Poseidon, Archetype of Emotion, Instinct and the Sea
Poseidon, Ruler of the Sea
Poseidon, Ruler of The Realm of the Sea
Poseidon lived under the sea, the Kingdom that became his after he drew lots with his brothers Zeus and Hades to divide up the world. To grasp how emotional Poseidon can be, think of the powerful motions and moods of the sea. Its waves can be a rough and turbulent force which destroys everything in its path, smashing against the shore, pounding against the rocks. Terrible moods and feelings can flood a person’s emotions in the same manner. When Poseidon emerged raging from his undersea home, all rationality was drowned out.
The ocean in dreams and metaphor represent the unconscious, memories and emotions easily remembered, retrieved, and personal, which lie just below the surface. Various feelings of apprehension or all out fears and doubts that lie beyond what is personally known are in the collective unconscious, in the dark depths of our selves. Water and emotions are symbolically linked, thus making the sea the perfect realm for Poseidon, who reacted emotionally and intensely whenever he was provoked. His symbolic animal was the horse, which represents the beauty and the power of physical instincts. Poseidon’s trident was the symbolic triple phallus, signifying his function to mate with the triple Goddess. It is also a statement about his sexuality and fertility. The carrier of the trident was expected to be a man who is the husband of the Maiden, Mother and Crone, who coexist in these ways: As her mate for life, he is husband to the maiden he married, then to the mother of his children, and in old age to the wise woman that she becomes.
Early Life of Poseidon
Poseidon was portrayed as the God of the Sea, and was known by the Romans as Neptune. He was pictured as a powerful looking male with a big beard, holding a trident. He was also linked with earthquakes and called the Earth-Shaker. His major symbolic animals were horses and bulls. His temperament is his most characteristic feature. Poseidon is bad tempered, violent, vindictive, destructive and dangerous. His presence is usually accompanied by turbulence and tempest, a raging sea. But he also had the power to calm the sea, storms instantly stopped when Poseidon drove his golden chariot drawn by his white horses with golden manes over the waves, while sea monsters frolicked around him.
Like all of his siblings except Zeus, Poseidon was swallowed by his Father Cronus, who feared he would be overthrown by his sons. He was freed from his captivity when Metis helped Zeus formulate a plan making Cronus regurgitate his siblings. Once freed, the brothers fought Cronus and the Titans and won. This is when they drew lots to divide the world, and Poseidon got the sea as his portion. He was not happy with this lot.
He competed with Athena for possession of Athens. Each had to give the citizens a gift. Poseidon stuck his trident into a rock and produced a brackish spring. Athena presented them with the olive tree, which was judged as more useful. He also struggled with Hera over Argos, and dried up all the rivers when he lost. Poseidon also tried to claim Aegina from Zeus and Naxos from Dionysus, but fared no better. He did have a dispute with Helius over Corinth, and got the isthmus, and Helius got the acropolis. Poseidon rebelled against Zeus, but his plots against him were unsuccessful.
Poseidon, Ruler of the Sea
Poseidon's Love Life, Marriage, Children
Poseidon’s first choice of a woman was Thetis, a Nereid or Sea Goddess, but Zeus also desired her. Then Prometheus revealed that Thetis would bear a son who would be greater than his father, so both Gods deserted her. Poseidon then set his sights on Amphitrite, another Sea Goddess, who did not welcome his advances. He overcame and raped her, and she fled to the Atlas Mountains to escape. Finally, Delphinus (or Dolphin) charmingly pleaded Poseidon’s case to her, and she consented to marry Poseidon. He placed Dolphin’s image among the stars as a constellation in gratitude. But the marriage of Poseidon and Amphitrite followed the same as that of Zeus and Hera, as Poseidon was also a philanderer, and Amphitrite felt the same anger and jealous vindictiveness as Hera.
One terrible example of this occurred when Poseidon was enamored of Scylla. Amphitrite threw magic herbs into Scylla’s bathing pool, changing her from a beautiful woman to a barking monster with six heads, each with triple rows of teeth and twelve feet! Scylla inhabited the Straits of Messina, devouring sailors she snatched from the decks of ships as they passed. Medusa also suffered an awful fate because of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Poseidon made love to Medusa in a temple dedicated to Athena, so the Goddess turned Medusa into a disgusting monster with snakes for hair, and merely gazing at her face turned another person into stone.
When poor Demeter searched the world over for Persephone, Poseidon desired her. Demeter saw him in time and turned herself into a mare, hiding in a herd of horses. But Poseidon persisted, changed himself into a stallion, and raped her. It is not apparent what made these Gods think raping a woman would make her want them. It is disgusting to think this an acceptable practice in a Patriarchal society. Especially in Demeter’s case, as she was out of her mind with grief when Hades kidnapped Persephone (whom he also raped) and was hysterically searching for her when Poseidon acted so badly towards her.
