Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Lion Who Fell from the Moon

Impressions, momentary and vivid, would wash over him: a potter’s vermilion glaze; the sky-vault filled with stars that were also gods; the moon, from which a lion had fallen….

My chills of recognition make me pause, just three lines into the story. Borges named this one after himself: “The Maker”, El Hacedor. Previous translators squirmed at the title “The Maker”. They thought people might confuse it with Our Maker; they feared leaving sulphurous traces of a heresiarch. So they considered and sometimes used “The Poet”, “The Artificer”, “Il Fabbro”. But Borges chose the English himself. And yes, he meant maker of worlds.
     The maker wrote this as he was nearing blindness in the vast library in Buenos Aires whose flying books had made love and married and danced the tango and fought with knives inside his mind. I can think of no one, not even Jung, who has housed so many books in his head and incited so much action between them. Borges was now engaged in constructing a total library in the imaginal realm, his version of paradise. Never a tame library, but one where wild things are.

...the moon, from which a lion had fallen….

    I am seized again with wild familiarity, the hot breath at my neck, claws at my kidneys.
    Borges’ line has a rhyming cousin, short, stocky and flat-faced, wearing a robe of skins hung with bronze mirrors. I know where to find it.  I keep it locked behind glass doors, along with the Red Book, The Golden Bough and other books that like to flap about and  prowl in the night.
     Sometimes the doors rattle and the key turns unassisted but today, things are quiet and I must fetch the book myself. It was published in Oxford five years after Borges died, so he could not have known it but might have known some of its sources. Its words are spun from conversations with shamans and elders of the Daur Mongols, lovers of horses, fermented mare’s milk, and drums that they ride to other worlds.
     Like Borges, these shamans are forever talking about tigers and lions. While Borges tried to make dreamtigers and was never quite satisfied, around Hailar or the Nomin River it’s not hard. Lie by the water watching butterflies and a tiger twice as long as you may come for you, as it would come for a tethered goat.
     Out here the lion may demand a deeper seeing, since you won’t see lions in Daur country with your ordinary eyes.
     The Oxford anthropologist asks a Daur shaman, Urgunge Onon, about this. He speaks from the tellings, which is how his people describe their traditional knowledge. Anthropologists may know about shamanism but the people who practice it in the old ways don’t have any “isms” in their vocabulary.
     Urgunge says, “Wild animals of the forest have two kings [khan], the tiger [tasaga] and the lion [arsalang].
     “Lion?” The anthropologist is amazed. “But you don’t have lions in Manchuria.”
     “They will be thinking of …er..what is it in English? Leopard. Leopard is just like lion, is that right?”
     “But you don’t have leopards either.”
     “No, that is true. So the conclusion is: in reality the khan of animals is the tiger; in imagination the khan is also the lion, even if we do not have lions in Mongolia. Everybody knows the story of the lion who jumped to catch the moon, then it died, you see. This is definitely the lion. The tiger never did that.”
     The lion who fell from the moon did not really die, of course. Borges knows that. So does Henri Rousseau, called the Customs Man.
     Some nights, coming in or out of sleep, I feel him lying with me on the bed, back to back.

Texts mentioned: 
"The Maker" in Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin Books, 1998).
Shamans and Elders: Experience, Knowledge and Power among the Daur Mongols  by Caroline Humphrey with Urgunge Onon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

Art: "Sleeping Gypsy" by Henri (dit Douanier) Rousseau, 1897, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The price Jung paid

If you choose to venture into Jung's Red Book, I strongly advise you to do so more cautiously than I did. I stayed with it for three days and nights, without much sleep, following Jung on his Underworld journey. There was one moment, in particular, when I became very angry with him.
    He recounts a vision in which he comes upon the mutilated corpse of a murdered girl, and this fills him with grief and rage. A veiled woman appears and tells him he must remove the child's liver and eat part of it, to atone for the crime. He must take on the guilt, because he is a man and a man was responsible. Jung writhes in resistance, disgusted and horrified, but finally complies.

I kneel down on the stone, cut off a piece of the liver and put it in my mouth.My gorge rises - tears burst from my eyes - cold sweat covers my brow - dull sweet taste of blood - I swallow with desperate efforts - it is impossible - once again and once again - I almost faint - it is done. The horror has been accomplished. [1]

I wanted to throw the book across the room, but stopped myself, reflecting that this tombstone of a tome would break the furniture. I read on. The woman who commanded this cannibal act throws back her veil, revealing a lovely face, and tells Jung, "I am your soul."
     You will need a strong stomach for some of this. And you will need to be ready to accompany Jung, quite literally, in and out of the madhouse. But persistence will be rewarded. The Red Book, never intended for public consumption, is essential and fascinating reading for those who want to understand the price Jung paid for his gifts. He went down into private hells and depths of madness and he got himself out. We see him struggling heroically to find a vocabulary and a model of understanding for his experiences, weaving for himself the ladders of words that will help to get him out of the pit. We see the seething cauldron from which his greatest work would eventually emerge.
     Jung culled the material for the Red Book - whose fine calligraphy and vivid illustrations and decorative features make it resemble a medieval illuminated manuscript - from the journals ('black books") he kept during the years of his "confrontation with the unconscious", when he walked the razor's edge between madness and genius. As he describes it, the "spirit of the depths" ripped him out of the comfortable, rational assumptions of the "spirit of our times" and dragged him, night after night, through the terrifying stages of Underworld initiation.
-    In a crater in a dark and terrifying world below, where black snakes threaten to destroy a red sun, he meets the prophet Elijah and his "daughter" Salome, the evil beauty responsible for the decapitation of John the Baptist in the Bible. Salome tells Jung - to his amazement and confusion- that they are brother and sister, the children of Mother Mary. Disbelieving and fearing for his sanity, Jung yells at her that she and the Elijah figure are only "symbols". Elijah reproves him, saying, "We are just as real as your fellow men. You solve nothing by calling us symbols." Jung's Elijah also instructs him that "your thoughts are just as much outside your self as trees or animals are outside the body." [2]
-   While he is trying to continue to lead a normal life, as a prominent psychoanalyst and the father of five children. Jung's sense of reality is being shaken by the raw power of his night visions, and by synchronistic phenomona during his days when he feels the forces of a deeper world pushing through. In December 1913, in a well-cut suit, he gives a polished lecture to the Zurich Psychoanalytical Society. Three nights later, he tells Elijah, "It seems to me as if I were more real here" - in the Underworld - "yet I do not like to be here." [3]
    As Jung confessed, anyone reading the last chapters of Liber Primus, the first part of the Red Book, out of context might conclude that the author was crazy. Brilliant and erudite, but crazy. Yet from such perilous adventures out there beyond the roped-in precinct of sanity, Jung derived his ideas about "psychological objectivity", one of the most stimulating elements in his later work. From his dialogues with his dream characters and his efforts to integrate and balance the powers that moved with them he developed his practice of active imagination.
    Jung told the Dutch artist Roland Horst that he developed his work Psychological Types from 30 pages of his Red Book [4], apparently the pages in which the encounters with Elijah and Salome take place and in which - after Jung has been squeezed by a giant black snake until the blood gushes out of him and his head has become that of a lion - Salome tells him, "You are Christ". [5]

