Zeus, Archetype of the Sky, Power, and Supremacy
Zeus Was the God of the Sky
Zeus was the most powerful God of Greek Mythology and of Mt. Olympus, able to rule from the heights of that distant mountain. He and his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, drew lots to divide the world into three parts. Zeus took the sky to rule, Poseidon received the sea, and Hades got the underworld.
The Earth and Mt. Olympus were supposed to be under the jurisdiction of all three brothers, but Zeus dominated from his lofty position in the sky and ruled everything. Life in the sky can cause one to lose touch with the Earth and the people on it, so although Zeus had a good overview, he could “see the forest, but not the trees”.
He was the God of lightning, symbolized by the thunderbolt, which he loved to hurl. Zeus could also make it rain, providing water for crops, depending on his moods. Plant life either flourished or died, depending on how Zeus used his powers. He could be either generous or mean spirited, an example of the saying, “Absolute power, corrupts absolutely.” People in our times become like Zeus when they crave power and have a desire to rule over others, so they will be both feared and respected, and people will be forced to depend on them. A person with Zeus characteristics exudes control, reason, will, and the ability to take decisive actions.
On his Way to Power and Supremacy
Zeus was the youngest child of Cronus and Rhea. He had five older siblings, three sisters and two brothers, whom were swallowed by Cronus because he feared his children would grow to be more powerful than he. Rhea finally tricked Cronus when she gave birth to Zeus, and fed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, hiding Zeus in a cave. Zeus met wise Metis when he was older, and she helped Zeus give Cronus an emetic, causing him to vomit up his children, and the stone. Zeus freed his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, then he and others helped overthrow Cronus and the Titans, who ruled from Mount Olympus after a ten year battle. Zeus then became a good military strategist and successful alliance maker.
Zeus was a philanderer, and had a long series of affairs with women deities, nymphs, and mortals, through which he fathered divine qualities, most of the second generation of the Olympians. Zeus had seven official consorts, ending with Hera. They were Metis, Themis, Eurynome, Demeter, Mnemosyne, Leto, and Hera. Most of these were older Goddesses, who were worshiped before Zeus came into power, so their divinities were secondary to his.
Hera’s birth rank was equal to Zeus’s, as she was a daughter of Rhea and Cronus. Zeus became determined to seduce her. He turned himself into a shivering, helpless bird, whom Hera took pity on, so she held the bird close to warm it. Immediately, Zeus shed his disguise, and tried to seduce her, but Hera prevailed and insisted that he marry her. This marriage resulted in a honeymoon period that lasted three hundred years, but then Zeus returned to his cheating and promiscuous ways, causing Hera much humiliation and jealousy. Her reputation did not suffer from Zeus’s indiscretions however, and Hera was worshipped and greatly revered as the Goddess of Marriage.
Zeus fathered numerous children, but he was the first of the Greek Gods to be capable of being generous, protective and trusting towards his sons and daughters. When Dionysus’s mother died pregnant with him, Zeus sewed the fetus into his thigh, and carried him in this way until his birth. He gave his daughter Artemis whatever she needed to be Goddess of the Hunt, bows and arrows, hounds, whatever companions she needed. He gave Athena symbols of his power, and settled a dispute between Apollo and Hermes when Hermes stole cows from his elder half-brother, and they once again became friends
But Zeus did have a dark side as a parent as well. He allowed Hades to abduct and rape Persephone, and did not react to her cries for help. He threw Hephaestus from the top of Mt. Olympus when the boy sided with his mother in a fight, causing him to have a clubfoot. Zeus’s son Ares was rejected by his father, which had a big psychological affect on him all his life. A “Zeus” man does want to have children, but he expects them to be obedient and to carry out his will. He plays favorites, and cares more for the competitive children who most resemble him.
God of Thunder and Lightening
Zeus Wants Power, Authority and Dominion
A “Zeus” man is one who exerts power, authority and dominion over whatever is his chosen profession, taking their cue from the Greek God of Mythology. These are men who play “King of the Mountain” as boys, and succeed at it as men. They are ambitious and have the abilities to establish areas where they are the chief authority, and this is where a Zeus type will establish his “kingdom.” Donald Trump would be considered a "Zeus" man in our times.
