Iron John [cont.] page 2
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Robert Bly
Michael Meade
Malidoma Somé
Mythopoetic Mens Movement
What Do Men
Really Want?
The story of Iron John can be read as a parable about a boy becoming a man. Iron John in his cage can be seen the inner wildness of all men, sexual potency, or the physical strength of an adult man, which can be dangerous if not controlled. In this interpretation the king and queen represent both outward authority (civil or religious) as well as the inner authority of the parent.

The ball could stand for childish things that must be discarded when manhood is reached, but also the search for the inner child that remains at the heart of every man. The stealing of the key is therefore the defiance of the mother figure and her authority in order to gain independence.

When Iron John is free, the prince is likewise free to go anywhere and do anything as an adult would be, but responsibility must be shouldered if he is truly to be considered a man and not just an overgrown child.

It is only with the guidance of Iron John and the willingness to take on the tasks of a man that the prince can finally grow up.
Bly’s book advocated a return of a stronger, more masculine man (in the traditional sense), but one who also respected modern-day feminist values.

Though the book quickly became a best-seller and a central text for the Men’s Movement, eventually the movement lost momentum, as have many similar men’s organizations such as the Christian Promise Keepers. The book itself remains reasonably popular to this day.


by Jacob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm

 a parable about a boy becoming a man

ONCE UPON a time there lived a King who had a great forest near his palace, full of all kinds of wild animals. One day he sent out a huntsman to shoot him a roe, but he did not come back. "Perhaps some accident has befallen him," said the King, and the next day he sent out two more huntsmen who were to search for him, but they too stayed away. Then on the third
day, he sent for all his huntsmen, and said, "Scour the whole forest through, and do not give up until ye have found all three." But of these also, none came home again, and of the pack of hounds which they had taken with them, none were seen more. From that time forth, no one would any longer venture into the forest, and it lay there in deep stillness and solitude, and nothing was seen of it, but sometimes an eagle or a hawk flying over it.

This lasted for many years, when a strange huntsman announced himself to the King as seeking a situation, and offered to go into the dangerous forest. The King, however, would not give his consent, and said,

"Unfortunately, the mythic side of man is given short shrift nowadays. He can no longer create fables. As a result, a great deal escapes him; for it is important and salutary to speak also of incomprehensible things."
C.J. Jung Myth Memories Reflections

"It is not safe in there; I fear it would fare with thee no better than with the others, and thou wouldst never come out again." The huntsman replied, "Lord, I will venture it at my own risk; I have no fear."

The huntsman therefore betook himself with his dog to the forest. It was not long before the dog fell in with some game on the way, and wanted to pursue it; but hardly had the dog run two steps when it stood before a deep pool, could go no farther, and a naked arm stretched itself out of the water, seized it, and drew it under. When the huntsman saw that, he went back and fetched three men to come with buckets and bail out the water. When they could see to the bottom there lay a wild man whose body was brown like rusty iron, and whose hair hung over his face down to his knees. They bound him with cords, and led him away to the castle. There was great astonishment over the wild man; the King, however, had him put in an iron cage in his court-yard, and forbade the door to be opened on pain of death, and the Queen herself was to take the key into her keeping. And from this time forth every one could again go into the forest with safety.

The King had a son eight years old, who was once playing in the court-yard, and

 while he was playing, his golden ball fell into the cage. The boy ran thither and said, "Give me my ball." "Not till thou hast opened the door for me," answered the man. "No," said the boy, "I will not do that; the King has forbidden it," and ran away. The next day he again went and asked for his ball; the wild man said, "Open my door," but the boy would not. On the third day the King had ridden out hunting, and the boy went once more and said, "I cannot open the door even if I wished, for I have not the key." Then the wild man said, "It lies under thy mother's pillow, thou canst get it there." The boy, who wanted to have his ball back, cast all thought to the winds, and brought the key. The door opened with difficulty, and the boy pinched his fingers. When it was open the wild man stepped out, gave him the golden ball, and hurried away. The boy had become afraid; he called and cried after him, "Oh, wild man, do not go away, or I shall be beaten!" The wild man turned back, took him up, set him on his shoulder, and went with hasty steps into the forest.

When the King came home, he observed the empty cage, and asked the Queen how that had happened. She knew nothing about it, and sought the key, but it was gone. She called the boy, but no one answered. The King sent out people to seek for him in the fields, but they did not find him. Then he could easily guess what had happened, and much grief reigned in the royal court.

