"Time to start dreaming" was the message of a card on the bed in my hotel room. Perfect counsel for a dreamer, especially after 20 hours of travel to Tallinn from New York, with long stopovers at JFK and at Stockholm's Arlanda airport.
But no dreams survived my first short sleep, a couple of hours when my aching body claimed some rest and relief. The restaurant was still open in the Wiegand restaurant downstairs, so I had a quick bite, preferring not to find myself waking ravenous in the middle of the night. I learned that the Wiegand in question - the 19th century manufacturer who founded the factory complex of which the fine modern Domina Inn Ilmarine is now a part - made a habit of feeding his workers a decent breakfast and lunch every day, so I seemed to be dining withing a good tradition. Wiegand produced the equipment for mass-producing vodka and other products (sugar, plywood). Optimistically, he named his factory after a character in the Finish epic, the Kalevala, who has a magic mill that spews out vast quantities of grain, salt and money. (The Estonian language is related to Finnish, and there is a lot of traffic across the Baltic between Tallinn and Helsinki.)
Back in bed in the early hours, I made it my plan to dream into my coming days in Estonia. I am leading an Active Dreaming workshop here for the first time, and also exploring the Old City of Tallinn and the coast, and meeting some shamanic practitioners who are working to recover old ways.
I woke from the following dream:
I look across the frozen sea at the sun, a great disk low on the horizon. The sun shines with a brilliant white-gold light, and I can look at it without blinking. To my amazement, the sun does a complete flip, like a gold coin. It falls flat over the ice, then turns over and shines brighter than before. I have never seen such a phenomenon.
I say in high excitement to the group I am leading, "This is the symbol of the Hanged Man when he has emerged from his oppression and the light is reborn in his life. It is the greatest of prizes - a new sun in the heavens, infusing all of life with new purpose and energy."
My excitement spreads through the group. I sit down and draw an image of the sun's revolution, about the size of a Tarot card laid out horizontally in one corner of a large sheet of art paper. Then, with rapid strokes, I give the impression of tremendous activity, in the sky and on the earth, on the rest of the paper, and hold it up to show the group.
Someone shouts that he recognizes "Catherine" in the larger and more impressionistic part of the sketch. We won't talk about that now, I respond. We'll save the details and go with the big picture.
I woke from this dream to look out through my hotel window at the sun shining on the red roof and towers of the Old City of Tallinn. I felt deep gratitude for this dream, whose imagery seems highly relevant to my purposes in returning to the Baltic. The Baltic republics are located in what has been termed the "Bloodlands" of Europe, the territories between Germany and Russia that have suffered repeated attack and occupation by both those powers. At the start of World War II they were seized by the Red Army (as Stalin took advantage of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a deal of devils to carve up Central Europe); then in 1941 they were occupied by the Nazis; and in 1944 the Red Army came back, to stay until the Baltic states won their independence in 1991.
The Hanged Man, usually shown as a figure hanged upside down, is the perfect image for an individual or a culture that has suffered oppression, which may include addiction. I am here to support the spiritual and cultural rebirth that can be born from the depths of suffering. The world saw the courage and rich folklore traditions of the Estonians at work in the Singing Revolution, when a quarter of the population came together to defy the Soviet tanks with their songs.
Catherine? Perhaps the wife of Peter the Great, whose bedroom survives in the cottage that the tsar used as a summer residence while Kadriorg Palace was being built.
Sunrise over the Bay of Tallin photo by Marko Kalmus