against him, and remained invisible for more than a thousand years, working anonymously and indirectly. Archetypes are like river-beds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time. An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water
will return to its old bed.

'We are driven to conclude that Wotan must, in time, reveal not only the restless, violent, stormy side of his character, but also his ecstatic and mantic qualities. National Socialism will not be the last word. Things must be concealed in the background which we cannot imagine at present, but we may expect them to appear in the course of the future.'


Jung had much more than just an academic interest in Wodhanaz, in fact he came to believe that this god is the true deity of the Germanic peoples of Europe. Of particular interest in this regard was a dream Jung had the night his mother died. In his autobiography, 'Memories, dreams, reflections', Jung writes:

'The night before her death I had a frightening dream. I was in a dense, gloomy forest; fantastic, gigantic boulders lay about among huge jungle-like trees. It was a heroic, primeval landscape. Suddenly I heard a piercing whistle that seemed to resound through the whole universe. My knees shook. Then there were crashings in the undergrowth, and a gigantic wolfhound with a fearful, gaping maw burst forth. At the sight of it, the blood froze in my veins. It tore past me, and I suddenly knew: the Wild Huntsman had commanded it to carry away a human soul. I awoke in deadly terror, and the next morning I received the news of my mother's passing.


'Seldom has a dream so shaken me, for upon superficial consideration it seemed to say that the devil had fetched her. But to be accurate the dream said that it was the Wild Huntsman, the 'Grunhutl', or Wearer of the Green Hat, who hunted with his wolves that night. It was Wotan, the god of my Alemannic forefathers, who had gathered my mother to her ancestors.
'It was the Christian missionaries who made Wotan into a devil. In himself he is an important god - a Mercury or Hermes, as the Romans correctly realised, a nature spirit who returned to life again in the Grail legend. Thus the dream says that the soul of my mother was taken into that greater territory of the self which lies beyond the segment of Christian morality, taken into that wholeness of nature and spirit in which conflicts and contradictions are resolved.

'I went home immediately, and while I rode in the night train I had a feeling of great grief, but in my heart of hearts I could not be mournful, and this for a strange reason: during the entire journey I continually heard dance music, laughter, and jollity, as though a wedding were being celebrated.


'This paradox can be explained if we suppose that at one moment death was being represented from the point of view of the ego, and at the next from that of the psyche (soul). In the first case it appeared as a catastrophe; that is how it so often strikes us, as if wicked and pitiless powers had put an end to a human life....from another point of view, however, death appears as a joyful event. In the light of eternity, it is a wedding, a 'mysterium coniunctionis'. The soul attains, as it were, its missing half, it achieves wholeness.'

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6 comments:

ARTE said...

interestingly enough I had a dream which would fit into Jungs thoughts about Wotan. As a more introverted (german) woman I thought I would always be quite and peaceful..(thats what I am in the outer world for sure)- but after a little quarrel with a femal friend of mine I had a Wotan Dream, telling me, that there is a powerful Archetype in my Psyche..for sure he got stirred up, maybe just to show me that he really exist!

I wanted to travel a dark road (by car) and all of a sudden there was powerful storm - it would blown everything around - but thanks to God I was in my car..I was searching for a way..everything was dark, blwoing, stormy, an isolated little house close to a dark lake - impossible to cross - dark and stormy water and then there were the Ravens, dark, fierce and stormy too...I turned my car and left that aera (of my soul) ..reliefed but also impressed how dark and powerful that part can be. I woke up and immediately thought about the raven as Wotans Raven ! Thats actually the reason I found that blog here...Jung would call it Synchronicity! Thanks Angelika

ARTE said...

again thanks !

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