Thursday, March 24, 2011

Archetypes of Duality: Janus, Haga, & Co.

"Two heads are better than one."  An English proverb, in print by 1546.

1. Having two faces or surfaces.
2. Hypocritical or double-dealing; deceitful.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The Strict Janus Face vs. Other Two-Faces
The image above is a reproduction I own of a herm.  Most herms appear to have been of Hermes, as the name would lead you to expect, and were blocks used as markers topped by a head scultpure (of Hermes or another figure) and were ithyphallic.  The one I have is less usual, appearing at first to be an image of Janus.  In fact, it is two different faces, however, rather than two identical Janus faces.  Seemingly, this herm is Hermes on one side and Dionysios on the other.

What is the meaning of the Janus face?  Most basically, it is a figure of duality.  Moreover it is a doubling, an intensification.  Janus, the Roman god of gates/doors, gives us the name for our gateway month: January.  Thus he faces both sides of the gate.  It is natural that Hermes would attract characteristics of Janus since he's the liminal god the Greeks, presiding over roads and travel, even travel between the world and the underworld.  He shared the crossroads with Hecate.

Familiarity with the caduceus, or herald's staff (shown above) with the entwined snakes may call to mind a similarity with the Janus face, but these are two faces of two different snakes* facing one another: the role that a herald plays.  Still, the intermediary character is present in both, if not the same degree of duality-in-unity.

But whereas the simple Janus-type gives Janus both the view one direction and the view the other, this herm gives Hermes the view one direction and Dionysos the other.  Hermes plays an import role in the story of Dionysos, so perhaps this is the reason for the pairing.  (If we knew the location of the original, this might shed further light.)  Hermes, as psychopomp or Soul Guide, may be leading us from our world into the celebration of the Dionysian Mysteries.  We still know little of these rites, and are left with later evidence and much speculation.  But as Dionysos stood as savior figure to his devotees, it make sense that his own savior, who, among other things was the messenger of the gods and the guide of souls, would guide initiates into the ecstasies of the divine union.

What about "hypocritical, double-dealing, deceitful"?  Why do we make this association rather than "two heads are better than one" in the case of Janus?  One clue might be the fore noted fact that for Janus, they are the same face.  But note the further character of Hermes: he's the god of thieves, and took up cattle-rustling almost immediately on birth, in his steps to becoming a full-blown wheeler-dealer.  He's a classic example of the Trickster archetype.  Dionysos, on the other hand, is the god of wine, which is well-known for its own deceitful effects, likely linked to his being the inspirer of divine madness.

The two-faced figure also makes an important appearance in another combination with Hermes: his son Hermaphroditos, which is half Hermes his father, half Aphrodite his mother (different versions of the story exist), the origin of our own term hermaphrodite.  Representations of this figure, especially in alchemy, fascinated Jung as they fit his theory of a transgendered archetype in each personal unconscious, men's anima and women's animus.  Here again, what's important is the difference, the compounding.

The Haga or Double-Headed Imperial Eagle
My fondness for this figure is seen in the Hittite blog entry (02-19-2011) and the heraldic shield by my name. The earliest known uses are Hittite, and they in the same region as the later center of the Roman Empire, Christianized and re-centered on Constantinople.  Here the Romans pick up the image and make it their own, and it is from here that it spreads to the Holy Roman Empire in the West and its descendants, Imperial Russia (which called itself the third Rome), and the Seljuk Empire. It is given a single crown, emphasizing one Emperor and one Empire, though it faces both east and west.  This was both geographical (the east-west axis was the longest and most important one for the Empire) and political (difficulty in holding together both halves of the Empire was not just a worry: eventually it produced two cultural-linguistic spheres and split the Imperial Church as well. 

Now, Jung did know a version of the image that emphasizes compounding or hybrid, as opposed to duality-in-unity in its bi-directionality.  Instead of one crown there were two and, unlike some representations with two identical crowns, there was a papal tiara on one head and the crown of the emperor on the other.  Thus instead of representing East and West, it represented the spiritual and temporal powers of a (theoretically) united Christendom.