Poseidon had three children with Amphitrite, a son and two daughters, and many other offspring, many whom were monsters in mythology. He fathered destructive giants and normal sized children with nasty personalities, much like his own. Odysseus blinded his one-eyed son Polyphemus the Cyclops, and Poseidon pursued Odysseus with hatred, punishing anyone who helped him. Poseidon blocked the harbor with a huge mountain, because seafaring people tried to help Odysseus, and turned the rescue ship into a rock. The Odyssey was made much longer and much more difficult because of Poseidon’s grudge. In fact, of all the Gods, none could hold a grudge longer than Poseidon.
Seas Get Turbulent When Poseidon is Upset
Poseidon Swimming in His Emotional Depths
Pretend you are looking out at a peaceful sea, but know an angry, emotional and resentful God lives just under the surface. He could erupt in fury and pound against whatever is in his way at any time. This archetype is a part of the father that “lost out” to Zeus, and is repressed in men who work at keeping everything under control.
This repression of emotions goes underground, and does not get integrated into the man’s personality. Eventually they can no longer be ignored, and turn into rage, grief, and a primitive urge to wreak havoc on whoever caused the pain, no matter whom it is. Poseidon is also the archetype through which a psychological realm of great beauty and depth can be known. Emotional depth is not appreciated in men’s psyches in many Patriarchal cultures, men are expected to “keep a stiff upper lip” or hold their feelings inside. This emotional hidden depth that is unexpressed is still there, but becomes deep introverted feelings that need to be tapped or expressed in creative outlets of some kind.
Poseidon was the only Olympian God who had access to the water’s depths. He could stay under water for as long as he wanted, or rise quickly by commanding his golden maned horses to go to the surface. So Poseidon is a metaphor for a person who can travel deeply into the world of feeling and gain access to soul and sorrow, great beauty, and the vast profoundness of it all. A man cut off from his emotions will get drunk or do drugs frequently, and drink to hide his pain. While thus plunged into this realm of grief and anger, he will fall apart like a man who is drowning.
On the positive side of the Poseidon archetype, we can find poets, screenwriters, authors, artists, musicians, composers, designers or psychotherapists. To get in touch with these talents, he must tap deeply into the collective human depth of the realm of emotions. Poseidon seeks power over a domain and the respect and control that are due a King. But he lacks strategic thinking skills, cannot be objective because of his excessive emotions, and he gets angry too quickly when things do not go his way. Poseidon is not a good loser, because he does not understand that laws are fair, not personal, and that if land, or power are being taken away from him, it is because he was judged to not be the right person for whatever the task or mission.
Poseidon Loved Wild Horses
Life With A Poseidon Father
Families of Poseidon men are familiar with this father archetype in its most frightening form, when his raw feelings erupt and emotions begin to rage through the household. Many who have been the recipients of a Poseidon’s emotions, especially those of an alcoholic father, may find these intense feelings exist in themselves too. Anyone who has found themselves unexpectedly overwhelmed by intense waves of feeling that attack from within, or have felt their bodies tremble and shake with grief, rage or revenge, has had a firsthand experience of Poseidon, or a panic attack.
We are trained to behave more like the Greek God of Mythology, Zeus, in the world, to devalue and submerge our feelings and instincts, to keep them locked up. Some can do that very well, if they are cool-thinking like the rational Apollo or Athena (Zeus’ favorite children). But not everyone can bottle up their emotions in that way. When one dreams of tidal waves or floods, or has excessive fears of earthquakes and natural disasters, Poseidon’s world threatens to break through the defenses that have been erected. A reoccurring dream of this type is a sign that a person is feeling threatened by certain elements in their lives, and needs to ponder them to see how they can better deal with their fears.
A Poseidon child has strong feelings about everything that is important to him. It is imperative that his focus be diverted into acceptable outlets, because he gets very upset when he does not get what he wants. If he lives with parents who stifle his emotions and do not help him to find and develop his talents for expression, he will be teased a lot in school, especially if he cries. He will learn to mask his feelings if they do not accept him for who he is, especially if one parent is harsh, and will pretend to be calm on the surface while intense emotions are harbored inside.
A better situation occurs if a Poseidon is born into a family with a temperament suited to him, people who are demonstrative, and welcome hugs, emotions, drama, tears, and laughter. He needs to be accepted and valued for whom he is. The worst case scenario is an overly strict parent, who demands obedience, and hits or punishes this young person for showing what is erroneously thought to be unacceptable behavior because the younger one shows sadness and anger. A Poseidon teenager is exceptionally intense. He or she may not be appreciated in school, as they may be more suited to the arts, logic is foreign to them, and they hate being tested.
They could enjoy water sports, or getting involved in the drama of school plays. As the person gets older, he or she will not define his sense of self worth by income or respect from a job, and will not fit in with peers who are goal oriented, who will enjoy corporate positions that have no creativity. He needs work that fulfills his own nature by letting him express his feelings.
