Anima means “female soul,” which is derived from the roots an, “heavenly,” and ma, “mother,” and remembering the ancient times when all souls were thought to come from the Heavenly Mother. In the 16th century Guillaume Postel stated that all souls possessed male and female halves, the animus and anima. The male half had been redeemed by Christ, but the female half was still unredeemed and awaited a female savior.
Alchemists (see Alchemy) applied the word anima to all “spirits” considered to be female: Anima Mercury, Anima Mundi, and so on. The Spirit of the World was connected with the elements of earth and water, like Eleusinian Demeter, “Mistress of Earth and Sea.” One reason why alchemists were once suspected of heresy was their notion that the World-Soul was a female anima.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung revived the terms animus and anima in order to describe the reasoning and intuitive parts of the mind (i.e., the left and right hemispheres). Every person’s anima is “often symbolically connected with both earth and water. She is pictured both timeless and profoundly wise…. Each man’s first and formative experience of the anima is with his mother. Her true function in the mind, according to Jung, is creativity.”
The anima, to Jung, is the personification of the feminine nature in the masculine unconsciousness. The animus is, therefore, the reverse personification in the feminine unconsciousness. This psychological bisexuality reflects the biological fact that the excessive number of male or female genes composing the individual determines their dominant sex. A smaller number of countrasexual genes appear to produce a corresponding countrasexual person, which usually remains unconscious. The anima and animus personifications usually take forms as figures in dreams or irrational fantasies; commonly they visualize as the “dream girl” and the “dream lover,” or they may be the rationalization of a man’s feeling or a woman’s thinking. Both anima and animus as regulators of behavior to regarded as highly influential archetypes.
The anima is archetypal, according to Jung, because every man carries within him an eternal, definitive feminine image, which is not an image of any particular woman. Such an image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the organic system of man, an imprint or archetype of all the ancestral female experiences, such as the deposit of all impressions made by woman. Since this image is unconscious, it is constantly projected upon the person of the beloved, and is a chief reason of passionate affection or aversion. A.G.H.
Walker, Barbara G., The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, New York, HarperCollins, 1983, p. 37
C. G. Jung., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, New York, Random House, 1973, p.391