Study Guide

The Hero with a Thousand Faces Part II, Chapter 2

By Joseph Campbell

Part II, Chapter 2

The Virgin Birth

Mother Universe

  • The father's spirit creates the world by passing his energy through a transforming figure: the mother of the universe.
  • The mother is represented in Christian text as the "waters" that God moves over in Genesis, while Hindu myths also speak of a mother figure who constitutes all space and time.
  • Some cultures do away with the father figure completely and leave the mother universe as the creator.
  • Campbell cites the Finnish tale of Kalevala as an example.

Matrix of Destiny

  • The mother of creation will often appear to human beings in various disguises in these stories, comprising birth and death, depending upon the specific form.
  • Campbell returns to the New Zealand creation myth.
  • The three stages of the cosmic cycle are on full display: waking life, dream life and dreamless bliss.
  • The parental figures who create the universe vanish into the void, leaving humanity alone on the earth to move the cycle into another phase.

Womb of Redemption

  • With humanity left on its own, life becomes a struggle: mistakes are made, ego and arrogance cause difficulties, and creation suffers.
  • The people need someone to redeem them and end that suffering: someone who takes on the form and function of the divine.
  • Having reached the bottom of the cycle, it's time to move on up: enter the hero.
  • The example, again, comes from Christianity: the virgin birth that will save us all.
  • Other examples stem from South American stories and the Hindu tale of Shiva.

Folk Stories of Virgin Motherhood

  • Stories of virgin births aren't limited to Christianity, as evinced by a folk story from Tonga.