ANIMA/ANIMUS LAB: March/April, 2001



After enacting my solo ANIMA SHRINE rituals several times over the years, I've decided to expand the format to encompass group dynamics. Each of the eleven participants in this lab were chosen on a hunch that every one of them was already engaged in active struggle, conscious and/or unconscious, with these archetypes. I also ascertained that each person expressed a strong enough ego to endure more purposeful relations with the emotionally-charged anima or animus and, benefit from it. Most have worked with me before; three have not. Including myself, we are six women and six men.

I will facilitate the rituals and participate in them. It's time for a personal reality check around the current conditions of my own relations, and lack thereof, with anima. I've been noticing changes in her appearance, and possible functions, in my life and need more of the kind of information only ritual exposure seems to offer; exposure to her sources.

My motives are also artistic. Over the duration of this lab, I'll be directing four actors towards the production of "Roadkill", a short improvised film about the creative and romantic obsessions of two young couples, who don't know each other yet whose lives intersect in unexpected ways. I hope to discover source material for, what I perceive as, this film's anima/animus subtext.

The ritual plan is to start simple by developing a gender-specific relation -- men to anima and women to animus -- until we all feel ready to do otherwise, ie., switch archetypes (it's my assumption that each anima expresses a kind of meta-animus and visa versa). The following ANIMA LAB NOTES are attempts to report the subjective and psychic impresssions these rituals evoked during my own processes of contacting, courting, embodying, extracting myself from and renewing relations with

the anima...

by Antero Alli

First impressions of the existing conditions of the anima surface -- after the physical warm-up in my private temple space -- as a playful S&M cage scenario but without the cage; the collar around my neck is attached to a very long silver leash (astral umbilical?) held by her, somewhere beyond sight yet definitely above. This leash doubles as a communication line. I have the distinct feeling that without this line, I'd be lost. Truth is I am still lost on the collar yet connected; I hear her laughing, "better lost with a collar than lost without." I agree; this anima feels compassionate. This basic feeling of attachment soothes the slave; welling emotions...happy slave/sad and the same.

I ask anima for a vision. A very young and very blonde maiden appears in a small rose garden. An elevated porcelain bird bath in the center overflows with water, rose petals and splashing sparrows. Watching the birds, I slowly walk counter-clockwise, my left hand trailing in the cool water, fingers grazing feathered wings, drifting petals; I am the maiden. I sing my song of innocence. Nothing self-conscious or perverse but rather, a lucid dream of genuine serenity, the simplest of joys. In this moment, nothing exists beyond the garden. I thank anima and return to No-Form outside the temple.

Immersion/extraction, a group polarization ritual; immersion in the Anima/Animus, extraction from the Anima/Animus. Time definitely slows down in the immersion area; spatial awareness expands in the extraction zone. These impressions are heightened by a sense of freedom in extraction and of being bound in immersion. After physically moving between these two areas a few times, I notice some kind of crossover synthesis. I earn some autonomy in immersion (picture a slave with attitude) and a clarity of form in my movements through extraction, a quasi-martial arts choreography of swift angles and windmill slices; the slave also dances.

Final ritual: distillation of immersion; everyone stands in a large circle facing center where, on the floor, there is a large cross. This cross area is designated to extreme immersion where we are to crystallize that essence into full-body gesture. Inside this gesture-crystal, we react to those around us (who are all executing the same directions). When we're done we step backwards extracting ourselves, with every step, from that crystal of immersion until reaching the No-Form zone at the circle's periphery. Everyone underwent three cycles of this immersion/extraction ritual, producing three vivid "crystals" each. A mythos of emotion oozes through my gestures, my reactions to being anima's dog; my melodrama of anguish, protest and howling at the moon.



4/8 (full moon)
First entrance into personal temple. Standing in No-Form, a dimming memory appears: it's me as anima's dog. I am so over that. I let it go, drop down into No-Form and enter the temple. Looking around, I see painted walls; a tent-like yurt. The scent of musk. I look up and there above me, quivers a giant luminous vulva, pulsating between two swaying legs. Laughing outloud, I am a lusty satyr trapped under the hoop skirt of a very large and sexually aroused anima. I sit down, inhaling the musk; I'm delerious, exhaling like some cheery drunken Jack Nicholson with horns, goat-man-god, crazed with too much of a good thing, eyes rolling back up into my head; self-intoxicated, ridiculous...

