known since early in my long sojourn in
Four Days in the Grip of the She-Bear
A she-bear is among us. I volunteer to deal with her. She is enormous, maybe six hundred pounds. Light in color, lighter than honey-brown. She grips my head in the crook of her arm, and holds it against her, close to her face. We spend four days in this intimate embrace. It is not uncomfortable, but I am aware that at any moment she could break my neck.
At the end of four days, the people who were with me at the outset gather around us again. One is a woman scientist or zoologist. They now have the means to release me. But the she-bear lets me go without a struggle, confident of our relationship. She shambles away into a space that had been prepared for her, in a room off the corridor of an institutional building, a hospital or teaching facility.
When I start talking about her, she returns to look at me.
“You are Artemis,” I tell her. “I am Osiris.”
On waking, I noticed that troublesome symptoms that had been bothering me for days - headaches and wooziness - had left me. I felt charged with vitality, sure I had received personal healing, and grateful to the she-bear that delivered it.-
I was intrigued by the words my dream self
had spoken to her. I could grasp why I might have identified myself
with "Osiris", as candidates for initiation and travelers preparing
for the next world were schooled to do in ancient
did my dream self hail the she-bear with the name of the Greek goddess Artemis?
I hit the books, especially the brilliant
early studies of Jane Ellen Harrison, who had an intuitive grasp of the
shamanic sources of Hellenic ritual practices. I rediscovered hat throughout
looked anew, with the eyes of a dream archeologist, at ancient images of the
Bear goddess, including the 2nd century bronze statue of the Celtic bear
goddess, found near
The link between Artemis and the Bear can be tracked through the myths, though we need dream sight to get to the heart of these stories. In the Greek version of the creation of the Bear constellations in the sky - Ursa Major and Ursa Minor - Zeus pursues Callisto, one of the nymphs of Artemis. Callisto keeps shapeshifting; the lusty god shifts just as fast, seeking to cover her in every form. The nymph of Artemis becomes a bear, and now Zeus, as a male bear, wraps her in his embrace and has his way with her. When Artemis later notices that her nymph is pregnant, she flies into a rage and kills her, but quickly repents and places Callisto and her daughter among the stars, as the Great Bear many call the Big Dipper, and the Lesser Bear.