The Map and Milestones of the Hero’s Journey

The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale – as the flavor of the ocean is contained in the droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous products of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces 

Where do mentors come from? One answer is that mentors are those who choose to share the treasures won on their own Hero’s Journeys. To become better mentors, then, we can use the Hero’s Journey as a lens through which to reexamine our own life journeys for gems of experience which we can share. To do so, we must begin by understanding the map.

The journey itself is a deceptively simple pattern, starting with a crisis, followed by a departure from home, a transformation of character, and a homecoming. However, as the opening quote of this article implies, the journey “bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” By reframing our stories in the context of the Hero’s Journey, we not only lay claim to the talismans of Universal Truth that lie within them, but connect to the power behind that truth2. Like the Sankofa Bird of West African legend3, let us see if we can learn to use this map, retrace our steps, and seek out the treasures that have been left behind.

Stages of the Journey

In the “4-Act Story Diamond” Hero’s Journey model used for this series of articles, the hero’s journey of transformation is accomplished in four distinct stages4:

  1. Preparation
  2. Separation
  3. Initiation
  4. Return

Within this framework, each leg of the journey is a kind of miniature hero’s journey of its own, characterized by a heroic archetype that informs the hero’s choices and ultimately transforms into the hero of the journey’s next phase:

  1. Preparation: The Orphan-Hero
    • A great crisis (dragon) drives the hero from his home.
    • Characterized by risk-aversion, powerlessness, and a dependence on others, the Orphan-Hero flees from the dragon, and is reborn as “the Wanderer”.
  2. Separation: The Wanderer-Hero
    • Having left home and the familiar behind, the hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon.
    • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when he confronts the dragon, he gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.
  3. Initiation: The Warrior-Hero
    • With growing confidence in his Ego identity and power, the hero now approaches the the dragon’s cave, where treasure and victory await.
    • The Warrior-Hero finds the tables turned as he must submit to the dragon and be reborn as “the Martyr”.
  4. Return: The Martyr-Hero
    • The hero must now grow beyond personal power to forge or claim his TALISMAN and prevail against the dragon; transcending his ego, the Martyr-Hero journeys back home as a very different person that the Orphan who set out.
    • The Martyr-Hero confronts the dragon for a fourth and final time. Through the transcendence of his ego and re-engagement with his role in community, he integrates the dragon’s power within himself and is reborn as the Magician.

The journey in its entirety yields a valuable lesson or Talisman which the Hero can use for the benefit of himself and his community, but so too does each leg of the journey. Indeed, even within each leg of the journey are smaller moments of choice and change that ‘bear within them the germ power of the source,’ and reflect the recurring pattern of of crisis, change and transformation . When we use this tool as a lens to review the great challenges of our past, we can recover many treasures indeed from each story we take the time to explore. By collecting these talismans, we build a rich store of treasures “where neither moth nor rust consume”, from which we enrich both ourselves and, if we so choose, our communities as well.

QUESTION: What experiences have you had in your life which, in retrospect, could be described as following the pattern of the Hero’s Journey? Which archetype resonates most with you at this moment in time?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Choose a problem you are facing right now and pick the archetype that most closely describes how you are responding to that challenge. Explore together ways that you can move past that challenge and move toward integration and claiming of your power in this situation, including the personal growth you may need to experience along the way. Commit to one concrete action you can take in this direction between now and your next co-mentoring session and report back on results when you meet again.


  1. Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp. 1 – 2.
  2. Baron-Reid, Collette, The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life, pp. 111 – 112.
  3. I first learned of the Sankofa Legend from Dr. Frank Robinson, who used this motif as a key theme in his 2015 Martin Luther King Day speech at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. See also: Wikipedia, “Sankofa”
  4. Ferguson, Andrew, The Four-Act Story Diamond.

For another excellent overview of the Hero’s Journey (and a terrific “Recommended Reading” list), see Nina Munteau’s 2-part article on the subject at blogspot:

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.
Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at