The Anima Shrine
A Ritual Technology for Soul Retrieval"(© 1997 Antero Alli)
by Antero Alli
Artwork by Sylvie Pickering (from "The Vertical Oracle")
Many are the reasons for conducting a ritual; many are the bias' informing their intents. Necessity for "the ANIMA SHRINE" emerged from a need to restore more perspective around an intimate relationship "gone bad" from my own rampant psychological projections. These projections occurred beyond my control with the force and fury of the gods mistaking me for an abandoned plaything. I had fallen -- deeply and swiftly -- in love with an enchanting woman of extraordinary beauty. To me, she was the living personification of my every feminine ideal: the dream lover, the goddess, the divine whore, the muse. With each passing moment near her, body and soul blazed and hummed under the dizzying spells of Eros and Hypnos, leaving me entranced and bewitched beyond words, beyond reason, in a delirious state of insatiable longing. Add to this her own obvious enjoyment of my heightened state with an agreement to participate fully in what was to unfold as a nonstop, catastrophic romance. Together we entered the Elysian fields...blindly, gleefully, gloriously drunk on the ecstatic nectars of a salacious, subterranean love.
"Trouble in paradise" reared its hideous head whenever this wonderful woman failed to maintain her behavior, her words and her deeds, at a level usually reserved for gods and goddesses. In other words, every time she acted like a normal human being I felt let down and dragged into a series of complaints and criticisms of her person. Naturally, she took offense to my disappointment and eventually left me to my own devices. In the sullen solitude of her rejection, I suffered as I have never suffered before. I felt profoundly drained, as if all the life I ever knew had abandoned me to a state of utter blackness and despair; suicidal despair, to be precise. I contemplated my demise walking about in this dark soulless condition, my eyes possessed with gnawing emptiness and a terrible longing. In short I was not coping very well and more importantly, did not have a clue about what was actually happening to me. Picture a body walking aimlessly in circles, its soul spinning out in deep space.
During this very difficult psychological phase I investigated the books of Carl Jung, in particular, his writings on the phenomena of "the anima" and "psychological transference" (THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TRANSFERENCE; Princeton Press) where I learned about the tendencies of certain men to project the energy, or psychic, dynamics of their very souls onto living flesh-and-blood women who somehow symbolized that man's current relationship with the Feminine principle of life. I read these with ravenous appetite. Here was something that spoke to the nightmare my life had become; something I could finally connect with and relate to.
I learned how an infantile relationship to the Feminine, within a man, might dramatize as a fixation on women who adapted a kind of "baby doll" or "helpless, little girl" persona. A rebellious relationship with the Feminine might exteriorize as a man's attraction to "bad girl" types; women who had fun messing with the authoritative psyches of overblown male egos. What eventually became clear to me was how I had projected my own multidimensional, goddess-like soul onto this woman. I soon realized that until I got my soul back, I would continue feeling these godawful, overwhelming longings for that woman when it was my very soul I was longing for all along. I wanted my soul back and I wanted it back now.
With newfound motivation and my extensive background in theatre and then, ritual theatre (see my book, ALL RITES REVERSED: Ritual Technology for Self-Initiation; Falcon Press, 1988), I was inspired to create a ceremonial structure for retrieving my soul. I knew that if it were to work, it would have to be very simple and somehow directly connected with the energies I had already projected. The intent of this ritual was to be soul retrieval. The following structural guidelines were exactly as I had laid them out when performing the ritual for the first time. Since then, I have periodically checked in with my own anima with no significant adjustment in the ritual structure. (Some of the results of these experiments I shall divulge after the section outlining the ritual design). I must add that the integrity of this ritual depends almost solely on the honesty by which the state of "No-Form" is experienced; its incumbent receptivity -- formlessness, emptyness, nothingness -- critical to inviting and engaging the force of the anima itself. This cannot be overstated considering how easy the ego tricks us with its own self-made images of a psychic reality (in this case, the anima) we could just as well experience more directly for ourselves.
Part One: Sanctifying the ShrineAssemble a shrine to the anima. Sanctify and otherwise devotionally bless the ritual space as an open invitation to the anima. Introduce and arrange whatever elements -- photographs, flowers, incense, candles, love letters, music -- into this area that are somehow resonant with the soulful energies you have projected onto the external human woman. Secure the space. Make certain there is plenty of room to physically move around uninterrupted by externals like other people, phone calls, Etc.
Part Two: Establishing Your PresenceOWNING YOUR SPACE; Intent: creating your own safety Intentionally put the force of your territorial instincts to work by owning the space around your body; above, below, and around you. As each animal exercises its own rites of dominion, this phase demands your autonomy as an idiosyncratic process, ie., how do you go about the process of physically, emotionally and psychically owning the space of the ritual so that you feel completely SAFE AND ALONE there ? If and when you wish to restore your dominion, return to this process.
PHYSICAL WARM-UP; Intent: self-stabilization Before attempting to make contact with archetypal forces, it is imperative to stabilize your energies. The primary objective for at least fifteen minutes should be finding a way to FEEL YOUR BODY DEEPLY. Each person has their own unique style of meeting that need. This is not meant to sound vague but to encourage a personally idiosyncratic approach to feeling your body as a unit, as a whole. Include meditation, stretching, flexing the spinal column and any movement that raises your physical energy. When your physical energy has been raised enough to break a sweat, you are ready for polarizations.
