Archetypes in the Consonants

by Margaret Magnus

copyright by Margaret Magnus
all rights reserved

Margo's Magical Letter Page

About 300 hours into this research, you start losing your mind. You start imagining you discern archetypes in all those consonants and vowels. (Ho, ho!) For your confoundment and entertainment, I now proffer some data on the serpent in /s/ and the Grail in /g/.

In truth, I believe data of this type to be incredibly important. What it says essentially is that the consonants and vowels do in fact have a meaning. The most fundamental aspect of that meaning is pure sound without any interpretation or symbolism. That pure sound is meaningful (and how!). But one step above that most fundamental and pure sound-meaning is the archetypal meaning. Since the consonants and vowels form the foundation of the word - not only of its sound, but also of its meaning, then we literally talk in terms of archetypes. Every word is a sound - a shruti note - on which are superimposed a collection of gods whose interaction forms the basis of the word. It is really like that. It is poetic, but it is also cold, sober fact. What is added on top of that - the semantic class and the referent is secondary to sound and archetype.

And so, friends, I bid you observe how the might serpent abides in English S and informs every word that contains it.

Since /s/ is a dental fricative, it is bound from the outset to be linear (the dental part) and flexible (the fricative). But the distance from linear flexibility (or flexible linearity) to the serpent is still considerable. First notice the root words beginning in /s/ which refer to the serpent's basic qualities. Body parts that begin with /s/ emphasize those that are prominent in the snake:

The Animal Itself- serpent, snake
Its Body - scale, skeleton, skin, skull, snout, sphincter, spine
Its Shape - cylinder, skinny, slender, slight, slim, straight, string, strip, stripe
Its Texture - satin, silk, sleek, slick, smooth, soft, suede

How it Moves
Scoot - scoot, scuffle, scurry, scuttle, scutter, skate, skid, skim, skirt, skittle, skitter
Scrape - scrape, scrub
Slide - slip, slide, slink, slip, slither
Squiggle - squiggle, squirm
Sway - swagger, sway, sweep, swerve, swim, swing, swish, swivel, swoop
Circle - circle, cycle, spin, spool, swirl, swivel
Sudden - spasm, speed, streak, stream, sudden, swift

How it Kills - slaughter, slay
Hypnotize - spell, stare, stun, swoon
Startle - scare, startle, stun
Strike - slam, slog, slug, smack, smite, snipe, sock, stab, stick, stake, sting, strike, stun, swat, syringe
(Sore - scab, scar, scratch, scurvy, sore)
Spit - saliva, slobber, slop, slosh, smatter, smear, snort, spatter, speck, speckle, spew, spigot, spill, spit, spittle, splash, splatter, splay, splotch, splutter, spot, spout, spray, spread, spring, sprinkle, spume, spurt, sputter, squirt
Strangle - scrunch, seethe, seize, siege, smash, snug, snuggle, squash, squeeze, squelch, squish, stifle, strain, strangle, strap, swaddle
(Struggle - scabble, squirm, strife, struggle)
Stop - slow, snag, snare, stall, stalwart, stand, stay, steady, staunch, stick, stiff, still, stodgy, stop, store, stow, stubborn, stuff
Strength - sinew, staff, stance, staple, staunch, steady, steel, stiff, stock, stout, stress, sturdy, swarthy

How it Eats (no chewing) - sap, sate, scoop, seep, sip, siphon, slake, slurp, soak, soap, sop, souse, sponge, stomach, stuff, suck, suckle, sup, swallow, swell

Its Sleeping - siesta, sleep, slumber, snooze, snore, swoon

Slough: scrape, scratch, scrub, slough

The Garden of Eden

In addition, if you're willing to admit some imagination, you can find a considerable number of words from that fateful afternoon in the Garden of Eden.

First we find words which describe the garden itself. /s/ for some reason is a very hot phoneme:

The Environment - salt, sand, sea, sky, star, sun, surf
Hot - spring, sultry, summer, sun, swelter
Safe - certain, safe, salaam
Seed - seed, semen, sod, soil, source, sow, spawn, sperm, spore, sprig, sprout, Succoth
Innocence - serene, silly, simple, sincere

Then Eve goes forth a-sauntering:

Sally - safari, sally, sashay, saunter, sojourn, step, stint, straggle, stray
Seek - safari, scour, scout, search, secret, seek, sleuth

And comes upon the person of the snake:

