In Jung’s Symbols of Transformation, at one point he remarks on the irregular origins of birth for heroes in many sacred traditions:
The hero is not born like an ordinary mortal because his birth is rebirth from the mother-wife. That is why the hero so often has two mothers. As Rank has shown with a wealth of examples, the hero is frequently exposed and then reared by foster-parents (¶494)[i]
This (mythological) rationalization of the necessity of abandonment and fostering clearly goes to the issue of adoption. It shows how culture must glorify such abandonment, as a means by which its heroes get created.[ii]
An outsider may often make a hero; by not being natively acculturated, the outsider may see cultural possibilities and courses of action otherwise invisible to insiders. (Not all heroes originate from the Outside, of course.) At a most banal level, this amounts to the insistence, “you’re special,” and all that that brings with it. And while Jung notes that, because we have two mothers, “the mother-in-law often finds it difficult not to make her son-in-law her son-lover in the old mythological manner” (¶495), he leaves out of this examples that step-fathers may similarly act out toward their adopted daughters.
But if only some heroes begin as alienated from the culture where they live, the vast majority end in alienation, precisely because the uniqueness of their experience and deeds makes them fundamentally unreadable to the culture where they live. They are acclaimed but not appreciated, are spoken of but not understood. Their consolation lies in having been called upon and having actually accomplished a great task for the sake of people who cannot actually grasp what was done. But, importantly, it is only if they undertake this thankless task, if they assent to helping their foster-culture, that they will be called a hero.
Patriarchy, especially as it reformulated itself during the rise of the Middle Class, took the turn of even more severely restricting the role of woman while simultaneously flattering her with an idealized description, rather than the old demonized one of Eve as destroyer of everyone’s happiness. So too, this valorisation of the hero (as necessary, as fundamental to culture) is meant to to make up for our sleepless nights. Thus, both the new myth of Woman and the myth of the fostered Hero serve to flatter and placate females and adoptees while providing also two cornerstone to patriarchal ideology.
[i] He adduces several examples and notes as well, “Thus Christ’s redemptive death on the cross was understood as a ‘baptism,’ that is to say, as rebirth through the second mother, symbolized by the tree of death [the cross]” (¶494), which I mention only for the way it attempts to rationalise the necessity of the cross-death, and hence also the rebirth of the hero by a regression of libido (psychic energy) back to the Source (the Mother, the Unconscious). And here should be added, as Jung does not, a greater sensitivity to the variety of cross-cultural practices that involve the “fostered hero” motif in different cultures, as Daniel has written about previously. And I will add also that for all of Jung’s talk about incest-taboos and regression to the Mother, in part this is detritus n leftovers from his association with Freud, which he was divesting himself of in this text, but at the same time, he quite genuinely means to take incest-taboo and mother regression he finds in myths s symbols–symbolic specifically of (as I said above) regression of the libido to the Unconscious. For all of the unfortunate sexism of his discourse (and sexism of his outlook at times), his discussion of the emergence of the ego-consciousness (as the Hero) should properly be understood in non-gendered terms.
[ii] Now, Jung does propose to understand the typically male-oriented and patriarchal hero imagery he analyses from mythology, which normally embodies considerable misogyny, as more properly understood in terms of a nongendered regression of libido back to the Source. And he objects in numerous places in his writings to any literalization of psychic contents–the sort of thing whereby sons might come to believe that they must, like JC on the cross, reject and insult their mothers in order to become men, that they must internalize patriarchal misogyny.