The god of madness is back with a vengeance

Geoff Ward
7 min readMar 30, 2023

Wotan, the god of frenzy and possession in Germanic paganism, was seen by the eminent Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung as the mythological figure, representing a psychic force, behind the rise of Hitler and the Nazis — and Jung, shortly before he died in 1961, predicted a future worldwide ‘Wotanistic experiment’. Today, it seems Wotan’s time has come again

‘The world’s gone mad!’ How often do we hear this exclamation today?

In his ‘Essay on Wotan’, first published in 1936, Jung wrote that, because the behaviour of a race takes its specific character from its underlying images, one can speak of ‘Wotan’ as an archetype in the collective unconscious: ‘As an autonomous psychic factor, Wotan produces effects in the collective life of a people and thereby reveals his own nature.’

In Jungian depth psychology, archetypes are inherited, innate a priori modes of perception, linked to instincts, which regulate perception itself. They are primordial ideas, or tendencies, common to the human race, and convey themselves through archetypal images. They function autonomously from the unconscious, and are charged with emotion. Mythological figures, gods and demons, are archetypal.

Wotan, or Odin in Old Norse, was a supremely venerated god in Germanic mythology and paganism, and known in Old English as…

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Geoff Ward

Writer, journalist, book editor, poet, musician and tutor in literature and creative writing (MA and BA Hons degrees in English literature).