-   Looking back on this passage in his inner and transpersonal life in 1925, from across the divide of the catastrophic Great War that some of his visions had foreshadowed, Jung told a seminar that "You cannot get conscious of these unconscious facts without giving yourself to them. If you can overcome your fear of the unconscious and can let yourself go down, then these facts take on a life of their own. You can be gripped by these ideas so much that you really go mad, or nearly so. These images...form part of the ancient mysteries; in fact, it is such fantasies that made the mysteries." [6]
    "I fell into the mystery," Jung states after he has been squeezed by the black snake and saluted by Salome [7]. Reading the Red Book, we see the enormity of the price Jung paid for his wisdom, and come to appreciate the extent of his courage and eventual self-mastery. This is a record of a thoroughly shamanic descent to the Underworld, and of long testing and initiation in houses of darkness from which lesser minds and feebler spirits might never have managed to find their way back.
1. C.G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus edited by Sonu Shamdasani (New York: Norton, 2009) 290.
2. ibid, 249
3. ibid, 248
4. Stephan Hoeller, The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead (Wheaton, IL: Quest, 1985) 6.
5. Red Book 252.
6. Jung, Analytical Psychology: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1925 edited by William McGuire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991) 98-99.
7. Red Book 254.

Many Selves. Drawing by Jung on page 169 of the facsimile of the Red Book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Does your dream handbag have a kissing lock?

Though I'm a mere man who's never even carried a "European shoulder bag", I've come to know a bit about women's pocketbooks, and especially how they feature in dreams. I've talked with hundreds of women about their dreams of handbags over the years. In leading dream theater in my workshops I've been struck by how often a pocketbook has proven to be a key element in the drama - lost or stolen, at risk, flaunted or misused or swung as a weapon.
     The handbag in a dream may of course be just a handbag, one that needs to be checked or kept safe. Everyone knows someone who's had a handbag nabbed by a mugger, sometimes after dreaming this exact event, while failing to recognize a quite literal warning. If you tell me a dream in which your pocketbook is lost or stolen, my first step will be to encourage you to look for clues in the dream as to when and where this could happen, so you can avoid this situation in the future. We also know people who have rushed off to the airport without a passport or driver's license. So if you tell me you dreamed something like that, my first advice to you will be to check that you have your travel documents before you leave home on your next trip.
     Now let's consider the symbolism of a pocketbook and what it contains. By my observation, a woman's handbag often contains:

- ID such as driver's license
- keys
- credit cards
- cell phone
- currency
- change
- medicines
- a whole mess of personal stuff
- trinkets and lucky charms
- treats and snacks
- further ID

    Each of these literal items is rich in symbolism. Together, they represent power and identity, things we don't want to lose or have taken from us. One woman dreamed she was fighting off a giant panther with her pocketbook. That's power! She held up her own side so well that in a later dream the panther reappeared as her friend, purring like a kitty.
     Another woman dreamed she was at the office and kept leaving her pocketbook in a place where it was vulnerable. In the dream, she couldn't break this habit, even though she knew that a creepy man who might be a robber was prowling the halls and snooping around her things. When I invited her to compare the behavior of her dream self to that of her waking self, she was able to come up with an action plan that involved not giving up her power in her work situation.
     Another woman dreamed she had left her purse in church and needed to go back to retrieve it. She felt this reflected the fact that for part of her life, as a devout member of her congregation, she had given up her right to direct knowledge of the sacred, and was now reclaiming that.  
     A woman's pocketbook can represent her sexuality. You don't have to be a Freudian to see the possible sexual associations with the way it opens and closes. The catch on the vintage photo used here is actually called a "kissing lock".
     I remember wildly funny dream theater back during the (Bill) Clinton presidency in which we play-acted a dream in which Bill is trying to get into a woman's purse. Eons ago, at a dream conference, I couldn't miss the the sexual character of this type of dream while doing a dreamwork process with an attractive woman from Texas . In her dream, she is repeatedly and compulsively opening her purse and snapping it shut. As she recounted the dream, in front of 200 people, she couldn't stop herself vamping and gyrating.
     Again, a bag can just be a bag. I had a recurring motif in dreams over a period of 18 months - that a little grey carry-on bag I always took with me on trips was lost or stolen. The context was different in each of these dreams, but the outcome was the same. The dreams prompted me not to carry my passport or valuables in that bag, which was a good thing, because 18 months after the first lost-bag dream, that grey carry-on was stolen from a car I rented in California. There was symbolism in the literal event that followed the dream. On the day it was stolen, that grey carry-on bag contained a working draft of a book I later decided not to publish.
     Playing with our dream symbols is fun. We also need to be more literal about dreams and more symbolist about the incidents of waking life. That's my bag.

