Monday, May 30, 2011

The Goddess, Her Bridegroom and a Romanian Word-Magician

We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity of this has never been greater as we discover that the path of ‘progress’ is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth."

- Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess.

Marija Gimbutas was so many things: an extraordinary and indefatigable archeologist, linguist and mythologist, a lover and restorer of the Goddess traditions, a survivor of one of the worst nightmares of history, "an embodiment" (as her friend and editor Joan Marler puts it) "of an essence of the Lithuanian soul". Marija created the multidisciplinary approach she called "archaeomythology". It has taught us essential things about the Old Europe of the Neolithic that revive the hope that in our times we, too, can cherish the Divine Feminine and nourish a "partnership society" in which the sexes are balanced in a dynamic harmony that tends the earth, and the soul.

Marija's work is being continued and furthered by the passionate and scholarly work of Joan Marler and her colleagues at the Institute of Archaeomythology. From their base in the gentle wine-country town of Sebastopol, California, they reach across the world to support the work and publications of remarkable scholars like the Romanian linguist and archaeomythologist, Adrian Poruciuc. I have just read his recent book, Prehistoric Roots of Romanian and Southeast European Traditions, with great pleasure and profit.

Poruciuc is an etymological detective, and if you are a lover of words, and are willing to jump from Homeric Greek to Old Church Slavonic at the drop of a diphthong, you could find his work as exciting as an episode of NCIS on television. Take his investigation of the root meaning of two famous names from Greek mythology, Demeter and Dionysos. After tracking the components and variants of "Demeter" through many languages, he confirms what many of us knew in our gut and our atavistic memories, but many cavilers (nothing to do with "cavaliers") in the academic fraternity long doubted: Demeter means "Earth Mother." Then he takes us into fresh and thrilling territory by demonstrating that Dionysos, all but certainly, means "Bridegroom of the Mother." Drink that one in deep (as is Dionysos' way). Reflect on what the meaning of that name reflects from the civilization of the Goddess in Old Europe. The roistering, hard-drinking god of ecstasy is, first and last, the consort of the Goddess and her partners in the Mysteries that renew and fertilize the earth.

Poruciuc probes mysteries that are more arcane, to non-Romanians. Why are the folk songs or "carols" (colinde) sung around Romanian holidays full of references to a great flood that is clearly very different from the Biblical one, since it has nothing to do with rain but only with a wildly rising sea? Romania, after all, has only a small coast, on the all-but-tideless Black Sea. Do these songs of flood carry on the memory of an ancient event, older (perhaps) than the flood of the Book of Genesis? On those stormy waters, in some of the songs, comes a great bull or antlered deer with the goddess rocking between his horns, on a swing. Here we are, again, in realms of the Once and Future Goddess.

Lovers of mythic beasts will be intrigued by Poruciuc's mythic bestiary of creatures that populate those old Romanian folk songs and folk memories: of the sea-monster known as the dolf (which sounds like dolphin but probably isn't) that comes on land to steal apples; of a fish-goddess, and a snake-goddess; of a lion that is spoken to like a dog. I was hoping to find the wolf-headed dragon of the ancient Dacians here - terror of the Romans, and source of one of the most ferocious battle standards I have ever seen - but I gather we'll need to wait for another volume of Poruciuc's studies for that. I look forward to it.

The book discussed: Adrian Poruciuc, Prehistoric Roots of Romanian and Southeast European Traditions. Sebastopol, CA: Institute of Archaeomythology, 2010.

Rock carving at Lepensky Vir, Serbia

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blessed by the Goddess, as Ava Gardner

I am at last on the top floor, the level I have been seeking. Through the picture windows, I can see out across a great city, to the sea and the mountains.

I stretch out on a comfortable sofa. It has taken me hard effort and some cunning to get to this level. I remember riding a bicycle, like a schoolboy, down steps to the edge of a river, where I risked toppling over or banging into tables set for lunch or high tea when the trail narrowed between the water and the elegant picnic setup. Eventually, I had to get off my bike and carry it.

