Monday, November 9, 2009

A Russian dragon on Magic Mountain

I spent the weekend up on a mountain in the Adirondacks leading one of my favorite retreats. Our shamanic gatherings on Gore Mountain - held twice yearly - are reserved for active dreamers who have worked with me in depth and are committed to becoming dream ambassadors, soul healers, speakers for the Earth and full citizens of the multiverse. This is where we push the envelope and often test-fly new techniques in a wonderful natural setting where the Deer energy is strong and dragons are sometimes seen.

The heart of this mountain is red garnet, and so it isn't hard for us to raise dragon fire in our circles. This time we found we were entertaining a dragon who had traveled far to appear on our mountain. He came in a dream of Louisa, a brilliant Russian-American scientist who was born in St. Petersburg. By the fire late on Saturday night, she told some of us a dream in which she had a close-up encounter with Zmey Gorynynch. "Zmey" is Russian for "dragon", and "Gorynych" means "Son of the Mountain". Zmey Gorynych is an enduring figure in Russian folklore who survived all Soviet attempts to extirpate "reactionary" beliefs and superstitions. He lives deep in the realms of the nechist, dark and unclean and tricksterish forces you must approach with great care if you are foolish or brave enough to approach them at all. He has three heads, and is a great drinker and smoker.

As the fire crackled and sputtered, we listened to Louisa's dream adventure. "I am in a small boat, paddling upstream on a river through a magic forest. I am in quest of something. The way is hard, and the shadows of the woods are scary, but I am determined to find what I am seeking. I come to a waterfall and somehow find the strength to row my boat up the falls. On the mountain above, I come to the burrow of Zmey Gorynych.

"Two of the dragon's head are sleeping. The third is smoking. Zmey Gorynych is a terrible chain smoker. He blows smoke in my face and asks what I want. I start asking him questions about things I want to know. He interrupts me with a great puff of smoke and hisses, 'You bother me with this nonsense? You should ask something that matters - like, What is the purpose of my life?'

"I know that this isn't really a question I should put to a three-headed dragon whose breath stinks. But I ask him anyway. 'What is the purpose of my life?' He responds by spitting on me. As his spittle lands on my forearms, the skin crackles and turns into scales.

"I want to get out of here now, but the darkness is falling. Zmey Gorynych takes me under his wing. His heads take turns sleeping, watching and smoking, so there is absolutely no chance of slipping away. I spend the night in the armpit of the dragon."

She woke laughing. The dream adventure was such a grand romp that I suggested we might try to bring the whole group inside it. Louisa willingly agreed to let her dream be used as the script for dream theatre, the pinnacle of improv, and often wildly funny, energizing and healing. The next morning, she cast some of the men in our circle to play the dragon, and a hyper-fit woman who abhors smoking to play the cigarette they are swapping between the heads. Other actors portrayed the contrary current on the river, the pressure of the falls, the boat and the strange walking trees in the magic forest. In our rehearsal, Louisa watched another dream actor play herself. When she stepped into her own role, the performance had deepened to the point where it took little imagination to believe that Zmey Gorynych was in the space, speaking and puffing and snoring and belching through the orifices of three otherwise most civilized men - an architect, a physician and a civil servant - who heaved and thrashed at one end of a long sofa, which a humorous financial planner from Connecticut, playing the body of the beast, lolled and drooped over the other.

Invited to improvise and take the dialogue with the dragon further, Louisa astounded all of us by asking what is certainly the last question I would want to put to a dragon of this type: "What do you eat?" This brought the house down. Aching with laughter, we skipped what is often the final phase of dream theatre: the interview with the players, when the dreamer gets to hear from everyone in the cast, speaking from the role they played. Some things are too good to discuss, let alone analyze. Belly-laughs are healing, and what we never want to forget in working with dreams is that the most important thing is to seek every opportunity to bring vital energy from the dreamspace into embodied life. Спасибо большое ( Spasibo bolshoe). Thanks a lot, Zmey Gorynych!


Nancy said...