A Jungian Meditation
The figure of duality, with two identical faces or heads, faces two directions.  It is one, and therefore a good candidate for an archetype of the Self.  Having identified a Self that faces two directions, we now look for the identity of the two directions.  The past and the future are good candidates, this would yield a figure of Wisdom that has learned the lessons of the past yet looks forward with foresight.  But for a specifically Jungian meaning, the most obvious reference, in the absence of gender difference, is the Conscious and the Unconscious.  A more awakened Self has larger vision than the Conscious Self, which faces out only into life through the Ego.  The realization of Janus looks also back into the Unconscious, so that the Conscious Self is not dominated by unseen psychic forces.  This is a particularly Jungian version of Wisdom, larger even than the temporal self.  It is well represented by this kingly image:
This figure does not have the connotations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Wolfman, Two-Face, or the Norse goddess Hela -- the shadow, Jung might say, of the two-faced Self or the unintegrated hybrid or compound of two disparate selves or natures.

The divided figure: the negative usage or conception of the person with two faces is more prominent, so I will not dwell on it as long.  Whenever we call someone "two-faced," we are not complementing them on their complexity.  We have seen one face that we trust, and then learned to our sorrow that another personality just as real, if not more so, lurked out of sight which harmed us once we let down our guard.

How do we know the difference between the two kinds of figures on mere sight?  Can one always tell the god from the monster?  The healthy whole person from the pathologically divided person?  Not all will always agree in concrete instances.  For example, later history judges the Rome of the double-headed Eagle to be not the Roman Empire with its positive value of the two heads, but the Byzantine Empire, another beast all together, a grotesque and degenerate hybrid.  So Edward Gibbon would have us believe, and therefore we find a derivative, negative usage of the adjective, byzantine:

4. often not capitalized a : of, relating to, or characterized by a devious and usually surreptitious manner of operation {a Byzantine power struggle} b : intricately involved : labyrinthine {rules of Byzantine complexity}
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2011. 

While I may have picked up on some clues that will help in our visual discernment, more practical kinds of discernment will only improve with continued reflection and practice.  The images that make a more obvious distinction for us may, however, give us points of reference for us to build on.

So What?
The potential of this powerful image, or images of its kind, for art, play**, and greater self-knowledge are rich.  First, ask yourself, what kind of duality am I exploring?  Is there a basic unity that seems most important?  Or is the difference the most important?  This will lead one to search for different types of images to contemplate and experiment with.  Then, if you have a clear answer, you are ready to settle on images that fit the feature, idea, or value you are exploring, whether it is the threshold between two realms, two features of a single society, or a flaw or division in a character that has both creative and destructive potential, depending on how it is integrated into the conscious Self...or not.  Exploring such characters, situations, representations, and themes will make ourselves and our creations deeper, more meaningful, and more likely to change for the better.  After all, pairings are as important in action as they are in dining or color schemes.

*Although, perhaps two mating snakes. 
** For attempts to use the Haga in a gaming context, see David Posener's concept of the Haga and Chris Mortika's attempt to stat it in Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010 contest.


  1. Interesting blog, TtO. I think every person wrestles with the duality of sentience, no matter how you want to describe it: Superego vs. Id/Conscious vs. Unconcious/good vs evil. Our brains seem to be set up with different layers of complexity, and there is a continual tug-of-war between the bestial and the civilized.

    We occasionally forget that cilvilization is but a very thin slice of humanity's timeline. We are no different in complexity than those Cro Magnon fellows drawing aurouchs in dark caves. The ape lies close to the surface, our history shows it takes little to summon him forth from the doorway Janus guards.

    I think it is healthier to recognize and embrace the bestial in some fashion. Denying the ape only makes him angrier. We ritualize many occasions where we can 'let our hair down': Mardi Gras, Saturday Night Karaeoke, etc. I think these act as pressure releases.

    Societies that repress all of their wild side often turn inwards and fester. Then their young girls start screaming 'WITCH!' and the torches and pitchforks are gathered. The ape will have his fun ...

  2. By the way, the image that I referred to but do not have is from the Codex Palatinus Latinus 412 (15th C.), and can be see in vol. 12 of Jung's Collected Works on p. 470.

    Yes, CCM, an apt point the day before April Fools'. I think though that the negative image, a la Jeckyll and Hyde or the Wolfman, is more common for our contemporaries than the wise, regal Janus or the all-seeing eagle, and I wish the positive aspects were more well-known. Even if they are flip sides of the same duality. Thinking about tomorrow, I have a different pairing than the usual Apollo/Dionysios: the usual pairing that can come off in the same Safe Ego/Dangerous Shadow way.

    Thanks for your comments!