Monday, May 30, 2022

Wyrd and weirder


Read the Eddas (literally the “great-grandmothers”) and the Icelandic sagas with care, and you will find not only Viking battle stories, but some profound insights into the human condition and the interconnectedness of things.

The key word here is Wyrd, from which “weird” derives. Wyrd is often translated as “fate” or “destiny” but it is related to weohrtan, which means “to become”. Wyrd is best understood as a web of connection, joining everything that happens in this world to movements in other worlds. 

Events that may appear to be separate in time or space are connected by threads that are fine, supple and strong. Any movement in any part of the web may be felt anywhere else. Omens point to patterns, they are not just about something that is going to happen in the future. If you know the ways of Wyrd, you use them to read the patterns of connection. If you are a master of these things, you may be able to pull on the threads to change the patterns.

Wyrd is beyond the gods. The web precedes gods and men and lives after them. We call it a pattern, but like the Tao, as it plays through the Book of Changes, it is in constant motion. A lively guide to these matters is Brian Bates’ “documentary novel” The Way of Wyrd, where an Anglo-Saxon sorcerer instructs that “Wyrd itself is constant change, yet because it is created at every moment it is unchanging, like the still center of a whirlpool. All we can see are the ripples dancing on top of the water.” [1] Yes by studying the ripples you can detect what is moving at the bottom of the water, or far away across its expanse. 

Because we are part of Wyrd, we can never see the whole. So we look for ways to see enough to help us navigate. Carving and casting runes is a way. So are dreams, and those special moments when you awaken to the workings of the deeper pattern. “Man is touched by wyrd when he becomes involved in matters whose nature and origins extend beyond existence on earth,” Germanic scholar Paul Bauschatz explains. “There are times…when apparently ordinary activities acquire special significance, and it seems likely that at these times daily life is touched and colored with elements beyond our limited perceptions.” [2] There is room to re-weave the threads of Wyrd. 

Jenny Blain, who has participated in the revival of ancient Norse seiðr, or shamanic rituals, observes that “this concept of Wyrd is one that is being developed within the community. Though often translated as 'fate' and sometimes equated to 'karma', it has a more dynamic sense. People are active agents in the creation of their own personal wyrd, or ørlög. Their deeds and vows, strands of ørlög, become part of the fabric of Wyrd.” Those who work the seiðr  rituals feel they are “'reading' Wyrd, seeing along the threads of the fabric to possible outcomes. Others within the community consider that seiðr in the past involved active interception of the fabric, 'tugging' at the threads,"[3] 

In English, the word “weird” derives from Wyrd. It declined from common usage in England until Shakespeare revived it, with a sinister twist, with the Weird Sisters in Macbeth. It retained some of its original meaning a little longer in Scotland, where if you called someone “weirdless” you were saying that he was unlucky. 

In more recent times, to call something “weird” is to say that it is strange, uncanny, hard to explain and maybe spooky. A “weirdo” is someone who is very strange. Yet thanks to a campaign that started in Austin, Texas, “weird” has been making a comeback. Austin is the first North American city to sprout a poster campaign to keep the city weird. Keep Austin Weird. Other cities followed suit.

One of my favorite books on Northern European traditions is The Well of Remembrance by Ralph Metzner, who embarked on a quest to reclaim the mythic wisdom of his ancestors from the Nazi curse. He was drawn to Odin, not as a war god but as the poet-shaman wandering between the worlds, facilitating direct and personal revelation. In the course of his quest, he writes, “Often I felt as though I was seized, or inspired. I would think of Odin and get insights or answers to my questions, including questions about the meanings of certain myths. Or I would suddenly find pertinent myths that I had not known before. Strange though it may sound, I would have to say that much of what I am relating in this book has been directly given to me by Odin.” [4]    

I have had similar experiences since Tolkien told me in a dream, many years ago, “You must study Scandinavian mythology.” I was at first reluctant to follow that advice, partly because of the long shadow of the Nazi attempt to hijack the gods and symbols of the North.  As I began to walk this ancestral path (I have Scandinavian blood on both sides of my family) in my reading and travel and in my dreams, I was rewarded by special moments of encounter and discovery that left me in no doubt that forces beyond the veil of the world were in play. During a trip to Europe, I had a personal vision of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, from which I wrote a poem.