Its Personality - sphinx
Evil - Satan, scum, sinister, skunk, slime, swine
Swank - sleazy, snazzy, spiffy, swank
Smart - savvy, sinister, sleight, sly, smart, smug, suave, subtle
Sneak - sinister, skulk, sleazy, sneak, stealth

The snake is certainly a Satanic figure, but it also seems to have the qualities of the sage, the swami. The 'soul', the 'spirit' and the 'self' are all to be found in /s/:

Prophet - sacred, sage, saint, samurai, sibyl, swami
Sultan - sadhu, sahib, sergeant, sir, sire, sultan, super, supreme
Self - self, soul, spirit

The snake speaks to Eve. The /s/ verbs of verbalizing involve speaking and seduction. Those in /t/ are didactic. Those in /b/ are bombastically blathering, blaming, blessing and bothering. Those in /f/ are lying. But the /s/ verbs of verbal behavior are specifically suited to the serpent.

Speak - cite, saga, say, sermon, speak, speech, state, story, swear
Seduction - sabotage, seduce, sell, siren, slogan, soothe, spell, spoof, sucker, summon, sweet, syrup
Song - sing, siren, song, sonnet, sound

And he promises her sight, wisdom, certainty:

Seeing - certain, satori, scan, see, seem, sense, sight, sign, spy, squint
Study - school, study
Truth - sooth, sutra

She eats of the tree and learns of sin. The implication is that this sin specifically concerns sex:

Sin - samsara, sin, slut, smirch, smutty, soil, spoil, sully
Stigma - sass, satire, sauce, scandal, scoff, scold, scorn, slander, smirk, sneer, snide, snob, snooty, snot, snub, spurn, stigma
Dirt - slime, slob, slobber, slop, slough, sloven, sludge, slut, smear, smirch, smudge, smut
Sex - satyr, seduce, sex, slut, sultry
Seed - seed, semen, spawn, sperm, spore

And then along comes Mr. Party Pooper You-Know-Who and banishes them from the Garden:

Argument - scoff, scold, spar, spat, spite, squabble, squall, strife
Somber - scowl, severe, solemn, somber, stern, strict
Chase - scat, scatter, scram, send, sever, sic, snub, split, spread, sunder

And they are confined to a life of sorrow and scarcity:

Sad - sad, scourge, sigh, sniffle, sob, sorrow, sorry, sour, suffer, sulk
Scarcity - save, scant, scarce, scrap, scrimp, scrounge, sparce, skimp, spare

/s/ also contains Eve's new reaction to the snake. Notice that these sounds are all appropriate to exactly the situation of coming upon a snake. This is not the case with 'yell', 'shout', 'call', 'bellow' or any other synonyms:

Scream - scream, screech, squawk, squeak, squeal
Stomp - stamp, step, stomp

The words just mentioned in this account of the serpent in /s/ make up 46% (46%!!!) of the 861 monomorphemic (no prefixes or suffixes) /s/ words in my active vocabulary. Though the serpent is undoubtedly not the only creature to be found lurking in /s/, it nonetheless does live there. You simply can't pull the same trick with /g/ or /t/ or /m/ or /r/. /g/ is not smooth, flexible, linear, suave or sexy. It does not sway, sting or squeeze. It does not speak or seduce. It does not slither or spit. /s/ does all this many times over. If you don't believe me, try it. (Please , I beg you, try it!!!!) Try to make /g/ or /b/ look like /s/. You see, the position that my fellow sound symbolists and I are advocating is simply cold sober fact, and the only reason people in general don't know that, is because they never personally tried this experiment.

Thank you for your consideration.

"The notion that it's out of the abyss that life comes is very important. Out of the darkness of the abyss, the chthonic realm. And so these cults are very much associated with the death into the underworld and the life again. And this was symbolized through the analogy of the planting of seed and the coming to life again." Joseph Campbell Mythos I, Episode 5

The primary way that we engage the language machine is by talking, of course. In the word, Prometheus is bound; in another, is Hector dragged about the gates of the city; in a third, Penelope weaves her endless shroud. As we talk, our thoughts sink further and further into the unconscious, and finally become a part of the language itself. If we look carefully, we can see this philosophy machine active on ever deeper levels:

The consonant /g/ centers around getting and giving, greed and generosity. If we examine the whole which is common to these, and also include in our cauldron the /g/'s vastness and invisibility, we find her vast and hidden side creates imbalance relative to 'getting' and 'giving'.

