The Feminine Art of Transforming A House


“I was passionate, filled with longing. I searched far and wide. But the day that the Truthful One found me, I was at home.” ~Lal Did

There is a powerful force in you that urges you to grow into the whole individual you were meant to be. Jung called it the transcendent function. Both masculine and feminine, it speaks to you in many voices. All of them invite you to see and use the gifts you were born with. You hear its call in your striving to better yourself; loosen the chains that confine you in the prison of conformity; unfold like a seed into the flower or tree you are. You feel it in tears of longing and regret when you watch a touching film or listen to a certain song. You sense its nearness when you lose all sense of time in a creative project.

We yearn to answer this call, yet most of us are too distracted by the pressing need to fulfill our obligations to pay attention. We invest most of our time and energy in doing what we believe is the right thing because we don’t know who we really are or what we really want. Unfortunately for many of us, our hard work does not fulfill our soul’s need to become what it is, and we end up unhappy without knowing why. Everything in us revolts when we betray our souls’ truths.

Our culture profits from our yearning by promising surface solutions like money, power, safety, appearance, possessions, sex. These things satisfy your instincts for the short term. But beneath the world’s cacophonous clamor the yearning remains. Who, amidst the hubbub, can hear the quiet voices of those who would direct you to the inner world? It’s hard to believe anything there could fulfill your need. Harder still to pull yourself away from outer demands you’re trying desperately to fulfill. You have no time. And even if you did, how would you begin? You don’t know the way. Who would guide you? It’s too humiliating to ask for help.

“I was not looking for my dreams to interpret life, but rather for my life to interpret my dreams.” ~Susan Sontag

Your transcendent function knows the answers to these questions. In the feminine language of imagination, metaphor, symbol, and image employed by the arts, it tells you everything you need to know in your dreams. My favorite name for the aspect of it that writes, produces and directs my nightly dramas is Dream Mother. Did you know that her favorite symbols for your psyche, or soul, are circles and houses? Think back to your childhood drawings. Did you ever draw a house? Of course, every child intuitively knows what wholeness looks like.

One day my kindergarten teacher told us to draw our house. I drew a rounded, moss-green trailer, complete with wheels, two windows, and the profile of an Indian Warrior’s head on the front like the figurehead at the bow of a ship. It stood on a foundation of green grass and brown dirt. There was a lollipop tree in the yard, and the requisite round yellow sun in the sky with rays sticking out. This was who I was, my world. The place where I lived with my brother and parents during our first year in Florida after we drove here pulling the trailer my grandfather gave us behind our car.

I never saw that trailer in a dream, but I still dream about the little house my father bought after he found a steady job. It was a modest, wood-framed, three-bedroom, one-bathroom Victorian cottage that had a screened-in front porch with a swing. I can still see it. The telephone stand where I sit to talk to my friends after dinner while my mother does the crossword puzzle at the dining room table. The steep, narrow stairs that lead up to my brother’s bedroom. The flowered curtains that cover the glass-paned double doors to my bedroom. My parents’ bedroom at the back of the house and the bathroom across the hall that leads to the backyard.

That house no longer stands, but my dream houses have appeared in many different guises. Each change has paralleled transformations occurring in the house of my psyche. Here are some examples. See if you can guess what their metaphorical messages were.

  • A few nights after I resigned from my college teaching job I dreamed I was escaping from a prison. The Big House.
  • Weeks later I dreamed that a woman writer I knew in waking life invited me to her exquisite home. As I left I was told it was to be my house.
  • In the early months of writing my first book, when I was rapt with a joy and passion I had never experienced before, I dreamed that the facade of my childhood home had been transformed. The weedy front yard contained a grand circular driveway and colorful flowers. The old house had been repaired and painted.
  • Halfway through that book, I dreamed I was hiding in terror under a wooden house where I was teaching. My dangerous enemies were men from town who found my newfangled ideas threatening.
  • In a recent dream my home has been transformed into a beautiful art gallery.

