Guardians at the Gates of Creation

image: the wall guardian from the movie Stardust(2007)

This was originally posted on my darlingwords blog in 2011. It’s been so well loved and asked after, I’m re-posting here.

Guardians at the Gates of Creation

At 23, recently arrived in Australia and seduced by the glamour, I decided to learn to surf. I was living in Perth, Western Australia, famous for its hardcore, territorial surfers. We newbies had to wear helmets and looked totally absurd as you can imagine. Very uncool. I loved surfing, the teacher said I was a natural, but just as I was beginning to get the hang of standing up and riding in, a big bruiser showed up and ruined everything.

I was happily paddling out and a bronzed god of the waves on a zippy little board deliberately clipped the front of my board, which flew into the bridge of my nose blinding me momentarily. I swore (as I staggered out of the water seeing stars) that if he had broken my nose, I would beat him to a pulp with the board (I am a little vain). Nose was intact, but ego severely damaged.

I quit. It seems rather pathetic, but I was a spring chicken and just venturing out of the henhouse to sample life. Who was that non-sharing, wave hogging brute? He was a threshold guardian.

Joseph Campbell, famous scholar of mythology, was the first person to coin the term Monomyth, otherwise known as the hero’s journey. It is the path undertaken by the hero to discover his/her treasure. Campbell identified a series of steps and archetypes in this journey that are common to hero myths across many of the world’s cultures, one of these is the Threshold Guardian.

Threshold guardians are archetypal figures that show up once the hero has received the call to adventure (once you have decided to, or been invited to, create something). They can be literal like Cerberus (a fearsome, multi-headed hound) who guards the gates to Hell, or metaphorical.

In our lives they serve as obstacles to proceeding with a creation. Anyone in your field of existence can function as a threshold guardian, including you! Your emotions, thoughts and beliefs can powerfully obstruct you in your creations.

Threshold guardians challenge our right to continue with the creation. Do we have the mettle to continue? Do we really want what we seek?

Threshold guardians can be fought, beguiled, convinced, hoodwinked, and sometimes even converted to the hero’s cause. One thing’s for sure – they always show up. It goes something like this:

You have chosen to create something – a job, a relationship, an exhibition, a holiday or whatever. Initially things go rather well, you receive support  and outside signs are favourable. At this point the threshold guardian (TG) shows up as a problem, a ‘no’-sayer, a perceived lack of resources, or some belief in you that rises up and obstructs your way (like a golden, wetsuited lad with vicious intentions).

Mythology has been missing from education for many years (except as stories for the very young) and dealing with threshold guardians is rarely taught. Most people quietly quit at the first hint of a TG. There are a persistent few who will battle it out and push on with slathering TGs hanging off them, weighing them down. I generally fall down in a tragic heap after engagement with a TG!

So what can we do? A hero of old, like Jason, would have slain, tricked or wooed a TG, but these days, killing someone who says ‘no’ to you is regarded as a bit off. In the case of the surfing, it would have served me well to have paddled out and had another go, but I was a wimp in those days.

Recognising TGs is a grand way to neutralise them. Once you can see the function someone is filling when they are adamantly telling you that what you want to create isn’t possible, they lose all their power to thwart you. You can even say “Ha ha! You threshold guardian you! I see you. Stand aside, I’m a’comin’ through.”

Are you up to the challenge? How much do you really want what you are aiming to create? Will you let the TG fold his/her arms across their chest and bar your way?

If what you would love to create truly matters to you, to your whole being, you will find a way around, over, through or under the threshold guardians while they stand there looking mean. You will become more creative in your creating and you will develop the marvellous qualities of substance, backbone and character.

If you’re feeling like quitting, dropping, cutting back on or ditching your creation, ask yourself if you’ve run into a threshold guardian. Then read my post on persistence!

© 2011 Pollyanna Darling

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Run into a nasty threshold guardian that just won’t go away? Intuitive life coaching can help you past the meanest TGs. Find out more here.


  • Deniece

    Reply Reply March 6, 2017

    Thanks Pollyanna..great read and so useful too. xx

    • darling_lover

      Reply Reply March 6, 2017

      Glad you enjoyed it Deniece!

  • Sharon

    Reply Reply March 17, 2017

    Great post Pollyanna. I have been running into these suckers more and more lately. It is now the signal for me, that I am on the right path and to just keep on, keeping on 🙂

    • darling_lover

      Reply Reply March 18, 2017

      Exactly!!! And yay. I’m really enjoying watching your creations unfolding.

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