When I entered this building, what was in my hand was no longer a bike, but a rifle, hardly bigger or heavier than a BB gun. I climbed successive flights of concrete steps. There was a lot of action on the lower floor. On one landing, my way was partly blocked by a huge, well-muscled man fondling or mauling a woman. He had one meaty arm raised and extended to mark off half the landing as his territory. I got round him, but then had to face the challenge of getting over a barrier atop a high step, as high as my heart. I would need both hands to pull myself up and swing myself over. This requires me to lay down my rifle - a risky thing to do, since I could see people spreadeagled on the floor on this next level. They might be handcuffed prisoners, or hostages, or casualties. I placed my gun at the edge of the high step, where I calculated no one could reach it. With effort, I got myself over the barrier and continued my ascent, to the calm and spaciousness of this penthouse.

Now she comes to me, leaning over me, smelling of gardenias. She is wearing a sheath dress of rose-colored silk, and she is breathtakingly beautiful. She kisses and caresses me, lovingly. Slow and tender, she begins to engage me in erotic foreplay. I know her name. I have known it since I saw her on the big screen as a young boy in Australia. She is Ava Gardner, and she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

She is the Goddess, she is the universal power of the Divine Feminine, she is all women, and I feel the joy and grace of her blessing. I rise in the morning light, grateful that the blessing of the Goddess is with me.

- Dream from May 28, 2011

A friend who read this report found a photo of a dress that may well be the one that Ava wore in my dream. It was worn by Avan Gardner in 1965 and is currently on display at the "Balenciaga and Spain" exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Another friend points out that "Ava" and "Eve" have the same root, and are related to the Hebrew "chava", which speaks of the vital serpent energy of life.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The dream secret of Celtic inspiration

Awen - inspiration - was, as Caitlin Matthews reminds us, "the supreme preoccupation of Celtic poets, especially among those who had inherited the ancient prophetic and visionary arts of the ovate or faith - probably the earliest form of Celtic shaman." [1] The word awen derives from the Indo-European root -uel, meaning 'to blow', and is kissing cousin with the Welsh, awel meaning "breeze". In contemporary druidism, awen is depicted as three rays emanating from three points of light.

We have a precious twelfth-century account of the importance of dreaming in the access to awen for the ancient Celtic poets and prophets. The source is Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) in his Itinerary of Wales. Gerald describes the practice of the awenyddion, or "inspired ones". In a key passage, he writes:

Their gifts are usually conferred upon them in dreams, Some seem to have sweet milk or honey poured on their lips; to others [it seems] that a written document is applied to their mouths, and immediately on rising up from sleep, after completing their chant, they publicly declare that they have received this gift. [2]

1. Caitlin Matthews, "The Three Cauldrons of Inspiration" in Caitlin & John Matthews, The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Wisdom. Shaftesbury, Dorset and Rockport MA: Element, 1994, p. 219.
2. Translation from Gerald of Wales in Nikolai Tolstoy, The Quest for Merlin. : Little, Brown, 1985, p. 140.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the forest of mirrors

I've been reading a most interesting narrative by the Yanomami shaman and spokesman Davi Kopenawa about relations between humans and the ancestral spirits his people call xapiripë. "The xapiripë dance together on huge mirrors which come down from the sky. They are never dull like humans. They are always splendid."

The xapiripë descend to us perched on mirrors, which they keep suspended a little bit above the earth, so they never quite touch the ground. These mirrors come from their home in the sky.

In a shaman’s house of spirits, these mirrors are propped, hung, piled and placed side by side. When the house is big, the mirrors are big. As the number of spirits increases, the mirrors multiply, one on top of the other. The xapiripë don’t mix with each other. They have their own mirrors on the beams of the house: mirrors of warrior spirits, bird of prey spirits, and cicada spirits; mirrors of thunder spirits, lightning spirits, and storm spirits. There are as many mirrors as there are spirits, they are beyond number.

