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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 Second Stage of the Jungian Initiation: Encounter with the Anima/Animus


Neo-Paganism as a Mystery Religion

Previously, I described Neo-Paganism as a modern-day mystery religion. Historically, initiates into the mystery religions experienced a ritual death and rebirth. Some Neo-Pagan rituals follow this format.  In particular, Vivianne Crowley describes the Wiccan initiations in these terms. The idea is that we die to our old selves and awaken to a new, more expansive Self.  In Jungian terms, the Self is the wholeness of our many disparate selves, conscious and unconscious.  But to encounter the Self, we must let our old selves, our egos, die. This is a psychological death, but no less significant than physical death from the perspective of the ego.  For the ego, the experience can be as painful as dying physically, and some people would prefer physical death.

Encounter with the Anima/Animus

Jung identified three stages in this initiatory process: “The search into the unconscious involves [1] confronting the shadow, man's hidden nature; [2] the anima/animus, a hidden opposite gender in each individual; and [3] beyond, the archetype of meaning.” (CW 9i).  The first stage of the death of the ego is the encounter with the Shadow, which I wrote about in previous posts.  The second stage of Jungian initiation is the encounter with what is often called the "contrasexual" part of our psyche – the Anima in men and the Animus in women. Jung wrote, “If the encounter with the Shadow is the ‘apprentice-piece’ in the individual’s development, then that with the Anima is the ‘masterpiece’”. (CW 9i, P 61). The last stage is the encounter with the Self/God.


Jung recognized the difficulty of writing about the Anima: “What can a man say about woman, his own opposite? I mean of course something sensible, that is outside the sexual program, free of resentment, illusion, and theory. Where is the man to be found capable of such superiority?” (CW 10: P 236). I have felt this challenge in attempting to write this post and those that will follow. I find it even more difficult than writing about the Shadow. In some ways, it is even harder to accept our "contrasexual" side than it is to accept our Shadow side.


Many Jungians refer to the Anima and Animus as the "contrasexual" part of our Unconscious self.  However, sex and gender were conflated by Jung (who was writing in the early to mid 20th century).  Sex is biologically determined, while gender is socially constructed.  In my opinion, then, it would be more accurate to describe the Anima and Animus as being the "contra-gendered" part of our Unconscious. 

The kind of archetypal sexual bipolarism or dimorphism which Jung describes has been justly criticized as not being representative of all human experience. Gender and sexuality are far more complex than the heterosexual male to female polarity, a fact which our culture is slowly coming to recognize.  Nevertheless, this male-female dynamic remains a powerful archetype at least for heterosexual cis-gendered persons.  What follows is not an attempt to create any standard of cis- or hetero-normativity, but only an attempt to speak about the experience of one subset of the human population.

What is the Anima/Animus?

According to Jungians, every cis-gendered man has a part of his psyche which is “female”.  It is female in the sense in which his ego -- the part of himself that he is consciously aware of -- is “male”.  And the same is true of cis-gendered women.

“Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man, an imprint or 'archetype" of all the ancestral experiences of the female …The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of man.” (CW 17: P 338).

Of course, the idea of an “opposite” gender is a misnomer.  It would be better perhaps to speak of “complementary” genders.  In any case, this is not an attempt to reify gender, but only to speak about how gender is constructed in our culture.  Even though it is socially constructed, it is deeply rooted in our earliest social conditioning and largely unconscious, and for this reason is an archetypal constellation in our psyches.

Every person's anima/animus is different, because we are all socialized slightly differently.  However, for those of us reared in the same culture, there will be considerable overlap.  In general, the Anima in men is an "erotic" power, in the broadest sense of the term eros, meaning it is the function of relatedness.  It represents life, spontaneity, creativity, nature, the instincts, the flesh, matter, earth, emotion, sensitivity, receptivity, warmth and so on. The dissociation of the Anima in men leads to rigidity and dogmatism, an overemphasis of the abstract and rational, disconnection from instinct and emotion, and a kind of sterility of life.

The Animus in women is considered a logos power, a term which can easily be misunderstood, but is simply the opposite of eros.  Where eros is about relatedness and connection, logos is about individuality and discrimination.  Beyond that, it is difficult to say more without falling into the trap of gender stereotyping.

Coming Up

In the next post, I will talk more about the Anima, because as a cis-gendered heterosexual male, it is closer to my experience.  And later I will talk about how we project our Anima/Animus onto others, and how Jung proposed that we withdraw these projections. 

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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.


  • Piper
    Piper Wednesday, 11 March 2015

    Rather than ascribe a gender, I typically use the Sephirot, Netzah and Hod as the focal ideas for this ritual, equal on the tree, complementary, and the aspirant,/initiate will focus on that which is hidden maybe shadowed in their work.
    Just one Gnostics view.

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