Whoosh! Issue 31 - April 1999

IAXS project #656
By Samira al Thores
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
1501 words

Author's Note: This article was written before the airing of the fourth season. Therefore the severe portrayal of the messianic theme (crucifixion, stigmata, et al) was not incorporated into it. The author considers the current episodes to support the hypothesis.

Summary: Recurring themes in Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) include the portrayals of a messiah character, the redeemer, and a life-death-rebirth cycle. Using a Jungian approach, the themes are explored in a general sense using examples from the episodes.

Introduction (01-03)
Death and Rebirth (04-06)
Dichotomy (07-09)
The Co-Redeemer (10-11)
Final Victory (12)

The Myth of the Redeemer in Xena: Warrior Princess


[1] A recurring theme in Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) is that of the redeemer: a being who exists and builds a following by virtue of her integrity, special powers, and compassion for humankind. In the process of her own self-examination and self-discovery, her super-mortal "nature" is revealed. Focusing inwardly, she fights battles of a psychological nature and conquers interior foes, thus setting an example of integrity and conviction of belief for her followers. In submitting to the greater good [Note 01], she sacrifices her corporeal existence on the earth and leaves a spiritual transcendence to those left behind. It is salvation through good works as well as faith (in the greater good).

[2] The task of the redeemer is to help people discover the true self and overcome outside forces.

The picture ain't the
only thing that's small, babe.

Darnelle to Glaphyra: At least, now, we have a choice. THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303)
[3] It is apparent that redemption is participatory. Those who bear witness to the redemptive acts are themselves reborn with divine essence [Note 02]. In some instances, just being present is not enough. One must follow the redeemer's example and begin a personal redemption journey. In this rite of transformation, through presence in the process of redemption, an individual can participate in the divine. By following the redeemer along the narrow and hard way, one experiences the extraordinary journey.

Death and Rebirth

Note the trendy flea collar

Anubis: Oh, Xena, in death there is always rebirth. THE BITTER SUITE
[4] The death and rebirth of gods or goddesses is a central theme in nearly all religions since the beginning of human history. Fear of death may have prompted the belief that death of the body does not necessarily constitute death of the spirit. Cyclic consciousness makes death non-absolute. In fact, death is seen as a doorway to existence at a higher level [Note 03]. In XWP, death of the mortal body and the experience of resurrection are recurring themes [Note 04]. Concurrently, a theme of initiation is also present in such episodes as HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), FORGIVEN (60/314), CRUSADER (76/408), and FORGET ME NOT (63/413). The rite of initiation is generally recognized as a necessary step in obtaining a higher level of existence or understanding.

[5] The redemption theme, one of death and rebirth, has its greatest popularity when it is coupled with nature. The Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone is a perfect example (the myth itself was addressed in the HTLJ episode THE OTHER SIDE (H21/208) rather than on XWP). Demeter's daughter was kidnaped and taken to the underworld god, Hades. Demeter, the goddess of the earth, grieving for her daughter, caused the earth to wither. Other gods, alarmed, sought Persephone's return. However, she was destined to spend four months in the underworld with Hades. Thus every winter, Demeter mourns for her daughter, and the earth mourns with her. The basic theme of the mother-sister goddess rescuing her son-daughter-brother-lover from some type of symbolic death is prevalent in many other cultures (Isis and Osiris, Cybele and Attis, Ishtar and Tammuz).

[6] The natural cycle of life, death and rebirth is the motif of XWP. Additionally, it appears that the premature and almost always violent death of the redeemer is a central feature [Note 05]. The message seems to be that in order to have creation, something must be sacrificed, and that in dying, something is given life. There are some things worth dying for [Note 06].


They're coussssins,
identical coussssins in every way!

Evil Xena to Xena: I am you. DREAMWORKER (03/103)
[7] The driving force behind the redeemer myth in XWP is the unresolved dichotomy (good/evil) of several relationships: divine/human [Note 07], redemption/sin [Note 08], spirit/flesh [Note 09], hero/warlord [Note 10], and other/self [Note 11]. These opposites are rooted in fundamental paradoxes of creation. The age-old questions of free will, mind vs. body, and the search for the meaning of life are clearly evident in XWP.

Who do you have to kill
to get off this series?

Callisto: You'd like to kill me. Wish you could. MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311)
[8] Consider the case of Callisto in XWP. Callisto, given immortality and denied death, is empty. She is devoid of feelings [Note 12]. Significantly, she denies redemption in her pre-goddess state, despite several chances. Callisto, a product of the unredeemed hero, becomes a ruthless, powerful, and effective enemy [Note 13]. Once immortality is bestowed, Callisto becomes an ineffective villain and a pawn of other evil forces [Note 14].

[9] The other dichotomies are dealt with as well. The most obvious is the hero/warlord theme. The descent into evil is matched and overcome only by the ascent of the hero. The divine spirit of the redeemed hero puts aside considerations for self in order to serve others.

The Co-Redeemer

[10] It is possible to argue that a redeemer cannot or will not act alone. The flawed protagonist needs some perfect ideal to support the mission.

[11] The reality of evil and its incompatibility with good leads our heroines into trial after trial. The love of the redeemer, the love that flows from human and divine depths, accepts the mission at great personal cost and saves the world [Note 15]. The true price of redemption is that love.

Final Victory

[12] The final victory is one of transmutation. The redeemer is resurrected into a higher plane of self. An additional victory is won in the hearts of her followers, whose lives have been significantly altered as a result of some level of association with her. The redemption is collectively experienced since her followers and we, the audience, witness her actions: the struggle, internal and external, of the divine to be reflected in mortals. As a psychological event, the redeemer theme allows the realization that one is NOT subjected completely to the powers of annihilation because the psychic totality of being transcends the time and space barriers [Note 16]. The viewers experience the redemptive protagonist.


No four, five or six-syllable words were harmed in the production of this article.


Note 01:
See THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) and ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313).
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Note 02:
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Note 03:
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Note 04:
See THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124), DESTINY (36/212), THE QUEST (37/213), SACRIFICE (67,68/321,322), and A FAMILY AFFAIR (71/403).
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Note 05:
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Note 06:
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Note 07:
See THE RECKONING (06/106), TIES THAT BIND (20/120), and THE FURIES (47/301).
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Note 08:
See THE PRICE (44/220) and LOST MARINER (45/221).
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Note 09:
See THE DEBT (52-53/306-307) and ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69,70/401,402).
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Note 10:
See THE DEBT (52,53/306,307).
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Note 11:
See ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69,70/401,402), BLIND FAITH (42/218), and TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208).
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Note 12:
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Note 13:
See CALLISTO (22/122), RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205), and INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207).
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Note 14:
See THE QUEST (37/213), SACRIFICE (67,68/321,322), and MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311).
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Note 15:
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Note 16:
See ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) and THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210).
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Samira al Thores Samira al Thores
Samira al Thores is a character created online to cover a host of personalities (no, it's not clinical schizophrenia) and to separate virtual reality from real life. In RL, Sami is a scientist with a government agency. She holds a PhD in chemistry and minors in history and psychology. Her hobbies include basketball, model railroads, and online RPG. She's currently contemplating a vacation to NZ to go gliding.
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) - Body count: 41
Favorite line: Gabrielle to Xena: "You've got to take me with you - teach me everything you know. You can't leave me here in Poteidaia. I want to go with you. I've studied the stars, spoken with philosophers, and I have the gift of prophecy. I can be very valuable to you. Take me with you. I want so much to be like you." Xena: "And I want to be like you." [Cries] ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
First episode seen: TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208)
Least favorite episode: KING CON (61/315)

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