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The Hero's Journey: The Call to Adventure

Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey is divided into three stages. The first stage is the period of “Separation,” and the first step in this stage is “The Call to Adventure.

Let's begin by considering the nature of the “hero.” Throughout this series, I will switch back and forth between the terms “hero” and “heroine” for the sake of avoiding biological exclusivity and as a concrete acknowledgement that that nature of the modern hero has begun to change.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Luke.jpgTraditionally, the hero was always a young male—typically an adolescent on the brink of sexual maturity and adulthood. This description of the hero in terms of maleness goes all the way back to the oldest legends and the deepest myths and to a time when, for the most part, males did all of the adventuring and females stayed behind and held down the fort. Of course, there have always been female heroes, but their numbers, compared to those of men, have been small.

In recent decades, male hero domination has begun to change. And interestingly, some of the most significant changes in terms of pushing female characters forward have taken place in film. Consider Aliens’ Ripley and John Connor’s mother, Sarah, of the Terminator films, two roles considered groundbreaking in bringing female heroes to the forefront of story. Most of today’s hero roles continue to be filled by male characters, but thanks to Ripley, Sarah Connor, Merida (from Disney’s Brave), Harry Potter’s Hermione, and even Elle Woods from Legally Blond (a true hero’s journey!), female heroines are making a steady inroad.


Returning to our current journey…. The call to adventure is also a call to destiny—an awakening or a sudden understanding that there is something one must do. The word “destiny” arises from Latin roots meaning “to make firm or establish,” and discovering what one is “destined” to do means accepting that one’s life has found a firm new direction.

b2ap3_thumbnail_hogwarts_letter_by_crescentmoon18-d3lf3qh.jpgIn Campbell’s traditional format, the hero typically receives this call abruptly—and it’s almost always unexpected or even a complete surprise. In a few cases, the call may come when the hero blunders or falls into a situation and understands he must find his way out. In either instance, the hero has, until then, been living in a place that is both well-known and “comfortable” in the sense of its familiarity. But when the call to adventure comes, the hero’s very world is rocked, for with it comes with the understanding that if the challenge is accepted, everything in his world is about to change. This is the time of Separation, and the hero will soon be separated from everything he knows and holds dear. If the challenge is accepted, a life of comfort will be set aside for the trials and adventures that await.

Each of us faces many calls to adventure throughout our lives—for instance, via a new job opportunity, a challenging personal issue, the chance for a real-life adventure, or maybe a fresh plunge into a new magickal or spiritual path. For as long as we live, and for as long as we move forward, placing one foot in front of the other, we’ll face these challenges—and it’s how we respond that tells us what we’re made of.

Coming in four weeks*, the next stage: “The Refusal of the Call.” Until then, be aware of new challenges that may come your way. What are you being called to do?

*Beginning in mid-July, I will be blogging regularly every other Friday. 
All images are my own, are from Creative Commons, or belong to an artist and are used with permission (and the author credited.).


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Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker is a writer, college English teacher, and hearth Pagan/Druid living in northwestern Oregon. Her magickal roots include Pictish Scot and eastern European medicine traditions. Sue holds a Masters degree in nonfiction writing and loves to read, stargaze, camp with her wonder poodle, and play in her biodynamic garden. She’s co-founder of the Druid Grove of Two Coasts and the Ars Viarum Magicarum Magical Conservatory (school of magic). Sue has authored Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink and The Magickal Retreat (Llewellyn, 2009-2012) and regularly contributes to the Llewellyn Annuals. Visit her at on Facebook.


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Friday, 30 May 2014

    I'm enjoying this. Your description of the Call to Adventure also reminds me of the Bagginses - Bilbo and Frodo.

  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker Sunday, 01 June 2014

    Thank you, Ted-- and yes: absolutely! Frodo is called to carry the One Ring out of Mordor. Harry Potter is called to Hogwarts. Jason is called to find the Golden Fleece and the Arthurian knights to retrieve the holy grail. Life is, in any many ways, a journey from one destiny to the next.

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