Crop Circles, Jung & the Reemergence of the Archetypal Feminine

Self Archetype &  Mandala Symbol


The circle is a symbol of the Self.  It expresses the totality of the psyche in all its aspects, including the relationship between man and the whole of nature. (Jung, 1964, p. 266)

Self Archetype:  The term Self refers to the psychological principle within us which directs our growths and towards which we are unconsciously striving.  “[It is] the principle of coherence, structure, organization that governs balance and integration of psychic contents.”29    The activity of the Self archetype, and its image as circle, is an expression of the instinct that all living systems have to continuously renew themselves and to regulate this process in such a way that the integrity of their structure is maintained.   Like the Nautilus shell whose spiral repeats the same pattern while simultaneously growing into larger physical size, the Self archetype preserves our inherent harmony while allowing for our growth into greater consciousness; it is the energy within us that draws together a healthy ego, and it is also the container in which and from which this growth occurs.

 Through the ritual action [of drawing the circle], attention and interest are led back to the inner, sacred precinct, which is the source and goal of the psyche and contains the unity of life and consciousness. (Jung, CW vol. 13, par. 36)

Mandala Symbol:    For thousands of years, human cultures have used the circular, geocentric forms that we universally speaks of as Mandalas (Sanskrit: magic circle) as a part of traditional healing practices.  Expressing the same inner compulsion towards re-alignment of psyche, cultures worldwide use this form: the quadrate stained glass windows of churches and cathedrals serve to exalt the soul towards peace and inner contemplation in the West; in the east, Zen Buddhists drawings of concentric circles symbolize stages of inner perfection and the progressive harmonization of the spirit;30 in the process of Tibetan and Navajo sandpainting, the mandala serves to place the mind into the right perspective and reflects a view of the universal–the Mandala’s center is the center of the cosmos.31  The use of such forms as a device for cosmological re-orientation is ubiquitous in religious and mythic symbolic tradition.  Likewise, in the inner world Mandala images often appear at times of confusion (as a guidepost), they can act as a light in the darkness.  A symbol both of the destination and the route to get there, they are instruments that help order to be brought into being.32  Producing dreams and fantasies of concentric images in the mind's eye, they act as healing vehicles during periods of dissociation and conflict.  Images effecting this function are most basically circular or concentric and their centrality reflects their re-introduction of a containing and unifying principle.  Arriving spontaneously in moments of disorientation as a compensatory unifying symbol, these symbols offer the possibility of healing and a return to balance. 

Jung found [such] symbolism occurring spontaneously in the dreams and visions of many of his patients.  Its appearance was incomprehensible to them, but it was usually accompanied by a strong feeling of harmony or of peace. (Fordham, 1953, p. 66)

Psychologically, the Self cannot be fully expressed.  Although we can observe its patterning both intrapsychically and as it is expressed externally, we cannot bottle it: “it is a symbol, yet you can talk about it, you can explain it.  But you can never explain what the Self is, because the Self in itself is unthinkable.“ 33 Participation in traditions of ritual dance, procession, pilgrimage, sandpainting, and other ceremonies using concentrically arranged form can be understood as offering a living experience of a symbol's pre-rational mystery; as Bachofen describes: “[it] is precisely the great dignity of the symbol, that it . . . leads from the truths of the physical life to those of a higher spiritual order.”34


Grain Symbol

 Where the first characteristic of this phenomenon, its shape, finds a coherent reflection in the psychological nature of the Self archetype, its second characteristic, its media, the living grains in which we find it, also has a clear archetypal association.  Formed in the cereal crops that have sustained us for thousands of years, and constructed in living stock, Crop Circles echo the figures who have been celebrated across Europe and the world in association with the fruit of the harvest since before recorded history.  Cultures around the world that have produced corn, rice, wheat, barley, and all of the staple grains of civilization, have worshipped the divinities whom they believed protected and sustained their crops.  Human adoration of these figures has traditionally been predominantly directed towards the form of feminine images, Goddesses of life and vegetation.35

As goddess of earth and fertility . . . the Great Goddess is everywhere the ruler over the food that springs from the earth, and all the usages connected with man’s nourishment are subordinated to her.  She is the goddess of agriculture, whether its product be rice, corn or wheat, barley, tapioca, or any other fruit of the soil.  For this reason the Great Mother is frequently associated with a vegetable symbol: in India and Egypt with the lotus; as Isis, Demeter, or later the Madonna with the rose.  Flower and fruit are among the typical symbols of the Greek Mother-Daughter Goddess holds in her hands; the ear of grain is the symbol of the goddess of Ras Shamra, of Ishtar and Demeter, of Ceres and Spess, and of the Madonna, who in her character of Earth Mother is the ‘Madonna of the sheaves.’  (Neumann, the Great Mother, p. 261-2)

While in the literal sense of these myths, farming, and its seeding, waiting, and growing are worshipped in relation to the female body, in their symbolic context, these rituals are best understood as vehicles for speaking to the observance of something greater than one gender’s particular biology.  As an expression of a living awe, these Goddess images draw one up past the female sex’s bounty of reproductivity and nurturance into the majesty of the archetypal Feminine, a category with which we each participate regardless of our gender. 

