The Separation


The Call

The Call invites the initiate into the adventure, offering an opportunity to face the unknown and grow physically or spiritually. The initiate may choose willingly to accept the call or s/he may be thrust into the adventure.

Often the call comes when the initiate has had something taken from him, his family or his society. He accepts the quest to reclaim what was taken. The call may involve a sensation that there is something lacking in life. Often the call involves a need to save honor.

The Threshold

A hero first must encounter "threshold guardians," beings who block the way to the adventure. These guardians may attempt to destroy the initiate, or to protect her from entering the adventure before she is ready.

Often the inexperienced hero finds that he cannot proceed without supernatural aid, in the form of a "wise and helpful guide" who provides advice and amulets to further the quest.

The hero must leave his familiar life behind to begin a journey from childhood to adulthood and to a life-transformation. The threshold of the journey is the point at which the initiate leaves the known world to enter the unknown. At this point a helper or guide may appear to provide assistance or direction. Helpers often appear when the initiate is in the greatest danger.

The Descent -- “into the labyrinth

The descent is a voyage into uncharted territory, either physical or psychological. The initiate becomes more at risk. A labyrinth has always symbolized a difficult journey into the unknown, and in one way or another it is often incorporated into tales of the hero’s journey.

The Initiation

Tests and Ordeals

On his journey the initiate faces a series of tests and ordeals which challenge him, and force him to grow physically or mentally. The tests validate the initiate’s right to be hero. The hero faces mortal combat, but in the end good triumphs over evil and the hero is recognized for his deeds of valor.

Into the Abyss

The abyss represents the greatest challenge of the journey. Usually the initiate must face the abyss alone and overcome her greatest fears. Here is where the initiate must “slay the dragon.” The dragon is the thing the hero most dreads and needs to overcome.

Common mythic motifs at this point in the adventure are the “swallowing up of the hero by a large monster” or the “sacred grove—a magical forest where trees may have creative energy and enchanters dwell.” Each of these ancient motifs represents enclosures where the hero is transformed and attains new insight.

The Transformation

The opening of the mind and heart to spiritual knowledge requires a sacrifice from the hero. At this difficult and dangerous place on the hero path, the initiate reaffirm the meaning and importance of his life by his willingness to sacrifice himself. Continued on back. . . . .

As a result of successfully meeting the challenge of the abyss, the hero is transformed. The transformation is the moment of death and rebirth. Often the transformation involves a change of consciousness, a change in the way the hero views life.

The Atonement

The initiate has become stronger, a better leader, or spiritually enlightened. The hero accepts his/her new transformed self. He/she is given a gift bestowed because of a new level of skill and awareness. The initiate is now a hero. The imbalance which sent the hero on the quest has now been corrected—until the next call.
“Atonement with the father” is another common motif of the hero journey. The hero comes to an understanding or a peace with his/her father.

The Return

The "hero's return" marks the end of the "trials and ordeals." The hero must return from his adventures with the means to benefit his society.
In some cases, when the hero returns things do not go well. Either the society rejects the message of the hero or the hero becomes disillusioned by society and leaves.

Sources for this handout: Jean O'Connor and Colleen Hansen from HHS English Department; Wikipedia;