It was such a treat to be part of this, & I love the picture you chose, even though it doesn't show the snoring & belching! My attitude toward cigarettes changed slightly as a result of this. I now see they might be the tiny outer fire hinting at the dragon's inner inferno, similar to the tip of an iceberg.

My dream last night had to do with watching someone's eyes move, an echo of the baby's eyes at our gathering. Oh, & thanks for "hyper-fit". I think my dream muscles are the strongest part of me!

Robert Moss said...

Nancy, Thanks for playing the tip of the dragonfire so well. I enjoyed your improv in adding little horns, with your fingers, to the human-sized cigarette.

Louisa said...

You were the very first cigarette in my life and I'm glad it was the Lite-n-Fit Dragon Puff version! When a dragon offers you a smoke, it's hard to refuse, especially if you are hiding in his armpit. Talk about peer pressure...

Perhaps now the actors of this high drama can share their impressions. I like what you said about cigarettes as a small-scale reflection of the dragon's inner flame. As a non-smoker, I never thought of smoking in this way.

From my point of view, with all the talk about knights in shining armor, I was surprised how readily I assumed the role of damsel in distress when I found myself next to Zmey. Dragons and fair maidens have a long history, but being the bona fide fair maiden does not come naturally to me - at least when I'm not around such inspired dragons as we have had the pleasure to meet on the Mountain.

My deepest gratitude, again and again, for the magic and inspiration of this weekend.

Robert Moss said...

Louisa, Thank you so much for the wonderful gifts you gave us, not only with our memorable group encounter with the three-headed smoking dragon, but with the key to an important location in the Real City of imagination we constructed, and with your far- and deep-ranging mind.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

This episode of 'dream theatre' evoked a Seamus Heaney poem for me, one in which he and his siblings, as children, 'rode' the vehicle of their sofa ... That aside, it struck me that the dragon's invitation to Louisa to smoke with it sounded like the ceremonies of Native Americans, when they smoke to summon the spirits. I'm pretty intrigued by this dragon now!

Robert Moss said...

Ah yes, Barbara, flying sofas are a favorite mode of transportation for some of our dreamers. And burning tobacco is indeed a preferred way of calling in the spirits, honoring the ancestors, and sending wishes aloft among the First Peoples of America. There were plenty of tobacco offerngs (and I'm not talking about smoking now :-) during our fire ceremonies on the mountain.

Lou Hagood said...

Reminds me of Thomas Mann's novel, The Magic Mountain, a place of healing & dream, and quite a lot of smoking.

Carol Davis said...

The adventures during life's quests can take us through dark and scary places, where, if we pay attention, we can grow in wisdom. To have the stamina and courage to power one's vehicle up the water fall is no small thing! A night under the wing of a dragon might crush some and empower others.

I think I will never forget the moment when the question arose from our damsel in distress, "What do you eat?" I play it back in my mind and hear the roar of laughter as it filled the room. To make a dragon laugh, in the realm of the nechist... now that's magic!

Robert Moss said...

Carol, You remind me of a BIG dream of my own, many years ago, in which I encountered a giant she-bear who told me, "You are Osiris, I am Artemis" and proceded to wrap her huge arm around my neck. I then spend four days and four nights in the clasp of great mother Bear. This felt like a profound healing, and an initiation - but lacked the higb and low comedy of a night in the armpit of the smoking three-headed dragon!

Wanda Burch said...

As the "grounds keeper," shoving the seeker and her boat UP the falls, I was reminded of so many mythic cultural stories of difficult journeys toward wisdom and life-quests.

I was also, in my own experience, reminded of my first race in a dragonboat [40 foot long boat with 20 paddlers]. We were inexperienced and still terribly out of sync but came in second because a HUGE woman came on board as steers-person and began screaming at us that we were all wimps and that she wanted oceans of water moving past her paddle. At the same time she was screaming, she was pounding her foot into the boards of the boat and shouting "HIT, HIT, HIT" to the rhythm of the drum. We came in second and missed first place by just a hair. We were astonished at what we had done in that verbal storm of brutal encouragement to go beyond what appeared to be our ability.

