The Wisdom of the Crescent Moon Bear

Journal Date: 10:15am – Thursday, November 5, 2020

I’ve been reading a chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves today. This one is on rage, something I do need guidance on at this moment in my life.

Here, she tells the story of the “Crescent Moon Bear” as a way to show us how we can deal with our anger.

The story starts with a woman preparing for her husband to come back from the war. She goes shopping and cooks meals for him and does everything she can to please him and make him happy.

But when she goes to him and offers him what she has made, he gets angry and flips over the trays, sending everything she has worked so hard to prepare onto the floor.

The pattern repeats itself over many nights. The man is still in a state of shock, and will not be consoled. His mind is still preoccupied with the images of violence and fear he has seen and experienced in the war he’s only just returned from.

So the woman, in a state of distress, goes to seek out the healer on the outskirts of the village.

The healer tells her to go climb to mountain and bring her back one hair from the throat of the Crescent Moon Bear.

So the woman ascends the mountain by herself to meet the bear.

As she walks the trail up the mountain among the rocks and under the trees, she says, “Arigato zaisho,” a way of thanking the mountain for allowing her to walk on her body and to pass safely.

Getting to even higher ground, she surprised by the birds which fly out at and then past her, these birds representing the spirits of the dead with no family, the muen-botoke.

She tells them, “I will be your relative. I will lay you to rest.”

The muen-botoke symbolize the parts of ourselves which we may have abandoned during times of distress.

These can be thought of as the difficult emotions and experiences which we may have repressed or dissociated from during any incident which was traumatic or otherwise overwhelmed our body’s capacity to cope.

The woman promises them that she will be their family, she will bury them. With this, it is as if she is saying, “I will recognize you as my own, I will honor you and put you to rest.”

Finally, after continued struggling up the mountain, the woman finds the tracks of the crescent moon bear. She hides near the entrance of her cave, and every morning, she leaves food out for the bear to discover upon waking in the morning.

Slowly, with patience, she gets closer and closer to the Crescent Moon Bear, until one day she finds herself directly underneath it.

She tells the bear of her situation, about her angry husband who has come back from the war traumatized and upset, and asks the bear for a single hair from its throat which she needs to heal her husband.

The bear, taking pity on her, consents to let the woman take one hair from the shining silvery crescent on her throat.

Having received the white hair from the crescent moon on the throat of the bear she rushes down the mountain through the Village to the house of the healer.

She rushes up to present the single white hair to her. The healer then smiles and throws the hair into the fire.

The woman cries out in despair, having lost the one ingredient she had struggled so much to obtain in order to heal her husband.

The healer reassured her, telling her the hair itself was not necessary. In learning how to approach the Crescent Moon Bear, win its trust and receive its message, she had learned what she must do to heal her husband as well.

“Now you know what you need to do. Go home, and repeat everything you have just done here with your husband. That is how you can heal this rage and find love again.”


In this story, we can take each character be a part of the woman’s own psyche.

The husband represents animus, the masculine inside of us, in this case the part which has been wounded. Normally, it is responsible for outer directed activity, for creating structure and boundaries and pursuing ambition and achievements in the world.

However, when wounded, it may have a tendency to respond by being either shut down, pushing others away, or with senseless rage and aggression. These responses are typical of the “fight-flight-freeze” trauma responses that are activated after periods of great stress or danger.

The woman here stands for the anima, or the emotional, feminine part of our psyches. This is the part which loves, which strives for union and ultimately seeks healing by going to find the healer outside of the village.

The bear can be thought to represent the wisdom of rage itself. The Crescent Moon Bear, and the primal power of sacred rage which she represents, are something which many of us fear and reject, but which, when approached with the proper care and respect, can ultimately serve as one of our greatest teachers.

The woman’s interactions with the bear and the environment around her along with her journey up the mountain show us a way in which we can start to come to terms with these difficult and troubling feelings.

With caution, with respect, with care, understanding and a little bit of fierceness, we can find the wisdom we need to release our pain while preserving our natural instinct to protect.

The bear teaches “that one can be fierce and generous at the same time. One can be reticent and valuable. One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all at the same time.”