POLARIZATIONS; Intent: emotional balance and flexibility Divide the ritual space into two areas, designating each side to one part of a "charged polarity", any opposition holding great excitement and/or resistance. Examples: chaos/order; good/evil; severity/mercy; love/fear. (The more personal the polarity, the more direct your access). Step outside the parameters of the ritual area and while standing, enter the empty mind of No-Form; be nothing. While approaching No-Form, summon everything you know and don't know about this polarity into the divided area before you. When you are receptive enough, walk into that side which "needs you the most" and let your empty self absorb its life. Let this life guide and move you whichever way it unfolds; surrender to that side of the polarity. When you feel done with that side, step over the imaginary line and enter the opposite state with the same intention of absorbing it and surrendering to it. Move back and forth between both sides until you discover your point of balance. Step outside of the ritual area and return to No-Form.
NOTE: When you are obviously warmed up physically and in a more flexible state, emotionally (than when you first started) then, and only then, are you ready to proceed with the ANIMA SHRINE and not before. My dogmatic adamancy comes from decades of personal ritual practice where important mistakes were made, one of which was to enter the realm of the archetypes ill-prepared -- ie., ungrounded and ego-rigid -- only to emerge ego-inflated and/or ego-traumatized. With enough self-responsibility, however, I have found the ANIMA SHRINE to be exciting, informative and even miraculous in its results (when followed by sufficient preparation). Onward then...
Part Three: Invoking Her PresenceA PRELIMINARY WARNING: Once your energies are sufficiently stabilized and balanced -- and only you can be the judge of that -- you are ready to invoke the force of your anima. Know that this anima already exists within you as an autonomous spirit; you don't have to make it up. Not unlike the most autonomously erotic women you have met or known, she expresses considerable power to come and go as she pleases. Anima refuses to be ordered around and told what to do; if you find yourself controlling "the anima" it probably isn't Her but a figment of your male ego's imagination. Anima responds well to invitation and loves a good song.
Begin the ritual by standing in No-Form outside the parameters of the shrine, with your back to the shrine. Do not face the shrine. While dropping down to deeper gradations of nothingness, invite her to visit the shrine behind you. As you continue dropping down to deeper degrees of No-Form, sing a silent song to your soul; let this soulful anima know of your feelings and yearnings to be reunited. Serenade your soul...
When you feel receptive enough, back into the shrine. Let your empty silent singing self become an open vessel for the anima to reinhabit. Stand there open-armed and open-hearted. If and when your silent song yearns to sound, now is the time to sing that song outloud. If and when you feel the force of the Feminine moving into you, yield to its direction. Surrender to her with your entire body and soul. Follow her directions, her impulses and her rhythms. Give your body over to her as a vessel to better serve her expression. If only to know her more directly, let yourself momentarily merge with anima. Become the anima. Give form and behavior to anima as she/you relates to the shrine you have created for her.
When you feel satiated with anima, extract yourself from her. It is time to stop being the anima and time to start relating with her. Find someway of releasing anima from your body. Let her autonomous spirit float freely about the shrine while establishing a relationship with it. Physically move and dance with her. Interact with anima in gesture and ritual movements that communicate your relationship. Discover the true function of anima through this relationship. Ask her questions. What purpose does she actually serve in your life ? Keep the questions direct and simple. She is not simple-minded; you are the one that needs more directness in relating to the Feminine.
When you feel complete, say goodbye to anima; she will go wherever she wishes. Then, give thanks to the shrine before RETURNING to a standing position of No-Form beyond the shrine. This particular standing No-Form is quite important. It is a time to disidentify with any residual anima remnants that would only leave your male ego confused and inflated. This particular No-Form allows you to become nothing, again; to release any attachment that may have formed with anima. This No-Form lets you leave the ritual.
As I had promised in the beginning of this article, I will share some of the results of having performed this ritual over the years. Since creating it back in 1984, I have practiced it only three or four times. I don't remember as the last time I needed to do it was almost eight years ago. I recall that each time the results were powerful in the same way. The days and weeks following each ANIMA SHRINE I noticed a significant increase in the number of women who paid attention to me and who made active overtures and advances; some of these, quite aggressive. It seemed that one chief effect of ANIMA SHRINE was making me more conscious of my relationship with Feminine energy in general. In other words, I noticed it more for what it was without my previous need to project my ideals and ideas about it onto the women expressing that Feminine. I think more women instinctively picked up on that and responded to it by approaching me. It must be terribly refreshing for women, especially American women, to be looked at by men without the familiar glaze of anima projection clouding their eyes.
A NOTE TO THE WOMEN: I must confess how this version of ANIMA SHRINE has been entirely addressed to men. I presented it that way out of the obvious origins of the ritual in my own life as a man. I don't know any women who have adapted ANIMA SHRINE to invoke the masculine spirit Carl Jung calls "the animus." I imagine it can work just as effectively given a woman's need for such a ritual in the first place. It might be worth noting that Jung defines the characteristics and tendencies of the animus quite differently than that of the anima. I would recommend that interested women read up on these distinctions and decide for yourselves. Perhaps an ANIMUS CEREMONY needs developing by a woman, or women, to assist those sisters treading troubled waters and for those who are ready to discover the extent of their own psychological projections.
A NOTE TO THE PANSEXUAL COMMUNITY: Even though this ritual refers to specific gender dynamics, I think with a little imagination the terms used can be applied to suit whatever your sexual tribe or preference.
ANTERO ALLI is the author of THE VERTICAL ORACLE, ANGEL TECH and five other books, in addition to several videofilms. Visit his website at: http://www.paratheatrical.com.