Who is Puella?

People often ask me, “Who is Puella? Or, “What does Puella mean?”  I have come to realized that for me there is something so personal about her and also that this topic can offer a larger meaning in our world today.

As a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner, I practice a deep presence in working with my own dreams as well as standing with others as we explore their dreams. It is meaningful work, a path for those who seek healing and wholeness. It is heart work.

Artist: Stephen Bauman
Puella is the Latin word for “girl”.  In Jungian purview she is often viewed as the girl who never grows up, as having a child-like demeanor, and as the feminine component within the male psyche which Carl Jung referred to in his public, professional life as "puella anima". In Natural Dreamwork, the girl in a dream is not an archetype per se, because she typically represents the manifestation of the dreamer's soul. I think of her as Puella Aeterna, the Eternal Girl, not in a Jungian sense but as the eternal innocence of the feminine. She is present in both men and women as the essence of vulnerability and innocence in relationship to the Divine. And she is seeking to come into relationship with us. I believe that our very existence hinges on our desire and willingness to accept her, to accept our own divinity as the vulnerable innocent one in relationship to the Divine. Even Dr. Jung acknowledged her powerful presence within his dreams in his personal writing contained within the posthumously published The Red Book (2009).

Sometimes she will bubble up in our life with a burst of carefree love and innocence that leaves us filled with desire to know her more. She holds the place of the innocence and creativity, the vulnerable aspect of the soul self in connection with the Divine which always seeks dominion in us. But we do not know this, or we are terrified, or we buy the lie that the feminine represents original sin rather than divine innocence.

The world-side has been violent toward the feminine. Some speak of how we need to return the earth to the feminine, that the masculine energies are destroying the earth. But the feminine always needs the balance of the masculine, just as the masculine needs the balance of the feminine. And it is true that we are out of balance. The world fears the feminine. She is the creator and the destroyer. We have  repressed her, stoned her, bound her feet, cut off her hands. We have burned her at the stake. We have defined her as the seductress, the temptress, and we have held her responsible for the moral failings of men. And, when she has spoken, we have often not believed her.

Malalai Yusufzai
Whenever the girl rises, she is attacked. When Pakistani human rights advocate Malalai Yusufzai won the Nobel Prize for her work promoting education for girls under Taliban rule, there was rejoicing by many. There was also an element which sought to suppress her. It is a very big deal when the girl stands up and fights. She is going against many lifetimes of terror and aggression.

Artist: Jeanie Tomanek
There are several myths that speak to the betrayal of the girl. In one, generally referred to as the armless or handless maiden, the girl's father makes a deal with the Devil. He will be made rich for only the price of that which stand behind his mill. The father thinks, what can that be but the apple tree, and agrees. He does not know that his daughter at that moment is there behind the mill. When the Devil comes, he cannot get to the girl because she has the power of essence, which is represented in the story by water. She washes herself and draws a circle around herself and the Devil can't get to her, so he instructs the father to keep the water away. But the Devil is thwarted again when she cries into her hands and they are washed clean. The Devil then instructs the father to cut off her hands. But her tears flow into the wounds and the Devil continues to be thwarted.

Ultimately the girl leaves her home and her father. This story holds true with men, for whom any whiff of femininity is often chopped off at an early age. We experience the betrayal and the trauma and the girl in us goes underground.  The Devil does not feel and does not want us to feel either. As long as the girl remains underground, we cannot feel the true pain of what we have lost or how we are betraying each other and our planet.

My partner once had a dream in which there was a young girl, perhaps 3-4 years old, who was coming and she had a message for all the world to hear. She was wise beyond her years. It was strange to many that she was so young. In the dream, many were celebrating her coming and yet there was grave danger to this girl because many were afraid of her. She was scheduled to appear in the west and there was a mass pilgrimage to see her. A great following occurred, but there was also violence and people who used the chaos of her coming to take advantage of others. And there were those who plotted to kill her. But she would not be thwarted. She traveled through the sea and was of the water and carried her message to all parts of the globe.

For my partner, this dream was a moment to feel into her own inner girl. This incredibly wise, shining girl who has a message for all the world to hear.  I loved that she shared this dream with me, as I had accompanied her on the arduous pilgrimage in the dream. And it was true for me, I was on this journey and I wanted to know this girl. We both could feel our desire to find this girl.

Artist: Ruud van Empel
She abides and she persists. If we are open, she will come to us and our work is to heed her call and allow her to be born in us. A journey through the dreams will yield encounters with the girl. In my own work, she has often comes as an enigma, a mysterious entity doing unfathomable things that I have been at a loss to understand. I was much more familiar with the boy (a subject for another post!), whose forthright needs and desires and his quick forward moving energy, were much easier for me to understand even though he held the wound of my girl. I could relate to him, his pain and his passion, more easily.

When I first found my girl in the dreams, I found an infant on the ground. She had a gunshot wound to the head and one to the heart. I took her to what I could only describe as God, or a Divine being who laid his hand on her head and she was healed. I encountered her again as a 5-6 year old girl in a basement, shell-shocked, a skittering creature who I felt compassion for but did not know how to love. I brought her up out of the basement and she immediately began to change. She was wild, fierce and challenging. She knew her own sexuality in its innocence and was wise beyond her years.  In my dream, she went around the house taking things and putting them in her riotous gypsy clothing. I reprimanded her for stealing, I tried to correct her. My fear and ignorance of her would have me put her back in that basement. So much easier not having to deal with whatever it was that she represented!