In fact, I believe that in many ways it is the “NO” which makes the “YES” possible. If we are unable to communicate the points which are our limits, we will never be able to feel truly comfortable expressing the fullness of our power and can never express the fullness of our generosity, as well.


When we have discovered how to approach the tender, hurting parts of ourselves which we have previously sought to disown, we can begin the journey of healing and learning from our rage.

Our anger and our pain are worthy of being treated with respect. To push them away, or to ask that they simply “be nice” and act as if nothing has happened, is to do ourselves a disservice.

It is understandable to be wary of such a powerful and potentially explosive current of raw energy within ourselves. But there is a message waiting for us if we can sit quietly and let it speak to us.R

Repression or denial is hardly effective. In fact, it only makes the denied energy louder and more destructive, as it struggles to get us to pay attention to pain which needs tending to.

There is inestimable hope and healing available to those who turn towards the powerful sacred rage of the Crescent Moon Bear.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “Women who are tortured often develop a dazzling kind of perception that has uncanny depth and breadth. Although I would never wish anyone tortured in order to learn the secret ins and outs of the unconscious, the fact is, having lived through a gross repression causes gifts to arise that compensate and protect.

In that respect a woman who has lived a torturous life and delved deeply into it definitely has inestimable depth. Though she came to it through pain, if she has done the hard work of clinging to consciousness, she will have a deep and thriving soul-life and a fierce belief in herself regardless of the occasional ego-waverings.”

I know that this is true about me. This has been my path. What was once my shame is becoming my strength, and of that I am proud.

All the World’s a Stage, and the Sun and Moon merely Players

This morning I woke up from a very difficult dream. I had spent most of the night crying in my sleep. Here’s what happened: 

In my dream my dad and my brother were going to all these different events and giving speeches about everything that was wrong with me and why I deserved to be rejected. I sat at all of them, trying to plead with them and convince them otherwise. No one listened to me, and I cried as I saw them give speech after speech on everything that was “bad” and “wrong” about me.

Oddly enough, my mom was by my side at every one of these events with me. Sometimes in their speeches they would briefly mention how bad and wrong she was too, although the focus was mostly on me.

When I woke up, I felt very upset and saddened by what I had experienced over the course of the night. 

What really stood out to me, though, was how my mom was on my side at every point during this dream. It’s really not like her to stand by me (in fact, she would have been the most likely of any of them to give a speech like that attacking me).

So I had to ask myself, what could this apparently small detail mean? I was sure it was significant.

Pretty quickly, it occurred to me that maybe it was my unconscious trying to show me the way my anima and animus related to each other. 

The Marriage of the Sun and Moon

The anima/animus was a concept developed by Carl Jung which in a sense, describes the anima as the part of our psyche which can be thought of as being “feminine.” The anima is associated with the unconscious, the body, and our feeling and emotional states, as well as our desires and needs.

The animus, on the other hand, is believed to be the part of our psyche which analytic psychologists associate with the masculine. The animus is thought to relate to our conscious mind, our rational thought processes, as well as order, reason and logic.

Although most of us within a given culture will tend to have these basic conceptions of what our anima/animus are like, the way that they actually present themselves within a given individual’s psyche is highly personal, dependent on life experience and unconscious psychic material.

I think this dream was trying to show me the way that my inner masculine or conscious mind relates to my inner feminine, or emotional/feeling part of me. 

I saw how my masculine side was in fact very abusive to the feminine parts of me. The “rational” conscious side tends to dominate and hurt the emotional feeling side. It has all of these unrealistic expectations about how things “should” be, and it punishes and hurts the parts of me that refuse to comply.

I began to see how I have internalized the roles that I saw my mother and father play. I introjected their beliefs and patterns of behavior, and in turn had my inner masculine/feminine adopt the same roles within myself.

One of the unhealthy ways in which this has manifested for me has been that I have very little ability to care for myself. I refuse to listen to what my body is telling me, or to accept what I am feeling. 

Instead, I tell myself: “No. You need to work harder. You don’t deserve to rest until you’ve done better. You don’t deserve anything until you’ve achieved what I tell you to. Not until you stop being bad.” 

