The three main archetypes of ancient times

My week of study of Ice Age and a review of Celtic art reveals three principal archetypes: Source, Abundance, Bridge.

With no current internet connection (this blog post done at an internet cafe) I have spent the alternative time I would have spent on the internet studying Ice Age art and a review of Celtic art in books.

I have identified three principal archetypes worth mentioning, to which I gave nicknames. I shall write a brief description for each, they provide a new way of seeing reality.


Also known as the Earth Goddess, or Venus, this figure remains potent today as it did in ancient times.  In the Ice Age the Source was depicted as a Venus figure, a simple vulva, a horse, and sometimes as a mammoth.  The horse connection with the Source remained significant into Celtic times.

Ancient people were inventive in how they portrayed the Source, including using fissures in the rock, and any places where water emanated.  The moon, water, and the colour red was associated with the Source.

The two roles the Source has is rebirth and death.  From the Source everything emerges, but only in potential form.  I think that everything that comes from the Source are spirits that are wrapped in the form of rocks, trees, animals.  I say rebirth rather than birth, because the Source is a recycling engine, animals that die return to the Source to be remade and sent back into the outside world.  Death is symbolised as cats, raptor birds and owls.  Rebirth is symbolised as swans, corvids (ravens, crows), cows and horses. In later times cauldrons and holy grails became associated with rebirth.

The Source has no mind, nor is it creative or destructive.  The Source is a mindless receiving and launching point for all of creation.


What emerges from the Source is Abundance, symbolised often as a bison or bull, and in Celtic times as a salmon or boar. The Abundance is only in potential, it is the Christmas present running around the earth waiting for someone to open it.  Abundance is all those spirits waiting with their gifts to be released.  Abundance is also shown in association with the Source as fruit, a bison horn, a cornucopia, water,  barley, a baby, or flowing hair.  In abstract symbol it is also shown as ripples, or multiple circles coming from a hollow circle.


This archetype has two faces: destruction and creation.  The Bridge is the one who brings forth the kinetic or active expression of Abundance.  The bison or bull is displayed with the Bridge plunging a knife or spear into it, and thus bringing forth the gifts hidden within.  The hunter becomes the Bridge when he kills the bison, which results in tools, food and clothing for the tribe; thus the bison or bull is a popular symbol of Abundance.

Bridge is associated with the sun, the bear, the hunter, with deer and a horned man.  The Bridge is Logos, Jesus, Lugh, Prometheus, Silvanus, Apollo, Mercury, Mithras, in that it is bringing forth strength, fertility, health, wisdom, skills and arts into the world.  The Bridge as hunter kills the animal to bring forth food; the Bridge is the farmer bringing forth crops by ploughing the land; the Bridge is the king who acts for the prosperity of his people; the Bridge is the poet who draws out the poem to inspire; the Bridge is the shaman who draws out hidden wisdom.

The Bridge has a face of the destroyer, the symbol which is a ram, an ibex, a goat; the one who symbolises the winter of the world.  It is only through destruction, through strife that Abundance is released.  The farmer wounds the land through ploughing to bring forth crops; sex is a violent and creative act to bring forth young; the bison must die in a violent fight for the tribe to benefit from its food.

In initiation rituals the young boy dies in order to become the man.  The “wounded man” images on Ice Age caves reveals that only through “dying” and being reborn does the man emerge.  In similar ways the quest for the Holy Grail must end in death, then a rebirth.  It is a harsh reality that to be creative, to change, to progress, destruction of the old must happen first.  Mithras kills the bull to bring forth new life on the earth; Jesus must die in order to “save”; Esus must cut down the tree to bring forth life.  The destruction comes first, the winter, then the sun emerges, and creation is released.

In summary the Source produces hidden Abundance, and Bridge manifests and reveals the hidden Abundance through an action of destruction and then creation to benefit their people.  The three principal archetypes: Source, Abundance and Bridge exist in all cultures and all eras; any additional archetypes are usually spinoffs of some aspect of these three principal archetypes.


5 responses to “The three main archetypes of ancient times

  1. Great article, could you expand on the ‘Ear of Wheat’ as a symbol, im researching this at the moment, with mostly the Shiboleth material emerging.

    • Hi Otove, you can see a coin of the Celts from my town of Colchester, which shows an “Ear of Wheat” symbol at the following link:
      The Celtic rulers liked to express and “invite” prosperity aka abundance by using symbols of it in their coinage. Colchester is situated in land that is highly fertile, and where considerable wheat was grown, hence this became a natural symbol by the Celts in Colchester to express the blessings of the Mother Goddess archetype.

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