Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Following the Amber Road: Dreaming with my Ancestors

Guest Blog by Tenaya Amelia Wieczorek

“This is where the wolf resides. Show me the way through deep forest. Take me back to where I came from, long before. I know the path begins in the dark trees… They know my name. Our family has always worshipped a form of the great Mother. I surrender to your grace. I feel you ever inside me…Holy, wholly.” - The Amber Road painting text 2017

These words are inscribed on the ochre-colored road in my painting The Amber Road. This is the story of how this painting came to be, guided by dreams of my ancestors.
     For the past few years I’ve been obsessed with genealogy shows on television. On both Who Do You Think You Are, and Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., famous people trace their ancestry, often revealing unknown family stories and thrilling revelations of ancestors that share common interests and life experiences. 
     In the late spring of 2015 I got my DNA tested and had some surprising revelations of my own! All my life I was told that I was half Yugoslavian (Serbian and Montenegrin) and half Polish. When I was in 5th grade I became obsessed with Ireland, and dreamed of travelling there, so I started tucking away extra coins into a large green glass wine jug to save up money for the journey. My grandmother recalls that I used to tell people that “My dad is Polish and my mom is Yugoslavian, but I’m Irish!”
     So when I opened my DNA results I was shocked to find out I did indeed have a tiny percentage of blood from the British Isles, as well as several other places and cultures that I have felt a profound connection with. I have had dreams and visions of reindeer herding people from the far north, and I discovered that I have Yakut (Siberian) as well as Scandinavian blood.
     As I sat in front of my computer, dumbfounded, with chills running up my spine as I read the results, a vision formed in my mind’s eye of lines of ancestors fanning out in long rows behind me, stretching all the way to early, prehistoric times. It was the first time I had a visceral sense of myself as being connected to the ancient past, to indigenous people, my people. I saw the thrumming beauty of DNA woven like threads in a basket rushing forward to the present… and had the sense that I AM MY ANCESTORS. For a moment I stepped outside of time and space and felt part of a vast continuum of humanity, like I had a place in history. I wept at the feeling of homecoming, confirmation and remembrance.

A few months prior to these revelations I recorded the following dreams:

The Amber Rosary and Blessed with Cabbage Water 5/14/2015

I dreamed that I needed to be on my way, and dusk was falling, so I took up jogging, unsure of where I was going, or how to get back to my car. I couldn’t remember where my room was for the night, and I hadn't checked in yet. It felt like Virginia~ the trees were bare and lacy, so I knew it was late fall.

I came to a tent set up in a driveway and saw two nuns in white, and immediately thought they might be able to help me. The one in front saw me right away. She was sprinkling holy water on people with a purple cabbage leaf. That felt so familiar to me, connected to my Polish heritage. There were religious items laid out on the table, rosaries etc. The nuns chanted in what I first thought was Polish, then realized was Latin.

Dipping a cabbage leaf in a bowl, the nun sprinkled me with holy water, and indicated I should take an amber rosary that was in a cloth bag on the table. I wasn't sure if I should make a donation or not. I walked around to another table and saw all sorts of baked goods, including triangular scones with rosaries baked into them. I asked the nuns for directions, worried because I couldn’t remember my eventual destination, and my phone was low on juice. They couldn't help me, and said I should ask someone at a service station. I saw a woman from Spirit Rock Meditation Center with medium length dark hair and couldn't remember her name, but was relieved to see someone familiar. I knew she would help me. We started chatting and I picked out a rosary, and I told her how I was embarrassed that I had forgotten her name. She said her name was Sarah and I saw that she had become Sarah A., my dear friend and I was overjoyed!

At the back of the booth two young 15-year-old girls were helping out and they started singing for us! They sang haunting Appalachian/Eastern European sounding harmonies~ quietly at first, then building in strength and power, completely a cappella. We were riveted by their perfect harmonic sound. It gave me chills of recognition.

Then it was time for me to be on my way so I took off jogging and wished I had settled into my accommodations before I have left on his journey.

At Dream Teacher Training Level One in July 2015 at Mosswood Hollow in Washington State I encountered a wonderful woman and fellow dreamer, Stefania, who was also of Polish descent. I shared these dreams with her and we discussed many levels of connection and symbolism. She was the first Polish person I had really connected with outside of my family, and it felt like we held keys of wisdom and knowledge  for each other.
    Just days before leaving for the Dream Teacher Training I had the following dream:

Our Family Has Always Worshipped a Form of the Great Mother 7/12/15

I dreamed I was with Sonia and Tadek (my siblings) and Sonia had on a beautiful, intricate, spiritual piece of jewelry. It was a thin gold chain that draped around her body with tiny carved figures made of jade, aquamarine and citrine and faceted rosary-like beads. It was a prayer/spiritual device. We were at Nana and Dziadzi’s (my Polish grandparents) house in Fremont in the front yard. Nana Aggie was there and she pointed out a large white plaster statue of the Virgin Mary in a place of honor amid the cactus and juniper bushes, and she told me that: “Our family has always worshipped a form of the Great Mother.”

