Follow your Wyrd/weird
Linda S. Griggs

Hero Quest Cycle

Yeah, it's a shock. It  hits you completely out of the blue.


What's a hero quest?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell coined the term "hero quest" back in the 1940's, to describe the path followed by all the great heroes - both ancient and modern. 

Talking to Bill Moyers in the 1980's, Campbell  used Luke Skywalker's "Star Wars" adventure as a good example of the hero quest cycle. 

He points to how Luke gets the call from Obiwan and Princess Leah, gathers up spirit guides Chewbacca and Han Solo, meets all those strange beings at the bar/threshold to space, battles Storm Troopers and other demons in preparation for the big show down with Darth Vadar (his father), and finally returns to the world with the boon of success in that triumphant final celebration scene. 

Campbell  also sees the hero cycle in the details of Christ's death and resurrection. For Campbell, all great heroic action, regardless of the culture, can be described in terms fo this cycle.

He also applies the hero  cycle  to the  trials and tribulations of normal people. 

As he says in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, "If you go on your own proper voyage, there will be protection, magical aid to come to protect you. If it's not your proper voyage, that [aid]  will be missing, and you'll be in trouble. But if it's the voyage of your own spirit and soul and destiny, don't be afraid. There will come assistance."  

The link between the hero quest and wyrd/personal destiny is thus strong in Campbell's mind. 

In fact, his famous admonition to  "follow your bliss" comes from his original concept of "being faithful to your wyrd . . . your inner, unfolding destiny."  (Thomas Moore, A Religion of One's Own)

Learn More

Here are a couple of  books on the Hero Quest you might find useful:

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell - about the hero quest in the world's mythologies

The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers - about how we manifest archetypal myths like the hero quest in our lives


Heroine Quest Cycle

Various women writers have modified Campbell's essentially male hero quest cycle to describe the more internal quest that women/heroines undergo. 

Maureen Murdock describes this heroine quest cycle through the Underworld descent and resurrection stories of the Greek goddess Persephone and the Sumerian goddess Inanna.

As you can see from the diagram, the heroine's quest is more internally complex than the hero's quest. 

For Murdock, this feminine descent into the Underworld is a metaphor for the deep diving that women must do to come into their own as individuals. 

In that sense, the heroine's quest is perhaps even more difficult than the hero's quest, which "only" involves battling real-world demons.

Learn More

Here are a couple of books on the Heroine's Quest  and recovering your individual  power that you might find useful:

The Heroine's Journey, Maureen Murdock - about how the hero's quest manifests itself in a woman's search for meaning

Crossing to Avalon, Jean Shinoda Bolen - about the heroine's quest as a mid-life search for meaning and renewal

Goddesses in Everywoman, Jean Shinoda Bolen - about how women manifest archetypal female patterns (from Ancient Greek goddesses).  Gods in Everyman is the companion book for men. 

Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés - about recovering our natural instinctive selves (explained through Jungian interpretations of myths/fairy tales)

Hero vs heroine quest

My own first call to adventure came in the form of a breast cancer diagnosis in 1993.  Since then, I've gotten the call for several other slightly less momentous  hero quests.

 It wasn't until 2017 that I got a call whose effects were as momentous as my first one. That second major call to adventure informed me that I might need  a kidney transplant.  (It turned out I don't need one yet, but that call still put me on the hero quest path.)

Because "heroine" is the diminutive form of "hero," I prefer to use the term "hero quest" rather than "heroine quest" to describe my resulting journeys.

There's nothing diminutive about those journeys.


Natural cycle

The quest cycle is a natural cycle that occurs with any kind of crisis: divorce, an accident, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job.

Anytime you find yourself in a place where nothing is the way it used to be, where you have to do some deep diving to adapt, you are in a quest cycle.


Transformation - death and rebirth

The quest cycle is about transformation. It's a death and rebirth cycle - the death of an old you and the rebirth of a new you. There can't be a rebirth without a death. And that can be painful.

Think about your adolescence: now there's one lo-o-o-o-ong quest cycle, searching for a new adult self.

And if you're on a hero quest right now, you know how painful that can be.


Life transforming and wyrd enhancing

The hero quest is more challenging, more dangerous, and ultimately more rewarding than anything you've ever been through before.

It will transform you as well as those around you - and in the process, bring  all of you new visions/understandings of your individual wyrds.

Having passed my 25th anniversary since my 1993 breast cancer diagnosis, and with  the kidney transplant scare currently  in the rear view mirror,  I can tell you - without reservation - that I would never go back to what/who I was before my diagnoses. 

And I would never wish that anything I've been through  - even the "bad" parts - had never happened.


Using the cycle

In becoming aware of the ups and downs inherent in the quest cycle, I've learned how to use that cycle. I've learned that you must hit rock bottom before you can rise again with new strength and understanding. 


Resurrection and wyrding/weirding

Regardless of what your individual quest is,  I can guarantee you it will lead you through the mystery and beauty of a resurrection. And through that resurrection, you'll always, always come to new soul growth.

The "wyrd" (personal destiny) you ultimately come to will be worth the trials and tribulations you go through, because it will be uniquely yours - something you might never have found were it not for your hero quest. 

Yes, you may start looking a little weird to others. That's the price you pay for truly becoming your unique self. 


So welcome to your Quest

If you're curious about the things (shrine-making, collaging, astrology) that helped me discover my own "wyrd" through my quests, check out the rest of my site, starting with my shrines.

See my Shrines

More about my quests

If you'd like to know more about how my quests have enriched my understanding of my wyrd, and thus myself, have a look at my bio.

See my bio