Pagan Paths

The morning sun rising in the east calls to the Bright Youth in me, and the Bright Youth responds. The full moon calls to the Muse, and the waning and dark moon to the Dark Maiden who is a part of me. The earth I touch with my fingers calls to the Mother, in both her guises, Nurturing and Devouring. The bright green shoots rising from the earth and the green leaves on the trees on my street in the spring, these call to the Stag King, while the red leaves fallen to the earth in the autumn call to the Dying God. The spring storm that rises up suddenly in the west calls to the Storm King. The night sky, the dark space between the stars, calls to Mother Night, my death come to make peace. The gods-without call and the gods-within respond.

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The Anima as Psychopomp


In my last post, I introduced the archetype of the Anima and Animus, the contra-gendered aspects of our unconscious selves.

The Anima appears to men in dreams, myths, and projections.  In this article, I will discuss the Anima in dreams, and in the next two articles, I will talk about the Anima in myth and in projections.

The Anima comes to men in dreams as a female figure, sometimes as a psychopomp or soul guide.  The Anima functions as a mediator or interlocutor between the ego and the Unconscious, in the same way that the persona acts as a mediator between the ego and the outside world. 

There is no universal guide to interpreting dreams, but to give you an example, allow me to share with you a particularly numinous dream (what Jungians call a "Big Dream") which I had recently in which an Anima figure appeared.

I was on a bus driving somewhere.   It was like a Greyhound bus, but a double-decker with an open roof, like a tour bus.  The driver was a black woman.

The bus was traveling in the mountains, and the path became more and more treacherous, until there wasn’t a road, but just a rocky dirt path.

The bus came to a place where part of the mountain had fallen away in an avalanche and the road came to an end.  There was an indication that other buses had gone over the edge previously.

There was another path, a steep and treacherous route that went even higher.  I felt precarious, sitting up high in the bus and looking over the edge.  I felt out of control.  I kept saying, “This is insane." 

I told the bus driver that I had been that way before and it was terrible.   She said “really?” and turned that way anyway, confident she could negotiate it.

The view was spectacular, but I could not appreciate it because of my fear.

After a while, the path started to not make sense, as the bus started driving through buildings and going through doors, not destroying them, but passing through them as if it were a person.  As we went through one door, I said, “This is the part that makes the least sense to me.”  The bus driver disappeared at some point.

Suddenly, the bus walls collapsed and we, I and all the passengers, had to carry the bus walls through what looked like an office building, a sterile looking place with grey walls and cubicles.  Office workers were walking busily to and fro.  We (the bus passengers) began looking for the way out.

Suddenly my teenage son was there, and we were all holding folding table and folding chairs, like the kind that we used to use for social gatherings at the church I was raised in.  My son wanted to put down his chairs because they were too heavy and I noticed a rack where they could be hung up.  Then I woke.

To give some context, I had this dream after a contentious interaction with someone from the church I was raised in.  My teenage son, who has recently come out as atheist, was part of the interaction. 
So it was not surprising that I thought the dream had something to do with religion. 

The mountains likely represented a rich spiritual life, one that is both awesome and terrifying.  I have always felt more spiritually alive when I am in wild nature or in the mountains.

The office building with the cubicles likely represented the antithesis of the rich religious life which was represented by the mountains.  I have always felt modern office spaces are spiritual dead zones.

Now, to bring this back to the subject of this article: Who was the bus driver?

If we assume that the bus driver was an aspect of my Self, then I can see that she was my Anima.  Since I am male, her gender as a woman indicated that this was probably an Anima figure.  Since I am white, the race of the bus driver (i.e., her "blackness") was also likely an indicator of her proximity to my unconscious.  Her function as a bus driver signaled her role as a psychopomp or soul guide.

My preliminary interpretation of the dream is that I have a choice: I can allow my Unconscious (through my Anima) to lead me along a treacherous, but magnificent path of spirituality, or I can try to take conscious control of my journey and end up in a spiritual wasteland, where religion seems like nothing more than a burden.  How to let me Anima "drive the bus" in my actual life is the difficult question.

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John Halstead also writes at (Patheos),,,,, and The Huffington Post. He was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” (, and the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. John is also a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community ( To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


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