I was laughing when I exited that boat and was laughing equally as hard listening to the syncopated snoring, wheezing, puffing and spitting of Louisa's fantastical human dreamer's dragon of many parts, lolling and swaying on the sofa.

Thank you Louisa for including us in your fantastical dream-quest for your Life's Purpose. Monty Python couldn't have quested better!

Margaret said...

Speaking as half of the boat, Wanda, I can testify to YOUR effectiveness in getting us up the falls. Hmmm... definitely not up the creek. While wondering if I might again, in character, be pressed into service flying DOWN the falls I abandoned the speculation as the unfolding dream absorbed me. It was sparklingly riveting and Caesar's blase turn as the first of the three heads had a fine undercurrent of menace -- echoed differently by the other two heads... Does it not mirror in some ways the dreamer's need to persist in the face of seeming indifference -- and danger? And as Robert says, how belly laughs heal so well? Thank you to Robert, Louisa, all my intrepid dreaming companions on the mountain. What a blast!!

Nicola said...

Ah Ha, Your report explains a dream I had over the weekend where I first saw a bear etched in white light against the dark sky. Next to it a figure apeared that looked remarkably like Robert Moss and to your right a deer and then a woman, all of you illuminated in blue white light outlines. Next I saw a circle of people. I found myself in the centre and feeling somewhat self conscious I joined the circle of light filled dreamers.
Unfortunatly I missed out on the dragon dream theatre, though perhaps there was protection in this as my own experiences with dragons have been quite terrifying.

Valerie said...

I had just finished working on a dream with 2 other women before we did Louisa's dream theater. In my dream snippet, a woman told me that "when you die they recycle everything even your spittle." Than she told me the meaning of life and death. It was 3am, I woke up to write the dream but as soon as I got to the last line what she said left me.
Than Louisa asked me to play her. After listening to her dream and having just worked on mine. I found it very synchronistic. So for me portraying Louisa felt almost like my own journey. As I rowed up the waterfall, I could feel the the difficulty that life's journey sometime presents.
For me the dragon would normally be frightening but I was not afraid. The dragon was actually very funny especially the one who smoked. I had another reality check from my own dream when he spit at me.I watched the arms harden as the scales grew on them. Thinking when things get difficult never to harden yourself from them.Take the difficult ride, sleep under the smoking arm of the dragon and maybe you will find life's purpose.I so enjoyed this theater and learned some things , so thanks for having me play you, Louisa.
As we ended our day and played the oracle card game, again there was a connection. I wrote my ideas on life's purpose and Louisa ended up picking that card.
It was a funny and interesting dream theater, and a great weekend.

Robert Moss said...

Wanda and Margaret - Thanks so much for helping to get this memorable production UP the creek in the very best sense!

michele said...

As the "other half" of the boat I wholeheartedly echo Margaret's thoughts. We definitely needed a nudge up the waterfall.
This dream so captivated me that I am inspired to learn more about the legendary 3 headed Russian dragon. Although I'm not sure the original tales could be any more entertaining as this extraordinary dream theatre. Thanks Louisa, Robert and all the dreamers who made this such a rich experience. I'm still laughing imagining the burping, snoring, smoking trio of heads and of course the wing where the heroine lay. Not sleeping any longer but waking up.

Bob W said...

As one of the dragon heads (ssnnugh, snort, belch, "What the hell is she doing here?!", snort, sshnnuggh...}it was a great joy to be part of Louisa's wonderful mythic dream. An honor to be a channel for Zmey! Yet another way to raise the Dragon. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.

Louisa said...

After reading these fascinating comments, I only wish I had eyes on the back of my head to see it all at once.

Michele, after this weekend you might indeed find the original Zmey Gorynych from folk tales a bit bland. But these dreamers are certainly not the first people to fall for Zmey's unlikely appeal, and so you will also discover that he is a hugely popular character of numerous anecdotes from the Soviet era.

