Holidays stir up the imagination, especially for kids and especially around Halloween. Of course, that day is all about dressing up and pretending to be someone – or something – that you’re not.
The practice can be traced back to ancient pagan, Celtic, Roman and Catholic traditions that, over centuries, intertwined. It was broadly believed that the veil between the realms of the living and dead was thinnest at this time of year. Fearing spirits of the dead, people developed rituals to ward them off, including disguises to confuse or frighten the spirits away.
These days, of course, we see a lot more than people dressed as ghosts, ghouls, witches, monsters and other horrific Halloween creatures. While some kids do gravitate toward the scary and strange, others choose to dress up as their heroes, favorite characters (or villains!) or who they want to be when they grow up. They get to feel what it’s like to be someone they’re not and perhaps symbolically explore aspects of their own selves.
One Yoga Calm activity that can be especially fun and effective at this time of year – both tapping into and focusing what we’ve called “that wild Halloween energy” – is The Archetype Game. The use of archetypes can be especially beneficial in Yoga Calm practice, helping children to explore and integrate the various aspects of themselves in a safe and healthy way.
Archetypes, as you may know, are motifs or images that universally appear in stories and art. They represent different aspects of the self. The image of the warrior, the divine child, the orphan, the wise one – these are all archetypes that represent different aspects of the human experience.
- The Trickster = the sneaky self
- The Warrior = the fierce one
- Prince or Princess = connecting with our sense of pride & elegance
- Wise King or Queen = stepping into responsibility
- Monster = our scary self
- Angel = our kind and giving self
- The Content One = feeling satisfied with who we are & our personal gifts
- Kind & Friendly One = our social self
- Bear or the Hermit in the Cave = taking time to be alone
- Peaceful One = the quiet, contemplative self
- Clown = our silly self
- Courageous Explorer = facing adversity
Fairy tales and myths are powerful because they represent these and other fundamental but different parts of the personality and the struggles that occur when we encounter them in life. The stories teach us that the trickster can be both useful and dangerous, and that the path to becoming a warrior involves facing hardship. They are psychological teaching stories that guide and help integrate the varied parts of ourselves. We can relate to the young child who longs to prove her competence as a warrior, queen or brilliant musician. We have empathy for the fool who is trying his best and failing at every turn.
By using the archetypes in yoga, students can play with different parts of their personality. As they practice using their strength, it becomes more available to them in their daily lives, and they gain skill and understanding about the importance of strength in the human experience – just as by practicing the qualities of other archetypes, children can learn how to use the different parts of their personalities constructively. Such play can guide them toward a holistic understanding of the many roles we must play in order to have safe and successful lives.
How to Play the Archetype Game
- The children spread out around the room, each in a squatting position.
- Through a slow count to 4, each child pretends to grow into a statue that represents a specific archetype or character.
- With music playing, ask the kids to move the way their archetype or character would move.
- When you say “freeze,” all the children must stop moving and go back to squat position.
- Start over, with each student choosing a different archetype or character.
- Students must give each other space when they go into squat position.
- No touching. No running. No talking.
- Any student who breaks the rules must sit out for one round before rejoining the game.
Try it with your own class, group or children – then use the comments to let us know how it goes!