Sleeping Lions and the Male Archetypes

5 Minute Read
5 Minute Read

If you found yourself suddenly walking through the Serengeti and came across a sleeping male lion, you may not think it the best idea to go and poke him with a big stick.

And if being eaten was your main concern, what if said lion didn’t have any teeth – a gummy lion – then what? What else would stop you?

Would it be his power? His strength? His leadership? Male lions are guardians and protectors. They are determined, focused, social and in no uncertain terms in charge of their pride and they ooze majesty, hence the nicknames The King of the Jungle (even though they dont live in jungles) or The Majestic Lion or even Disney’s The Lion King.

In one way, we can view these qualities as an archetype, and typically, the lion is seen to embody most of the qualities of masculinity.

Conversely, you may have a lion laid on your couch, yes, that dude continually playing video games, or drinking beer with his buddies. The guy who has no backbone, no assertiveness, no direction or him who reacts to everything you say or follows you around like a lost puppy. As consciously awake he may appear to be, this lion is often very asleep, and sometimes the prodding with a big stick may actually feel like a tempting proposition to wake him the hell up.

Obviously, not every man should all act like lions and this is an extreme example, but there are archetypes linked to masculinity that every emotionally healthy male should embody to one degree or another.

Influenced by the works of Plato, The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung first used archetypes as analogies to describe various personality traits. An obvious one would be the mother archetype. The loving nurturer, protecter and provider of her child. Archetypes can come in just about any form one wishes to look, and within each archetype can also further sit others – The mother archetype contains the nurturer archetype and so on.

Carl Jung – he knows what you’re made of

In their 1990 book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover 1 authors Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette has condensed and given us the main archetypes of masculinity. For a healthy balanced male, there is seen, and now somewhat accepted, to be the embodiment of four specific archetypes, with the first three each controlling the three main aspects of life; heart, thoughts and drive, with the final archetype being a wholesome integration of them all.


The warrior is the doer. It is the energy that drives us, that makes shit happen. He knows what he wants and he goes after it. The warrior is loyal and dutiful. He is strong, yet compassionate, firm and unyielding. When we fully embody the warrior, we are a force to be reckoned with, assertive and directional.
The warrior in shadow is the masochist and the sadist.


The lover is heart based, it is sensitive and sensual. It sees the interconnectivity within all of nature and identifies with the oneness of the universe. The artist inside of us is the lover energy as it manifests creativity and expression. The lover is intuitive, he is the connoisseur, he is passionate and he is love.
The lover in shadow is addiction and impotency.


The magician is the archetype who is seen as the thinker. He is the problem solver, good with technology and uses his skills for the benefit of others. He is the shaman, the alchemist, the part of a man who can work his talents for the greater good. The magician can advise, oversee, create structures to work within and find solutions to bring things to a close. The magician is the archetype centered around strategy and the bigger picture and can see straight through bullshit.
The magician in shadow is the manipulator and the victim.


The king is the mature masculine energy. It can be seen when the other three archetypes are embodied in balance and is very often manifest by an elder. However, every man embodies the potential of king energy and it shows itself as calmness when confusion abounds. It is reason, clear decision, order, growth, fullness and nurture. The king will encourage, wanting others to shine. The king wants others to become the best people that they can be. He is the rock, he is the embodiment of wisdom.
When the king energy is in shadow he is the tyrant or the weakling.

There is a fine line with each of these archetypes. We can embody them too much or not enough. Think of the person who is ‘stuck in his head’ and is removed from anything heart based – too much magician and not enough lover. Or the guy who is all love but has no ‘grunt’, being all heart but no warrior. Though it is the warrior itself which can inflict much pain and misery on others, being too assertive, controlling and forceful if it is embodied without the balance of the others.

For a man who is not embodying his full masculinity he can live a shallow existence away from the depths of his true potential. Worse still is the man embodying the shadow traits of each archetype.
There is a shadow to everything, everything has a polar opposite, which allows anything to exist at all. There can be no light without the dark, no up without a down to reference it to and it is the same with behaviours. The king in shadow can manifest as the tyrant or the weakling. Where the healthy king is a manifestation of true power, balanced by the heart, mind and action, the lower king, driven by ego, lack of worth for self or others can lead to tyrannical behaviour through the shadow of the magician and warrior. Or this can go in the opposite direction, depending on what the underlying driving factors are, and become easily walked over, victimised and weak.

So we have to ask, is the lion living its best life, or is it caged and simply making do?

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