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The Prostitute Archetype

by Carlos Chancellor

Prowling, jiggling and strutting the dark alleys and seedy, neon-lit avenues of our psyches populated by the furtive, desperate, ravenous shadows of our souls; or else at ease lounging quietly, but knowingly in full power, within the lofty mental boardrooms where our perceived assets are tallied, packaged and marketed for the external arena, dwells the Prostitute Archetype. Not so long ago, as far as the collective memory is concerned, she (or he, as it were) used to dwell among the temples of sacred worship, her craft and flesh promising intimate communion with the divine. Whether she be in our dank fantasies, ambitious strategies or yearnings for sacred bliss, it is undeniable that among the various commonly referred-to archetypes, one of the most polemic, challenging and sticky is that of the Prostitute. But, why should this be so?

In the most basic and simple reduction, the prostitute offers what she has in exchange for what she needs or wants. This, interestingly enough, is also the most fundamental and basic principle of any market, especially one that proposes to be ethical. But, whereas the merchant offers a ware, the prostitute offers herself. Seen from the metaphorical language of the psyche, the merchant is a vehicle, bridge or conduit for the exchange of an external good, while the prostitute offers something inherent, innate, intimate and integral to herself, which may at best be only momentarily possessed by the other. The other end of the exchange traditionally being in the form of coin, but may also take the form of security, safety (sometimes for another), power or even prestige. When seen from this perspective, the Prostitute begins to blur the lines in which we have so conveniently encased her. Hence, this archetype is generally met with our collective horror, revulsion and general aversion.

The Prostitute Archetype exposes two very deep and intimate things about ourselves: what we dearly value (who we think that we are) and our hidden needs and desires (what we truly yearn for and what we fear to be missing). Essentially, she exposes our hypocrisies, insecurities and shortcomings, but also the road towards inner growth. But that is not all that she does; as has already been implied, she will also set up an exchange, compelling us to sacrifice something dear for something needed or wanted.

When we shun and ignore her, when we refuse to acknowledge her presence within, the Prostitute Archetype stands in the shadow of many of our actions, both on a personal and a collective level. (She is, after all, one of the engines of capitalism.) In her base form, the Inner Prostitute may move or even compel us to exchange our sense of self, our time with others, our sincerity, our values, ethics or ideals, our relations, our health and well-being, even our bodies in the pursuit of comfort, a raise or promotion, vices, addictions, popularity or prestige, power or domination. In other words; in the worst cases, we will sacrifice our integrity in order to gain psychic commodities that attempt to assuage our fears and insecurities. The less that we know ourselves, the more that we will exchange what is of true value in order to uphold a false image of who we think that we need to be. The great irony of this is that, as it tends to be with all archetypes, it is precisely by knowing and relating to the Prostitute Archetype that we may better know ourselves and reverse this situation.

In order to understand the light or cardinal aspect of the Prostitute Archetype, which is to say, how she may initiate and promote positive transformation, I must first speak of pride. For whenever we touch upon the Prostitute, be this touching literal or metaphorical, it is the white, chaste and chivalrous knight of pride that gallops in, swelling from our guts to inflate our breast, delivering us from any regrettable deeds that may besmirch the good name of our image. Pride, naturally, has its place. It is the vehicle by which the ego maintains its constructed image of its self. In other words, pride is the knight who is tasked with upholding the honor of our identity. This is all fine and good should our identity be in reasonable accord with our inner psychic reality. Consider it this way, if our sense of who we are is at least more or less in tune with who we really are and it is flexible and dynamic enough to change accordingly depending on circumstance, then our structure is secure and our knight will need not sally forth at every flitting shadow or bogeyman lurking at the edge of our perception. However, if our identity has been constructed around a single narrative or story of who we think that we ought to be: the good child, the rebel, the victim, the big winner, the martyr, the righteous proselyte, the zealot, the rock star, the straight-A student, the boss, the crony, the entrepreneur, the working stiff, the manly man, the good wife, the providing father, the self-sacrificing mother (just to name but a few of the labels into which we attempt to squeeze the entirety of our self-image and self-worth), then the structure of our ego is quite fragile, shaky and insecure. And of course, the knight of pride must be sent out in a preemptive attack at every perceived aspersion that challenges or even questions the wobbly castle of our identity. Thus, the knight goes on a rampage, ravaging peasants, burning fields, slaughtering herds slashing at windmills and generally making an overall disagreeable nuisance of himself, while our fortifications lie undefended allowing for all manner of dark and shadowy beasties to ooze, slither, crawl and surge from our own inner depths (the basement, dungeons, gutters and catacombs) and take up comfortable residence within. A most unfortunate scenario indeed, which also happens to be unfortunately common. The ideal at this point would be for the whole structure to come tumbling down, which may very well happen in the form of a nervous or even psychotic breakdown from within, or a crisis, illness or accident from without. Of course, this is a very dramatic scenario. However, we can mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of such a restructuring by taking an active role and mindfully participating in our own growth and development… and the Prostitute Archetype can be just the one to initiate this and help us to rebuild.