Image: 1860 women's handbag with "kissing lock". Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

Monday, December 15, 2014

The state of your soles

Walking a lake shore, I come upon something small and white and solitary on the wet sand. From my original angle of vision, it looks like a tiny ribcage. When I come closer, I see it is a sandal with many straps. I feel I am looking at a symbol from a dream. Abandoned between the confident lakefront mansions and the cold lake, looking so much like part of a little person, the lone sandal makes me think of soul - a part of soul that has been left somewhere away from home.
      In dreams, the state of our footwear often suggests the state of our souls. You can hear the echo of "soul" in "sole". A dream of lost shoes may invite us to think about where on the roads of life we may have lost or misplaced soul. Sometimes you can reach back into that kind of dream in order to look for lost shoes, and that search may take you back to a place in your life where you lost something more important - vital energy and identity - that you can now reclaim.
     Shoes not only have soles. They have ties, and the state of your laces or straps in a dream may say something about connections - "old ties" or new ones. A woman getting ready to attend a high school reunion in Manhattan dreamed she was urgently seeking shoes that would be comfortable for walking yet smart enough to suit her taste. A salesman in Bloomingdale's persuaded her to purchase a pair of sneakers with laces made of genuine, but flexible, gold. She smiled at the thought that after all the years since graduation, her ties to her classmates were "golden", and that she would be comfortable with them in the big city.
    A Freudian psychiatrist I know dreamed that her shoes were far too tight; they were torturing her feet and making it nearly impossible for her to walk. When she reflected on this, she realized that her Freudian approach was cramping her ability to do her job. She expanded her studies, embracing Jung and other approaches to the psyche and its healing. Now, in her dreams, her shoes fitted just right.           
    In some dreams, we find ourselves wearing shoes that would be highly unlikely in regular life, except at a costume party. We seem to be cross-dressing, or wearing the footwear of a different historical period, or dispensing with shoes altogether in a primal landscape. When we inspect the bodies we inhabit in dreams of this kind, we sometimes discover that our dream self slipped into someone else's situation, in a different place or a different era. The state of our shoes in such dreams (and other details) may be a clue to connections within a soul family that includes personalities in different times.
     That thought has been of great interest to me since I dreamed that I visited my favorite professor at a research institution where he was doing some remarkable work that involved pairs of shoes. The professor is Manning Clark, the famous Australian historian, who was a great friend and mentor to me when I was a student and a precocious lecturer at the Australian National University. Manning died in 1991, but I have had many intriguing encounters with him since.
     In the dream involving shoes, Manning showed me that he is now busily engaged in studying "parallel lives". This meta-historical approach seems to involve tracking how choices made and actions taken by two people living in different times impact each other's fortunes, by a process of causation that you can only grasp if you can step outside linear chronology. One of the pairs Manning had selected for study was Lenin and Dionysius of Syracuse (a tyrant of ancient Greece). Each time the professor finished work on one set of parallel lives, he moved a pair of shoes to a different position on the far side of his desk. This was evidently a kind of tally, but I felt the shoes signified something more.
    I am thinking now of that lone sandal on the lake beach. There is a sandal angel, very important in the pathworking and astral travel protocols of certain Mystery and kabbalistic orders. His name is Sandalphon. He wears sandals in the presence of his Maker, and leather footgear in the presence of Shekinah, the Divine Feminine. Some say he was once the prophet Elijah, or Elias. He presides over the astral body and the soul journeys we make in this vehicle. Some believe he watches over the big journeys that precede birth and follow death, which involve putting on and discarding "garments", like soft shoes.
    I think also of the symbolism of everyday life. The other day, I noticed a pair of women's high-heeled shoes, muddied and scuffed, abandoned under a tree on a gritty urban street. And I thought again about those dreams in which shoes that are lost or abandoned can reflect soul loss. 
    In my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home, I discuss shoe dreams as one of the main categories of dreams that encourage us to ask where soul has gone and make sure that we have proper grounding when we are walking our soul paths. The state of our soles may indeed reflect the state of our souls.

Abandoned shoes (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When your dream road is under construction

One recurring theme in my dreams, and maybe yours, over many years, is that my road is blocked by construction work. In one of these dreams, I found a road completely impassable with great hills of rubble and huge bulldozers ahead of me.
    I woke frustrated, and decided to try to get back inside the dream and find a way forward. When I reentered the dream, I discovered I had a companion I hadn't noticed before. He looked like an impossibly beautiful, radiant double of myself. He wasn't blocked by the construction, He shot up something like a storm drain, flying Superman-style. Then it hit me - I'm dreaming and I can fly. I flew up the tunnel after him, and entered one of the most powerful life-changing experiences of my life.
   Since then, I still find my road blocked at times, in my dreams, and often don't remember that I can fly. Sometimes I have to turn back, or wait my time (as we have to do on a highway when there is literal construction and flagmen determining when we can stop or go).
   Sometimes my dream self does something as cool as flying but different. On quite a few nights, he has solved the problem of a blocked road by picking up his car as if it's a toy and lifting it over the obstacles.
   A variant is coming to a point where the road is unfinished, or the bridge just stops halfway across a body or water or an overpass. Those dreams make me want to look very carefully at what direction I'm following in my work and my life and check whether that's really the way I want to go. If it is, then I'll consider what roadwork I need to do in order to go forward.     
It's cool to remember, in dreams, that we can fly. It can also be very helpful to be reminded that we have work to do and given some orientation on how to approach that.
    Of course, a dream of difficult road conditions may be a quite literal travel advisory. So when you dream of a road being blocked, don't fail to ask whether you recognize that location and might be driving somewhere like that. Recognizing a dream rehearsal of this kind can save a lot of aggravation on the ordinary roads.
    At the same time, a precognitive or admonitory dream may still hold great symbolic resonance. The dream may anticipate a literal event in external reality that will, in itself, he highly symbolic.
     One more thought about dreams of construction. Whether the work is being done on a road, or a house, or something else in a dream, you may want to pause to reflect on whether what is really under construction is you.

drawing (c) Robert Moss

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How many floors in your dream house?

"In the Norse heaven of our forefathers, Thor's house had five hundred and forty floors; and man's house has five hundred and forty floors."  The voice is that of Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay "Conduct of Life".
    We begin to see the truth of it in dreams in which we discover that our home has an extra level, or many of them. I have yet to meet a dreamer who claims to have discovered all five hundred and forty floors. Yet when  we discover even a single room we had not opened before, we discover that we are more than we know.