We live among mirrors. Our forest belongs to the xapiripë and is made from their mirrors. [1]

Mirrors not only hold and reflect images; they multiply them. Thus an ancestral spirit may reappear in many images:

When the name of a xapiripë is spoken, it is not a single spirit we evoke, but a multitude of similar spirits. Each name is unique, but the xapiripë it designates are very numerous. They are like the images in the mirrors I saw in a hotel. I was alone, but at the same time I possessed many images. Thus, there is just one name for the image of the tapir turned into spirit, but the tapir-spirits are very numerous...This is true of all the xapiripë. People think they are unique, but their images are innumerable. They are like me, standing in front of the hotel mirrors. They seem alone, but their images overlap each other as far as infinity. [2]

This makes us reflect on the importance of mirrors in many shamanic traditions. Looking into a reflective surface may reveal a world beyond the world. A shaman's mirror may be a soul catcher, or a shield, or a place in which to see.

We need to dream deep on the mirrors that Davi describes. The night before I posted this report, a man dreamed that his departed mother appeared to him, offering sage counsel. He described her as standing on a "glassy river" that went up into the sky.

Due diligence: in order to see them and interact with the spirits, Yanomami shamans inhale the powder of the yãkõanahi tree, "the food of the spirits", an item I would not recommend for anyone outside their traditional culture.

Communing with the spirits, says Kopenawa, is "our study; it teaches us to dream."

Someone who is not looked upon by the spirits doesn’t dream. They just lie around in dumb sleep like an ax abandoned on the ground. [3]

1. Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert, "Les ancêtres animaux" in B. Albert and H. Chandes (eds)Yanomami - l'esprit de la forêt Paris: Fondation Cartier / Actes Sud, 2003, pp.72-3.
2. ibid, p.73.
3. Davi Kopenawa, "Sonhos das origens" in C.A.Ricardo (ed) Povos indígenas no Brasil (1996–2000), São Paulo: ISA, 2000.

Image: Davi Kopenawa among Yanomami children. (c) Fiona Watson/Survival International

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dreaming with the People of Amber

The first time I visited the Baltic, I dreamed of an ancient priestess who showed me the spiritual uses of amber. She brought me inside a chamber like the inside of an egg-shaped amber, glowing with golden light, and showed me how to use a smaller version of this amber as a place to see.

I have been on the lookout for the right egg-shaped amber since then. Its specifications were clear: it must be clear, light golden amber, natural but free of inclusions (such as ancient insects) and polished by hand. I found it, at last, on a cobbled street in the Old City in Riga last month, when we had to to leave the street we were on because construction drills were throwing huge quantities of cement dust into the air.

The amber is beside me as I write. It takes me back inside a big dream I saw on my second visit to the Baltic, when I taught in Vilnius and traveled through Samogitia. I titled this dream "The Mud People and the Amber People". In the dream, I was out in deep woods at night and found myself sinking into sticky mud while creepy things moved about me. I came to the house of a ragana, a witch, among the roots of a crooked tree. She had painted the upper part of her face chalk-white, from the hairline to the cheekbones, so that it resembled part of a death's head, or perhaps a venomous spider. While she scuttled away from me into hiding, nasty slithering things rose from the mud.

I was glad to find that an enormous Bear was now with me, as my bodyguard. While willing to fight the witch's familiars, I also recognized that I had strayed into her territory, and that she had reason to fear intruders. Instead of engaging in battle, I called down Light, and a bright shaft of golden light immediately descended from on high, like a column of amber coming down from the sky. It worked a traction beam, lifting me straight up, high above the mud and the wood witch.

I found myself inside an enormous egg-shaped amber, in the company of wise women. It was like the amber room where I had first met the ancient Baltic priestess, expanded to the size of a mother ship. The leader told me: "You must understand that there are the Mud People and the Amber People. You belong to the People of Amber. Your duty - and that of those you train - is to build bridges and walkways so people can get across the mud safely. You must avoid allowing yourself to be sucked down into the mud. You must remember to call on the power of light amber to heal and guide, and on the power of dark amber to cleanse and remove the darkness."