The ancestors are calling, calling. And they can use the worldwide web as well as the web of the worlds. It is amusing to note that “wired” is an anagram for “weird”. A woman named Kim shared the following story. “Sprit likes the wires. The Web, in particular. The deities who work fate, don’t they spin and snip threads? My Mom's picture popped up on a dating app my ex-husband is on. He sent a screen shot. I'd just asked my Mom that morning for a sign that she was there. He had been on that app over a year, and he showed me how faces appeared as you scrolled through and how you could indicate interest or not. My Mom was never on a dating site, and certainly wouldn't be suitable to his selected age range. I think that via the Web, we can have communication with the Other Side.”



 1. Brian Bates The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer (London: Century, 1987) 75

2. Paul C. Bauschatz, The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982), 28

3.   3. Jenny Blain, Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in Northern European Paganism (London: Routledge, 2002), 15

      4. Ralph Metzner, The Well of Remembrance: Rediscovering the Earth Wisdom Myths of Northern Europe (Boston: Shambhala, 1994) 10


Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing withSigns, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Image: Twig version of a modern symbol for Wyrd. Full discussion in Kvasir Symbol Database.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

News from Tibet: If dreams are illusions, so is life, so dream more

I am always astonished when Westerners drawn to Buddhism tell me that in this tradition, dreams are regarded as illusions from an unclear mind, for which the Rx is to cleanse and purify the mind, in order to dream no more.

Serinity Young, a leading scholar of Buddhist dreamways, observes in Dreaming in the Lotus: Buddhist Dream Narrative, Imagery, and Practice, “without dreams and dreaming there would be no Buddhism”. It was a dream of Queen Maya, the mother of Gautama, that announced his coming and his nature. In her dream she saw a white elephant with six tusks enter the right side of her body. This was interpreted to mean that she had conceived a child who would be a world conqueror or a buddha.  

Especially in Tibetan Buddhism, dream yoga is a practice for raising and focusing consciousness, and a training ground for death and the afterlife journey.There is a most instructive episode in the life of the great Tibetan spiritual teacher Milarepa (1040-1123), who has been described as “the greatest poet-saint” in Buddhist tradition.  He instructed his disciples to report their dreams. “Remember your dreams tonight and report to me tomorrow. I will then interpret them for you.”  He cautioned his followers to cleanse their minds of “habitual thoughts” that would carry over into the dream space and confine them to deceptive and illusory experiences.

In the morning, he asked his disciples to report their dreams. The most interesting narrative came from Gambopa, Milarepa interpreted Gambopa’s a rich and complex dream, explaining that it foreshadowed Gambopa’s future role as a great teacher and his spiritual heir.

Despite this revelation, Milarepa cautioned his followers not to assign excessive importance to dreams, since dreams partake  of “the illusory nature of all beings. Yet he applauded Gambopa for dreaming well: “Your dreams were marvelous, wondrous omens foretelling things to come.”

Milarepa delighted in recounting his own numinous dreams portending the growth of his lineage. “Last night I dreamed that an eagle flew from here to Weu and alighted on the top of a precious gem. Then many geese flocked around it…They disperse in different directions, each goose again gathering about five hundred more companions.”

His essential message was that dreams may be illusions, but probably less so than ordinary life – so go dream some more!


Milarepa quotations are from Garma C.C. Chang,  The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teaching of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism.

Text adapted from TheSecret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.


Image: Stupa drum panel from Gandhara (modern Pakistan) showing the Dream of Māyā. Māyā lies on her left side, right leg flexed, head high against one or two pillows. The dream elephant is wholly enclosed in an aureole except for the tip of its trunk. Dtaed 2nd/3rd century BCE. In British Museum,

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Where the Dream Hunter Meets the Physicist

Writing in the early 1920s, the Russian ethnographer Waldemar Bogoras charted the remarkable convergence between the ideas of modern physics and the worldview of the ancient dream shamans.

"While perusing some works of Einstein, Minkowski, Mach, the Russian professor Umov and others, I came to notice certain coincidences, more or less unexpected. Namely, when these scientists tried to transform their abstract formulas into more concrete combinations of psychical facts the material preferred by them closely resembled some shamanistic stories and descriptions, that are spread among primitive peoples in Asia and America.  In a way one could possibly say that the ideas of modern physics about space and time, when clothed with concrete psychical form, appeared as shamanistic." [1] 

Exiled to Siberia by the Tsarist regime because of his revolutionary sympathies as a student, Bogoras (aka Vladimir Bogoraz) lived among the Chukchi and studied other indigenous peoples of the far north. He gave us a pioneer account of their multiverse where we may find many parallels with relativity theory, quantum entanglement and the Many World hypothesis. 