     To spin from Norse gods to the Bible, in the dream house, there are many mansions - extra stories and hidden rooms and basements, wings of possibility.
     The state of a dream house may reflect the state of the body. If the dream house is in need of repairs, or there's a problem with the plumbing or the furnace, you may want to consider whether there is a health advisory concerning a corresponding part of the body..
     Different rooms in the dream house may represent different functions, of body or soul. The kitchen may represent the digestive system, or the state of the family, or of our creativity (since the kitchen is the place where we cook things up and often the hub of family life).
When I'm living in an apartment in my dreams (which I have not done in waking life for 30 years) I ask myself "what am I a part of, or apart from?" 
    I love the sense of expanding life possibility that comes when I am in a dream house that has levels or rooms beyond any physical house I know.
    I'm intrigued by how life memories help design my dream houses, which are sometimes composites of several past places where I have lived. 
     When I find myself moving to a new place in my dreams, I'll ask myself whether this could be preview of a literal house move (maybe one I haven't yet considered in ordinary life). I'll also ask: what changes in my life situation are in store for me in a larger sense?
     In dreams, we often find ourselves back in the old place, a childhood home or a home we shared with a former partner. Being back in the old place could be a journey back across time, or into a parallel reality in which a parallel self never left the old situation - and/or an invitation to reclaim vital soul energy and identity we left behind when we made a major life change. 
     There are dream houses that are not of this world, places of learning and adventure and initiation in the Imaginal Realm. These may be places of encounter with a second self, an aspect of our multidimensional Self. Over many years, I have found myself traveling in dreams to an old house on a canal in Europe, the home of an eccentric scholar who is something of a magus, with an extraordinary library and collection of working tools of magic. It took me a couple of visits before I recognized that this dream house belongs to me,
     Jung's dream of a "many-storied house" led him for the first time to the concept of the "collective unconscious" (and also to his rift with Freud, who refused to accept the depth of this dream). Jung found in his multi-level dream house a "structural diagram of the human psyche." In the dream, he became aware that there was a story below the respectable middle-class environment in which he was living. When he went downstairs, he found successive stories below his previous consciousness: a darkened floor with medieval furnishings, and below that a beautifully vaulted Roman cellar, and down below that - when he lifted a stone slab by a ring - a primal cave with scattered bones and pottery and the two skulls.

Image: The so-called "Wooden Gagster" house in Archangel, Russia, built without permit or architect, demolished in 2008. Photo credit: Wikipedia, Mr 850

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do four-year-olds dream precognitive dreams?

This just in from dream teacher Valerie McCarney:

"We were in Virginia and like always, my grandson got into bed with me to tell me his dream. In this one , he was in a forest of mean trees. The trees all had faces and arms and he had lots of sticks and rocks to throw at them. There was one little squirrel and he wanted to save him from the trees. He asked me to draw it and I made a quick sketch. 
   "Later that day we took a ride to a Christmas event at Busch Gardens. Old Country was set up as European countries, all decorated for Christmas.
    "We crossed the bridge into Ireland and there was his tree. He said, 'See this is the tree was that in my dream last night.' Then he ran into it. It is the tree in the photo I took.
     "it is so important to get children started young believing in the power of dreams."

Drawing and photo of the "mean tree" by Valerie McCarney

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting a second opinion from Jung on the Battle of the Giants

There is a commotion outside. I go to the window and see an army is encamped along the edge of a body of water where a battle is taking place between a giant turtle (the size of a dozen men) and a giant crocodile. I call to the others to come and see. When I turn back, I see that the army has saved the turtle, which is being transported to safer waters. They have constructed or opened a kind of raceway and the turtle is swimming between walls. Now I see that there are actually two giant turtles.
    I look out to the water again. Beyond military lines, the crocodile stands on a headland, tail raised like a scorpion, apparently triumphant for now. I understand that the conflict will be resumed. It's part of life. The role of the army is to ensure that neither party destroys the other.

I woke from this first dream of the night feeling both excited and satisfied. In the dream, I was an observer. I felt that I was being shown something of huge importance in life.
    I know both Turtle and Crocodile as members of my personal mythic bestiary. I have swum with sea turtles and I am from a country famous for crocodiles. I know that in life there are contests between opposing forces and attitudes that must continue if life itself is to go on.
    Instead of spending much time in self-analysis of the dream, I made a quick drawing and decided to ask Jung for a second opinion. Who better? I had already had it in mind to do my daily bibliomancy with Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a book of seminal importance in my life and the most personal and accessible of his works. However, when I reached into the Jung section in a glass-fronted bookcase in my personal library, the shelf elves had other ideas. Another volume in Jung’s Collected Works came flying off the shelf, striking me lightly on the chest.
     Naturally, I changed my ideas about where to look for guidance and took this flying book to my desk. Its title is Two Essays on Analytical Psychology which seemed to match the revelation of the two turtles in my dream rather nicely. The volume is a dual edition of two of his early essays, Volume VII in the Collected Works. I opened the book at random and read this:

"There is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind...Repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible…Just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites." 

I saw that there was no need to invent a snapper to carry the essence of my dream. Jung had given me one. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.

    This little incident from this dreamer’s life is a practical example of how we can turn to a book to give us a second opinion on a dream. Our curiosity may of course take us far beyond the initial passage we find when we open a book at random. I found myself drawn, irresistibly, to-read both the essays in that volume of Jung, in which we find his mind devising and developing theories of aspect psychology, the shadow and the relations between the ego-self and the collective unconscious which were to become fundamental to his approach.

Drawing by RM

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Healing with twisting, twisting words

Yaminahua shamans in Peruvian Amazonia use complex, opaque metaphorical language in their power songs, which are their most important tools for journeying and opening an interactive space with the spirits – and for bringing energy and healing through. This is called, literally, “twisting-twisting words”. One shaman explains that with ordinary words, you’ll “crash” in this deeper reality; “twisting words” let you circle around and see.
    Wherever the old ways of dreaming and soul healing are still alive, poets of consciousness - those born and dreamed to be our shamans and Speakers - know what this means.We'll never be able to travel the song lines and the story lines into the space where worlds are made and can be recreated until we come up with our own fresh words.
    We need twisting words to change and twist the behavior of the body, in the direction of health, and to re-weave tangled or torn energy webs. We need to twist and shout our way out of the boxes, constructed by limited and self-limiting belief systems, that we sometimes mistake for home.
     Keeping a journal and letting fresh words and images burst from our dreams and adventures is a way of putting yourself on the way to becoming a poet of consciousness who can offer word doctoring in this way.

text adapted from Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul. by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books. 

