Mythopoetic men's movement

Mythopoetic men's movement

The mythopoetic men's movement (sometimes mistakenly referred to simply as the men's movement) refers to a loose collection of organizations active in men's work since the early 1980s. While in the public eye in the early 1990s, the movement carries on more quietly in The ManKind Project and independent psychologico-spiritual practitioners. Mythopoets adopted a general style of psychological self-help inspired by the work of Robert Bly, Robert A. Johnson, Joseph Campbell, and other Jungian authors.



Characteristic of the early mythopoetic movement was a tendency to retell fairy tales and engage in their exegesis as a tool for personal insight. Using frequent references to archetypes as drawn from Jungian analytical psychology, the movement focused on issues of gender role, gender identity and wellness for modern men and women. Advocates would often engage in storytelling with music, these acts being seen as a modern extension to a form of "new age shamanism" popularized by Michael Harner at approximately the same time.

Among its most famous advocates were the poet Robert Bly, whose book Iron John: A Book About Men was a best-seller, being an exegesis of the fairy tale "Iron John" by the Brothers Grimm.

The mythopoetic men's movement spawned a variety of self-help groups and workshops, led by authors such as Bly, Michael J. Meade and Robert L. Moore. The self-help aspect of this movement was portrayed by the popular media as something of a fad, but it continues to this day. Some academic work came from the movement, as well as the creation of various magazines, continuing annual conferences such as Minnesota Men's Conference and The Great Mother and New Father Conference, and non-profit organizations, such as The Mankind Project, which is still active. Mythopoetic practices among women's groups and feminists were more commonly seen as a portion of a more general "women's spirituality."

As a self-help movement the mythopoetic movement tends not to take explicit stances on political issues such as feminism, gay rights or family law (such as the issues of divorce, domestic violence or child custody) preferring instead to stay focused on emotional and psychological well-being.

See also

Significant writers


  • Iron John: A Book About Men, by Robert Bly (1990)
  • King, Warrior, Magican, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (1990)
  • Men and the Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of Men, by Michael J. Meade (1994)
  • Edward Read Barton (ed.), Mythopoetic Perspectives of Men's Healing Work: An Anthology for Therapists and Others (2000).

Further reading

  • Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992)

External links

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