For the shaman as for modern physics "there exists no absolute time...The idea of time for the most part is wholly rejected" in the shaman's perception of the worlds and relations between them.[2] Contraction or dilation of time is common in dreaming and shamanic trance journeys. In less than half an hour a shaman may pass through the Upper, Lower and Middle Worlds, rescue a soul, fight with hostile spirits, and have many other adventures.  

Space, size and proportion are also infinitely malleable. A spirit visitor may appear as a giant at the start of an encounter and shrink to the size of a gnat at the end of it. 

Human beings (and other beings) have doubles in parallel worlds; what happens to one may affect all. "It is possible to assume the same thing or being as residing at the same time in two separate places. 'At the same time ' is more strictly 'outside of time'.....The same being, human or animal, natural or supernatural, material or physical, is represented as having two or several forms, separate and coinciding. The being, however, does not assume these forms in turns, at first one, then another. It possesses all of them simultaneously. The forms are like the right side and the under side of the same cloth." [3]

 To heal an illness or correct a problem, it may be necessary to travel outside time to another world to fix something there. If you need help of this kind, you want to call a dream traveler, or shaman, who may send a bird or animal alter ahead to scout the ways. 

Your best way to understand these things is through dreaming. Bogoras writes that dreams are a primary source of knowledge for the Chukchi and other shamanic peoples of the far north. Dreams are the most important source of "religious experience" which means the understanding of reality given a world view in which the sacred and the profane are everywhere enmeshed, and the extraordinary is entwined with the ordinary.

Bogoras gives an arresting account of the practical benefits of dreaming in a hunter-gatherer society in this report from a Chukchi hunter: "I have no need to visit my traps every day. I know without this when a fox is caught there. Thar very night I have a dream of a red-haired woman who wants to assault me. And when in the end she is subdued and we have love, then it is a sign that a fox is caught in the trap." [4] 

"Dream-land," Bogoras writes, "is a distinct form of being that is assumed by man every night of his life." It is an "other form of being, a double life." He demonstrates  that he is truly an anthropologist who broke the glass when he adds, as a statement about what happens in dreaming everywhere, that "every night we actually lie on our bed and withal leave for" [5] 

Waldemar (aka Vladimir) Bogoras (1865-1936)  wrote that the universe of the shaman is one of constant motion between different levels of a three-tiered cosmos. That would describe his own life. Exiled to Siberia by the Tsarist regime as a revolutionary student, he lived among the Chukchi and studied their shamanic practices. He wrote exquisite pioneer works of ethnography and helped to develop an orthography for their language. For a time he was a curator at the American Museum of National History and co-leader of the museum-sponsored Jessup Expedition to study indigenous peoples of northeast Asia and Alaska. Under the pseudonym “Tan” he published popular tales of the north. Back in Russia, he survived efforts to purge him as ‘anti-Marxist” and a “class-enemy” in Stalin’s time. He died on a train near Kharkiv, Ukraine in May 1936.


[1]Waldemar Bogoras, “Ideas of Space and Time in the Conception of Primitive Religion” in American Anthropologist vol.27, no.2 (April, 1925) 205

[2] ibid 232-3

[3] ibid 235-6

[4] ibid 209

[5] ibid 241-2

Image: Illustration by William Hulme Hooper in Ten months among the Tents of the Tuski(1853)


Friday, May 20, 2022

Tracking the Dream Traveler to the King of Bulgaria


I have developed the habit of consulting my journals to see what happened on a certain day over years and decades, I have plucked the following report from my journal for May 20, 2021. 

I am forever trying to keep up with the dream excursions of my traveling self. I think he hides some of his adventures from me, or leaves me just a postcard or a ticket stub. Over the past 24 hours, he enjoyed a romantic encounter at a chateau in France in the 18th century, had access to the private papers of an English duke of that era, and joined a soul friend in a deep experience of a parallel life. 

He also made a visit to a college town in the Deep South that puzzles me. The kids here don't seem to read much. When he refers to an incident as "Kafkaesque", they have no idea what he means. He tells them, "Kafka made up some weird shit." They laugh but still don't get it. 

In the early hours I raced through dream after dream, in one or more dream personas, as if hurrying through the cars on a high-speed train, sometimes going to an upper deck or down again. I jotted down many details but the last scenes are the ones that have energy for me. Becoming lucid in this episode, I am both observer and actor. I shall continue the narration in the first person, as the dream traveler. 

Bulgarian Puzzler 

I am in a long line of dignitaries waiting to be presented to the king of Bulgaria. Before we get to the head of the line I drift outside. I now have an aerial view of an intersection in the older part of a city, as if suspended in midair or looking down from the tallest tower.