Image: cover of a dream art journal kept by dream teacher Véronique Barek-Deligny

Friday, December 5, 2014

Marry your field

"The poet marries the language, and out of this marriage the poem is born." This beautiful, passionate statement was made by W.H. Auden and it takes us right inside the crucible in which all creative action is born. It's sexy, it's spiritual, it makes your heart beat faster, it puts a champagne fizz of excitement into the air. It suffuses everything around with incredible light, so you feel you are seeing the curve of a flower stem or the bubbles in a glass for the very first time.
     Such depth, such passion, such focused rapture is not only the province of poets, though we may need poetic speech to suggest what and how it is. Are you with me now? I am talking about you, and me, and the creative leap we can and will make as the year turns. The essence of the creative act is to bring something new into the world. You may have no earthly idea, at this moment, about how exactly you can do that.
     So let me offer some eminently practical guidance, based on what Auden said about the roots of creation. Start by marrying your field.
    What is your field? It's not work in the ordinary sense, or what your diplomas say you are certified to do, or how you describe yourself in a job resume - although it can encompass all of those things. Your field is where you ache to be. Your field is what you will do, day or night, for the sheer joy of the doing, without counting the cost or the consequences. Your field is the territory within which you can do The Work that your deeper life is calling you to do. Your field is not limitless. You can't bring anything into creative manifestation without accepting a certain form or channel, which requires you to set limits and boundaries. So your field is also the place within which the creative force that is in you will develop a form.
     If you are going to bring something new into your world, find the field you will marry, as the poet marries language, as the artist marries color and texture, as the chef marries taste and aroma, as the swimmer marries the water.
     Let's say that you have a notion that your creative act may involve writing. Maybe you even think you have a book, or a story or screenplay in you. For you, marrying the field will require you to marry words, and be their constant lover. You'll engage in orgies of reading, have tantric sex with a first (or third) draft. You'll kiss your lover in the morning by writing before you go out into the world, and when you go out you'll gather bouquets for your sweetheart by collecting fresh material from the call of a bird, the rattle of a streetcar, the odd accent of that guy on the cellphone, that unexpected phrase in the ad in the subway car.
     You'll work at all this, because marriages aren't always sweet. Some days you may hardly be on speaking terms. Some days you feel your partner hates you or is cheating on you with someone else, maybe the fellow who just got a piece in the New Yorker or is merely in front of the mike in the neighborhood poetry slam. But you carry on. You fetch the groceries. You tuck your partner up in bed at night, and promise to dream together.
     And out of this constancy - through tantrums and all - will come that blaze of creation when the sun shines at midnight, when time will stop or speed for you as you will, when you are so deep in the Zone that no move can be wrong. Depending on your choice of theme and direction, you may find you are joined by other creative intelligences, reaching to you from across time and dimensions in that blessed union that another poet, Yeats, defined as the "mingling of minds".
     When the sun no longer shines at midnight, when you are back on clock time, you won't waste yourself regretting that today you're not in the Zone. You are still married. You'll do the work that now belongs to The Work. 
"Voyage" by Eve Fouquet. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Walking the dream

When I am at home, I start the day by holding my memories of my dream adventures in my mind before getting out of bed. I want to be able to replay the best of my overnight movies. I am eager to harvest what can give guidance and juice for the day. Sometimes I want to dwell on details and bring back a full narrative report. Sometimes I am happy to let details fade and simply hold the heart of a dream, or a single thread I can pull to bring back the rest at another time, or follow back through the labyrinth of the dream space. While many in our society are suffering from a dream drought, some of us are so prolific in our dream recall that we risk swamping ourselves with too much information. Less can be more.    
     When I have wrapped my head around enough of what happened in my night expeditions, I have a quick gulp of coffee before walking my little dog, who has been waiting patiently for me to return to his world. My dream will walk with us.
    This morning, I am still excited and deeply stirred by a dream adventure in which I was in the situation and seemingly the body of a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II. I have known him, perhaps, since before my present life. As I pause for my dog to sniff a fire hydrant, I think about him, and a nurse that he loved, and what was going on in the dream. I feel a deep sense of communion with this man, who died before I was born. I feel that somehow I am present in his life, and he is active in mind.
     As on most days, I make it my practice to notice three new things in the two blocks we walk before we get to the big park. A license plate is often one of them. The one I notice today belongs to a registered nurse. This speaks to me, Over all the years I have been teaching Active Dreaming, the nursing profession has been the #1 occupational group represented in my workshops. Nurses have so many practical applications for the techniques. It speaks to me again, even more strongly, because of the dream that is walking with me. The Pilot loved a nurse.
    In the park, as we walk round the lake, I am simply open to what the world gives me. This morning, I nod to the beautiful weeping willow across the water. Her hair, which was green last week, is yellow and thinning as winter comes on.
    I come home, grab a full mug of coffee, and sit down to type up my dream report and my notes on what I observed in the world around me. In my Sidewalk Tarot today, I did not notice any trumps. But there was a court card, for me, in the RN's license plate. Princess of Cups, perhaps. Or Princess - even Queen - of Disks.
    Now I will do another everyday practice: getting guidance from a book. This may be called bibliomancy, literally "divination by the book". But today I am content with stichomancy, "divination by the line." I have already chosen the book. I am going back to Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher whose fragments tickle the cognitive brain and arouse and delight the imagination. I am using the translation, with extensive commentaries, by Charles H. Kahn. The book falls open.
     I close my eyes and let my pointing finger decide which line will be the one for today.
     I open my eyes. My finger is pointing at fragment C (for 100, in Kahn's numeration, B24 in the old Diels and Kranz collection). The translation reads:

Gods and men honor those who fall in battle.

     I'm not immediately thrilled. War and violence and blood-stained heroes. Oh dear. Yet when I go back to the original Greek and consider levels of meaning, I feel a deep sense of confirmation of the truth and importance of my dream, which took me into the life of a very brave man who was killed in a war.

ἀρηϊφάτους θεοὶ τιμῶσι καὶ ἄνθρωποι

The literal translation is "Gods and men honor those slain by Ares."
    The line from Heraclitus deepens my sense from my dream that there is community between the dead and the living, between mortals and immortals: communion as well as communication.
     I write a one-liner for the morning.

     I am in communion with the dead. They are alive in me, and I am alive in them.

     I write this again on an index card, in the fairest hand I can manage. I place the card in a deck of similar cards that contain dream summaries, thoughts for the day and similar inscriptions. I have several of these hand-made decks. They include hundred of cards written in other hands, by people who play the Coincidence Card game I invented in my workshops; you can find the rules for that in my book The Three "Only" Things.         When I want to use cartomancy as an everyday oracle, I will often pluck from one of my private decks rather than a set of cards produced by others according to a formal system. This is the dreamer's way: fresh words, spontaneous images. Still, there are ancient springs that are ever-renewing. This week, I'll stich (no typo) with Heraclitus.

Walking to the Willow. Photo (c) Robert Moss

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sing in me, Muse

When embarking on a creative project, I often think of the Greeks, who thought it was always a good idea to invoke the muse, or creative spirit.
    Homer's Odyssey is a famous example. At the very beginning, the author invokes the muse of poetry, "daughter of Zeus".  In Robert Fitzgerald's version, he prays, “Through me tell the story." In the more recent Robert Fagles translation, he says,

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy. 