The mystery of the female body is the mystery of birth, which is also the mystery of the unmanifest becoming manifest in the whole world of nature.  This far transcends the female body and woman as carrier of the image, for the body of the female of any species leads through the mystery of birth to the mystery of life itself. (Baring & Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, p. 8)


Eleusian Mysteries

[Here the] idea lost everything confusing and became a satisfying vision . . . Eleusis was the place of the finding of the Kore [Persephone].  In this finding something was seen–no matter through what symbols–that was objective and subjective at once.  Objectively, the idea of the goddess regaining her daughter, and therefore herself, flashed on the experient’s soul.  Subjectively, that same flash of revelation showed him his own continuity, the continued existence of all living things.  The not-knowing, the failure to understand that attached to the figure of the grieving Demeter, ceased.  The paradox contained the living idea–that, in motherhood, death and continuity are one in the losing and finding of the Kore–is now resolved. (Kerenyi, p. 142)

In the initiation rituals of the ancient Greek temple at Eleusis, initiates were drawn through the drama of the mourning process of the Goddess Demeter following the abuction of her daughter Persphone by the God of the Underworld Hades.  Taken literally, this drama reacts the loss of spring to winter’s darkness and her eventual return to us annually.  However, taken psychologically the grain symbol was used to represent the human capacity for rebirth, following a period of darkness and descent.  Just as the seed must be planted into the ‘dead’ ground of earth, so in such rituals is a place is given to the value of decay; in order for something to be gained, something needed to be lost.  Psychologically the ‘death’ of knowing, the loss of the currently held conscious view, is shown to be necessary to this process.  Finding the ‘lightness of heart’36 of the initiate required that their previously held way of looking at the world, their ego’s personal and finite perspective, and its unconscious roots, be undermined.  At the ceremony’s climax–her daughter’s return, the participants, men and women alike, felt themselves to be identified with the Goddess and felt reborn with her child.  Here Jung points out, one is invited to a feeling of infinity –“as a transcendental idea, immortality cannot be the object of experience, hence there is no argument either for or against.  But immortality as an experience of feeling is rather different”37 (Jung). In some instances of this initiation ceremony, ritual rebirth was signified simply by the silent display of an ear of corn.

The mown ear of . . . [grain] is a perfect symbol of immortality, of eternal rebirth.  It is the fruit of life, the harvest which feeds and nourishes, it is the seed which must sink into the earth and disappear in order to give birth again.  It was mown down in the moment of its ripeness, as Persephone was mown down and torn from her mother. (Luke as cited in Gadon, p. 157)

Corn Dolly Tradition

The Mother-turning-into-Hag is still woven in rural England.  As a symbol can, the Corn dolly functions through her ambiguity, taking two contradictory forms.  The most common one was big-hipped, squatting; the other, long and thin, corresponded to the shape of the barrow.  Like the Pregnant Harvest Goddess who, transformed into the Long Barrow, went into hibernation, the Corn Dolly was shut up in the barn every winter to be returned into the fields the following spring so that the eternal round could once more be renewed. (Gadon, p. 83)

The area in which today we find the great abundance of Crop Circles has a historical special relationship with these traditional Corn Dollies.  In rituals that continue in the British Isles to this day, women, either young or old, construct the Corn Dolly, which is then dressed or adorned and placed into a location of significance, above the door of the home, or in earlier days in a harvest-wagon, ceremonially  shut up in the barn for the winter or laid into a ritual bridal bed, the latter form explicitly illustrating the ritual as a fertility rite.  “Agriculture in the ancient world was nothing less than intimacy with the Mother Goddess,”38 and these traditions express our previous reverence for this intimacy–“human survival depended on the spontaneous produce of the soil and ancient agriculturalists stood in awe of that life-producing power.  When the hoe or plow entered the womb of the earth and the seed was sown, a new process of creation was initiated, all under the protection of the grain mother.”39 

Approaching modernity, communal rites performed at stone circles across England and smaller local customs made to honour the land and the gifts that it provided would begin to reflect the the Christian turn towards a Male God-image as being ultimately supreme beyond the Goddess images of Nature.  These words are from an Anglo-Saxon charm spoken, after an offering of baked meal-leaf, kneaded with milk and holy water, had been laid beneath the first furrow prior to spring’s planting, as their steps were made around a field:

Whole be thou Earth, Mother of men. In the lap of the God,

Be thou a-growing, Be filled with fodder, For fare-need of men. (P. Berger, the Goddess Obscured, p.66)




29 Eisendrath-Young, 1997, pp. 318-319.

30 (Chevalier, p. 196)

31see Argueles.

32(Jung, 1964, p. 803)

33CW 11 - Neitzche lectures...

34quoted in Artress, p. 15.

35While grain deities are found in both genders, worldwide the majority of agricultural deities are feminine, Goddesses as personification of the Earth as nourisher and sustainer.

36Seems like at some point the footnotes in this chapter disappeared... look at an earlier version.,

37This is in Kerenyi and Jung, p. ___, emphasis original.

38Rickard in Noyes (Ed.) “The Crop Circle Enigma” p. 63.

39(Berger, p. 2)


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