I know, in my shivers, that this is one of those "thin" places where travel between worlds is easy if you have the right code. Coordinated movement here is vital. The crossing can only be accomplished if two players move in exact synchrony, as in an antique wooden puzzle box where you must push and pull pieces at the same time. I sense the presence of the second player. 

Feelings: intrigued. 

Reality: I haven't been to Bulgaria in ordinary life though I have had Bulgarian students in my workshops. The Bulgarian monarchy was abolished in 1946; the child king Simeon II survived to become prime minister in the early 2000s. Photos of older parts of Sofia look like my dream, though I was looking from above. 

Initial action: Research! My dreams often invite me to attend new classes in history and geography and I enjoy taking them. Yesterday I had to research the career of the 18th century English general who became the Duke of Northumberland. This morning the assignment included the history of Bulgarian royalty. The statue is of the "Tsar Liberator", Alexander III, who freed Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in the war of 1877-8. Below him Victoria/Nike is leading Bulgarian and Russian soldiers into battle.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The gods are recognizable


It's a recurring theme in world religions and mythology: it's perilous for humans to meet gods face-to-face, yet the gods may show up in manageable forms, including disguises that don't quite hide what is behind them. In his study of Greek mythology Mortals and Immortals Jean-Pierre Vernant puts it like this: “As well-camouflaged as a god may be in the skin of a mortal, there is something ‘off’, something in the otherness of the divine presence that remains strange and disconcerting even when the god is in disguise."

Thus, when Poseidon disguised himself as a man (Kalchas the diviner) to give support to the two Ajaxes, the son of Oileus recognized that he was dealing with a god by the “trace” Poseidon left as he moved away. In the Iliad, the mortal exclaims, “No, that is not Kalchas the seer. Without difficulty, I recognized from behind the trace of his feet and legs, while he was going away. The gods are recognizable.” Poseidon’s step was like that of “a quick winged falcon pursuing a bird across the plain” 

The body of a god concealed as a human can reveal itself to be both the heaviest and lightest of vehicles. When Athena gets into her chariot, it groans and buckles under her weight. Yet when she leaps from place to place her feet do not even touch the ground and she glides over water with the lightness and speed of a sea bird. 

One reason the gods veil themselves – in the semblance of mortal bodies, or in a concealing mist – is that it is dangerous and often fatal for humans to see gods as they really are. This is the inner meaning of the tales of heroes who suffered because they saw a goddess naked, as Actaeon paid with his life for seeing Artemis bathing nude. The seer Tiresias lost the use of his eyes as the penalty for seeing Athena as she is. 

In the Hometric Hymn to Demeter, we read that Metaneira was terrified when Demeter shed the disguise of an old woman and revealed herself in splendor, The immortal body of the goddess gave out a light that spread far; her shining hair streamed over her shoulders and the stronghold was illuminated as if by a bolt of lightning.

Herakles wanted to see Zeus, but found he was unable to look at the god’s face until Zeus covered it  with an animal skin.  

Vernant comments: “The paradox of the divine body consists in the fact that in order to appear to mortals, it must cease to be itself; it must clothe itself in a mist, disguise itself as a mortal, take the form of a bird, a star, a rainbow. Or if the god chooses to be seen in all its majesty, only the tiniest bit of the splendor of the god’s size, stature, beauty and radiance can be allowed to filter through, and even this is already enough to strike the spectator with thambos, stupefaction, to plunge him into a state of reverential fear. But to show themselves openly, as they truly are – enarges – is a terrible favor the gods accord to no one."

Phaeacian sightings

In the Odyssey, Alkinous claims that the Phaeacians saw the gods in their true forms – enargeis – hundreds of times in the past. The suggestion is that this was possible because the Phaeacians, in contrast to ordinary people, belonged to the family of the gods, who therefore do not need to guide their faces from them. No wonder that in the Mystery traditions, group journeying to the Phaeacian shore - the liminal territory where Odysseus washes up after his dramas with sea monsters and seductive goddesses - was a destination for group journeying. Worth remembering, also, that when Athena speaks to Nausicaa to prepare her for the stranger who she will find naked on the beach, the goddess does not appear in her true form but in the guide of a girl friend of the princess.  