Rising on my hoofs I begin dancing in spirals, anima legs wrapped around my neck, the glory of the moment enflaming a terrible vision: I am the goatman. A bolt of fear jolts my goatman body, my fate. The inevitable sacrifice of the goatmangod to the Goddess, the scapegoat martyr: tragos! I turn to anima and confess, "I know what this is. I'm ready to move on, I want to evolve." I am suddenly impaled by a very long spear. Struck down, falling, I am dying. Very slowly. Dying and then, I die some more. This goes on until the old satyr is finally dead. I exit the temple and return to No-Form.

After a group polarization ritual exposing the negative and the positive anima, we all enter a large collective circle devoted to the conjunction of negative and positive anima/animus energies. This volatile mix seethes with molting patterns of motion. I serve these patterns, giving expression to their shifting rhythms, their erupting choreographies twisting my body this way and that. Unpredictable, mercurial, liquid fire. This totally exhausts me yet I need one final return to my personal temple to check in with the anima dynamic. I share this direction with the group and we disperse to our separate temple spaces.

Upon entering mine, I am surprised by the calm. The anima hoop skirt is gone, replaced by what appears to be a vertical cone made of spun glass, milky silky and smooth. Standing inside this cone, I am awed by its purity of unified energy; no divisions or cracks. As I stand there, my body begins rotating, clockwise. In this turning, I perform a strange yet familiar ritual, as if in my sleep. What is this ? I can't put my finger on it but keep doing it anyway. I know what this is. Benediction. I am a priest in the temple of a goddess performing a ritual benediction. Anima as deity. My priestly function: to honor Her presence. And the more I do this, the more aware I am of Her emantions, blessed gentleness, permeating everything with subtle luminosity. Very peaceful. I could stay here all night but instead, I exit the temple and return to No-Form.



After entering the personal temple space, I sense an absence of "anima charge" and step back outside to deepen my No-Form. As No-Form deepens, I ask anima "to show me what I need" and then, step back into temple space. Anima is gone yet her answer to my question is everywhere: I need risk. My emotional need for challenge is seriously frustrated. Shit. I actually need awareness of danger to feel alive. My body turns clockwise, a slo-mo whirling, my mind flooded with images of an emotional plague immobilizing individuals and society with its deadly apathy, unclaimed guilt and anxiety. This is danger enough. The toxic shock of so much backed up, unexpressed, repressed responses to real life experiences. The Great Unwashed. The Bottomless Tub of Runny Shit. Corrosive Emotional Slush. Don't identify with it, I repeat to myself. Dis-identify; don't be it, relate with it. The emotional plague, a horrific nightmare of species ignorance. I don't like being this sensitive to the shit tragedy of the world. It's too much. I feel sick and then, just as suddenly, I hear her whisper: "deal with your own shit." Anima; what a gal. I thank her and return to No-Form.

A group ritual; a large circle designated to the "potency" of anima and animus. I feel compelled to disclose the ritual structure. At the outer periphery of this large circle, everybody stands in No-Form facing the center. The ritual intent is evolutionary, or multi-phase: 1) step in and absorb the potency of anima or animus 2) let the absorbtion increase until you embody the anima or animus 3) let this embodiment own and possess you 4) when you feel the need to liberate yourself, extract or release the anima or animus from yourself, out of your body 5) relate to it as an autonmous energy that takes form outside and beyond your body 6) communicate this relationship in a dance 7) after the dance, say goodbye to the anima/animus, exit the circle and return to No-Form. My personal experience in this ritual holds too much value for public exposure via the worldwide web. I encourage you to use your imagination or if you are well-prepared, to do the ritual yourself.

In the final ritual, the group space is divided in two; men on one side, women on the other. Each gender group owns their collective space. From there, the men move towards an anima zone and the women, an animus zone; the intent, to embody anima/animus as a character. On the men's side, we whoop it up; hooting and hollering like there's no tomorrow. Vainglorious noise; just like men. And when we're done, we stand there dumbfounded, No-Form rolling over us like fog on a battlefield. Shoulder to shoulder, somnambulist soldiers inching towards animaland. We're in. Inside her numinosity, my knees buckle, tremble; my body splays open, skeletal scaffolding collapsing in on itself.