In September 2015, in a moment of Facebook synchronicity, a video popped up that I am certain has changed the course of my life. The video was of Laboritorium Piesni, a young all-female polyphonic singing group from Gdansk, Poland. At the first sound of their voices rising in song (just like the sisters in the Amber Rosary dream) and the heartbeat thud of the drum, I was riveted, blood pounding and my eyes filled with tears. I felt my ancestors clamor around me as I listened to the voice of the ancients sing through these young women that could be my sisters. Suddenly my Polish lineage felt relevant to me, I could see myself among these women, singing draped in earth-colored fabric, dancing in a circle, arms tracing the shape of sacred energies…
    The song, Sztoj pa moru, was the fuel for my painting, The Amber Road, that I began at an intuitive painting workshop in October 2015 in Portland Oregon with inspiring teacher Flora Bowley and finished a year later.
     Using deep turquoise, black, ochre and fluorescent red, applied with a large foam brush, I created a dark under painting for the first layer, which is unusual for me~ I usually work in bright, vibrant colors. After the layer dried, I approached it again, and as this song looped on repeat  in my headphones, the painting began to reveal itself and I was pulled into the dark woods I often visit in dreams.
    I consciously steered myself into the Amber Rosary dream as the art studio faded away and the harmonic music circling through my ears induced a mild trance state. I painted for six hours that day and five the next day, barely stopping as the world of my dream came to life before my eyes, infused with the energy and essence of my ancestors~ The sacred purple cabbage leaf dripping holy water, the dark trees looming overhead, the white plaster Mary statue, draped in gold chains, who, as my mother pointed out later, actually looks like a Black Madonna.

Chestnuts for Mary 10/15/2016

I dreamed it was a holiday (Thanksgiving or Christmas) and I was with my family. There was a high wooden mantle (like the one at my adolescent home) and Mimi said I should “Give some chestnuts to Mary.” There was a large framed image/icon of mother Mary, and I arranged autumn leaves, orange cherry tomatoes, 2 termite wings and 2 chunks of tree sap/amber on the mantel in front of the image. Mimi placed a several chestnuts up there and it felt right. 

At Thanksgiving, when I visited my mom and grandma in Oregon, I noticed my mom had a greeting card that looked very much like the image of the goddess in the dream, which inspired me to lead a simple ritual to honor this dream and our ancestral line. We bought chestnuts and lit candles and frankincense, and I played music from Laboritorium Piesni’s new album. We sat quietly around the table, holding our chestnuts and pouring our prayers into them. Through closed eyes, with the resonant voices rising in waves around us, I saw a vision of my ancient family, in concentric circles of women and circles of men, dancing around a fire outside of a village in former Yugoslavia. I felt my beloved departed also in the room (my dad, Popi, Dziadai and Nana, Ciocia Jane and Uncle Tadek among others) as we called up a connection to our ancestral line. Then, beginning with my grandmother, we offered our chestnuts to the image of Mary on the hearth, our prayers flickering by candlelight.

During this visit I showed my mom a photo the Amber Road painting in progress, and she exclaimed that the goddess figure actually looked like a Black Madonna, which was unintentional on my part, but resonated as soon as she said it. It also immediately made me think of my Polish grandmother’s funeral card, which depicts the famous Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa, from Poland. In the course of my research into this particular Black Madonna, I learned that King Louis of Hungary (1326-1382) brought the Black Madonna to Poland in response to a dream.    
    I discovered that there are numerous Black Madonna statues located throughout Europe, and that some theories suggest that they may have originally been depictions of pre-Christian goddesses such as Isis, Demeter, Persephone, Astarte, and Athena. When Christianity came to various areas in Europe, people had to take down their shrines and “cloak” their goddesses in the more acceptable guise of the Virgin Mary and child, much like is done in syncretic religions such as Candomble and Santeria.  This seems related to what my grandmother told me in the dream:  “Our family has always worshipped a form of the great Mother”.
     I put the finishing touches on the Amber Road painting by adding red, blue and ochre fabric motifs to the tree trunks. The motifs are based on embroidery from a blouse my great grandmother brought back from Yugoslavia in the early 1950s. These red “flags” are markers, guiding the way through the trees, encoded with patterns and messages, just like my blood and DNA is encoded with vital information. In the Amber Rosary dream I was trying to find my way, looking for my place, and now these flags, woven of memories, stories, dreams, and recollections are pointing the way. 
    These dreams have given me exciting clues and set me on a path to discovering the lines of my family, known and unknown. I have been talking to family members and consulting a family history my father wrote. I’ve started learning the Polish language, with hopes of attending a singing workshop with Laboritorium Piesni when they come to the US for the first time in the fall of 2017. My big dream is to travel to Poland in September 2018 to visit places my family lived, and to study polyphonic singing and Polish crafts, such as basket making and paper cutting, as well as traditional herbal medicine and pagan practices. My dreams are weaving the way…

Tenaya Amelia is a life-long dreamer trained as a teacher of Active Dreaming by Robert Moss. Intuitive, sensitive and creative, she holds a safe and vibrant space to explore the inner realms. Tenaya weaves together intuitive painting, collage, expressive movement and evocative music into her unique offerings. She is based in Northern California and offers workshops, private dream sessions and a monthly dream salon.  Tenaya is Robert's guest on his Way of the Dreamer radio show on Tuesday March 14. Listen to the show live or download from the archive

1 comment:

Peggy Bartlett said...

Beautiful narrative of your deeply symbolic dream painting, Tenaya. Thanks to you and Robert for sharing both here.