The tribal initiation of the shaman, the archetype of the serpent, exemplifies the death of the self and a rebirth into transcendent life. This book traces the images of spiritual initiation in religious rituals and myths of resurrection, poems and epics, cycles of nature, and art and dreaming. It dramatizes the metamorphosis from a common experience of death's inevitability into a transcendent freedom beyond individual limitations.
"This is a classic work in analytical psychology that offers crucial insights on the meaning of death symbolism (and its inevitably accompanying rebirth and resurrection symbolism) as part of the great theme of initiation, of which [Henderson] is the world's foremost psychological interpreter. This material is really the next step after the hero myth that Joseph Campbell has made so popular, and provides an understanding of how not to use the hero myth in an inflated way as a psychology of mastery, but as an attainment progressively to be died beyond. [Henderson] is helped by the presence of Maud Oakes, who is a trained anthropologist with exquisite taste in her choice of mythic materials and respect for their original contexts."--John Beebe