/g/ contains two major semantic classes. One can be described as 'too much where it doesn't belong', and the other as 'not enough where you need it'. The former applies to 41% of /g/ words, and tends to be associated with a 'gross' or 'gaudy' feeling-tone:

Too Much Where it Doesn't Belong

Too Much - gala, galore, glar(ing), glut, gobs, googol, gross
Greed - gascon, golem, greed
Gluttony - gall, gargle, glut, glutton, gobble, gorge, graze, grub, gulp, gurgle, guzzle
Grab - grab, grabble, grapple, grasp, grip, gripe, grommet, grope

Gooey - glob, glom, glop, gob, goo, gook, goop, goosh, gore, grisly, grub, guck, gum, gunk
Garbage - garbage, gaum, glob, goo, gook, goop, gore, goosh, gout, grease, grime, grit, guck, gunk, gut, gutter
Gimmicks - gadget, gag, gambit, game, gimmick, gismo, guile, guise
Gloss - gable, gaiter, garter, gaud, get up, gild, gilt, gimp, girdle, glacé, glair, glare, glaze, glitz, gloss, glove, gold, gore, gusset
Unpleasant - gaffe, gallows, gargoyle, garrotte, gauche, gaud, geek, geezer, geld, ghast(ly), ghost, ghoul, gink, goblin, golem, golgotha, golliwog, goon, goose, gouge, green, gremlin, griffon, grim, gristle, grit, gross, grotesque, grue, guillotine, gut

Too Much Talk - gab, gabble, gam, gammon, garble, gas, gascon, glib, gossip, graffiti, guff, gush
Too Much Laughter - gag, gale, gas, giggle, guffaw
Too Much Staring - gape, gasp, gawk, gaze, glare, glazed, glint, glower, goggle, glare, glower
Too Much Enthusiasm - gaga, geyser, giddy, gimp, glee, glib, gloat, groove, grovel, gungho, gush, gusto
Too Much Anguish - grill, grim, grind, grip, gripe, groan, grouse, grovel, gruel

Not Enough Where You Need It

Conversely, we have a large class (34%) of words for things that are gone(privatio). These are generally associated with a 'grieving' or empty sort of feeling-tone. Often words fit in both classes. In that case the 'prism', which is the word as a whole, has not split the gaudy, grotesque side of /g/ from its grieving side. Conceptually we may think of /g/ as attempting in many cases to overcompensate for an underlying emptiness:

Not Enough - gangling, gaunt, ghetto
Death - gag, gallows, gangrene, garrotte, grave, grief, grieve, guerilla, guillotine, guilt, gun
Ghost - ghastly, ghost, ghoul, goblin, golem, golgotha, golliwog, grave, gremlin, griffin, grim, ghastly, grisly
Gloom - gall, gloom, glower, glum, gorge, grain(against), grate, grave, gray, grief, grieve, grim, grimace, gripe, grizzle, groan, grouch, grouse, growl, grudge, gruel, gruff, grumble, grump, grunt, guilt
Gone - gad, gamin, get(lost), go

Gap - gap, gape, gate, gauge, gimlet, glitch, gutter
Gulch - gash, gorge, grave, grotto, gulch, gulf, gully, gutter, gut

Empty Talk - gab, gabble, gam, gammon, garble, gas, gascon, glib, gloss, gossip, graffiti, guff, gush
Empty Stare - gape, gaze, gawk, glass/y, glaze/d, goggle
Drugs - gage, glogg, grass, grog
Gimmicks - gadget, gag, game, gimmick, gismo, guile, guise
Goof - gaff, gaffe, gallery, gander, glitch, goof, green, groggy, gull

Greed - golem, greed
Gluttony - gall, glutton, gobble, gorge, gulp, gurgle, guzzle
Grab - grab, grabble, grapple, grasp, grip, gripe, grommet, grope


We have seen what happens when the 'giving' and 'getting' of /g/ becomes imbalanced. But there is a beautiful class of /g/ words ending in a [+dental] consonant which balance, in which the vastness of /g/ reveals itself as grandeur:

Glad, Glory, God, Good, Grace, Grand, Grant, Grateful

We find this balance in other words as well:

gain, gait, gala, garden, garland, gather, get, gift, girl, give, glade, glen, glide, glow, go, gold, gospel, govern, gown, grail, grain, grass, gratis, great, greet, grig, grin, groom, ground, grow, guest, guide, guru

I have just included quite a few of the /g/ words in English which have no prefixes or suffixes. In all 221 words or 67% of the whole have been mentioned in this discussion of 'The Grail'.

See also:
Letter Meanings According to the Mystical Traditions
The Meanings of the English Consonants
Animals - Significance Dependent on Pronunciation

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