When the wild man had once more reached the dark forest, he took the boy down from his shoulder, and said to him, "Thou wilt never see thy father and mother again, but I will keep thee with me, for thou hast set me free, and I have compassion on thee. If thou dost all I bid thee, thou shalt fare well. Of treasure and gold I have enough, and more than any one in the world." He made a bed of moss for the boy on which he slept, and the next morning the man took him to a well, and said, "Behold, the gold well is as bright and clear as crystal; thou shalt sit beside it, and take care that nothing falls into it, or it will be polluted. I will come every evening to see if thou hast obeyed my order." The boy placed himself by the margin of the well, and often saw a golden fish or a golden snake show itself therein, and took care that nothing fell in. As he was thus sitting, his finger hurt him so violently that he involuntarily put it in the water. He drew it quickly out again, but saw that it was quite gilded, and whatsoever pains he took to wash the gold off again, all was to no purpose.

In the evening Iron John came back, looked at the boy, and said, "What has happened to the well?" "Nothing, nothing," he answered, and held his finger behind his back, that the man might not see it. But he said, "Thou hast dipped thy finger into the water; this time it may pass, but take care thou dost not let anything go in." By daybreak the boy was already sitting by the well and watching it. His finger hurt him again and he passed it over his head, and then unhappily a hair fell down into the well. He took it quickly out, but it was already quite gilded. Iron John came, and already knew what had happened. "Thou hast let a hair fall into the well," said he. "I will allow thee to watch by it once more, but if this happens for the third time then the well is polluted, and thou canst no longer remain with me."

On the third day, the boy sat by the well, and did not stir his finger, however much it hurt him. But the time was long to him, and he looked at the reflection of his face on the surface of the water. And as he still bent down more and more while he was doing so, and trying to look straight into the eyes, his long hair fell down from his shoulders into the water. He raised himself up quickly, but the whole of the hair of his head was already golden and shone like the sun. You may imagine how terrified the poor boy was! He took his pocket-handkerchief and tied it round his head, in order that the man might not see it. When he came he already knew everything, and said, "Take the handkerchief off." Then the golden hair streamed forth, and let the boy excuse himself as he might, it was of no use. "Thou hast not stood the trial, and canst stay here no longer. Go forth into the world, there thou wilt learn what poverty is. But as thou hast not a bad heart, and as I mean well by thee, there is one thing I will grant thee; if thou fallest into any difficulty, come to the forest and cry, 'Iron John,' and then I will come and help thee. My power is great, greater than thou thinkest, and I have gold and silver in abundance."
Then the King's son left the forest, and walked by beaten and unbeaten paths ever onwards until at length he reached a great city. There he looked for work, but could find none, and he had learnt nothing by which he could help himself. At length he went to the palace, and asked if they would take him in. The people about court did not at all know what use they could make of him, but they liked him, and told him to stay. At length the cook took him into his service, and said he might carry food and water, and rake the cinders together. Once when it so happened that no one else was at hand, the cook ordered him to carry the food to the royal table, but as he did not like to let his golden hair be seen, he kept his little cap on.

Such a thing as that had never yet come under the King's notice, and he said, "When thou comest to the royal table thou must take thy hat off." He answered, "Ah, Lord, I cannot; I have a bad sore place on my head." Then the King had the cook called before him and scolded him, and asked how he could take such a boy as that into his service, and that he was to turn him off at once. The cook, however, had pity on him, and exchanged him for the gardener's boy.

Now the boy had to plant and water the garden, hoe and dig, and bear the wind and bad weather. Once in summer when he was working alone in the garden, the day was so warm he took his little cap off that the air might cool him. As the sun shone on his hair it glittered and flashed so that the rays fell into the bed-room of the King's daughter, and up she sprang to see what that could be. Then she saw the boy, and cried to him, "Boy, bring me a wreath of flowers." He put his cap on with all haste, and gathered wild field-flowers and bound them together. When he was ascending the stairs with them, the gardener met him, and said, "How canst thou take the King's daughter a garland of such common flowers? Go quickly, and get another, and seek out the prettiest and rarest." "Oh, no," replied the boy, "the wild ones have more scent, and will please her better."