As I said above, the Prostitute exposes what we value and what we need or desire. If we are able and willing to take the journey of looking within and seeing ourselves, getting to know our inner reaches, then we may come to realize that that which we valued, the identity to which we clung to, for instance, may not actually be quite so valuable. In fact, it may even be pernicious. Once we can see this, then we can cut through its particular value system and see that many of our needs and desires were mostly based around upholding this identity, perhaps based on fears that are either no longer relevant or that need to be confronted; the uncertainty of who and what we will become without the shroud of our habitual mask and how this may be perceived by others being just one of those fears. As painful as it may be (for the sacrificing of anything once held dear necessitates a period of grieving), this vulnerability is a requisite for our own growth, as is so clearly and universally experienced through the process of adolescence. And it is precisely here where we can make an exquisite ally of the Prostitute, an archetype that, when listened to, asks the fundamental question: What do you really want and what are you willing to give up in order to get it?

In the marketplace of the soul, one does not offer chattel in hopes of tempting external aid or favors. Rather one sacrifices something that has been taking space and leeching energy in order to bring in something new. This is the dynamic of growth. It is well to know what is being held on to in order to release it, and it is likewise well to have clarity in our aims and wants, for fertile soil will nurture weeds and fruit with equal ease, in accordance with what we sow. The better we know ourselves and the more sincere we are in our inner explorations, the better that we can see our vices hidden as values. Of course, in the smoke and mirrors of our defenses, in the labyrinth of our constructs, it is quite good to not journey alone. The external aid of honest friends, caring family, a good therapist or counselor may offer the necessary space for the witnessing, listening, critique, nurturing, feedback, containment and reality-checks so critical to growth and development. However, let us not forget that we also have a thriving pantheon of personages within the milieu of our own souls, our own inner ecosystem, each of which may be made an ally of, or may work against us, depending on our ability to listen, negotiate and care. In the marketplace of the soul, in the exchanges necessary for our own growth and development, the Inner Prostitute makes for a wise and crafty counselor, initiator, negotiator and broker. A powerful ally indeed.


Carlos Chancellor observes and learns from human nature and soul. Based on these observations, he teaches courses that offer a deeper understanding of ourselves and the ways in which we relate to the world in order to gain greater depth and sincerity in our relationships (to ourselves, others and our environment) focused towards an understanding of profound interconnectedness. He was born in Mexico and raised in the United States and Canada. He is a practicing Jungian-Archetypal psychotherapist, a dreamworker, Mythologist and a Somatic Movement Therapist and Educator. He holds a 2nd degree black belt in Aikido and is the head instructor at Tamashī to Kokoro Aikikai Aikido Dojo in San Miguel de Allende. He has held an ongoing Mythology and the Soul class for more than four years, facilitates a dreamwork group and has been a lecturer at the Lifelong Learning Program on various occasions. He is a storyteller , storyweaver, storylistener and storyunraveller. He was an International Baccalaureate English Literature and Theory of Knowledge teacher. He made San Miguel de Allende his home in 2014.

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