“Carefully observe what way your heart draws you, and then choose that way with all your strength.” ~Hasidic Saying

Dream Mother can’t do her work alone. I had to study and develop my feminine qualities to learn her language, listen to my honest feelings, and use my imagination to understand the guidance she offered. I had to trust that she was in charge and would lead me to my true self. Persevere patiently through the process. Tolerate the painful conflicts that remodeling and transforming my life brought. Sacrifice other aspects of my life to create the time and space for reflection.

Was it worth it? Oh, yes. Nothing satisfies like living in the house where you want to spend your life. And it can’t happen without your soul’s feminine partner. It takes a feminine touch to transform a house into a home. What do your house dreams say about you?

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Image Credits: Google images, imagesCAWVUXPT, others unknown.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October.

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17 Responses

  1. Remind me to tell you about my visit to the house before it was torn down. Very emotional!

    1. Oh my, Jimmy. I never knew you got to see it again. I can’t wait to hear about it. I drove by many years ago hoping to see it and it was gone. It was very emotional for me too. So was the pecan tree in the front yard. I loved that tree! I loved that house, that yard, the old washhouse and garage (the barn!) out back. The alley running behind. The empty lot next door where we played marbles and Red Rover. It was a magical place, full of life.

      There was an ugly, lifeless cement block rectangle in the space where it once stood. No trees or bushes in the yard. No lush hedges separating it from the lot on one side and apartment building on the other. So stark. couldn’t imagine someone living there. I felt as if someone had desecrated a part of my childhood. Was it like that for you?

      Love, Jeanie

      1. It was absolutely like that for me. I haven’t visited the house site since the owner invited me in way back when. Two quick notes about the visit:
        Remember the kitchen door leading to the back porch, and the window that occupied the upper half of that door? If you remember, the window opened from right to left and with the window open written on the sill were our names and the dates we lived in the house.
        The second interesting find I made was on the door trim leading into the dining room were horizontal height lines with initials next to them and a date. Oh, I so wish we had known that the house was going under the wrecking ball. It would have been nice to salvage that piece of trim and that back door.

        1. I remember etching my name into that window sill. Even then I was aware of the passing of time and the knowledge I would not live there forever. I wanted to leave a memento. I imagined a little girl living there one day and finding my name hidden beneath that window like a secret treasure! It just hit me that this must be the reason I wanted a dutch door from our present kitchen out to the back porch. I’ve never consciously made that connection before!

          I totally forgot about the height lines on the door trim leading to the dining room. It was right next to the refrigerator. The image of it came back in a flash when I read your reply. I’ve done the same thing with our grandchildren in the space between the wall and the downstairs bathroom.

          Wow. These are powerful and poignant memories for me. Thank you, my sweet brother for eliciting them.

          Love, Jeanie

  2. As always, an excellent article Jeanie, beautifully grounded in the Feminine! “Did you ever draw a house? Of course, every child intuitively knows what wholeness looks like.” ~ Simply magical writing! Reminds me of the oak elder tree dream I recently re-imagined into poetry.

    Despite living in the same house for nearly twenty years, I’ve noticed in my dreams that I never visit my present day home. Yes, I’m forever in and out of my childhood home, past homes and other people’s houses, but never the one I’m living in, not even into the garden!

    I’ve asked a few friends and most say they don’t dream about their current home either … do you know why this happens Jeanie? I’m curious as we’ve lived here for nearly 20 years and I thought by now I would start dreaming about it. Hmm, perhaps I will when I leave?

    Oh, but the place I do dream about often is staying in a B&B or a guesthouse, for one night. The guesthouse is always called, “The Hermitage” and I’ve dreamt variations of this dream hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. In the Tarot I also strongly align with “The Hermit.”

    I’ve never given my dream houses much thought before but since estrangement is one of the major themes of my life, it feels fitting that I visit “The Hermitage” in my dreams and found bliss “inside” an oak elder treehouse. Lots to muse on, thank you! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Hi Deborah,

      I never dream of the house I’ve been living in for the past 40 years ever. Never. It is odd. I do occasionally dream of being in or near a temporary habitation in a mountainous, wooded place that feels like our summer home in North Carolina, but never of the actual house itself.