The Odyssey is the tale of a wanderer, a “man of many ways” (polytropos) who was “harried for years on end” after he plundered the sacred places of Troy. His homecoming was delayed, within sight of Ithaca, when his men killed and feasted on the sacred cattle of the sun. We read in this that we must do the work for a higher purpose than filling our bellies. The key thing is to call in the larger power. In the Fitzgerald version:

Of these adventures, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
Tell us in our time, lift the great song again.

Perhaps the Homeric invocation, borrowing the Fitzgerald version, could be simplified as follows:

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story.
Tell us in our time, lift the great song again. [Odyssey I, lines 1 & 18]

Note that the Muse here (mousa) is not yet job-specific; the early Greeks did not divide up musing functions between the nine nymphs familiar to the Renaissance. At the oldest level of the Muse cult, there appear to have been three, not nine, Muses.
    Pausanias, greatest of ancient travel guides, preserves a tradition of two generations of Muses; the first were daughters of Uranus and Gaia, the second of Zeus and Mnemosyine. He named the three primal Muses as Melete (Practise), Aiode (Song), and Mneme (Memory). In both versions, as mother goddess (Mnemosyne) or as muse (Mneme), Memory is a primary force in creation.
    This inspires me to remember to call on a greater power - call it muse or creative spirit or daimon - to favor and help in creative work. To do this well, we can't just borrow old words, however grand, from a dead poet, even if he stands above almost all the others in the ranks of the Dead Poets Society. We must come up with fresh words to entertain and engage those greater powers.
    Before writing my most recent book, The Boy Who Died and Came Back, I wrote an invocation, clearly influenced by the way Homer addressed his Muse, but fresh and original and true to the new material. Indeed, this poetic "Offering" became a plan for the whole book:


Sing in me, creative spirit
of the boy who died and came back
and the man who flew through the black sun
and returned to walk the roads of this world
as the envoy of a deeper world;
and of how (being human)
he falls down and gets up, over and over,
forgets and remembers,
remembers and forgets.

Let me explain through his story
how the world is a playground, not a prison
when we awaken to the game behind the games.
Let this story help those who read it
to find their bigger and braver stories
and live them, and tell them well enough
to entertain the spirits,
win the indulgence of the gods
and bring through effortless healing.

   On the way to writing my current book, I wrote a poem as an initial offering to my creative spirit. For now, that is between me and the Muse. If you have a creative venture in mind, you might want to consider finding your own words to invite the participation of your own creative spirits.

 Image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's vision of Mnemosyne.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Truth comes with goosebumps, now and then

It's a rule of skin, for me, that truth comes with goosebumps (or chicken skin, if you like). There is a science of shivers, which involves learning to recognize and respect what is going on when something exceptional is in the air and your body responds even before your mind can make sense of it.
    For the ancients, and in shamanic traditions, trembling for reasons other than cold or external danger has always been regarded as a sign of the advent of the numinous, the coming of gods or spirits. I recorded a recent dream that seemed to take me deep into this realm:

How to Know When the God is Present

I am explaining to a large group of students how to read the signs that announce the advent of the god Apollo at his oracle, and confirm that true messages will be delivered by his priestess. The sacrificial goat starts shaking from the hooves up when the holy water is poured over it. Everything in the environment begins to tremble as if stirred by an unseen wind. The priestess called Pythia, who has been drinking from the sacred spring, sees movement in the bowl of spring water she holds in her lap as she sits on the tripod. The laurel leaves on the branch in her other hand are shaking and murmuring.

Inside the dream, I felt educated pleasure in being able to explain these things clearly. I woke with a mild shiver of recognition, and a deep sense of satisfaction.

Dreams set us research assignments, and this one sent me back to the books, to refresh my memory on the practice of divination in the ancient world, especially at the famous Greek oracle of Delphi, where the priestess known as the Pythia, or Pythoness, was consulted by the rulers of cities and nations.
    Through the surviving sources, starting with Aeschylus' play The Eumenides, I confirmed my dream self's version of the operations of the Pythia. In preparing to become the oracle, she bathes in the sacred spring and invokes all the deities associated with Delphi by name, starting with Themis and Phoebe, daughters of the Earth goddess Gaia, and continuing through Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus and Apollo, who she hopes will speak through her in the presence of a client. She makes burned offering of laurel leaves and barley meal on an altar of the temple. She enters the adyton (sacred chamber) and mounts the golden tripod chair.
    In one hand she holds a laurel branch, in the other a shallow bowl. She sits quietly until the laurel leaves start to quiver. The trembling seizes her hand, moves up her arm to her shoulders and chest. Her whole body starts shaking violently as it has been seized by giant hands. This is confirmation that the god is present and that his speaker is in the necessary state of enthousiasmos to deliver true messages.

The bit about the goats fascinated me. In Diodorus of Sicily's World History, I reviewed again the legend of the foundation of the oracle of Delphi. Long before the great temple was built, when the area was wilderness, a goat herder noticed that some of his animals were behaving strangely. They were shaking and throwing their heads back, croaking and bleating.
    The herder approached them and saw they were at a crack in the rock from which vapors were rising. When he peered down, a strange exaltation seized him. He started shaking too. Knowledge of many things streamed through him. His family, alarmed by his long absence, searched for him and found him under a tree. He began to tell people their secrets without being asked. He had become clairvoyant. News of the chasm and the power of the vapors spread far and wide, until those in authority determined that things should be put on a orderly business footing. A priestess of blameless life would be chosen as speaker for the oracle, and access to the adyton would be banned to everyone except her attendants.
    It would probably be mistaken to attribute the Pythia's powers of truth-seeing to suphurous vapors from the earth, or chewing laurel leaves, or any other chemical assistance. For one thing, recent archaeology suggests the historical oracle of Delphi operated at a different site from the place - called Likoreia - where the goats were set trembling by whatever was rising from a fissure in the earth.*

But there was something else to be learned and remembered about quivering goats. Ah yes, it has to do with divination by animal sacrifice, indirectly referred to my dream-lecturer self. Goats and sheep were the preferred animals used in extispicy, divination by the entrails, a practice common throughout the ancient world and held to be of high importance in establishing the divine will in relation to human decisions. The Mesopotamian baru, a specialist in these matters, held high rank. So did the Etruscan haruspex counselor to Greeks and Romans, under both the Republic and the Empire. The liver was the preferred organ for divination, because it was thought to be a vital seat of an aspect of soul, and a kind of anchor between the spiritual world and the world of the body.
     For the haruspex, the best liver for divination was one that had been just carved from the animal victim, still warm and quivering in the diviner's hand. The Hittites liked to observe the spasms of the dying animal as its organs were removed.

