I’d never heard of Joesph Campbell before we read the chapter on the Hero with A Thousand Faces and so I was very surprised to find out that I was very familiar with the basics of his hero cycle. I went to an overnight sports camp for at least a week every summer when I was younger and there I mostly did programs like basketball or bronze cross swimming until the summer when I was sixteen when I went on the Hero’s Journey program. The Hero’s Journey program is a twenty-three day camping/canoe trip that roughly incorporates Campbell’s Hero’s Journey cycle. (You can see a description of it here: http://www.olympiasportscamp.com/summer-camp/hero-s-journey.php)
The camp is broken into three distinct stages. The first is called The Separation when we first arrive at the camp and instead of moving into the cabins we paddle out to a small peninsula and pitch tents to live in for the first nine days. The second stage is the challenge stage where we go on a ten day canoe trip in a provincial park (my year we went across Algonquin) and the third step is a return to camp for a few more days on the peninsula to pack away our equipment and reflect on everything we’d done. While it certainly doesn’t follow all of Campbell’s steps my experience at that camp certainly followed some of them. I had a Call to Adventure when I decided that before I left for university I wanted to have a sort of trial run separation from my family, friends and home and I did cross into an unknown zone as I’d lived my whole life Toronto and had never been camping before. While there was certainly no death or rebirth I might even say that I had my moment of the Abyss or The Belly of the Whale during the 24 hour solo where you’re left alone in the woods for twenty four hours with minimal supplies (it certainly felt a bit like an abyss when my flashlight died in the evening :P). The trip was certainly a road of trials between the portages, deer flies and the weather. I also think we were all illuminated by our trip and we all brought back a lot of new skills and knowledge.
While this camp was obviously based on the Hero’s cycle, it’s easy to find other experiences in life when you go through those same general steps. Going to a new school as a kid or coming to university are good examples of Hero’s Journeys or maybe even life as a whole as we’re born into a world that is unknown to us and struggle to find our role in it. I find it really interesting to think that myth follows a certain pattern because it is a pattern common to all humans and so myth reveals a certain truth about human lives. However when we get into the gender aspect of the Hero’s Journey that a hero is to be tempted by the opposite gender and must defeat their parental figure of the same gender I’m at a complete loss to find any sort of parallel to real life experiences. The idea of gender being so very important to a person’s psychological development seems extremely strange to me and I feel that it comes from a view of different gender roles that just doesn’t exist anymore in the places I’ve lived. Can anyone else think of instances of the Hero’s Journey in their life? Or maybe of situations in life where it really couldn’t apply? Any ideas about the importance of gender roles?