That seems like an agenda for more than one landscape. I have offered that dream as a space of light and healing that others can enter. Several groups - most memorably in my recent workshop in Kurzeme (northwest Latvia) - have traveled together, with the aid of shamanic drumming, through their own dark woods into that space of amber light, and have brought back energy and guidance.

The full report of my dream of "The Mud People and the Amber People" is here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The trans-Siberian dream train and the boy thief

On the trans-Siberian dream train

I am traveling again, across the immensity of Russia, from the border of Mongolia via Lake Baikal to Moscow.

There is a feral boy on the train, maybe twelve years old. His hair is a clump of wet hay. I am pretty sure he is a thief, but his antics are entertaining and he proves to be a useful ally. When we are all getting hungry, and there are no supplies, he produces a hunk of cheese and gives me the first piece. The raw-milk cheese is grubby and rubbery, but sharp, and I am grateful for it. Someone remarks that the boy is of the type "who will start out by robbing you if they can, but will love you to death if you make any sign of affection."

We cross a wildly beautiful area of remote lakes. I would love to go swimming, but even in this season the water is bitterly cold.

At last we reach Moscow. There are no problems at security, though I notice that a rattle I acquired in Estonia is no longer in the pocket of my trenchcoat; I wonder whether the boy who supplied the (no doubt pilfered) cheese made off with this in exchange.

Through security, I stop at a news stand to buy English-language papers. "Zdravstvuite," I greet him. He waits patiently while I sort through a stack of small bills to find the right money. I choose two banknotes that seem to be for units of 600 each.

I now proceed to the smart offices of a company on a high floor of a building. The secretary/receptionist is a cool, elegant blonde with coiffed hair I have met before. I wait in the reception area while she chats with a security man. There is an amazing animal in an easy chair with a coat draped over one arm. I think at first that it is a bear cub, but decide it is a puppy of a breed I can't name. Its fur is oatmeal-colored, with blue patches. I pet the "dog" and it is friendly though sleepy.

I take the chance to review, in my mind, the knowledge I have gathered on this trip. It is relevant to a new theory I am developing on the origin and nature of shamanism. I have made two discoveries I consider breakthroughs, based on what I have learned in Siberia and the North. My tag for one of these discoveries is the word Sajø. The last vowel is a "slashed O" of the kind you see in Norwegian and Danish, although in my mind I set the slash at the other diagonal, starting from the upper left of the O and running to the right. This word relates to shamanism in the far North. The second discovery involves Siberia and perhaps Mongolia.

I wake excited, pleased to be on a new adventure on such an interesting "line."

I often dream of traveling in Russia, but still have no ordinary-reality plans to do this. I was recently in countries that were part of the Soviet Union until 1991 (Estonia and Lativia). I do have an Estonian rattle - beautifully woven from rushes - that I acquired in my last trip.

I don't know the word "Sajø" - with the slash ø - but will continue to track it. I would love to know more about my dream self's two "breakthrough discoveries", and about the amazing dog-bear in the office (and why I am there). I will revisit some of the cross-cultural material on shamanism, especially in the areas and traditions I am studying in my dream.

I am most intrigued by the boy thief on the train. I can think of many ways in which a 12-year-old trickster and improviser within myself could be very helpful in my new creative journeys.

I usually enjoy my dream train rides. This one has given me plenty of research and action assignments!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dream theater for soul recovery

Gore Mountain, New York

"I asked my dreams for guidance on soul recovery," Kerri told us. "I woke at 3 AM, and my first thought was, Where are my dreams? Then a big dream came flowing back, and I realized that it exactly responded to my intention. I needed more sleep, but the dream stayed with me, intact, until morning."

She thought the dream would make a good script for theatrical production. I seized on this suggestion, before she gave us the story. We had been inside our meeting lodge all morning, voyaging together in some powerful group journeys. Now we needed to get outside, in the spring sunlight, and move. When soul or the spirits speak through dreams, according to the Native traditions of these mountains, then we must move with their energy and bring that alive in our bodies. We never want to bore the spirits, especially our own.

