When a friend sent me the link just now, I recalled how, especially in the early days of my public teaching of dreamwork and shamanism, many people who came to my workshops told me that they had been inspired by dreams of tigers. One woman reported a recurring dream theme, of roaming in a forest of tigers searching for a white tiger. When at last she found the white tiger, it had the face of a man. "Your face, Robert," she insisted when she met me for the first time.
The tiger is the great ally of shamans in Central and East Asia, and for as far back as I can remember, tiger has stalked through my dreams. I lost the connection once, when I decided to live on a vegetarian diet for a few weeks. I can say with absolute certainty that the tiger is not a vegetarian!
Some 20 years ago, a Colorado artist started carving a whimsical face of a tiger with cat's eyes and open jaws. He told me, when he met me for the first time at a dream research conference in Santa Fe, that he had not known why he was making this sculpture until he met me. "I know this tiger is for you, but now I must dream how to finish it." He incubated a dream of guidance, and the dream tiger showed him how to place the head (which you can see in the happy snap here) on top of a shaman's rattle staff.
I placed it at the center of one of my workshops. A man froze in the doorway, staring into the open jaws. "I've come to the right place," he announced. He explained, in introducing himself to the circle, that he had dreamed again and again of a tiger that was trying to force him along a scary forest path. He did not want to go because of all the danger he sensed in the shadows. But in the climactic dream, the tiger tore at his flesh, as well as his clothes, obliging him to stagger, bleeding, all the way along the trail to a clearing.
When the tiger had driven him to the place where it wanted him to be, it licked his wounds, which were instantly healed. The dreamer discovered that he had been brought to a place of training. He was to be trained as a jet fighter pilot who would know how to use his new skills to defend those in need of protection. In the elastic time of the dreamspace, he completed his training and earned his wings in that single night.
"I am here now to manifest the dream," he told us. "I have come to earn my wings as a dream pilot." And so he did.
In that dream story, we see something else about dream tigers. They are fierce, but they are good.
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Yes, William Blake said it right. Yet Tiger is also a wonderful ally in healing, especially soul recovery healing. Our lost boys and girls, who may not trust our adult selves to keep them safe and make life fun, readily embrace Tiger, and I have seen it bring many of them home.