HUNTING: An Archetypal Perspective

Mar 31, 2022

Photo Credit: Vidar Nordli Mathisen via Unsplash

To hunt is to engage the opposites: the hunter must attune and align with nature in order to kill part of it. According to mythographer Joseph Campbell, “the basic hunting myth is of a kind of covenant between the animal world and the human world.” Myth and rituals of sympathy, sacrifice, and gratitude honor the age-old bond between man and animal: one dies so the other may live. If the hunter imposes will alone, hunting becomes ego dominance–sport or slaughter. In traversing the realms from human culture to nature’s archaic terrain, the huntsman echoes and honors the relationship between ego-consciousness and the unconscious. 

For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear…they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth. –Henry Beston


“My extended family were in the process of relocating to a city named Boreham Wood in Tunisia (I checked, it doesn’t exist). It was a sort of fairytale paradise, blue skies, palm trees, and low-standing terracotta houses. They asked me to help with the move by driving my grandma’s electric scooter from Scotland through the desert. Strapped to the sides were two bags filled only with ice and rum. Once I arrived at the new house, I unloaded the alcohol but immediately felt the urge to leave and explore the area. It was clear my family wanted to celebrate my highly anticipated arrival, but I knew couldn’t stay. Instead, I took the scooter and drove into town, winding through the cobbled streets, past gothic arches and flocks of tropical birds. As I approached the city center, a large, dark castle rose in the skyline. At the gates, a young woman was weaving mushrooms from a hook to sell to tourists. I stopped and watched her but didn’t buy anything. I parked the scooter and entered the castle gates. The courtyard was bustling with young families eating lunch from long tables. I wandered around until I stumbled upon a group of disheveled-looking men dressed in grey robes and animal furs. They didn’t pay me much attention, but I was fascinated and struck up a conversation with what appeared to be the leader. He explained that they were a tour group from America called Warriors of The Soul that had been doing annual trips to Boreham Wood since 1992. I could see they had self-inflicted cuts all over their arms, some openly bleeding onto the table. He (the leader) explained that they were mostly vets, recovering addicts, and environmental protesters who were on a journey of healing together. I asked the leader if I could spend the day with him and was immediately invited back to a tower in the castle to see his studio. We left the group and walked to the base of the tower; from there, we climbed a seemingly endless spiral staircase, dilapidated and strewn with trash bags. I remember taking note of the exit signs. Once at the top, I was ushered into the studio. It was dark, cold, and filled with primitive paintings made from human blood. He drew his knife and explained that the canvases were waxed paper, as that allowed the blood to move more freely across the surface, unlike regular paper, which is far too absorbent. He then asked if I would donate blood for his next painting. At that point, I noticed a dead body under the drawing desk and tried to move the conversation back to the wax paper. I asked if the toxins were harmful if used when baking. This seemed to work, as he began extolling that yes, never use wax paper when baking. At this point, I turned on my heels and ran back down the stairs, bounding three at a time. He sprinted after me, brandishing the knife and laughing. I knew I’d be safe if I got to the exit signs, but they didn’t appear. Instead, the staircase began to climb again, twisting and turning like a rabbit warren. He started gaining on me and nicked my thumb with the knife, but eventually, I came to a window with a Brooklyn-style fire escape. I smashed the glass and shimmied down the ladder, my legs and thumb bleeding. As I descended, he laughed at me continuously. Once on the ground, I ran back to the scooter, only to realize I didn’t know how to get home. I couldn’t call because I didn’t have my phone and I couldn’t buy bandages for my cuts as I didn’t have a wallet. Then I awoke.” 


Anna Braytenback, Animal Communicator. https://www.animalspirit.org/

The Great Dance: A Hunter’s Story (documentary). Craig Foster and Damn Foster. https://www.amazon.com/Great-Dance-Hunters-Story/dp/B074G43NYT

Eleanor Wilner, Hunting Manual (poem): https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42971/hunting-manual

Eric Fromm. The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. https://www.amazon.com/dp/080501604X/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_JAETSJ4S52DE4N19XYC5

Yuval Harari. Sapiens. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0063051338/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_M4XT8Y4VQWPN43JZ8PEF?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Henry Beston. The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0140043152/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_YG8701XC4Q358473D67A

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