Dream theater with fresh material may be my favorite part of my depth programs. It brings out the performer, the improviser, the comic - and the child inside us who isn't afraid to make things up. It can run the whole gamut of emotions, from wild bawdy laughter to deep pathos. It always delivers raw vitality.

So we gathered outside on the grass, in a clearing in the forest of silver birch and spruce, to hear the dream that Kerri said provided guidance on how to bring soul parts home.

"I am approached by a tall Scotsman in a kilt. He speaks in a beautiful deep voice that could carry across mountains, but with gentle patience, as if he is teaching a child.

"He holds out a key ring with three keys. He says, 'To regain the soul, you must be able to open the locks.'

"While I am holding the keys, wondering how to use the, the Scotsman says. "And to please the soul, you must have music.' He waves his hand, and this cool jazz guy appears, playing a saxophone.

"The Scotsman makes another flourish. 'And of course, you must have food to nourish the soul.' I see a kitchen with an open door, with delectable aromas wafting out.

"Now the Scotsman gestures towards a couple who are walking past some long shelves, like the shelves in a department store or a supermarket. On the shelves are glass pyramids with squared-off tops. The woman in the couple is a teacher. She turns to me and says, 'To recover soul, you also need glass.'"

Much in the dream was deliciously mysterious. It excited us. I had Kerri cast members of our gathering to play every role in the dream, including the keys and the key ring. She picked me to play the Scotsman. Another woman in the group donated a beautiful fern-green scarf to serve as my kilt.

While I followed the dream script, other players brought the dream elements wonderfully alive. The three keys - played by three women in the group - wanted to open centers in the dreamer's heart, and in her head, and in her gut, and then became the soul parts returning through these openings. A improvisational musician in the group was in his element as the cool jazz man. An Italian-American woman threw open a delectable Mangia, Mangia kind of kitchen to produce soul food.

Up on the deck of our meeting lodge, the people selected to play the glass pyramids with squared-off tops staged a silent hieratic drama. We came to understand that they were in the role of chambers or transporters for soul parts. I was vividly reminded of shamanic soul retrieval operations in which we may use a quartz crystal for such purposes.

All of this was fast becoming a vibrant, effortless education in shamanic soul recovery techniques. I did not want to stop. Still playing the Scots instructor, I asked Kerri, who played her own part in the first production, to now cast another member of our group to take the lead role, and go through the whole process. We repeated this with several players, and each time our understanding of the nature of soul recovery healing deepened. It was beautiful to watch the dance of the three keys around the dreamer, within the ring, becoming the deep embrace of soul reunion, again and again.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The scribe as ruler

New York City

If you have any doubt about the importance of writing in early civilizations, go see the special exhibit titled "Haremheb, The General Who Became King". Horemheb (to give the transcription of his name a more familiar form) has long fascinated me. He was a fighting general, especially skiled in chariot warfare, and as commander of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun's army, he led successful campaigns to defend Egypt's borders. When he took the throne as the last pharaoh of the XVIII dynasty (he ruled from a 1316-1302 BC) he instituted laws that secured the rights of civilians and curbed abuses perpetrated by powerful groups, including the army. He also restored the cult of the old gods that were briefly supplanted by Akhenaton's experiment with monotheism.

In the exhibit at the Met, we meet Horemheb as scribe and agent for Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom. The granite statue at the center of the displays shows Horemheb before he became king. While his face is beautiful and finely chiseled, his body is that of a man grown flabby and stooped through long hours of study. In his lap is a papyrus on which he has written a magnificent prayer to Thoth.

There are many other images of Thoth and his sacred animals, the ibis and the baboon, in the Horemheb exhibit. Excited by these testimonies to the place of Thoth and his magic words in the Egyptian mind, I noticed an extraordinary carving in another room, devoted to Egyptian art from late antiquity, on my way out of the Met. It shows Thoth baptising a pharaoh (who by this time was a Roman emperor) by pouring the water of life, streaming as a series of ankhs from what looks like a scribe's stylus-case.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Healing the fragmented self in the lap of Great Mother Bear

Gore Mountain, New York

If we are to be whole, we must gather and bring together the divided aspects of our selves. Some parts of our soul may have been missing for a very long time - from the time of trauma in early childhood, or in the birth canal, or even inside the womb. Dreams will put us on the track of these lost boys and girls, as will a childhood memory. Caring friends, gifted therapists and genuine shamans can help us to bring them home.

