What Is It About Putting on a Cape? Spirituality and the Superhero Archetype

+ Superhero Girl Radio Ap 15 19864798_sFrom Superman to Wonder Woman to the Powerpuff Girls, there’s something thrilling about Superheroes that captures our imagination. Cuff the bad guy, save the little old lady, leap over tall buildings, move through time portals…Who among us doesn’t have a secret desire to discover our own hidden talent or skill that, given the right magical enhancement, could “Save the world before bedtime,” as the Powerpuff Girls’ slogan says.

This might sound simply playful, but the Superhero is an archetype in our culture that influences and inspires us in significant ways. There are even real-life situations where Superhero energy is helping kids in hospitals cope with challenges.

My daughter and Superhero buff Laura Kessenich and I will explore What Is It About Putting on a Cape? Spirituality and the Superhero Archetype this month on Creating a Spirited Life.

Put on your cape and join the conversation.

Special guests: Yuanyuan Yin and Dylan Murphy from SuperHealos.com 

“SuperHealos is a social enterprise dedicated to empowering children and their families facing life’s toughest challenges like illness, grieving, and social issues. With a focus on imagination and play, SuperHealos provides children with age appropriate stories, products, and information to help them bridge the gap between sickness and recovery, loss and acceptance, fear and courage.”

~ From the SuperHealos Mission Statement


  1. Pamela Newton says

    Dear Janet and Laura,

    I really enjoyed listening to this show. It was fun, funny, fecund, feisty, fantastical, focused, and touching! Thanks for creating it.

    As I was listening to the final minutes, I had a memory flash vividly into my mind. When I was 32, my mother died of liver cancer after having been in various treatments for various carcinomas during the past ten years. I had three small children and was exhausted, devastated, and grieving after she finally died in New Jersey. I had gone to be with her along with my three little boys for the last six weeks of her life. When I got back to Boston, I was depleted and physically ill.

    But, planning and dressing for Halloween gave me a break. That evening I put on a huge, heavy cape that had been hanging up in my attic. It was from the Victorian era, edged in black braid and finished with an over-large collar and voluminous hood. I plunged into the Witch. I put on ghoulish make-up, a black dress and boots, and that cape. Immediately, I transformed into a denizen of the underworld covered by a magical shroud of heavy, unearthly power. As I walked with my boys, also theatrically clad, through the streets of Newton collecting candy, I finally felt I was where I belonged. I didn’t speak in my own voice but belted out guttural, loathsome sounds. I was part of a world of vampires, rotting bodies, stench, and howling fiends. For several years putting on that cape every Halloween helped me to deal with the sorrow, fury, and loneliness that I needed to face. I was able to move the rage outside into an altered state of reality instead of dying myself.

    • Spiral Energies says

      Thank you for listening to the show and for sharing this personal story, Pam. What a powerful way to use a cape, costume, and makeup to go deeply into your grief, to face the death of your mother, to embrace death and the underworld. Healing comes as we go through these feelings, rather than try to avoid them. You plunged in and it sounds like you found resolution.

  2. I had a thought while listening to you speak about the power that comes when one puts on a cape. In the old days (1950s and before), all nurses wore a cape, it was part of their uniform. They were the super heroes of health and caring of their times. I was bummed when I went to nursing school (1975) and learned that the nurses’ capes had been discontinued. Many of the preschoolers at my school wear capes to school and call themselves super heroes….they are adorable.

    • Spiral Energies says

      I remember admiring those nurse’s capes in the books I’d read about nurses, too, Lynn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And, what fun to see kids in your school being imaginative!

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