On my back and vulnerable, anima sends me Irene: fiercely devotional, a nun, singing wordless holy songs through my gaping mouth. Singing to the Holy Virgin Mary, clutching my rosaries, I rock back and forth, my soul rising and delivering to Mary, and delivered by, pious sexless devotion. A rosy-white heat (halo?) swirls in my brain. Sweat oozing down my face, I rise to my knees and move about singing, spreading emanations of good will, mercy and kindness. Blessings from Mary through Irene through me throughout the space around me, when a small yet distinctly male voice calls to me. That's funny; I can't understand a word he's saying. I follow an impulse to return to the male area, where my manhood suddenly redeems itself. Happy to be back, to be a man, to be in No-Form.



4/22 (new moon)
There we were, shoulder to shoulder, all twelve of us standing in No-Form. Behind us, the legacy of anima/animus (all we've been impressed with in this lab and beyond) and in front, what remains unknown about anima/animus. My body tilts ever so slightly back and then, forth; touching past, touching future, until I'm sucked backwards into a vortex. The air is dense, textured, multi-layers of what ? Maybe, accumulations of past anima projections and heartbreaks. The air here is so...thick, like treading water, if water were muck'n'mire. I feel myself sinking deeper into, and supported by, this strange inertia. I see two choices: continue sinking and drown OR walk on the mire like it's ground. I walk; I walk around on what feels like compacted layers of emotional sediment. I walk around some more humming this little dixieland ditty and then, return to No-Form. Standing in No-Form, I'm thinking how easy that walking on the mire felt; maybe too easy ? No; not this time. Easy does it.

I step forward into the unknown anima and my right hand rises slowly over my head. There she is: above and before me. Guiding me. Beatrice. Like some kind of Dante, I am led by this Beatrice in such odd ways around the space, around the others. These are small moves. We take tiny turns here and there, turns I never would've thought of taking on my own. They feel meaningful and inconsequential; deep & meaningless. The sense here is that anima guides me to recesses of the unknown (unconscious) I could never discover otherwise. Her guidance also feels dangerous yet extremely valuable, like dangerous art. She is the one who shows me how no art comes from the conscious mind; if it does, it's dead. She also shows no conscience for my peace of mind; I know it's up to me to limit our time together. And, I do. If it were up to her, she'd continue jerking around this plaything called me. She no respect for my mind; she only wants my body, to possess. Who can blame her ? A lot of entities would die to be in a body.

The final ritual: a gossamer vision of midnight faeries. After an extensive embodiment and extraction process, we all develop separate dances with our now extracted and very autonomous, anima or animus. The air is full of spirits. There are now twenty-four of us; twelve people dancing with twelve spirits, each dance distinct from the rest yet unified by everyone dancing with spirits; a midnight ballroom of waltzing faeries. These dances interact with each other in lyrical will'o'the'wisp fluidity. I drift beyond the circle, happy; my face streaming with sweat as everything returns to No-Form.



4/29 (final lab session)
The first twenty minutes of this final lab, the group defines a single temple space with twelve altars; six to the anima, six to the animus. Walking past each altar, I notice artwork, stones, feathers, a dozen roses and even more oranges, photographs, a naked doll, a disconnected computer keyboard, a dog-eared copy of All Rites Reversed, a quartz rock and other fetishes too unrecognizable for words.

The night ends peacefully with dignifed closure for the group as a whole. Several profound and subtle impressions. The freedom disclosed in an anima-free zone, a place where no anima exists (designated as the area outside the temple); pure revelation. Also, an insight into a new context for anima in my life: her presence appears as pointless (and stupid) around interpersonal relations, as it is meaningful (and smart) around creative research. Not anima as muse but anima as guide or scout; the Beatrice/Dante connection. What strikes me as important now is not anima herself but the relating to her and, the finding of autonomy in the anima-free zones.

I am at peace with the anima. Don't know how long this calm will last; I know how tempestuous she can be. Yet a new understanding does surface between us tonight. This shared vision holds too much value to articulate and spill and so, it remains our secret. I'll discover, in time, what I'm learning -- if anything -- by what I'm actually able to apply in the course of daily life. Until then, I know nothing.