What is an Archetype?

The word “archetype” can loosely be translated into “prototype” and can be best explained with an image. We imagine a beautiful horse. This horse is the horse of all horses, the perfect horse. Now, a see-through veil floats down and covers the horse. This changes the appearance of the horse but we still recognize it. Perhaps we fill in some of the missing details to make up for what has been obscured. As time goes on, more and more layers of veils in all possible colors and patterns float down to cover the original horse. These layers are cultural, historical, and religious and vary largely from one area of the world to another. The view of our perfect horse has changed remarkably. In today’s world we end up with “My Little Pony” in cartoons, we find workhorses used for dragging felled trees in Siberia, we hear fairy-tales about white horses in Germany, and “Trojan Horse” is a worldwide metaphor for computer viruses today. Despite vastly different expressions of “horse,” because of our archetypal memory we can easily recognize the “horseness” in all the listed variations of our original prototype.