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Mythopoiesis is a neologism from the words "myth" and "poetry", literally meaning "of or relating to the making of myths". The word is rarely used in its noun form; normally one sees reference to mythopoetic authors. The word can be used to describe a general style of psychological self-help, largely inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell. Authors associated with it include Robert Bly and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The related term mythopoeic (note the slight difference in spelling) is used to describe mythopoetic literature.

Characteristic of the mythopoetic movement was a tendency to retell fairy tales and engage in their exegesis as a tool for personal insight. Using frequent references to archetypes as drawn from Jungian, analytical psychology, the movement focussed on issues of gender role, gender identity and wellness for modern men and women. Advocates would often engage in storytelling with music, these acts being seen as a modern extension to a form of " shamanism" popularized by Michael Harner at approximately the same time.

Among its most famous advocates were the poet Robert Bly, whose book Iron John: A Book About Men was a best-seller, being an exegesis of the fairy tale "Iron John" by the Brothers Grimm.

The mythopoetic men's movement spawned a variety of self-help groups and workshops, led by authors such as Bly and Robert L. Moore. The self-help aspect of this movement was seen as something of a fad at the time. Nevertheless some serious academic work came out of this movement, including the creation of various magazines and non-profit organizations, such as the Mankind Project. It should be noted that the phrase "mythopoetic" was not, however, often used in women's groups to describe feminism-related mythopoetics, as the preferred term among many feminists was "women's spirituality."

As a self-help movement the mythopoetic movement did not take explicit stances on political issues such as feminism, gay rights or family law (such as the issues of divorce, domestic violence or [[child custody) preferring instead to stay focused on emotional and psychological well-being.


  • Iron John: A Book about Men by Robert Bly (1990)
  • King, Warrior, Magican, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (1990)
  • Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man by Sam Keen (Bantam, 1991)
  • Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992)
  • Men and the Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of Men by Michael J. Meade (1994)

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