This usually results in me forcing myself to do what I don’t want to do. I hurt myself this way because I’ve long believed that’s the only way to “discipline” the parts of me that are “wrong” and “bad.” These bad parts are always the feeling parts, that part of me which has needs and desires and wants to rest and feel okay.

I’m starting to understand that my animus does not necessarily possess some kind of truly evil intent toward the anima. The attitude of my animus, in fact, reflects the very same beliefs which my father has held toward my mother. He has always tried to “help” her, but in a way that reflects some pretty toxic underlying beliefs about her (and possibly about women in general). 

My mother has been perceived, in his eyes, as being: unintelligent, even stupid; incompetent and incapable; crazy, confused and irrational; and even bad, wrong, and unwilling. 

This, in turn, is perceived as requiring his need to act to control and dominate and coerce her into “seeing the truth” and accepting the superiority of his more rational and “right” values and ways of being.

Even though this is obviously insulting, selfish and even maybe abusive, I can see that there is a genuine belief that he is doing his best to “protect” and “provide” for her. It is based on a perceived inferiority on the part of the feminine in general and my mother in particular.

Just as my father treated my mother, my “thinking” conscious self now treats my unconscious (my body, my feelings and my desires) in very much the same way.  

It seems to genuinely believe in the fundamental “wrongness” of my feminine or feeling side. As crazy as it might seem, it wants to protect it, and it does so the only way it knows how: by bullying it into doing what it thinks is “right.”  

The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict.”

Carl Jung

I’m starting to understand how this impacts my relationships, as well. If I can’t have my inner parts of myself relate to each other in a way that is positive and healthy, I’ll never be able to have a relationship that is any better. 

If I don’t do anything to shift the roles inhabited by my anima and animus, then I will continue to recreate these same roles in all of my romantic relationships that I may enter in the future.

This dream seemed to be the way my unconscious was trying to get me to see what I needed to change in myself before I could move beyond these patterns in my life. 

I can see now that I must begin to make these changes starting from within. I know and trust from experience that if I can do this, then the problems I’ve experienced in the outer world will begin to shift naturally as a result of the changes in my inner world. 

As above, so below. As within, so without.”

The Emerald Tablet

The Archetypal in Astrology

According to Richard Tarnas, the archetypal is the spiritual and energetic. It was originally experienced by human people as “Gods” and “Goddesses,” and described in terms of mythologies.

The archetypal is about the essences and qualities that transcend the human.

These ideas were later expounded upon in Ancient Greece, with the philosophies of Plato and Plotinus, among others. They were forgotten for many years until their recovery by the likes of Nietzsche, Freud, and Carl Jung.

Jung’s depth psychology explored the idea of the archetypal pleroma, the pantheon of archetypal energy, both within and without. It was Jung who recognized that we are in psyche. It informs not only us but all of nature. This is what is meant by the Anima Mundi, or world soul.

It was through myths that man tried to understand and convey its experience of this world soul. Myth, as well as dreams, are the narrative form of archetypal energy. According to Tarnas, this is how the cosmos pours its consciousness through us humans. The archetypes are thus the mediators of the cosmos, the way the Anima Mundi often speaks to us directly of its secrets.

Plotinus says that astrology is like a script that the soul of the sky is writing. Meaning is something that extends and permeates through all levels of reality and existence. We are living in a pan-psychic universe, and if we wish to, we can be active participants with this consciousness or sentience.

The cosmos gives us guidance on how we can participate constructively. The archetypes don’t “cause” human affairs or outer events to occur in some mechanistic way. Instead, it is open to our human participation.

It is as if the universe or nature is providing us with symbols or guideposts regarding the qualitative meaning of our unfolding. We can choose to participate actively in our own evolution by noticing and following the signs provided for us by the macrocosm.

Richard Tarnas on the Planets in 2021

Last week I had the privilege of attending an online talk led by Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, on the astrology of 2021. It truly an honor to be in the presence of a man who is widely recognized as one of the great minds of our time.

During his presentation, Tarnas chose to focus on three of the most significant transits of the past and current decade:

  • Uranus square Pluto, lasting from 2007 to 2020
  • Saturn conjunct Pluto, from 2018 to 2022
  • Saturn square Uranus, from 2019 to 2024

The Uranus-Pluto square brought to the surface many of the things which lay in the collective shadows. According to Tarnas, Trump was a potent symbol of the shadow side of this Plutonian energy—he gave permission to other to express many of the things which lay beneath the surface in our society (racism, misogyny, etc.), bringing them into open expression.

