Soulcraft Apprenticeship & Initiation Program

The Soulcraft Apprenticeship and Initiation Program (SAIP) is designed for those called by Mystery to learn, co-develop, and implement an authentic, contemporary, Western, nature-based path to soul initiation. SAIP provides an in-depth study of soul-encounter practices and guiding skills. This creative learning opportunity is for men and women ready to commit to the role of underworld guide, those who have no doubt that the Western world needs to make fundamental shifts in values and way of life and that this can happen most authentically and effectively through the soul-rooted life choices of initiated adults.

For more information about SAIP, download our SAIP Brochure and cost chart.

To talk to our program manager about SAIP, call 970-259-0585 or email [email protected]. You can download the SAIP Application here; however, please thoroughly read the brochure and requirements prior to filling out the SAIP application.

A SAIP Application is generally the beginning step in a conversation that takes some months to complete. We appreciate your patience in the process.

SAIP applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Download the SAIP Appliction

It’s time for the Western world to return to a life rooted in soul and nature. The Soulcraft Apprenticeship and Initiation Program (SAIP) is designed for those ready to make a commitment to learning, co¬developing, and utilizing an authentic, contemporary, Western, nature-based path to soul initiation. SAIP provides an in-depth study of soul-encounter practices and skills. This creative learning opportunity is for seekers who have been called by Mystery to serve their people as nature-based underworld guides and who are ready to say YES to their souls — the unique, individual mysteries with which we each were born. We seek trainees who have no doubt that the Western world needs to make fundamental shifts in values and way of life and that this can happen most authentically and effectively through the soul-rooted life choices of initiated adults.

SAIP is a professional development opportunity, equivalent in scope and depth to a graduate-school masters program. It is also a contemporary path to personal soul initiation and later stages of growth. You may enroll with any one or more of several intentions, including the desire to guide soul-oriented vision fasts, to lead other forms of soul-encounter programs, to develop a strong foundation in soulcraft work to weave into another professional path, and (only in partnership with one or more of the previous intentions) to deepen your own soul-initiation process. SAIP can be completed at your own pace — with a typical range from two years to six.

SAIP is rooted in an Animas seed vision of where nature-based soul work (beyond psychotherapy) might go over the next 100 years. The vision fast is only one component. The greater need in the Western world is for a full set of developmental processes and initiatory rites, commencing in early childhood, that lead to soulful adulthood and authentic elderhood — a life of joy, service, and fulfillment. We are beginning to see what the nature-based people have always known: in order to reach true adulthood, we must, after proper preparation, embark upon the terrifying beauty of the underworld journey to soul.

SAIP is dedicated to developing modern cultural formats that can help the Western world shift from a patho-adolescent emphasis on material wealth, escapism, and personal security toward a mature orientation of soul-discovery, authentic service to others, and true membership in the natural web of the more-than¬human world. These goals go well beyond those of traditional psychotherapy.

Upon acceptance and enrolling, you create an individualized program of study that includes eight core Soulcraft™ practices and four electives. The program also supports you in your own initiation journey as you find and deepen your appreciation of your soul image, story, and powers — and your chosen means for embodying these gifts.
“Soulcraft” is a registered trademark of William B. Plotkin

The Soulcraft Apprenticeship and Initiation Program

Eligibility Requirements: (Must be met prior to applying for SAIP)

• At least one 3- or 4-day vision fast (need not have been with Animas).

• At least three Animas in-person programs from this list: Wild Mind Intensive, Soulcraft Intensive, an Animas Quest, Coming Home to an Animate World, Council and Mirroring Intensive, Nature and the Human Soul, Soulcentric Dreamwork Intensive, Deep Imagination Intensive, or any Advanced Offering. At least one of those three programs must be an Advanced Offering from the following list: Advanced Soulcraft Intensive, Advanced Quest, a Yearlong Immersion, Sweet Darkness, or a Soulcraft Journey.

• Have read at least two of Bill Plotkin’s books.

• A recommendation letter from one of your Animas guides encouraging you to apply for SAIP with a bit about why.

• You must have already achieved deep clarity about your mythopoetic identity and be able to express this in your application.

The SAIP objectives are to:

• provide high-level and deep-rooted training in soulcraft skills and practices

• support trainees in their personal path to soul initiation and later stages of soulcentric growth

• support the career development of people who are called to guide others toward soul

• support people working to shift Western culture from one of the most destructive that has ever existed toward one that is rooted in the mysteries of soul and the more-than-human web of nature

(Please note that SAIP training does not necessarily lead to employment as an Animas guide.)

Three SAIP Tracks to choose from: (choose more than one if you wish)

Soulcentric Vision Fast Guiding: learning to design and guide vision fasts with a primary emphasis upon the quest as a doorway into the underworld and the encounter with soul — including methods of ecotherapy but moving beyond them into the facilitation of soul initiation. Please note: You do not need to be enrolled in SAIP in order to apprentice to the Animas Quest.

Soulcraft Leadership: learning to design and guide a variety of contemporary, nature-based soul-encounter experiences (retreat-center based as well as wilderness-based programs)

Soul-Oriented Professional Development: acquiring soulcraft skills to apply to other professional fields including education, business, healthcare, coaching, and transpersonal psychotherapy

Core Areas of Study in all Tracks:

• Conversations with More-than-Human Nature

Self-Designed Ceremony (Dialogues with the Sacred Other)

• The Soulcentric Developmental Wheel and Rites of Passage

Shadow, Projections, and the Loyal Soldier

Soulcentric Dreamwork

• Deep Imagery Journeys

• The Way of Council

• The Art of Mirroring

For each Core Area, you attend the corresponding Animas Intensive (before or after SAIP enrollment). Following Conversations with the Sacred Other (which includes Self-Designed Ceremony) and the Soulcentric Developmental Wheel Intensives, a mentor is selected to help you design and complete an extended, personalized course of study. Proficiency in these three Core Areas is developed and then demonstrated, as assessed by your SAIP Mentor. For each of the other five areas (Dreamwork, Council, Mirroring, Shadow, and Deep Imagery), you enroll in a 5-day advanced training program focused on deepening your facilitation skills.