      I wonder if this is Dream Mother’s way of reminding us not to take our dream houses literally. Houses in dreams don’t refer to man-made brick and mortar, wood and stone edifices. They’re meaning-filled metaphors about the truths of our souls: our inner characters, unspoken needs, honest emotions, ideals and values, the themes of our lives….all the invisible, truly important realities of our inner lives that make us who we are.

      That’s so interesting that you dream of a B&B called “The Hermitage!” Obviously a theme of major importance to your soul. There ought to be a Tarot card called “The Poet” for you. Or at least “Writer” or “Scribe.” Needing to record our stories somehow — even if in images painted on the walls of ancient caves, or piles of stones left at the corners of wilderness paths to guide lost and weary travelers — feels archetypal too. I’m not very familiar with Tarot. Is there a card remotely like that?

      Love, Jeanie

      1. Whenever I think of the “Poet” archetype in relation to the Tarot, funnily enough, it is “The Hermit” that comes to mind even though there may be other cards, it is this one I think of most! Why? Because as a poet I have to take myself away from “society” (however defined) to be able to write. Hmm, perhaps my life is more fated than I actually realise. Oh, the synchronicity of how things are timed and aligned amaze me! Yes i agree, “The Hermitage” must be of major importance with my soul’s purpose here. Lots more now to muse upon, many thanks Jeanie! x

        1. When I think of the “Poet” I think of the Lover archetype….people like Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Sappho…very oriented to nature and the physical world of the senses and very passionate lovers of life, but also solitary and reclusive, like Emily Dickinson. Yes,The Hermit fits too. You have to take yourself away from society to give such loving, passionate attention to the details of your outer and inner life and find just the right words to express them. It’s a noble calling: to see, feel, and interpret what others cannot, and with such love and beauty. 🙂

  3. Thank you Jeanie, This came at just the right time, as I struggle with doing what I need to do and doing what nourishes my soul. Years ago I dreamed I had locked myself out of my house. When I woke I realized it was my life I was locked out of… Love, Enid

    1. You’re very welcome, Enid.

      Wow. What a cool and relevant dream that was. Being locked out of your house is just the right metaphor for the condition you describe. I love it how dream images have the power to zero in on the exact issue we need to address, and totally without words! I see images like this as guides that point me toward the next step I need to take. In this case, the dream seems to suggest to get back in touch with my inner realities and carve out time for reflection and self-care.

      Thank you for sharing this here. It’s a perfect example of how valuable dreams are. Nobody knows us better than Dream Mother. No human, no matter how well they know us, could guide us more surely in the direction of our souls.

      Love, Jeanie

  4. Thank you for this lovely post Jeanie. I often dream of being in another house or place, one unknown to me. Or, I was walking or driving with someone and we came to this house and went in – and on it goes. Many of those. I once dreamed of going downstairs to a basement type bedroom into an unknown house and – there was my late mother, sitting on a bed. That bothered me for a long while, and it still does now that I think about it. I wondered if she was speaking to me from the underworld or the underground or just plain under …

    I started a new dream journal recently as the old one was full. Only after several days I noticed some notes I’d written on the back pages. Included in the notes was a sketch I’d drawn of a dream with a note saying ‘from a dream I had this morning’. Undated. I was amazed. Needless to say I’ve now done a proper outline of it on a prepared piece of art paper – canvas. Now to get to work on it – two ouroboros like serpents, one above one below – in a glass jar. With another one outside of the jar …not ouroborus like but alongside, almost decorative.

    Thank you Jeanie for the reminder how vital dream work is. Love, Susan

    1. Oh, aren’t these dream images just the most marvelous treasures? I can’t bear to not know exactly when I had a dream. And it somehow feels of the utmost importance to know the context of my life when I had it. For me it’s a sort of record keeping, like a scrapbook, or the 12 month calendars with a large space for each day that I’ve kept since college. Some of these have actually been useful to me in my writing when I’ve wanted to remember exactly when something happened and where I was at the time, and how it related to other things that were happening in my life. My mind/psyche/soul/personality seems to need to make these connections for some reason. Maybe it’s just my attempt to weave together the threads of my life into a meaningful tapestry. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

      Anyway, I LOVE your dream image of the three serpents. Wow. Powerful. Odd you should mention that just now as I’ve just finished writing next week’s post. I’ve illustrated it with the symbol of the two intertwined circles, one above and one below, that are featured here on my website. This symbol also feels deeply important to me.