When he got into the room, the King's daughter said, "Take thy cap off, it is not seemly to keep it on in my presence." He again said, "I may not, I have a sore head." She, however, caught at his cap and pulled it off, and then his golden hair rolled down on his shoulders, and it was splendid to behold. He wanted to run out, but she held him by the arm, and gave him a handful of ducats. With these he departed, but he cared nothing for the gold pieces. He took them to the gardener, and said, "I present them to thy children, they can play with them." 
Iron John [cont.] page 2

For countless centuries, it was the task of the older men in the community to 'take' the boys out of the arms of their mothers and teach them how to be a man.


Michael Meade  is the preeminent practitioner today to resurrecting the   mythic tales that weave together the psychological with the mythological, the visible with the invisible, the immediate with the ancient to create meaningful ritual and initiation.
"In times of unprecedented spiritual confusion, amidst the "crisis of imagination" and the radical disorientation of mass culture, myth intones its age-old speech to the inner reaches of the human soul. There, the Old Mind offers inspiration to those willing to tap again the evocative, oracular, compelling voice of Mythos, which echoes in the psychic depths, ever capable of revival and potent with hidden resources. The exact medicines for the dissociation characteristic of Western culture lie in finding again the archaic continuity and hidden unity of human imagination. Ancient footprints mark the paths of art and practice that lead to the fording place where a leap between the old and new, the concrete and spiritual, the time-bound and the timeless is required again. On this pathless path, artists, spiritual seekers, philosophers, and lovers find the betwixt and between ways which thread the past into the shape of the future."


"If we take nothing else away from the Iron John story, we could usefully take this idead that the young male moves from red intensity to whitle engargment to black humanity. Each man is given three horses that we ride at various times in our lives; we fall off and get back on. I don't think we should consider one horse better than another; all we could say is that none should be skipped.
Robert Bly
These are the first colors a human child sees. In medieval tales, the hero sees a drop of blood from a wounded raven fall on the snow, and falls in a trance. In Viking mythology, when a hero dies a white, then a red, than a black cock crows.

The moving from red to white to black signifies important changes in a man’s life. Michael Meade reports that in the Masai tribes, a boy of 13 or 15 is expected to be in red: angry, prideful, obnoxious, vain, violent -- all the things we put men in prison for, if they don’t have an older man to guide him through this stage. When he is 35, he moves into the white stage: peaceful, gentle, without a (conscious) shadow side.
What Do Men
Really Want?

Robert Bly

Robert Bly

"You don't make a boy into a man simply by feeding him a certain kind of food," says Bly,

His work "Iron John: A Book About Men" is an international

bestseller which has been translated into many languages. At one time, Robert Bly conducted workshops for men with James Hillman and others, and workshops for men and women with Marion Woodman and others. He and his wife, Ruth, along with the storyteller Gioia Timpanelli, frequently conduct seminars on European fairy tales. In the early '90s, with James Hillman and Michael Meade, he edited "The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart," an anthology of poems from the men's work. Since then he has edited "The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford," and "The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy," a collection of sacred poetry from many cultures. /font>


Michael Meade has studied myth, anthropology, history of religion, and cross-cultural rituals for over 35 years. His hypnotic and fiery storytelling, street savvy perceptiveness, and spellbinding interpretations ofDownload  ancient myths and symbols are highly relevant to current culture. He has an unusual ability to distill and synthesize these disciplines, tapping into ancestral sources of wisdom, while connecting them to the stories of people today. He is the author of Men and the Water of Life; editor, with James Hillman and Robert Bly, of Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart; and editor of Crossroads: A Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage. Meade is Founder/Director of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a network of artists, teachers, and activists that fosters community healing and development efforts. 

MIRCEA ELIADE (March 9, 1907, Bucharest - April 22, 1986, Chicago, Illinois), was a Romanian historian of religions At the prompting of Joachim Wach, Eliade's predecessor at the University of Chicago, a comparativist and hermeneuticist, Eliade was invited to give the 1956 Haskell Lectures on "Patterns of Initiation" at the University of Chicago. These were later published as Birth and Rebirth. In 1958 he was invited to assume the chair of the History of Religions department in Chicago. There he stayed until his death on 22 April 1986, publishing extensively and writing largely unpublished fiction. He also launched the journals History of Religions and The Journal of Religion and acted as editor-in-chief for Macmillan's Encyclopedia of Religion

The influence of his thought, through these works and through thirty years as director of History of Religions department at the University of Chicago, is considerable. Eliade's analysis of religion assumes the existence of "the sacred" as the object of worship of religious humanity. It appears as the source of power, significance, and value.
Can We Rebuild?