Astride the worlds 

When Poseidon goes to feast with the Ethiopians in “the land of the rising and setting sun” he is described in the Odyssey as traveling, in a single motion, to both opposite extremities of the earth. he description of his movement suggests the nature of the gods as multidimensional beings. They project the semblance of physical form, and may use forms invented by humans, but their bodies are not subject to space and time and they are in no way bound by the rules of physical reality.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Dream Reentry: Your Royal Road to Lucid Dreaming

Dreams are real experiences and a fully remembered dream is its own interpretation. The meaning of a dream is inside the dream itself. We release it by learning to go back inside our dreams in a relaxed state. By learning how to reenter dreams, you will develop the ability to clarify messages about future events, resume contact with inner teachers, and resolve unfinished business. Through this method, you will place yourself in closer attunement with the creative source from which dream images flow.     
      As a natural side benefit, you will probably also find that you are increasingly able to embark on conscious dream journeys from a waking state, and retain awareness that you are dreaming as you move deeper into the dreamscape. You may indeed discover that dream reentry is a royal road to lucid dreaming: you start out lucid and stay that way.
     To understand this process, we need to get one thing clear: the dream you remember is not the dream itself. By the time you are fully awake, you have forgotten 90 percent, if not more, of your nocturnal adventures. A partner's love bite, a ruckus in the street, a child tickling your toes, the need to get to the office, can shoo away most of your remaining memories. By the time the editor in your waking mind has finished processing and tagging the scraps that are left, your dream memories may be quite remote from the dreams themselves. At best, they are souvenirs from a journey.
    Suppose you fly down to Rio and bring home a few snapshots of Sugarloaf Mountain and bathers in string bikinis on Copacabana beach. How much of your adventure is contained in the photos? Do they carry the smell of palm oil, the bittersweet tang of batida de limão, the slap of a tropical rainshower? Or the drama at Customs, the rippling laughter of the girls in the samba school, the dance of your nerve endings when you entered (or renewed) a romance that woke up all your senses? Of course not. However, as you study the pictures, you may find yourself sliding back into the fuller experience.
    Dream memories are like this. Even as snapshots, they are often unsatisfactory: out of focus, with key characters missing their faces, subject to multiple exposures and mess-ups in the dark room. But with practice, you can learn to use these blurred images as windows through which you can reenter your dreams, continue the adventure and bring back valuable gifts.
    Dream reentry requires two things: your ability to focus clearly on a remembered scene from your dream, and your ability to relax, screen out distractions, and allow your consciousness to flow back inside that scene. If there are scary things inside the dream you are nervous about confronting, or if you have difficulty relaxing into a flow of imagery, you may find dream reentry easier if you have a partner to talk you through the process, or the support of a whole circle.
    Shamanic drumming is an especially powerful tool for dream reentry, providing fuel and focus for the journey. Drumming enhances the possibility that you can invite a partner to enter your dream space with you to act as your ally and search for information you may have missed. I have made my own recording of shamanic drumming for dream reentry, "Wings for the Journey", available for download.

 Location, Location, Location

 The Realtor's familiar slogan applies to the technique of dream reentry as well as to the property game. The easiest way for you to go back inside a dream is to hold your focus on the dream location. Your initial memories may be fuzzy but a single landmark - even a single shape or color - may be sufficient to enable you to shift your consciousness into a vivid and complex scene.
    Be open to possibility! The geography of the dreamworld is not that of Google Maps. In dreams, you may find yourself in familiar locales, including places from your past - Grandma's house, or your childhood home - that may or may not have changed. You may visit unfamiliar but realistic locations, often clues that your dream contains precognitive or other psychic material.
    Your dream location may prove to be in a parallel world where one of your parallel selves is leading a continuous life.  You may find yourself in scenes from a different historical epoch (past or future), in a mermaid cove or in lands where the dead are alive. You may fall into an astral slum or rise to cities or schools or palaces in the Imaginal Realm, where human imagination, in concert with higher intelligence, generates worlds.
    One of the purposes of dream reentry is establish where in the worlds you are. The typical dreamer, after waking, has no more idea where he spent the night than an amnesiac drunk.

Why You Want to Learn and Practice Dream Reentry

  • You want to have more fun
  • You need to move beyond fear and nightmare terrors
  • You need to clarify the meaning of the dream – for example, to determine whether it is literal, symbolic or the experience of a separate reality
  • You need specific information from the dream – for example, the exact time and place of a possible future event, or the full text of something you saw in a book or an inscription.
  • You want to talk to someone inside the dream.
  • You want to claim a relationship with a spiritual ally who appeared in the dream
  • You want to try to change something in the dream.
  • You want to bring through healing
  • You want to get in touch with a part of yourself you encountered in the dream
  • You want to enter creative flow and create with dream energy
  • You want to embark on lucid dream adventures any time you choose
  • You want to use your dreams as portals to the multiverse.