      I hope you’ll post a picture of your finished painting on your blog. I’d love to see it. I remember a symbol you wrote about some years back that you painted on a stone in your garden. Was it a turtle? I can’t quite remember. The symbols that touch us deeply have a lot to tell us about ourselves.

      Maybe your mother in the basement is a metaphor of Inanna’s Above World and Below World where the souls of the dead go? It seems nice to think that her soul lives on there in a cozy bedroom of her own. I hope she has company. 🙂

      Love, Jeanie

      1. Thank you Jeanie for your lovely reply. I always date my dreams and the time even if 3.33 in the morning. But not this time. Strange.

        I fashioned a tortoise some years ago from a dream and painted it. I probably put up a photograph of that. It’s one leg is broken so I want to remake a new one.

        That is amazing that the serpent symbol is going to be on your next week’s post! I love the entwined ones as well on a staff – the one representing feminine energies, flexible, the staff as male energies, fixed. It’s a symbol dating from Hippocrates I believe the father of western medicine. I know that my husband has a tie with that symbol on it, and I suspect script pads as well.

        Looking forward as I always do to your post next week!

  5. Thank you, Susan. Yes, I remember now. A clay tortoise.

    I forgot to mention the other picture on next weeks blog: a serpent wrapped around the World Egg.

    And yes, the two-entwined snakes of the caduceus of Hermes goes back to Greek mythology, as does the rod of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing and dreams, which had just one snake wrapped around it. As you well know, both are ancient symbols of healing life energy. I love the synchronicities we experience so often.

    See you next week. 🙂 Jeanie

  6. Ah, home! I’m rooted here to house and land. I’ve dreamed about home from secret rooms in the attic to having sex with a high school boyfriend in the cellar. I’ve been in this particular place since 1973 and it’s often a dream character or dream landscape. Vic and I remade the house gutting it down to the wood support structures and Vic even rebuilt part of the stone foundation. Early on we had more energy than money, so we did the work ourselves, but with helpers, we remodeled and rebuilt for 30 years until we realized the dream home we’d imagined hidden in the disintegrating old farm house we bought because of exquisite land and views.

    I remember a dream after Vic died where he filled the whole downstairs with firewood. Still keeping me warm! Lately, as catastrophe erupts in various forms since early March, it’s felt very safe here where there aren’t many people and covid cases have been low–and only peaceful protests in towns 20 miles away. The younger Elaine without Meniere’s Disease would have been there, but I didn’t go last night. I stayed home and transplanted zinnias for Monarchs. Recently I dream of impersonal concrete landscapes where I’m lost and afraid. I’m grateful to wake up and find I’m home. I thought I would visit my son in North Carolina this summer, but we cancelled plans because of unrest in the land. It feels best to stay planted in one spot where my ego self and body feel relaxed, sleep in my own bed, walk with the dogs on familiar trails, work with my dreams, see friends and my local son for walks at a distance, and raise Monarchs–and write. Milkweed is up in the fields. I know the butterflies will be here soon once the milkweed sends up shoots. They’re my home antidote to the violence of the world.

    We live in a mythological dream or a Shakespearean tragedy. May we all find peace. May the forces of chaos be quieted. May you and your family be safe, well, and peaceful.

    1. Your house sounds like everything home should be: a safe, comfortable, beloved nest you and Vic built together and put your hearts and passion and energy into. A place with a strong foundation and sturdy walls that still wrap their arms around you and keep you snug and warm. A refuge from a cruel world, a haven where children grew up and played and laughed and still return to for the love and beautiful memories it holds. A living testament to the sacred union you and Vic created together. That sounds like a perfect definition of home to me. I think deep inside we all long for a home like that. Congratulations for creating it.

      Do I see another book here? Stories of Home? Who better than you to write it?

      Thank you for writing,

      Love, Jeanie

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