These tales of savage times say it again: truth comes with goosebumps. Personally, I can do without looking at animal livers. It's enough to notice those little - or large - shivers that come when something is going on beyond the range of ordinary perception. They are a part of what the bleep we know that we (often) don't know that we know.

* On the archaeology of Likoreia and Delphi, see the vivid account in Robert Temple, Oracles of the Dead (Destiny Books).

Image: The Pythia on her tripod at Delphi, with a phiale (shallow bowl) in one hand and a laurel branch (sacred to Apollo) in the other.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The reindeer with shaman eyes that gives its life for its human

We derive the word shaman from the Tungus people of Siberia, now generally known as the Eveny or Evenki, which means "fast runners". I have been rereading an extraordinary book about the Evenki by anthropologist Piers Vitebsky, who lived with them and entered their culture, ecology and dreaming very deeply. The book is titled The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia. It is beautifully written and offers a gift on every page.
    We learn, for example, how anomalies in the natural environment are immediately scanned for guidance on what is developing beyond the normal range of perception. The Evenki read the world around them as a book of clues. "If they noticed an untypical pattern, or a striking analogy between two forms that were otherwise unconnected, they took this as a pointer to something significant in reality itself." The behavior of animals, both in regular life and in dreams, is studied for clues as to what is happening at a distance in time or space. It is considered an especially bad omen if a wild animal comes inside a tent. A dream of a wounded reindeer might portend the illness or death of someone. Predictive dreams are especially likely towards morning, when the dreamer is half-awake. For focused guidance, for example on which way to go on a hunt, the Evenki still heat the shoulder-bones of reindeer over embers and find maps in the patterns of cracks. Vitebsky reports step-by-step instructions by a shaman hunter on how to get this right.
    I am greatly moved by the depth of soul connection between the traditionally shamanic Evenki and the reindeer - those they herd, and the wild ones they hunt. This extends to the bonding with individual reindeer who are chosen to defend the health and even the life of their humans. The reindeer given this role, in ritual bonding, is known as the kujjai. A Evenki may have a whole series of kujjai in the course of his or her life, as one after another gives its life to preserve that of the human. It is believed that the reindeer that takes on this role is a willing sacrifice.
    "Nearly everyone who lived on the land had a kujjai, a reindeer that was specially consecrated to protect its owner from harm. When you were threatened by danger, your kujjai placed itself in front of you and died in your place...You then had to consecrate another reindeer to maintain the same level of protection...Only a reindeer could sacrifice itself knowingly and intentionally."
    An Evenki reindeer herder told Vitebsky, "A kujjai is a very special kind of reindeer. Its

eyes aren't like an ordinary reindeer's. I can't really explain it. It's like a shaman's, I suppose - it's hypnotic."
    A kujjai can be consecrated by a shaman to protect someone at a distance. Vitebsky describes the simple ceremony by which a white reindeer was appointed to guard the life of his young daughter in England; he was to carry a photo of the kujjai back home with him.
    I have seen a deer give its life for a human, and I have painted the Deer hanging on the cross, its heart open, as the willing sacrifice. I find it fascinating that a people who live so close to the deer have made this a ritual of conscious mutual bonding, for life.
    I have read elsewhere, in Esther Jacobson's The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia, that in archaic hunting rituals the Evenki honored a form of the Antlered Goddess. Before a moose hunt, a shaman would go into the forest, to a sacred tree, to contact the female spirit of the land and ask for her help. She would sent the shaman a spirit ally that took the form of a giant cow moose or perhaps a giant woman with moose horns. The shaman would now rehearse a successful hunt with the help of his ally. The physical hunt that followed was believed to manifest what had already been accomplished on the spirit plane.


Piers Vitebsky, The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia. New York: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Esther Jacobson, The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia: A Study in the Ecology of Belief. Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1993.

Graphic: Reindeer rider from a collection of Evenki folk tales published in Novosibirsk in 1971. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

When the problem is getting down from the top

In my dreams, for as long as I can remember, a recurring problem is getting down from a height. In these dreams, I often have a great time getting to the top, and at the top. The challenge is to get down again!
    In last night's version, I ascended a height with sweeping views over Washington D.C., with two companions (both dream teachers). Up here, I could gather information on anything I wanted to know, the weather was fine and all was grand - until I realized that there was no obvious way down. We started looking for a safe way down, but could not find one.
    I consider calling to a policeman I can see across a ravine to seek help. Then I decide it would be better to call Superman. I have his mother's number. She is Ma Bell. When she answers, I ask "Is Clark available?" Not immediately, it seems, but she'll pass on a message.
    I inspect the near-vertical cliffs again, looking for places where there might be handholds and footholds. Not promising.

    I became lucid at this point. One of the triggers for lucidity - in dreams or waking life - is waking up to the fact that we are in a situation that has repeated, over and over. I considered my options, now fully aware that I was dreaming and could choose to do anything I liked inside the dream landscape. Could I simply jump off the edge and start flying? I had flown Superman-style in dreams and journeys many times. Couldn't I deploy the Superman power I had tried to call in before I became lucid?
    Nope, it wasn't that kind of a dream. More specifically, I was not in the kind of dream body that you can simply throw off a cliff. The dreamlands have their own integrity and solidity. You can fly in some, or shapeshift, but others operate by physical laws that are similar to those of the ordinary world - sometimes because they are physical environments that exist in future or parallel time. I have written about this situation before on this blog.
    In last night's dream, I was required to figure out the way down from the height. With the help of one of my companions (the other shrunk away from the edge, terrified of heights) I inspected and rejected several options for descending the steep cliffs on all sides. Eventually I found that a structure behind me on the hill contained an elevator in perfect working order that took us safely down. 
    I did not fail to note that recognizing the presence and need for a little "structure" may be a condition for getting grounded and bringing things down from an upper level of consciousness to where people live!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dreaming the strange death of a Norman king