The Saturn-Pluto conjunction, which also aligned with Jupiter last year, was one of the most significant of our time. This triple conjunction saw discovery and proliferation of COVID-19, as well as a host of other dire effects. Whenever Saturn enters the picture, it brings with it a great heaviness and seriousness, during which judgements are made and there are consequences.

According to Tarnas, the triple conjunction of Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto in Capricorn was in many ways an initiatory crisis for us. In many ways, it provoked a moral crisis, an awakening which asked us to die to our old identity and be born into a life of meaning. Tarnas spoke of this on a collective level, but I also have felt this to be true on a personal level during the past year. By confronting death, I was able to see life more clearly, and was forced to find a way to live it more courageously and with much more integrity.

The two transits mentioned above are all coming to an end, and we are now left with the major, definitive transit of 2021, the Saturn-Uranus square. The transit will be exact on three dates this year: February 17, June 15, and December 24.

This is not an easy transit. However, Tarnas believes there is still more room to maneuver here than under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of last year. The energies are now fully engaged, we feel less trapped and are more inspired to face the challenges directly. It’s as if we have gone through a near-death experience, and the life that remains has been imbued with greater preciousness and significance. We are willing to fight for the changes that we need to make in our lives.

Uranus, the unconventional, rebellious planet of change, will meet Saturn, the wise but severe taskmaster of the sky several times through this year, leading to an energy which is great for making creative structural changes in order to permit wiser living and greater freedom. It would be well-advised to make prudent changes slowly and gradually; if we choose to ignore the lessons imparted by Saturn and Uranus, we may find that a sudden break or collapse may occur when we least expect it.

As challenging and disruptive as this may be, the Saturn-Uranus squares of 2021 have the potential to be a sacred marriage of the past and future. If we use this time wisely, we may be able to carry forward what is most valuable from the past, discern what is most promising of the future, and together bring both into structural embodiment.

These crises can be opportunities for us to reconfigure our moral values and make creative, structural changes that will serve us well for years to come. Like with any difficult transits, the more consciousness, creativity, imagination, and courage that we can bring to bear on this situation, the better.

The Maze & the Labyrinth

Many of us consider a maze and a labyrinth to be one and the same thing, but there is actually a subtle difference.

LABYRINTH is the term used when there is only one fixed, or unicursal, path to the center.

A MAZE, on the other hand, refers to a multicursal path that may contain dead ends or different ways to reach the center, and where the possibility always exists to become lost within.

For example, the structure built by Daedalus to hold the minotaur in Ancient Greek mythology has usually been referred to as a labyrinth, but today we might all this a maze, as it was clearly multicursal, with many complex paths and dead ends meant to trap the minotaur.


The unicursal labyrinth is powerful symbol of spiritual transformation. The labyrinth was a symbol which combined the circle and the spiral into one symbol of wholeness.

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

To move from the outside starting point of the labyrinth to the center, and then back again, is symbolic of the spiritual journey to the center of the self and beyond.


I found a lot of insight into the symbols of the maze and the labyrinth in the words Marion Woodman, renowned author and Jungian analyst:

“A maze is a puzzle to be solved. It has dead ends. You may get lost in a maze. You run into a minotaur and be killed.”

Marion Woodman

Like Woodman, I spent many years of my life feeling like I was trapped in a mazed, living as if in fear of a deadly minotaur, and confronting dead end after useless dead end.


“A labyrinth looks superficially like a maze, but it’s different. There are no dead ends, no traps. There is only one path, and it takes you by a circuitous route to the center.”

In her own life, Woodman found that when she at last confronted her deepest fears and faced death, she was also able to realize the perfection of her life experience and see the purpose of her path.

“I was finally able to surrender to life, because at long last I KNEW there was a center and that if I kept listening, opening, and walking forward, my path would lead me to that center.”

I am finding that the same is true for me. I am going to keep walking. I know the center is there, ever present, just waiting for me to open my eyes to it.