Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dream languages


I am very interested in how dreams prompt us to expand our vocabulary, setting us learning tasks ranging from the language of quantum physics to the identification of different types of hermit crab. Even if we decide not to take more than a few steps in some of these journeys of learning and remembering, our ability to decode an initially mysterious word or symbol sometimes provides important objective confirmation that we are dreaming into transpersonal and/or ancestral territory.
     Some of the greatest adventures in my own imaginal life, which have sometimes brought me to a watershed in ordinary life, have begun with receiving a phrase in a language that is not my own, and yet is retained with enough accuracy to set a clear path for investigation. When I was in my teens in Australia, one of my dream visitors was a radiant young man who seemed to come from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and insisted on speaking to me in a difficult vocabulary that I later learned was that of the Neoplatonist philosophers. He insisted that all true knowledge comes through anamnesis which means "remembering" in a special sense: remembering the knowledge that belonged to us, on the level of soul and spirit, before we came into the body.
    When I moved to a farm in the Hudson Valley of New York twenty years ago, I dreamed of an ancient native woman who insisted on communicating to me in her own language. One of the words I wrote down phonetically was ondinnonk. It looked improbable. I discovered that far from being a nonsense word, it was the key to a practice of dreaming and healing that went deeper than anything I had learned from Western psychology. In the spiritual vocabulary of the Huron, ondinnonk meant "the secret wish of the soul", especially as revealed in dreams. I discovered this in the report of a Jesuit missionary who lived among the Huron in the 16oos. I learned that among the Huron and their Iroquois cousins, dreamwork centered on helping the dreamer to recognize the "secret wish of the soul" as revealed in a dream, and honoring that wish.
    In 2001, I recorded a word of medieval French - chantepleure - that was the legacy of a mostly forgotten dream. I knew enough French to see that it combines the words that mean "sings" and "cries". A dictionary told me that is is an archaic term for a watering can. I had no context and could not grasp why this word had come through - until three years later through a string of dreams, visions and synchronicities, I found myself drawn into the world of Joan of Arc and Charles d'Orleans, the prince in whose name she launched her warrior crusade. I discovered that a chantepleure dripping blood was chosen by Charles' mother as the family emblem, signifying grief and the demand for justice, after his father, the first Duke of Orleans, was slaughtered by ax-murders employed by the Duke of Burgundy.
     When I was invited to lead a workshop in Lithuania in 2004, I found myself dreaming words and symbols that belonged to an ancient zhyne, a priestess of the Earth goddess Zemyna, whose attributes you can read about in the wonderful books of Marija Gimbutas. I recount part of my experience of dreaming in Lithuanian in a chapter in my Dreamer's Book of the Dead titled "Death and Rebirth through the Goddess", more in my spiritual memoir The Boy Who Died and Came Back.
    Because I am a fairly lazy linguist, I sometimes resist the dream call to embark on yet another voyage into ancient or foreign philology. But my Scots ancestors have been on my case for a while, and they would like me to remember a little more Gaelic (which in a Scots accent sounds rather like "garlic"). My researches have turned up something that fascinates me. In Scots Gaelic there is a prolix and specific vocabulary for many forms of dreaming and seership and paranormal phenomena. The best literary source on these things is the work of John Gregorson Campbell, a minister of Tiree in the late nineteenth century who gathered the oral traditions of Gaelic speakers and wove them into two books, Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1900) and Witchcraft and Second-Sight in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1902).
     The term da-shealladh (pronounced "dah-haloo"), often translated as "second sight", literally means "two sights". It refers to the ability to see apparitions of both the living and the dead. The taibshear (pronounced "tysher") is the seer who specializes in observing the energy double (taibhs). A dream or vison is a bruadar ("broo-e-tar"). The bruadaraiche ("broo-e-taracher") is more than a dreamer in the common sense; he or she is the kind of dreamer who can see into the past or the future. That's a nugget worth close evaluation. The depth of the practice of dreaming in any culture is reflected in its working terminology for such things. I'm not sure that current English offers a single word as rich as bruadaraiche but I doubt that we can import the Scots term since (at least as it comes off my tongue) it sounds like something boiled up in a sheep's stomach.

So what do you do if you dream words in an unknown, or largely unknown, language? You write them down as exactly as you can. If your original version is phonetic rather than visual - because you heard the word without seeing a text - you may want to play with alternative written versions, but be careful not to stray too far from the data of the dream. The internet has evolved hugely since I started dreaming in Mohawk in the late 1980s. Auntie Google may be able to give you some leads. If the word can't be deciphered, or remains mystifying when first translated, be patient. You may be given more, in  subsequent dreams and visions, or through the play of synchronicity around you. As with my dream of the watering can, the foreign word may be a first hint of something that will come through strong and clear when you are ready to receive.

15 comments:

diane said...

Reading this reminded me of a powerful journey I had earlier this year during one of the dream workshops in which I experienced a word in an unfamiliar language. In this journey I found myself in the company of an ancient Native American woman who imparted information important to me and also showed me a word that I did not recognize. After the journey, I found I could not recall the word exactly, something like "teheyawa" or tahaywah...

Robert Moss said...

