The Slave Archetype

The slave archetype is almost always seen in the shadow. We understand what it means to be utterly under the control of someone else. This control can be so absolute that a person in the clutches of the shadow slave loses her identity altogether. She has no concept of free will.

The slave in the shadow can appear soulless, to have lost all sense of value. A commodity to be passed around and used up, this person is either at or beyond the brink of despair.

Somehow, the slave archetype keeps going on, toiling day after day. It seems totally unfair that her body will not give out. In the darkest hour, she wishes that it would. Yet, here she is day after day still going through the motions on autopilot with no sense of her surroundings, no light in her eye.

Most people are slaves to time. Many will confess to also being slaves to money in some aspect or another. We do need money to buy food and put a roof over our heads.

We can be a slave to our fears, allowing what terrifies us to wrap us in chains.

Symbolism of the Slave

Is it possible to view the slave in the light aspect at all? Is there anything positive about this archetypal pattern? If we are going to say that every archetype has a light and a shadow, the rule must also apply here.

Remember that archetypes are patterns of power. Here we are talking larger than the literal and looking at the symbolic. The pattern of this archetype has a gifted, light side when viewing it outside of the institution of slavery. This is not just about the literal subservience of a slave to a master, but the symbolic look at what you are a slave of in your life.

Think of the mother who’s child is seriously disabled. Unable to walk, talk or take care of himself, the child relies entirely on his mother even into adulthood to literally keep him alive. This mother is the slave in the light. Selfless, unquestioning, and at the mercy of her child’s needs, the mother does what’s needed for her son.

Slaves to Our Bodies

We are slaves to our bodies. This becomes glaringly obvious when illness, injury or handicap is a factor. When our bodies limit what or how much we can do we feel the shackles around our wrists. We can fight the chains and increase our suffering and drain the energy we need to heal. On the other hand, we can practice acceptance, rather than resignation, of what is.

The light aspect of the slave archetype helps us obediently answer to the needs of our body and calmly surrender to rest. When treating illness, our days revolve around doctor’s appointments, pauses to regain strength, and taking in of specific meals and medicines. The less we complain about the way life is, the more fully we can tend to our health.

Think of the mother with cancer who is committed to surviving so she can be there for her young children. She must go on. There is no question in her mind. She does everything that’s needed to survive. She is a slave to the doctor’s orders and to the needs of her body.

We call it a fight against cancer, and the strength of the warrior archetype can be most helpful in this journey. However, there are times even the warrior loses hope. How does one fight something we can’t see with the naked eye? What happens when the weapons against the disease turn on the body instead? What is this constant resistance? Who has energy for that? Who wants to live what could be her last days in a continual state of conflict and disharmony?

The Light Side of the Slave

This is where the slave archetype in the light can step in and carry the burden. This ability of the slave to go on in the face of inhumane levels of agony and exhaustion can serve us. Here is the completely unbelievable capacity to put one foot after the other when hope was lost so long ago. She may dissolve, she may no longer know herself, but she still goes on for her family.

Life is the master. The force of life is in charge of us. We are in service to it.

Keywords for the slave in the light aspect are surrender and acceptance. Surrender is not the same as resignation. It is not giving up as a weaker force, but dissolving into a larger being. At times in life we all can be called to hand ourselves over and do what needs to be done. The slave in the light has us engage in necessary action without question or resistance. We can achieve greatness when handing ourselves completely over the life we’ve been given.

The slave archetype in the light replaces concerns over free will with acceptance of divine will.

Inner Freedom

There is another hidden power within this controversial archetype – the soul. The slave archetype in the light aspect knows that the divine light within her can never be commanded. Her soul is so vast that it can never be caged. This is the quadriplegic scholar and the amputee olympian. Think of the poor nun who, rather than lament being a slave of poverty, changes the world.

By tapping into the inner knowing that you are powerful beyond measure despite what the outside circumstances show, you are accessing the slave archetype in the light. By being with the truth that the soul, and you, are eternally free you can carry on through any hardship.

The other side of the coin to the slave is the liberator. You can read my article on the liberator archetype here.


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About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

stacey couch spiritual directorStacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks.  She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.