Santa’s Archetypes


Santa’s professional and logistical challenges are immense–and never-ending. No sooner does one Christmas season end then the next one demands attention. What makes someone want to step into this grinding role? Actually, a great way to cast a light on anyone’s motives is to look at someone’s behavior through the Jungian lens of archetype.

Archetypes are patterns or structures common to all people cross-culturally. Part of the core human experience, these archetypes can be seen as storylines that define with a particular meaning and context the events of life. Carol Pearson has identified twelve common archetypes and produced a psychological tool (the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® or PMAI®) to assist people in identifying for themselves the archetypes that hold the most sway in their lives. While Pearson’s model includes twelve archetypes, my observations on Santa’s archetypes focus on only three of them: the Innocent, the Caregiver and the Magician.

innocent_300dpi Innocent Archetype. The story the Innocent archetype sees, understands and lives is one that asserts and needs to believe that the world is a place of hope and a happy tomorrow, a world in which faith and trust are justly bestowed on people and systems worthy of being believed in. The Innocent archetype helps us trust, hope and believe that a better day lies ahead. This has to be Santa, who is clearly driven by faith and trust and the Innocent’s assumption that all will be well and all wounds healed if only we believe.

Caregiver Archetype. The story the Caregiver archetype sees, understands and lives is one that asserts that caregiver_300dpipeople’s needs require and deserve attention and tending to as a primary focus, even at the expense of the needs of the one giving care. This care and giving is done (much like a parent might do) from a position of power. In this archetype, however, it is not the exercise of power that is the motive, but the drive to bestow care on those who need it–the care, concern and nurturing they lack but deserve.

So, what could Santa be but a Caregiver? He is about giving to others, tending to their needs and not taking anything in return save a cookie, some eggnog and maybe a shot of liquor every now and then. He’s a powerful guy–remember he has the positional authority to decide who gets the iPhone 7 and who gets only socks, but if we’re good and if we believe, Santa will make sure we get everything we want. Santa’s a Caregiver.

magicianMagician Archetype. The story the Magician archetype sees, understands and lives is one that transforms reality by reframing it, realigning our understanding and shifting the very paradigms on which we have here-to-fore rested. Though Pearson’s model is secular, the idea of the holy man or woman who transforms lives and understanding through an infusion of spirit or a fundamental paradigm shift is included within this archetype. It is the Magician archetype that helps us transform and transcend current reality to find new ways of dealing, being and succeeding.

A critical element of Santa’s story is the magical transformation–from the rising up a chimney by the touch of his nose and his annual circumnavigation of the globe with his flying reindeer to his century-long efforts to transform a fitful and suffering world into one filled with gratitude, compassion and love–one child’s heart at a time. This drive toward emotional and spiritual transformation suggests that Santa is a Magician as well.

While there are other archetypal strands that give Santa’s life and efforts meaning, I think his primary archetypes are Innocent, Caregiver and Magician, which, when braided together yield a story that is about hope, compassion and transformation.

What are your archetypes? Find out by reading OKA’s Narrative Intelligence Workbook.  Keep in touch with OKA to learn about the launch of the newly revised PMAI, the first major revision of this innovative tool–expected in 2018.

Enjoy the exploration and have a wonderful holiday.

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