Text adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press

Art: "Invitation to the Voyage" by artist and dream teacher Lalena Laurie Vann

Monday, May 9, 2022

White Shadows


White Shadows

When you walk usually you don't see
the white shadow walking beside you
who may stray behind a hedgerow
or veer away into a dark wood
or a tall city full of thrusting agendas
different from your own, or into a love bower
you left behind, or never made.

Your co-walker may swap places
with another white shadow, and another.
This is a parallel self who made other choices,
who stayed with your former lover,
or still works in the old job, or never crossed the sea,
or chose pancakes instead of waffles for breakfast.

Though the veil between you is thinner
than shrink-wrap, you rarely see through it
except in your dreams, where you enter the life
of an alternate self who has trouble remembering
the alternate self you inhabit this side of the dreamlands.

Yet when your paths converge with a parallel self
you feel something, obscurely, a tilt to the day,
and may notice you are drawing events and encounters
in a different way. People praise you or put you down
in ways you can't fathom unless you awaken to how
you are loaded now with karma of your white shadow
incurred in adventures you can't know about
until you follow the tracks of your multitudinous self.

- from Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories by Robert Moss. Published by Excelsior Editions. 

Photo by RM: "My Double Walks Before Me"

The fiercest dragons

Journal excavation turned up this report in which a dream gave me a quest to be pursued through conscious dream reentry as I drummed for a group at a magical site in a green forest.

I am striding through a verdant green landscape. The scene is a spectrum of greens, of fresh grass and soft ferns, of mint and sweet basil, of spruce and fir.

I am joyful because I am on a quest that is about to be fulfilled. Soon I will enter a cave that is the home of something that will challenge my courage. It takes on the shape of a traveler's deepest fears. If you can step through those fears, you can claim immense power for good. 

I woke from this dream excursion with feelings of elation.

The scene resembled a magical retreat center in the greenwoods, in the foothills of the Cascades, where I often lead group adventures and where Dragons are sometimes seen. The sense here was of a 
knightly quest, to a place of the Dragon.

I went back inside the dream, of course. The green world and the cave mouth gave me the portal for a shamanic journey, fueled by drumming. The original dream had traction, pulling me back in. Beyond the drumming, further juice was supplied by the circle of active dreamers around me, all embarked on similar adventures.

I encountered opposition, in my hyper-awake dream journey, before I reached the cave. While I drummed for the group, my traveling self had to face and overcome an ambush by villains in medieval garb. Exciting stuff. When I got through the attackers, I found the cave mouth filled with Dragon fire.

I willed myself to step through the fire. Beyond it, I entered a wonderful light, bright as the sun. Through the light, I came to a world-inside-the-world as fabulous and exciting as that of Lord of the Rings. A causeway plunged down and down, through underground cities to mines deep in the earth.    

Rilke was right when he said the fiercest dragons guard the richest treasures. Your dreams may show you their location, if you are willing to follow the maps.

- Journal entry for November 17, 2013

Photo: Drachenhöhle ("Dragon's Cave") near Mixnitz in Styria (Austria)

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Lost=Found Department


In order to find ourselves, we may first have to get lost. As I wrote in The Three “Only Things, “This is the cardinal navigational law of serendipity: You can only get to the magic kingdom by getting lost. You get there when you think you are going somewhere else and fall off the maps.”

Here’s a literary example.

David Mitchell relates that around Christmas in 1994, in Nagasaki, he got off at a wrong tram stop and stumbled upon “a greenish moat and cluster of warehouses from an earlier century.” This was his first encounter with Dejima, a trading factory of the Dutch East India Company built on a man-made island in Nagasaki harbor. For two and a half centuries, when Japan was closed to the outside world, this was the sole point of contact between Japan and the west.

Twelve years after alighting at the wrong tram stop, David Mitchell published his extraordinary historical novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which richly deserves its tremendous critical and commercial success. Mitchell succeeds in transporting us into the mental and physical worlds of two cultures at the close of the eighteenth century. He is a master of what he amusingly calls “Bygonese”, conveying how people thought and talked in an earlier time in a way that never seems labored or antiquarian. Among his memorable characters, Dejima itself becomes indelible. And he found it by getting lost.

Image: An imagined aerial view of Dejima from a 1780 woodblock print by Toshimaya Bunjiemon, published in Isaac Titsingh's Bijzonderheden over Japan (1825).