With or without help, bringing the vital energy of our younger selves home to our present bodies can be a bumpy process. Say you have succeeded in making contact with a child self who checked out of your life many years ago because the world seemed so cold and so cruel. To persuade that younger self to come into your body and your world now, you will need to persuade her that you are safe and you are fun. To do that, you'll need to promise that she will never be shamed or abused again, and that you'll do things and eat things that please her. She may not believe your promises unless you can invoke some powerful helpers. Here the animal guardians can play an essential role, because a young child who doesn't trust you may trust the bear or the tiger that is supporting you.

If you succeed in reclaiming a younger part of yourself, the blessings may include fresh energy, imagination, skills - and joy. But to keep that part of your vital soul with you, you are going to have to make good on your promises over the long haul. There will always be the risk that if that part of you senses a recurrence of an old trauma, or simply finds you drab and boring to be around, she'll try to take off again.

In my personal work in facilitating soul recovery over many years, I have found Great Mother Bear an impeccable ally. She is renowned as a fierce protector of her young, especially against possible harm from the males of the species. On several occasions when a child self was reluctant to come home to an adult self - or was threatening to leave again - I have found that invoking Great Mother Bear can serve wonderfully to confirm or re-make the union.

In my gathering of active dreamers on Gore Mountain over the weekend, I introduced a group journey to work with Great Mother Bear in this cause.

We had begun, as we usually do, by finding ourselves standing with a special tree, rooted in the earth rising between earth and sky, drinking the light.

I invited our dreamers to go down through the roots of the tree, into the Cave of the Bear.

"You will find yourself with a family of bears of all ages. Going deeper, you will find yourself with Great Mother Bear. Let her fold you in her deep embrace. You will receive blessing and healing and nourishment in her lap.

"When you feel ready, turn around in the lap of Mother Bear so you are facing out. Extend your arms and invite a younger part of yourself - one that has been missing or tends to go absent from your life - into your own embrace.

"When you feel that younger self in your arms, let Mother Bear fold you both in her great embrace and bring you closer together, so close that you become one."

After giving these directions, I drummed for the group and each member pursued her own journey down through the tree roots, into the Place of the Bear.

At the end of the drumming, we shared our journey reports. Most of our dreamers reported experiences that were vividly real, comforting and energizing.

"I had the wonderful sense of being rocked in the arms of Mother Bear," Grace told us. "When I extended my arms, my four-year-old self came to me. We were then blessed by an amazing family reunion. My favorite grandmother, who died when I was four, came to join us, taking on the appearance of a child of the same age. Then my two daughters, also looking as they did when they were four, came to join the party. I feel like having a birthday party for all of them."

In the Cave of the Bear, Dale told us, she had "a kind of Goldilocks experience." She met three young bears that shapeshifted into child aspects of herself. They joined her in the family hug, and then they all proceeded to set up a tea party.

Donna had the experience of rebirth, of being born through the generous body of Mother Bear.

Another woman in our group had tried, in the past, to reach out to her own four-year-old self who had gone missing because of abuse. In one encounter, that very young self had told her. "I can't be with you all the time because you get too distracted." Then the child self added, fiercely, "All your good ideas are from me and you have to make them happen." At the start of the drumming, the four-year-old reappeared and told her, "I'll spend the weekend with you because this stuff is really cool." She did not consent to enter the dreamer's embrace, within the arms of Mother Bear. Instead, what came was a "golden child" who seemed to be more than a younger self, carrying great gifts of creativity, innocence, and light energy.

Yet another dreamer met a younger self who was urgent for her to go beyond the Cave of the Bear, back to the childhood home where bad things had happened. She complied, and found herself intervening, as her adult self, to close and lock the bathroom door, so her child self would have safety and privacy. She felt deep closure and resolution, and commented, "If you can strengthen the adult, you can save the child."

