The Predator Archetype


Image by Matt Mahurin

He is an opportunist, he watches women and he waits. He sees them, not as complete human beings, but as human-objects, as trophies, as a vehicle to boost his own sense of self. He watches the girl in the forest with the red hood and basket; he drives the roads at night, checking the sidewalk for vulnerable flesh. He sits outside the school and watches the kids who walk home alone. He lurks in the shadows of the parking lot at midnight. He stands by the bar taking stock of the drunkest women then focuses on his prey; he edges up behind her… 

Not long ago I had a conversation with a friend, in which she confided her various unwanted sexual experiences. She didn’t use the word ‘rape’ to describe any of them; she acknowledged her own complicity, albeit often under the affects of alcohol.  This brought up the topic of the predator archetype.  Stereotypically, the predator is a continuous threat for women, especially if they haven’t yet realised it, and for men, although they too can be preyed on, the threat of being accused of being a sexual predator is a terrifyingly real concern.  This archetype isn’t necessarily sexual and it isn’t exclusively male, but this is a prevalent theme.

In the external world the predator is threatening and dangerous. Internally, this archetype is treacherous.  Clarissa Pinkola Estés talks about this archetype through the story of Bluebeard, the rich man with the unnervingly blue beard who seduces the youngest of three sisters into becoming his wife, against her older sisters’ better judgement. She is given all the keys to the castle and is allowed to use all but one. Of course, she must try it, who could resist opening Pandora’s box? Unlocking the horror of the grotesque corpses of Bluebeard’s previously murdered wives, she cannot hide, and rather than becoming a victim screaming and pleading to be spared she simply asks for time to make her peace with God, which turns out to be just time enough for her brothers to ride in and kill Bluebeard, saving her.

Estés considers the brothers to be the healthy male animus, the rescuers. The older sisters who do not trust Bluebeard represent intuition, the protagonist in this story is at first the naïve child and then the victim, and as for Bluebeard, he is the saboteur of the psyche. Bluebeard is a shadow archetype. I don’t know if this archetype can actually be killed, but shedding light on the shadow is the natural metaphor for dissolving it.

People of all genders possess the predator archetype.  Sometimes it seduces us into a false sense of security, letting us stray into perilous situations; sometimes it takes the reigns of our personality, manipulating and preying on the weaknesses of other people. Sometimes it runs rampant in sexual fantasies.  Sometimes the fear of being prey confines us to our comfort zones or contributes to obsessive-compulsive patterns.

Astrologically, the predator relates to the powerful shadow side of Scorpio and Pluto.  That is not to say that people with strong Scorpio influence are always predators, the sign is deep and complex, and everyone has Pluto and some Scorpio in their natal chart, it is more a question of where, what and how it manifests. The planets relating to sexuality: Mars and Venus (Pluto relates to sex but is in a sign for so long it is generational) in Scorpio could reflect an archetype with the tendency to exploit power or be exploited sexually.  Saturn is often considered to represent the Shadow in Jungian astrology, perhaps an afflicted Saturn could represent the predator manifesting internally or externally in a strong way. The unconsciousness of Pisces and delusions of Neptune are also relevant to this archetype.

Estés warns that young women are often unaware of the predator and so they fall, time and time again, into his trap, like Barbarella, never doubting or fighting until it is too late.  The friend who confided in me said she felt like she was one of those women, but she has learnt her lesson now. Growing up, I was always warned about creepy, dangerous men. My mother’s anxious fears have taken up residence in me to the point where I have been predominantly safe. I am terrified of the predator, never attracted to him. Perhaps it is the opposite extreme, where I have trouble feeling comfortable around men who do not feel totally ‘safe’ to me.

The predator archetype is everywhere in mainstream Western culture. Sometimes he is constructed as sexy, he is Edward Cullen or Christian Grey. Sometimes he is perverted, ugly and sleazy, he is the serial killer, the rapist.  The predator is the mascot for rape culture. Sometimes his behavior is socially sanctioned, sometimes it’s condemned. It is important to talk about him because it begins to shed some light.

The predator archetype part two


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