Dream Archaeology: Power of the Dog and Third Eye Wine

Two small examples of one mode of dream archaeology: following clues from a dream to an ancient culture and turning up evidence or documentation for something that was previously unknown or  incompletely known. First, an incident from this morning that may also be an example of dream precognition: 

May 8, 2022
Dream and Follow-Up

Power of the Dog in Dream Archaeology

I'm excited by essays and materials I find in what at first seems to be a big white-bound bound volume. They include maps and charts and line drawings on an archaeology theme: The Dog. I reflect on related sources I have available to go further on this theme in my own research and writing, including Barry Lopez's fine work "Of Wolves and Men".
Later I am out in the woods with a man who knows them well. He leads the way off the main path to the right. He says the wolves are out, moving clockwise. It seems to be his plan to meet them face to face. I notice he hasn't brought his rifle. I'm willing to trust that he knows what he's doing and that if we meet the wolves face to face it will be a sociable encounter.


After recording these and several other scenes, I opened my email and found my daily pdf from an academic website, a paper on canine burials at Saqqara during the Graeco-Roman period by a team from Macquarie University in a collection published by the Czech Institute of Egyptology. [*] It describes the mass burial and mummification of dogs in ancient Egypt, 1,350 at this site alone, tens of thousands at Abydos.
The authors suggest that the primary reason for canine burial here was to provide an organic embodiment of Anubis in his role as psychopomp, guiding souls between this world and the afterlife. The dog buried beside or near humans becomes "an amuletic animal mummy... considered to be either an adequate replacement for, or a valuable complement to the Anubis amulet to ensure the continuing and unbroken assistance of Anubis for the deceased."
The article contains maps and charts and line drawings including the one shown here, of a 2nd century funerary stele from Terenouthis (Kom Abu Bellou), where the deceased is seen in the company of a dog and a falcon, aspects of Anubis and Horus.
So my dream of the archaeology of the dog seems to be a minor example of precognition or clairvoyance. The incoming email enabled me to fulfill part of my dream research assignment right away. I would probably not have made time to read that scholarly article without the dream; I have just a few other reading assignments. We'll see where the wolves are circling later on.

Here is a raw journal report from twenty years ago:

May 15, 2002


Egypt-Rome: Third Eye Wine

I am with a group traveling through ancient sites. We explore an Egyptian temple. Our female guide hurries the group past a chamber that intrigues me; it contains lovely blue-glazed pottery and a beautiful statue of a winged ba-soul. I tell the group, “This room is a chapel of the Ba.” The guide receives this with respect and acknowledgment. She tells us we will come out into one of the most beautiful vistas on earth.
    I expect to come out onto the Giza plateau. Instead, the scene above ground looks a lot like the Vatican City, outside St Peter’s. I swivel my head to the left, to look back at the huge temple we have just left. In the crowded street, there is some confusion as drivers and other tour guides push their vehicles through the throng. 
    I leave the group to stroll among vendors’ stalls and coffee shops. Three men in the market invite me to join them in a glass of wine. They may be Egyptian. They teach me to say “chess” in their language.
    I enter a dream within the dream. I learn that Egypt’s initiates used a “third eye wine” called Sem or Sekhem-Re. The wine was infused with blue water lilies. This helped to open the strong eye of vision, and to keep it open. 
    I am now able to look through an esoteric text titled “Initiates’ Vocabulary”. It explains key terms for soulcraft in ancient Egypt. There are terms here that are so far unknown to modern scholars.
    There is an obelisk in one of the scenes, perhaps in Rome.

Once again, dreams set us research assignments. Excited by the dream, I searched online and hit the books and discovered that in ancient Egypt, Sekhem-Ra was the name of a fine vintage wine. It took me many years until, researching a new course involving dreaming in ancient Egypt, I came upon reports from field archaeologists that confirmed what I learned in my dream, adding fascinating details of how the Egyptians classified wines and dedicated them to the fortunate dead - and may have infused some wines with blue water lilies.  The stele of Ipuy, a craftsman of Deir el-Medina near Luxor describes how he meets Hathor in a dream. This is apparently the first time a non-royal in ancient Egypt left a record of a dream encounter with a deity. The stele includes the picture of a wine jar capped by blue water lilies and a bunch of lettuce.

On the Egypt-Rome theme: I continue to research the fascinating syncretism between Egyptian and Graeco-Roman religion and practice, from the cult of Isis as described by Apuleius to the creation of hybrid deities like Serapis and Hermanubis. 