She Bear painting by James Ursell

Wing of Hawk brings me back to basics

Gore Mountain, New York

When we gather round the great fireplace in the meeting lodge on this magic mountain, our assignment for the first group journey is always the same: to re-connect with the animal powers and the spirits of the land. Their presence is palpable even before the drumming begins, a benign wind scented by woodsmoke, pine and spruce.

On Friday night, my assignment for the second journey is to gather tools and resources to deepen our understanding and practice of soul recovery healing. As I drum for the group, there is a great stir of activity in my inner sight and my attention shifts at high velocity between many scenes and sources of guidances.

Then I feel a soft slap on my upper right arm. My eyes remain closed, as I continue to focus on my drumming and pursuing my own visions. The soft slap is repeated. I open my eyes and glance at my neighbor, Carol, who has journeyed with me in this way for nearly 20 years. Is she trying to alert me to something, or has she just lost sense of body space in the grip of her own visions? I see that Carol is motionless, a couple of feet away, absorbed in her own journey.

I close my eyes and once again feel that sensation that something is gently slapping my upper arm. It feels like....a wing. I see it now, and then the whole body of the red-tailed hawk rises before me in a glory of feathers, wings outspread. As it goes up, I feel a stir about my shoulders. Once again, red-tailed hawk is lending me wings. I allow myself to rise up, in a subtle body, while my physical body maintains the drumming and part of my awareness remains focused on the group.

I am carried, at great speed, to a place I know well. I was brought here, to a place in the northern woods, nearly 25 years ago, on the wings of hawk for my first encounter with an ancient Native woman who began my education in her ways of dreaming and healing once I consented to learn her language and change my life. I have called her Island Woman in my books *, because she was brought, as a child captive, from a Huron village on an island in Ontario to become an adopted Mohawk, and eventually Mother of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk people. When I enter her presence, I am within a blaze of white light. White Wolf is here. To the north, at the source of the light, I see the radiant form of the Peacemaker. Great antlers rise from his head like living candelabra.

Information streams into me, as fast as a burst transmission. I am here to reclaim what I learned in my past studies with Island Woman. Dreams show us the secret wishes of the soul, and in a community that is spiritually alive, people will gather round those who have seen dreams to help them discern the wishes of the soul, as revealed in those dreams - and to take action to honor the soul's wishes. We must move with the soul energy that becomes available through dreams. It is not enough to sit around talking. Soul wants to clap its hands and sing. We want to embody our dreams by singing, by play-acting, by dancing, by every form of spontaneous creative expression.

I am reminded, also, of the great teaching stories of the origin myths of Island Woman's people, and especially the story of the real Hiawatha. Before he became speaker and champion for the Peacemaker, Hiawatha was a fallen man. He fell so low he dined on the body-parts of fellow-humans. His transformation began when he saw his true face in a mirror - the reflective surface of the water in the pot in which he intended to boil up the organs of a butchered enemy. When he saw the radiance and beauty of his greater Self, he gave up his old habits and committed himself to a path with heart, and eventually became the "man of good mind" who led his people out of the Dark Times.

When Hiawatha overcame his most terrible enemy, the tyrant-sorcerer Tododaho, he did not kill him. He combed the serpents of evil out of his hair. After this spiritual cleansing, he raised up his former adversary to join the men of good minds, the rotiyaner, who are confirmed by the clanmothers as the traditional chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, or People of the Longhouse, among whom the Mohawk guard the Eastern door.

There are tremendous lessons here about soul awakening and soul healing. It was hard for me to hold back the tears as the truth of Island Woman's way streamed through my mind and my inner senses. The most important knowledge, it may be, comes through reclaiming what we already know.

Time to return to the circle. I enjoyed riding a thermal over Lake Champlain, and then the view across the mountains to our lodge. My traveling self rejoined my drumming self. drummed the recall, and our dream travelers all came home to the circle, charged with energy and insight for the extraordinary adventures that unfolded over the weekend.

* My fullest account is in Dreamways of the Iroquois.