chapter
Wise Old Man/Woman
Various Motifs
ByPeter L. De Rose
Pages 4

Sometimes a wizard, hermit, teacher, shepherd, seer, priest, or crone, the wise old man or woman bestows wisdom, useful knowledge, or a charm that is beneficial to the hero. In "The Phenomenology of Spirit in Fairytales," Jung defines the wise old man as a spiritual archetype in "the guise of a magician, doctor, priest, teacher, professor, grandfather, or any other person possessing authority," who always appears when "insight, understanding, good advice, determination, and planning. The protective figure in American Indian mythology of the Southwest is Spider Woman, an underground, grandmotherly personage friendly to humans. Apart from wisdom, the old man or woman often embodies a moral dimension as well: he or she will test a character and then reward or punish that character. Psychologically, the figure of the wise old man or woman in these tales represents the spiritual function of the personality welling up from the unconscious.