A Poseidon can work well in nature, or environmental causes, captaining a deep sea fishing boat, veterinarian or park ranger Any job that allows him expression or that enables him to be enjoying nature while he does it will work out well. A Poseidon will thrive in a job that entails lots of travel, as he bores easily and likes to see different natural sites. But his work must have meaning to him. He trusts his instincts about people, plants, currents, weather and other living creatures.
Poseidon men try to dominate women, or else because of the intensity of his emotions, he may violate her boundaries, without meaning to do so. He will be competitive with a woman who has a career of her own, although if he loves her they may be able to work it out. He is sometimes uncomfortable with other men as most do not wear their hearts on their sleeves. Poseidon men are not all about achievement and status, they just want to feel happy and complete. He can form a friendship sometimes with men who are his psychological opposite, such as a Zeus man.
Plus now we live in times where it is more accepted for men to not only show their feelings, but talk about them. The story of Poseidon’s “courtship” and marriage to Amphitrite show what is necessary before he can commit to one woman. He fell in love with her when he saw her dancing. But he raped her, and frightened her. He felt the loss of this special woman that he could not win back after overpowering her with his intensity. He had to develop the “dolphin” in himself, to be caring, more sensitive, and to be able to communicate with her. If he can evolve in these ways, and convince a woman he loves to voluntarily come with him and not be dominated, they can live happily together in their undersea palace.
The children of a Poseidon can fare either way. If father was accepted for who he was in childhood, all aspects of himself were developed, and felt comfortable with his place in the world, he will be emotionally responsive and demonstrative. He will be a model of a strong man who is unafraid to cry, and always present, not a distant Dad the children never get a chance to see. If as a child he was criticized and punished for being himself, he will be an awful parent. His emotional assaults and sometimes physical ones can carry over to his wife and children. His sons will be traumatized and cowering because of his rage, and may grow up just like him when they are parents themselves. His daughters usually are not that important to him. Because they can tune into the pain that is underneath their father’s behaviors, they may become nurses or therapists, to try to emotionally rescue other people.
Integrating Other Archetypes in a Poseidon Personality
By midlife, most Poseidon men have married and had children. His family is usually the center of his life, for better or worse. Poseidon men who repressed their emotions and adapted to other’s expectations may undergo depression and dramatic shifts in their natures. Even though they may have been successful and achieved status, they may feel that it is personally meaningless. His wife may leave him, and he may make an unconscious effort to reconnect with emotional depth he was formerly pushing away. But it is overwhelming when all these repressed emotions reappear all at once.
As the Poseidon man is in the home stretch of life, he will assess whether he stayed connected to his instincts and feelings. The highest human potential for this type of man is the image of Poseidon himself in control of his chariot with white horses, calming the sea, while its creatures play around him. Everyone senses enormous forces of our own depths, and may fear them. But if they are used in the arts, the artist can bring these issues to the surface. Then the person is “astride” their own instinctual nature, translating fears into human qualities.
A person taken over by changing, subjective feelings, who takes no one else’s feelings or situation under consideration, is selfish, emotionally inappropriate, immature, and unstable. Poseidon men vary from very expressive to being obsessed with emotions to an irrational degree, where he can be considered “out of his mind.” Those around them learn to read the weather reports, or have experience in learning what to expect to survive a potentially destructive wave or quake.
Poseidon people must develop ways to live so their extreme emotions do not overwhelm them. Life in the water realm of Poseidon makes it necessary for him to develop the ability to see circumstances more dispassionately and objectively. Just as artistic or mental skills require encouragement and opportunity for development, so must a talent for feelings.
If Poseidon’s talent and intensity can be expressed through drama, writing, art, or other communications, the archetype of Hermes needs to be learned. He is the Messenger God, who communicated words and guided souls from one level to another. A Poseidon with musical or artistic talent can express himself through these mediums, which evoke strong and tumultuous feelings. They will not be so disruptive if he can find creative outlets.
What is going on in his psyche is then given a form and made into art. Hephaestus, God of the Forge, is another archetype that can help transform Poseidon’s emotions into creativity. Hephaestus was rejected even more than Poseidon, but instead of erupting, he made beautiful and useful objects and inventions. His anger was transformed instead of being destructive. When these other archetypes are active, Poseidon loses the power to flood and take over the personality with too much emotion.
So he can grow as a person by developing other Gods and Goddesses. Some helpful ones would be Apollo, God of the Son, rational and calm, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, or Zeus. These are three examples of Greek Gods of Mythology who represent the chance to think of consequences, to be more objective, and achieve some distance when upset. These are the qualities that a Poseidon needs to develop in order to reach his full potentials.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda, M.D. 1989 Gods in Everyman A New Psychology of Men's Lives and Loves Publisher Harper & Row New York Part 2 Poseidon, God of the Sea, The Realm of Will and Power pgs. 46-72
Campbell, Joseph 1949 The Hero With A Thousand Faces Publisher New World Library Novato, CA Prologue The Monomyth Myth and Dream pg. 9
Campbell, Joseph 1964 Occidental Mythology The Masks of God Chapter 1 The Serpent's Bride pgs. 9-14
© 2011 Jean Bakula