This archetype normally wants to get married and have children so his kingdom will be handed down to another generation. He views his children as extensions of himself, and expects his wife to handle all the childcare and household activities, while he remains involved as little as possible. His family is only part of his ideal though, he does not wish to work for someone else, and will start his own business. This archetype can be expressed when a man is born into a family of wealth and power, such as the Kennedys or both Presidents Bush in the U.S. The Zeus type wants to keep extending the boundaries of his kingdom, to keep growing his economic power, real estate, and prestige.
A "Zeus" is always looking for what he wants or needs to acquire. He goes after it single-mindedly until it is his. But if what he wants does move out of his grasp, he can think fast and change directions. Zeus can quickly cut his losses and move on.
A successful Zeus works cooperatively with other powerful people. He is in his element when at important meetings, determining boundaries, and making agreements. His word is his bond, and he expects others to look out for their own interests as he does. In our times, Zeus alliances are made with bankers and builders, communications and computer experts, bureaucrats and donors. The titles are different, but the game is the same. Zeus does favors for people, but a time comes when he “calls in a favor.” Some may recall this archetype from The Godfather trilogy or the Sopranos TV show.
What traits comprise a “Zeus” like person in our day and age? He is a baby who shows a strong will right from the beginning. He needs to be taught fairness and justice at home and school. As he gets older, he will be outgoing while playing with other kids, becoming the leader of the group. He is unhappy playing alone and is not dreamy or introverted. He needs a strong willed mother, not someone who gives in to his every whim.
The worst parents for a “Zeus” child is a weak mother and an abusive father who likes to throw his weight around. If the child is treated badly, he will learn to identify with aggressors. Then he will tease children he perceives as weaker than him in school and at play. A Zeus son of an emotionally distant father will admire Dad if he helps him get ahead in the world as he gets older. If “Zeus” also has a nurturing mother who teaches him manners and social skills, he will grow up with a sense of entitlement, but will have confidence in himself and his place in the world.
As an adolescent, he may have issues with authority figures. But he can bide his time and cooperate, as he has good strategy skills and will not engage in power struggles he cannot win. A Zeus is a natural leader in high school, usually dating popular girls and becoming sexually active at a young age. He is a pragmatist, he understands the world, and can assess how he fits into a situation. He is bright, but not overly intellectual or introspective, making him an emotionally shallow person.
Zeus is a hard worker or alpha male, even from the time he has his first part time job. He can size people up quickly, and always has his eye on the “big picture.” He never passes up an opportunity. He understands “old boy” networking, and acquiring money and power is a game he plays well. He does not take other people all that seriously. He is realistic, confident, and does not take things personally. As his position in a company rises, he can easily fire people and give orders that are unreasonable and insist they be accomplished. His emotional distance keeps him from wasting thoughts on people’s feelings, or worrying about the consequences of his acts.
Zeus Was a Big Philanderer
Just like a Greek God of Mythology, Zeus understands that today’s allies can be tomorrow’s competition, and vice versa. People should never let themselves think they matter personally to a Zeus, because they do not. Everyone is expendable, and he expects others to feel the same way about him. He appears ruthless, but realizes it is bad form to make enemies, so this is where his ability to negotiate and come to agreements is handy. Zeus thinks vulnerability or a show of emotions is stupid and weak.
He is in his element at fancy restaurants or cigar bars where “real men” eat lunch, play golf or go hunting together, as membership in exclusive places are bastions of power that serve his purposes. He has made it to the top if he is welcome in the company of other men who have reached this pinnacle of success. Here he is surrounded with other men who devoted all their energies to acquiring power, but have remained immature or undeveloped psychologically.
Zeus the philanderer was always getting women pregnant and fathering numerous offspring. He sees an attractive woman as a “perk”, or another measure of his success. He may view her as another acquisition, want her sexually, or all of the above. But Zeus is not really a good lover! To be one, other archetypes would have to be present in him.
Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s research on Greek Goddess and God archetypes in Mythology have greatly enhanced her psychotherapy practice. She learned that all people have several archetypes in their personalities. Dr. Bolen is a Jungian analyst who found that the study of Greek Gods in Mythology was helping her patients by showing her which god's or goddess's traits were needed to cultivate to help them to get well. Zeus is emotionally distant, does not have an earthy nature (he is the Sky God), he does not feel he has to try to please a woman, and a distant person is not passionate. He is sexually aggressive, and can act seductive, but can also bury his sex drive in his work for long periods of time.