The year is 1100, and William II, called William Rufus (William the Red) is the second Norman king of England. He's a rapacious, rowdy, brawling character who has earned a lot of opposition, including that of the great scholar Anselm who is now Archbishop of Canterbury. The king has forced Anselm into exile.
    Anselm has a vision: the “saints of England” are applying to God to deal with the Norman thug on the throne. God summons Saint Alban into his presence and hands him a flaming arrow. And God says, “Behold the death of the man you complain of before me.” Saint Alban takes the arrow and says he will deliver it to “a wicked spirit”, so the arrow will be “an avenger of sins.” In Anselm’s vision, the arrow is thrown from the sky and comes down like a fiery comet.|
    At the same time, or soon afterwards, William Rufus was struck by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest; he died the same night.
    Before the news reached Anselm, the archbishop was already journeying back to his cathedral, confident that the arrow fired in his vision had actually reached its mark, flying from the realm of the Aevum (for the medieval imagination, this was the dimension between the world of time and the world of eternity) into the kingdom of England. He received word of the fatal hunting incident as he entered Canterbury.
     The story soon spread across Europe that the cleric Anselm had the power to destroy kings through his prayers and visions.
This account comes down to us from a chronicler known as Matthew of Westminster (also identified as Matthew of Paris). Modern scholarship suggests that the author may have stretched his facts more than a little. It appears that at the time of the king’s death, Anselm was in France – and did not return to his see until after five years of bargaining and jockeying with William II’s successor, Henry I.
      According to other chronicles, William II had his own premonitory dreams – in the most terrifying of which he saw blood spurting from his body until it darkened the sky.    
      It is fascinating that on the morning of his death, the king received a dream warning he took seriously. Robert FitzHammon brought William Rufus word that a monk had dreamed that he saw the king trying to bite off the legs of a figure of Christ on the cross. In the monk’sdream, the Christ figure came alive and smashed him to the ground. The king lay under Christ’s feet, belching fire and smoke from his mouth until the air was dark.
       The king was sufficiently rattled to order FitzHammon to give the monk a hundred shillings and “bid him dreame of better fortune to our person.” [Holinshed Chronicles 3:44] Holinshed reports that the king remained so troubled by the dream that he delayed going out to hunt until after lunch – at which he drank copiously – instead of riding out at dawn aswas his custom.

Sources: The vision of Anselm is in Matthew of Westminster, Flowers of History. The monk’s dream is in Holinshed’s Chronicles 3:4. See Frank Barlow, William Rufus (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983) and C. Warren Hollister,  “The Strange Death of William Rufus”, in Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies. Vol 48, no.4 (October, 1973).

Image: Death of William Rufus, lithograph by Alphonse de Neuville, 1895

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tarot for Dreamers: The Priestess gentles the Serpent

I often use synchronicity to get a second opinion on what is going on in a dream.
     Sometimes I do that with the help of tarot. Often all that is required is to pull a single card; sometimes I am moved to draw a series of cards corresponding to different scenes, characters or elements in a dream on which I would like some further insight.
     I never consign the meaning of a dream to what the cards reveal, because dreams are vastly deeper and more various than any set of 78 cards designed according to someone else's ideas. Nonetheless, what the cards show can be provocative and illuminating.
     I see many examples of this when I lead my Tarot for Dreamers workshops. Upon occasion, the tarot can even produce an ally to help a dreamer move through a stuck place or confront a terror, in dreams of the night and in passages of the day.

     This is what happened, in a memorable way, in a Tarot for Dreamers playshop I led at a site with the perfect name for such things: The Dragon's Egg, Mystic, Connecticut. A dreamer named Ann recounted a dream in which she was terrified by a giant snake.

The snake was enormous. It looked like a giant python. I was holding it by the neck, with my right hand. The huge, pale yellow head, lolled over my hand. I was trying to break its neck, but I couldn't. I woke up terrified.

In discussion, Ann revealed that she had been frightened by snakes in a series of dreams over many years. She was evidently uncomfortable talking about the latest snake dream now. Yet she told us that she had been inspired to do some research and had discovered that the snakes in the ancient temples of Asklepios, regarded as medicine allies of the god of dream healing, were pale yellow in color. Thus she was open to the suggestion that there might be a power in her dream that was waiting to be claimed - if she was ready to brave up to the giant snake and see what needed to be done with it.

     I suggested that she might want to pull a card from her tarot deck for guidance on this. She drew one of the keys: Trump II, the High Priestess. The Priestess card, for me, offers a path of initiation, a way of going beyond the veil into the heart of the Mysteries. In pathworking on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the path of the High Priestess, running from Tiphareth to Kether across the abyss of Daath, is the longest and most challenging, requiring the journeyer to pass a series of tests and brave up to a series of challenges. I also thought of the snake priestesses of the ancient world, especially the famous statue from Crete, and of the Pythia, the priestess-seer of the oracle at Delphi whose name literally means The Pythoness.
     The entry of the High Priestess into our circle of dreamers prompted me to suggest a travel itinerary to Ann: to journey to the High Priestess and seek her blessing for a close-up encounter with the giant snake. "See yourself stepping through the border of the card, as through the frame of the door, to meet the Priestess. Seek her counsel and protection for a further journey, to the place of the python, to see what you need to do with it." We agreed that, with Ann's permission, all of the participants would travel with her, as family support.
     We shared powerful and mutually confirming experiences during the group journey, fueled and focused by my shamanic drumming. The most important and profound travel report came from Ann:

I found myself at once before the High Priestess. From her throne, four snakes darted forward and wrapped themselves around my arms and my legs. To my amazement, I felt neither fear nor revulsion. The Priestess told me that the easiest way for my to connect with the serpent power was to let the giant snake swallow me. Now I was facing it. I saw its great jaws open and I let it devour me. I felt myself traveling at amazing speed through a series of landscapes. Then everything turned inside out and the serpent was inside me. I felt it move through all of my energy centers in a zigzag path, clearing blockages, raising a terrific vital energy inside me. I have finally conquered my fear of snakes and I am ready to dance with the Serpent Power.

And she did. We were delighted to see her move into the midst of the circle with the sinuous grace of a snake dancer.

Note: "Qabalistic"? Yes: the Tarot system inherited from the magicians of the Golden Dawn is related to the Western "Qabalah" rather than to Kabbalah. A useful guide to the correspondences is Robert Wang's The Qabalistic Tarot.

Tarot for Dreamers workshops: My next one is at an even more magical location, Mosswood Hollow, in the wild woods east of Seattle, over the weekend of May 9-10, 2015.

Image: This unusual version of the Tarot Priestess is from the Navigators Tarot of the Mystic Sea.