Can We Rebuild? Is there anything to initiate young men into? Is there any agreed upon "wonderful"?

In these times of rapid change and global transformation, many in our culture are grasping for a spirituality that is both relevant to our new ways of living and powerful in a world geared for materialism. While many women have learned the value of connection and support of other women through this quest, many men find themselves wrestling with questions of identity, morality, and power—difficulties which, if not resolved in healthy ways, can cause profound damage to individual men, their loved ones, and others around them.
RICHARD ROHR, OFM, a Sojourners contributing editor, is founder of the Center for Action & Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which sponsors rites-of-passage retreats for men and for women. The seeds of this material can be found in his books and The Quest for the Grail (Crossroad, 1994).


Boys To Men,  Sojourners Magazine/May-June 1998
Boys To Men. Rediscovering rites of passage for our time ... War served as a
partial kind of initiation for generations of men,


   Malidoma Somé

"The question is, can the modern world find ways to perceive the subtle knowledge and imagery of the tribal understanding open a place for tribal visions of spiritual life and community rituals to enter? Malidoma Some is uniquely qualified to find the thresholds between the worlds and hold the gates open." 
Michael Meade,
Malidoma Somé


Malidoma Somé, whose name means "be friends with the stranger/enemy," was born under the shadow of French colonial rule in Upper Volta, West Africa. When he was four, he was identified young as an exceptional leader by a Jesuit priest who sent him to be educated and hopefully become part of a new generation of "black" Catholic priests.

Fifteen years later, he fled the seminary and walked 125 miles through the dense jungle back to his own people, the Dagara. His only hope of reconnection with his people was to undergo the Dagara month long initiation in the wilderness, which he described in fascinating detail in his first book. [Of Water & the Spirit: Ritual, magic & initiation in the life of an African shaman. ] He emerged from this rituals a newly integrated individual, rejoined to his ancestral past and his cultural present.

The Dagara people are mainly associated with the West African coastal countries of Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Togo Inland. T
heir spiritual traditions have at the core an initiation which shows all the familiar elements of the symbolic death, sacred marriage, and rebirth, and at the climax the candidate is enthused with the presence of the deity.

The Healing Wisdom of Africa:  Finding life purpose through nature, ritual and community. A fascinating, detailed journey through the traditional healing practices of West Africa, by a beloved shaman and scholar. Through this book, readers can come to understand that the life of indigenous and traditional people is a paradigm for an intimate relationship with the natural world that both surrounds us and is within us.

 Ritual: Power, Healing and Community, makes a convincing case that the lack of ritual in the Western world is a fundamental reason that the fabric of society is unraveling.  1997

The Hero with a Thousand Faces
By Joseph Campbell


  Mythopoetic Mens Movement - Robert Bly, Michael Mead, - interested in men's inner work: recovery, working through grief issues, anger management. Introspective focus. Apolitical, although you'll find a lot of the agenda of the non-marxist left mixed in, (environmentalism, pacifism, some of the milder feminisms, anti-racism, anti-military.) Somewhat critical of 'traditional' male roles, but generally open to the idea of different roles for men and women. Some pagan stuff in the mix. Mixed views on Christianity; you'll find a lot of liberal clergymen in it. Tolerant of homosexuality, but gay issues not central to focus. Lots of therapists.
 What are Mens Issues?
A 1996 survey, by David R. Throop

Mythopoetic Men's Movement
Boys to Men Mentoring Network
9587 Tropico Drive · La Mesa, CA 91941
Phone (619) 469-9599 · Fax (954) 301-8115
Somewhere along the way, older men in our world lost touch with their calling to steward the young men in the community. As a result, the youth of today have developed their own forms of initiation. The levels of these initiations run the gamut, from something as simple as skateboarding competitions to teen-violence and gang activity.  With the help of an adult man who sees him for who he is, the young man can become more conscious of his world...and of of the tremendous potential that is awakening inside his being.$97
This study looks at how Westerners, who lack culturally sanctioned rites of passage, experience and make meaning of initiation as it exists across a spectrum of possible forms, ranging from structured ceremonial rites to informal, individual efforts to self-initiate.  A ManKind Project an intense, transformative men's initiation which invites men to forge a deep conscious connection between head and heart

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