The other reason for Zmey's popularity is that three was a magic number in mass culture of the time, because 0.5L bottle of vodka (pol-litra) used to cost 3 roubles. Men banded together in threesomes, paid a rouble each, and shared a pol-litra. This ritual was called "soobrazit' na troih", which means "to figure it out among the three of them". And the three-headed snake prone to excesses soon became a cultural icon.

I hope my parents in St Petersburg are not reading this, or they would be appalled by what I'm preaching to a group of educated, spiritually-minded people in the States.:)

It is a great joy to me that everybody had so much fun with Zmey. Perhaps it will sound pathetic, but I don't think that any of my professional achievements ever gave me as much pleasure and satisfaction as hearing that uproarious laughter on Sunday. Besides, the spontaneous collective creativity, which is at play at Robert's workshops, is always dazzling. Kudos to the amazing dreamers and actors for bringing their gifts to the Mountain and to Robert who attracts such marvelous people.

Tim said...

As one of the dragon heads Also (ssnnugh, snort, belch, "What the hell is she doing here?!", snort, sshnnuggh...} bob thanks for the spelling of that damm sound lol
Louisa thank you so much for the gift of Zmey. many great thoughts here from dream family on your dream and our acting ....sshnnuggh.... where is my My lesson of Zmey is that there are great rewards for those that as Margret said "face indifference and danger" Zmey is nothing more that a three headed nasty bully... and when you faced Zmey and then ...stayed with it under his wing... facing all the nasty smelly ugliness... you won we in laughing at Zmey it changed that de-humanizing three headed SOB. I could not put it any better than did Carol: "moment when the question arose from our damsel in distress, "What do you eat?" I play it back in my mind and hear the roar of laughter as it filled the room. To make a dragon laugh, in the realm of the nechist... now that's magic!" Thank you for the healing you and the story of Zmey provide. Its not pathetic,bring pleasure,satisfaction and healing via "uproarious laughter.." how could any professional achievement match that I know i can not match in my professional life. What are able to do thanks to Robert on that truly magic mountain is unmatched. Im sure i speak for Cesar, Bob and Mike here, thanks for being the damsel in distress and letting us be your knights in shining armor :-)


Sara said...

I loved being part of the background of the dragon scene because it allowed me to take it all in.It reminded me that any encounter with the dragon energy and it's gift of the fire of life is one of the most primal forces to be connected to. For Louisa to bring this dream to the group, a dream that gives another perspective of this energy, was truly awesome experience1

Robert Moss said...

Bob and Tim - Thanks for expanding our vocabulary of onomatopeia. Three-headed dragontalk is beyond passeltongue. ssnnughhhhhhh...for sure!

Irene said...

As part of the waterfall, I felt the immense determination and struggle it took the boat to row up the waterfall while being swamped by water. Seeing Louisa approach the three-headed dragon as a damsel in distress instead of approaching as the warrior in shining armor that she likes to be, she was able to find the "soft spot" of the dragon and was offered shelter under his armpit for the night. It showed me that even horrible monsters have a soft spot and how it is up to the individual's choice to determine the right approach which may come consciously, intuitively or instinctively.

Nancy said...

As part of the current, I felt myself as the obstacles thrown up in life, and realized that there was purpose in my making life difficult at times. I found I wanted to make it difficult for Louisa to “paddle upstream” to test her mettle and provide resistance to increase her stamina and determination for the journey ahead. I felt her will increase as she paddled against my current, against the stream, gaining strength as she persisted. Thank you Louisa for showing us, with such vivid imagery, your strength and courage. You earned your night in the armpit! It was an exciting and inspiring journey. Of course, then there was the dragon….LOL!!! Even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, humor breaks the cycle of resistance. And thank you Robert for a most magical of weekends.

Robert Moss said...

"Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure," said Rilke. They don't always give us the belly laughs Zmey Gorynych provided!

Then, too, the gifts of the journey are often related to the scale of the trials and obstacles along our route. Some of us on the mountain last time remembered how one "spring" we had to get through 2 feet of fresh snow, dumped in 24 hours on unplowed roads, in order to reach the lodge where we proceeded to journey up an imaginal mountain according to a script I had developed from Dante's "Purgatorio". That was another of our indelible group adventures.