[*] Mary Hartley, Alanah Buck, Susanne Binder, "Canine Interments in the Teti Cemetery North at Saqqara during the Graeco-Roman period" in Miroslav Bárta, Filip Coppens and Jaromír Krejãí (eds) Abusir and Saqqara in the year 2010/1 (Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University, 2011) 17-29.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

So you're having a baby, in your dreams

"When I write, and only when I write, I have dreams about babies, and I always know that the baby is the book in my life. And whatever is happening to the baby in the dream is connected to something that is happening to the book in real life."
- Isabel Allende, in an interview with Carolyn Turgeon, editor-in-chief of Faerie Magazine (Issue 33)

I notice a similar phenomenon. For example

I am cradling a new-born baby. She is beautiful and her breath is soooo sweet. I place the baby carefully on a lambskin I have stuffed between books on a high shelf, making a kind of hutch. I arrange things so she can’t roll off the shelf.

This was my dream from an afternoon nap. I woke with a sense of joy, tenderness and wonder. In ordinary reality, it’s most unlikely that I’ll have another child. It’s also most improbable that, if entrusted with someone else’s baby, I’d think it was appropriate to treat her this way, When  I went down to my office, after my nap, I found that contracts had arrived for a book I was planning to deliver that spring. This book would be my next literary baby, and the birth announcement came in the dream.
       Baby dreams, like dreams on any theme, can be literal or symbolic. Expectant mothers dream of babies before they know they are expecting. During a pregnancy, baby dreams can rehearse both mother and child for the delivery. They can also be part of a process of “getting to know you” during which a new personality introduces itself and checks out the family it will be joining.
     It’s not unusual for pregnant mothers to dream of giving birth to animals. Indigenous peoples are quick to recognize that such dreams can bring knowledge not only of the character of the incoming soul, but of its spiritual connections. A television host in St.Louis told me on her show that when she was pregnant, she dreamed of giving birth to a lizard. “It just slid right out.” Though startling, the dream was very auspicious. The delivery was smooth and quick. We also discussed qualities of the lizard that might belong to the new child, including the ability to grow back.
      Baby dreams can be birth announcements from others in the family, advance word of a coming grandchild, for example. A dream announcing a literal birth may also be one that invites spiritual parenting. The First Peoples of my native Australia say that every soul on the way to birth needs a spiritual parent to help it find its way safely to its home in our world. The spiritual parent – a godparent in a deeper sense than that word has come to mean in English – may or may not be one of the birth parents. The connection between the incoming soul and the spiritual parent will be made in dreams.
     As in my dream of the baby on the bookshelf,  baby dreams are often about something other than a literal baby. If you dream of having a baby and you are unlikely or unable to give birth in a literal sense, ask yourself: what new thing am I getting ready to bring through in my life? What will I create? The creative act is always a process of birthing something new into the world.
      A mother dreamed she grown a huge pregnant belly. Probing gingerly, she found she was carrying twins, but there was something really strange about their anatomies. They had hard, sharp edges. She was not enthusiastic about bearing twins at her stage in life. When we discussed the dream, I asked he to explain what was “strange” about the shapes she felt inside her dream self’s swollen belly. “It was like they had hard, sharp edges.” I asked her, “Hard and sharp like what?” She responded, “Like books!” She decided she was pregnant with two books she hoped to write. Several years after the dream, she has completed the first of those books and is writing the second.
     Baby dreams can be more than birth announcements; they can suggest a care and nurturing plan we need to follow to support an initially vulnerable new life venture. A woman embarking on a new career dreamed she gave birth to a tiny, very fragile baby. She found it hard to hold the baby. It was very slippery and kept slipping from her grasp, so we would find herself struggling to maintain a safe grip or to catch it when it started to fall. This dream seemed to mirror, rather exactly, the challenges of birthing that new career.
     Another dreamer was horrified when she let a newborn baby fall because she was overloaded with a huge crate full of stuff she associated with her work situation. Studying the dream, she realized she needed to let go of a job that was interfering with a creative project she wanted to bring through; better to lose the work load than the baby.
     A birth announcement in our dreams may be about the beginning of new life in a spiritual sense. I was moved when a friend recently shared a dream in which she received a birth announcement from a deceased relative, announcing that he had been reborn on the Other Side.
     Let’s not forget that Gabriel, the archangel of the annunciation – who brings the most celebrated of all advance birth announcements – is also the angel of dreams and the patron of travel on the astral plane.

Drawing by RM: "Baby Basket at My Door". When I started sketching out ideas for a new book, I dreamed that my doorbell rang. I opened the door to find that someone had left a baby basket just outside. The basket held the neatly stacked typescript of a book. The dream gave me confidence to push ahead with the book that was published as Growing Big Dreams.