Artist Unknown
She has come as the whale rider figure, a girl of the sea, so primal and yet so innocent. In the dream, she is on a raft in an azure sea. I am floating in the sea and swim over to her. She is bare-chested and has on a loin cloth. She is eating the flesh offerings of a huge sea creature off the tip of her knife. I am in awe of this girl. I am in awe to know that she is me.

She represents everything we seek to repress. She once came to me in a dream with an eye where her mouth should be. Her messages are deeply profound. She could not be more fascinating, terrifying and unpredictable.

We must learn again her language, so that we too can be like Hushpuppy, from the pop culture film Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), and face down the aurochs which haunt us, those demons of the past born of trauma, which have us living in subjugation, fear, betrayal, and violence.

Carl Jung, in The Red Book which discusses his own journey though the dreams, encountered the girl who he came to understand was his soul and he queried , “Who are you, child? My dreams have represented you as a child and as a maiden. I am ignorant of your mysteries. Forgive me if I speak as in a dream, like a drunkard  - are you God? Is god a child, a maiden? (p 131).

And says of her, “You took away where I thought to take hold, and you gave me where I did not expect anything and time and again you brought about fate from new and unexpected quarters. Where I sowed, you robbed me of the harvest, and where I did not sow, you give me fruit a hundredfold. And time and again I lost the path and found it again where I would never have foreseen it. You upheld my belief, when I was alone and near despair. At every decisive moment you let me believe in myself. “ (p 132)

And then, “Like a tired wanderer who had sought nothing in the world apart from her, shall I come closer to my soul.”  (p 132)

My initial reaction to my own girl is akin to the world's reaction to the girl. She must be put in her place. The girl has largely been lost to both men and women. We are all guilty, both men and women, of locking the girl in the basement. We have to face into how we have done this. We have to stop projecting our fear of the girl out into the world and go inward to exorcise all of the ways in which we have oppressed the girl. We have to feel the pain of the violence that has been done this girl. We have to change the stories, the mythologies that support the oppression of the girl.

In Judeao-Christian mythology, the story opens with the oppression of the feminine through the story of Adam and Eve and the original sin, the fall of man. We took our intuition, our Gnosis and our sensuality, and demonized it. We need to change this story.

In fact, there are many stories we must change about the feminine. Terri Windling, Editor of The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, offers insight with this poem, reprinted here with her permission:
Brother and Sister

Do you remember, brother
Those days in the wood
When you ran with the deer
Falling bloody on my doorstep at dusk
Stepping from the skin
Grateful to be a man
And do you know, brother
Just how I longed
To wrap myself in the golden hide
Smelling of musk
Blackberries and rain
Tell me that tale
Give me that choice
All you cruel, clever fairies
And I'll choose the wood
Not the prince

Ms. Windling speaks to the call of the wild in each of us and how we long to return to our soul skin.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, in her seminal work Women Who Run With Wolves, Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, begins that incredible exploration of the feminine with the words, “Wildlife and Wild Women are both endangered species."

Artist: Angela Carter
The feminine is closely connected to nature and the natural world. Eco-psychology suggests that there is a deep connection between the state of the environment and the psychological well being of the inhabitants of that environment. Nature is chaotic and unpredictable. Nature can appear cruel. Death and destruction are inherent in the cycle of life that manifests in nature, just as birth and life are. We have an aversion to chaos and unpredictability. We have sought to overpower nature, tame her...put her in her place. She has been oppressed, raped, denied her sentient aspects.

The dreams will initiate the descent work. This work is necessary in finding our way back to wholeness, back to our soul. It is not a journey for the faint of heart. Dr. Estés writes “...the maiden represents the heartfelt and formerly sleepy psyche. But a warrior-heroine lies beneath her soft exterior. She has the endurance of the lone wolf. She is able to bear the dirt, grime, betrayal, hurt, loneliness, and exile of the initiate. She is able to wander the underworld and return, enriched, to the topside world.”

The girl is about receptivity. To be receptive means to be open. We must learn to be open to the chaos, open to the unpredictability, open to the possibility of the Gnosis of the girl, who represents the entire range of the felt experience. If we refuse pain, we refuse joy...we cut off the hands. When we put the pain in the basement, we need to understand that we put our joy there too.

To become the girl, we must become open to the full range and richness of our felt experience as humans living on this planet. We must know our connection to our own soul and the soul of the world. When we do, we will no longer be able to continue the violence against our self and we will become willing to make the necessary sacrifices to save girl and perhaps save our planet.

Jung, C. G. (2009). The Red Book Liber Novus, A Reader's Edition. Translated by Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Sonu Shamdasani. New York, London: W.W. Norton Company.

Estés, Clarissa Pinkola (1992). Women Who Run With the Wolves, Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Random House Publishing, Inc.

Windling, Terri (1995) The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors. New York: A Tor Book, Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.


  1. Wow--good intro to dreamwork with archetypes. I look forward to exploring your work.

    1. Hi Shelly, thanks! Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

  2. Can someone answer me why I suddenly feel terrible after reading this article?