Electives Areas for Independent Study:

Beginning in the second year of your program, you study four or more electives from the following list. With the assistance of a SAIP Mentor, you develop an independent course of study for each elective. At times, Animas might offer Advanced Intensives or Specialized Courses on one or more of these topics, but generally you study on your own under the guidance of a mentor.

• Trance Dance and Rhythms

• Soul Poetry

• Animal Tracking and Nature Observation

• Signs and Omens

• Art of Soulful Romance

• Traditional Ceremonies and Nature Festivals

• Ceremonial Sweats and Saunas

• Storytelling and Personal Mythology

• Journal Work

• Symbols and Sacred Objects

• Sacred Speech and Silence

• Symbolic Artwork

• Confronting Your Own Death

• Befriending the Dark

• Wandering in Nature

• Art of Being Lost

• Developing a Personal Relationship with Spirit

• Self-designed elective (with approval)

Additional options for electives are:

• any additional mentorship co-designed by you and a SAIP mentor and approved by the Program Director and Coordinator

• any Animas program not already required as part of SAIP if this program is approved for you by the Program Director and Coordinator

• any non-Animas program approved by the Program Director and Coordinator (i.e., any program that will significantly enhance your skill specifically as an underworld/soulcraft guide and that addresses skills not covered in current Animas programs)

• a group training guided by an Animas guide, organized by the guide or one or more trainees, in any of the elective areas listed above (this would be in lieu of an individual mentorship)

Personal Soul-Initiation Mentorships:

In addition to cultivating the skills of nature-based underworld guiding, SAIP is committed to trainees’ personal soul development. Programs, trainings, electives, and mentorships all contribute to the trainees’ personal development. In addition, personal soul-initiation mentorships are often recommended and/or trainees may request them from an Animas guide.

SAIP Program Coordinator:

The Program Coordinator oversees your course of study and administers the Soulcraft Apprenticeship and Initiation Program. He/she supports both mentors and apprentices with issues and concerns, tracks progress, and is responsible for fine-tuning the program. The annual SAIP program fee supports the work of the SAIP Program Coordinator.

Minimum Required Training Components to Complete Program:

• A total of two Soulcraft Intensives and/or Soulcraft Journeys

• Attendance at each of the annual 5-day Residential Gatherings

• Advanced Intensives that cover all eight Core Areas

• Mentorships or Advanced Trainings in all eight Core Areas and four elective Independent Studies

Minimum Required Training Components Each Year for all Tracks:

• Two Animas programs (selected among Advanced Intensives, Soulcraft Intensives, Soulcraft Journeys, and Vision Fast Apprenticeships; see our current program listing on the Animas website)

• The annual 5-day SAIP Residential Gathering

• Two Mentorships and/or Advanced Trainings – either in Core Areas or electives

SAIP Residential Gatherings:

• Five days long, attended by trainees and mentors, and open only to them.

• A unique opportunity for advanced training and personal soulwork with Bill Plotkin and soulcraft mentors within a community committed to soulcraft and cultural change.

• One Residential is offered each year.

Mentorship Program:

• Three of the Core Areas and each elective have one or more eligible mentors. Mentors oversee your study, experiences, and growth in that area – through assignments, journaling, conversations, and activities.

• Two or more mentorships can be undertaken concurrently.

• For each Core Area Mentorship, the Animas office supplies curricula outlines to the mentors and trainees. The outline includes objectives, suggested activities and resources, and requirements of trainees. Mentors follow a set of general Animas mentorship guidelines.

• All mentors are also Animas Guides (see their bios on the Animas website.)

• Trainees, mentors, and the Program Coordinator work together to make appropriate matches between mentors and trainees. A brief application is required for each mentorship.

Additional Requirements for the Animas Quest Track:

• At least one personal vision fast during the course of the SAIP (either with Animas, an approved quest guided by others, or an approved self-guided quest)

• At least three Animas Quest apprenticeships (pre-requisite is your own vision fast, not necessarily with Animas).

• Although not required to complete SAIP, we strongly recommend that you do not guide quests until you obtain proficiencies in camping skills (including leave-no-trace, wilderness travel, and survival), wilderness first aid, orienteering, search and rescue, and emergency communications. Animas does not offer comprehensive training programs in these areas, but we are happy to make recommendations.

Additional Requirements for the Soulcraft Leadership Track:

• A total of at least four Soulcraft Intensives or Soulcraft Journeys (at least one of each)

• Acting as a clan leader or assistant clan leader (after qualifying) on two or more Soulcraft Intensives. Doing so qualifies toward the total of four listed in the first requirement above.

Additional Requirement for Professional Development Track:

• At least two electives on applying Soulcraft to your profession.


That day I saw beneath dark clouds

the passing light over the water

and I heard the voice of the world speak out,

I knew then, as I had before

life is no passing memory of what has been

nor the remaining pages in a great book

waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.

It is the vision of far off things

seen for the silence they hold.

It is the heart after years

of secret conversing

speaking out loud in the clean air.

It is Moses in the desert

fallen to his knees before the lit bush.

It is the man throwing away his shoes

as if to enter heaven

and finding himself astonished,

opened at last,

fallen in love with solid ground.

— David Whyte