Zeus's Children Were Disguised as Stones
A Zeus Family Must Look Successful
Since Zeus is so concerned with achieving power, other facets of his personality often become stunted. He has little capacity for intimacy, so cannot express himself well even with those whom he cares about most. His choice of partners reflects this lack, and as he grows older, his partners may get younger and younger, a classic example of an aging man who carries on with a series of young, compliant girls. A Zeus usually marries up or at least to an equal. This happens often in real life, when an ambitious man marries a woman from a wealthy family and gets status and wealth from this relationship. An example of this is the man who marries the boss’s daughter. The choice of a wife who will aid his climb up the social ladder may be a calculated one, or an unconscious one. Most Zeus men do marry during the phase of life when they are establishing themselves, if he is young and needs her help to shape his life, this match is crucial.
If the Zeus archetype is not the strongest in him, he may marry a woman he actually loves. She would normally be an unsuitable wife for a Zeus, but will keep him in touch with his emotions and spirituality, unfamiliar terrain for him. But however a wife influences him, his power in the marriage will dominate her and they will have a traditional patriarchal marriage revolving around his needs. If he cheats on her, and she is a Hera type, she may end up as a jealous and insecure woman. If he does love her, and cares about the pain he is causing her, he may grow emotionally as a result. But most Zeus men have no time for their wives once the courtship and honeymoon are over. He will say all he does is for her and the family. So it is a marriage that is not very personal, intimate, and doesn’t get much of his attention.
A Zeus father wants to found a dynasty as part of his personal vision. He may help his children to get ahead in the world. He is emotionally distant and unavailable to them as well. But he still has the authority in the family. Zeus fathers try to mold their children into what they want them to be. It is true these offspring can have great abilities from the education and opportunities and connections he can provide. But his perceptions of his children often are not accurate, and his values and prejudices carry a lot of weight to them. They may really want his approval, but it is very likely they will never receive it.
Midlife is when successful Zeus men know they have arrived at the top. This only means that he reaches a personally set, meaningful goal and finds that it satisfies him. Now maybe he can relax and enjoy his life more. This can also be a time of emotional difficulties, because now he has to face neglected parts of himself or his relationships. His adolescent children may be getting into trouble, his wife may divorce him, he may have serious health issues because all he did was work to get ahead.
He may then find himself rejected by his family, bitter, and without people who care about him. After all, he did not put any effort into relationships outside of work. He may come out of this period more humbled, and reconstruct or try to live his life differently now. Some Zeus men had important relationships while climbing to the top, and are happy to be able to spend time with people they care about. He may mentor others, or deepen his friendships. A health crisis of a loved one may also be the thing that wakes him up to realize how precious some people are to him.
Zeus Fears his Children Will be Better than Him
Like other Greek Gods of Mythology who were afraid their sons would be better than them, Zeus may have undermined his sons and daughters, and have no competent heir. He then may try to control his assets even from the grave by leaving instructions in a will. Zeus’s tendency to live in his head forces him to cut off his bodily experiences or his sensual self. He may keep himself in good physical shape, but that is mastery over the body, not enjoyment of it. He is cut off from his heart and unable to communicate or connect with others. When other people take emotional stances, he is dismissive of them. In wars, for example, Zeus men are the ones who send the younger men into battle to die, while they sit in a safe room making plans, and are in no physical danger themselves. They study the battle plans, but it’s all like a video game to them. Their distance allows them to disregard the thought they are ruining younger men and women’s lives. Plus power and paranoia go together, and men at the top live in fear of being overthrown.
Zeus men often are unaware they have issues until a major life crisis makes it impossible for them to ignore it any longer. Growth can only happen after they experience humility and vulnerability. The lack of introspection and emotional distance makes it so Zeus does not realize how cut off he is from others, then he understands something is seriously wrong. When he wakes up, the message is usually a note from the wife who leaves him, the adult child who confronts him with, “You do not even know me at all”, and when the whole family wants nothing to do with him. Only after they are gone does he feel the pain of what he missed.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda, M.D. 1989 Gods In Everyman A New Psychology of Men's Lives and Loves Publisher Harper & Row New York Zeus, God of the Sky, The Realm of Will and Power pgs. 45-71
Campbell, Joseph 1904-1987 The Hero With A Thousand Faces From The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell Publisher New World Library Novato, CA Zeus,Thunderbolt Pg.155 Initiation pg.124 Rescue From Without pg.185
Campbell, Joseph 1964 Occidental Mythology The Masks of God Publisher Penguin Group New York Great Rome C. 500 B.C.- 500 A.D. pgs. 345-347
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Jean Bakula