To understand this post you’re really going to need to think quite a bit about what exactly a belly button is. We all have them (well most of us) and while you may think they’re cute or gross, they actually are an important reminder of something. We all were connected to our mothers at some point. While that image drums up different emotions for everyone, for the sake of Campbell’s analogy we are only going to focus on the nourishment and life that flowed into us from our mothers.
What (or who) is the World Navel?
Campbell makes several references to the world navel throughout The Hero with a Thousand Faces. While his explanation of this concept is long, it boils down to one thing. The world navel isn’t a place, it’s a person. More importantly, the world navel is the hero after they have completed their journey.
My Hero is a Belly Button…WHAT?
I’ll try to break this down as simply as possible. Heros go on a journey. They learn lessons. They take these lessons back to their people. Simple, right? So what does this have to do with navels?
Well, a hero who has completed their journey has journeyed to the realm of the gods and gained something of value. Whether this is wisdom or something more tangible, the source is said to be from the source of all life and wisdom. They’ve gained access to this source and are now able to pass it on to the rest of humanity.
Consider a baby in its mother’s belly. The placenta is their life source. All nutrition comes through there. Everything the mother eats or drinks is passed to the infant through the umbilical cord (which later becomes the belly button). In this analogy, the mother’s placenta is the source of all wisdom and life the hero accesses. The baby in the belly is humanity. The hero then is the belly button through which all that goodness is able to be passed into humanity.
Writing Your Belly Button
Of course, your hero won’t actually turn into a belly button, but you need to consider how to incorporate this symbolism into your story. As you write your heroic journey, you need to consider what wisdom and knowledge your hero is going to gain from their journey.
While we won’t see how this plays out until the end, we will need to see what is missing at home that only the hero can provide upon their return. It wouldn’t make much sense if your hero journeys to find a magical healing flower if everyone at home is healthy and well. How you set your story up, in the beginning, will have a dramatic impact on the conclusion of your story.
Want to follow along on this series about Campbell’s Heroic Journey? Be sure to follow me to get updates when I post. As always, happy writing!