When I was first dreaming in Mohawk, I found the only way to identify most of the words was to repeat them to native speakers. Mohawk is an oral language and although some word-lists and grammars are now available, it's rarely possible to look anything ups dictionary fashion because words are strung together front and back like railroad cars. Your mystery word or name could be Mohawk; the letters you transcribe all exist in Mohawk which is already saying something since that language only has 14 alphabetical letters. The first bit may mean "two" but I can't decode the rest. Something to dream on. Don't despair - your native woman may reappear, as the one I call Island Woman did in my own dreams and visions.

wfleet said...

Re-member or again-be-mindful-of is nice, but I'm into the recent spark of re-ember which is clearly the feel of the word. (Embers always re-mind me of darling GM Hopkins, see-er sublime, who speaks of "gash-gold vermilion," meaning that when you knock a coal or ember, under the grey cloak of ash, suddenly! you get gash: gold vermilion, the shocking fierce furnace orange-red of lava, or embers.) Thus when we vividly or lucidly re-ember, we knock off the grey cloak of ash.

Robert Moss said...

I like the play of re-ember, as in knocking off the ash. I like even more the deeper meaning of re-member, i.e., the antithesis of dismemmberment, the bringing-together of our vital parts.

diane said...

I am particularly awed when the dream language takes the form of precise musical scores. Twice in dreams I listened at length to stunningly beautiful, detailed classical pieces with which I had no or very little conscious familiarity. In each, the dominant instrument was the piano. With each, I awoke with the notes ringing brightly in my mind. In the first instance, I recognized a few bars and traced it back to a movie I had watched which featured only a very short bit from this composition. My dream virtuoso's went way beyond that - performing seemingly the entire concerto. All I have ever recalled from that dream is the music. In the more recent second instance, I had entered a very elegant room where I enjoyed listening to a young woman playing an amazingly lovely piece which became quite grand when she was joined by other muscians. Music is not an especially big part of my life nor am I a musician, yet the music in my dreams was complicated and each note was crystal clear.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Diane, Thanks for sharing your wonderful dream music. Many indigenous peoples maintain that one of the greatest gifts of a dream is a song that may be a song of healing, or a "wing song" by which we can take flight and journey, or a song that caries the power of a guardian spirit - or pure joy and beauty. The Senio-Temiar of the Malaysian rainforest call a dreamsong a "norng", which literally means a "road" - a path for the soul to follow, in this world or beyond it.

Grace said...

Robert,I like this blogging! I remember a few years ago I heard very very clearly from a friend of mine who had recently died, she was telling me so loudly this word (sounded like) VEEJAA! VEEJAA! I have tried to look this up online, but got nowhere.........she was Dutch, but this did not sound like that(?).I haven't heard from her again.any suggestions?

Grace said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert Moss said...

Hi Grace - Yes, we understand that this was in a dream. The first thing that comes to ming is "VJ" as in "VJ Day" - the anniversary of victory over Japan, which falls on December 9th. We'll see whether one of our Dutch dreamers (we have quite a few in the dream school) comes up with a connection in her languag.

Blackbird said...

Unfamiliar language pronouncements have come in my dreams too- often with a vigorous insistent quality- almost as if the speaker is shouting out to a person who is not paying proper attention. Recently,a Latin phrase was boomed out
Discoverare ad Vitem!
From high school Latin, I roughly guess this was good advice 'to discover life by living it.'
We have friends and advisors out there somewhere, it seems...

Savannah said...

IN RESPONSE TO GRACE: At Robert's request, I put your "veejaa" through my Dutch mills... Situations like these are why I'm such a fan of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) because it's still hard to know exactly what your word sounded like. However... Assuming a "j" as in John and a Dutch sounding "w" (that's close to "v"), the phrase could have been "weet je" ("you know," in the inverted syntax that would either be a question or the end of a statement. Hard to know, you know?). That sounds like something a friend might say, and if that had been my dream I'd now be really curious what she was wanting me to know about. Other possibilities are "via (/vi:ja:/)" or "vee (/vay/)" for cattle + "ja" for yes. Which seems like a real stretch, but you never know :-).

WindHorse Woman said...

Robert, thank you for your examples of dreamng in foreign languages. As a high school student, I took French as a foreigh language, and did passingly well. I would not have considered myself fluent. Throughout high school I had recurring dreams of myself as a French swordsman, who defended any honorable cause and had many sword fights. Then, in college, I was able to take Fencing, (which I had always had a craving for) and found I had a natural talent for it. I bested all of my classmates in competition, even the men! I know I was visiting myself in a past existence in my dreams, and I had kept the physical talent of swordsmanship across many generations.

Grace said...

Thank you everyone, Savannah, somehow I do think my friend might be telling me "you know" as we did some work with death around us.thank you!!!! !I will meditate upon that and Robert, i will try to remember her death date, I think it was around Dec....

Naomi said...

Windhorsewoman:

What a wonderful revelation! I'm going to look for information in my dreams that I may be missing about past talents and lives.

diane said...

Hi Grace, Am not sure how you are pronouncing Vee-jaa, but here is another spin on the word: Vijay is a common name in India (the "i" is pronounced with a long "e" sound and the "a" is long). "Vijay" means victory!