Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How Bull became a believer in dreams

The thing most likely to bring people awake to the importance of dreams is a visitation from the deceased. The number one reason why people of every background have chosen to share dreams with me, over the years, is that they have dreamed of a dead relative or friend. They want confirmation that the encounter is real, they would like guidance on what to do about it, or simply need to share something that has moved them at the core.

For men in particular, such dream visitations can be life-changing. Hard heads who previously dismissed dreams and prided themselves on having no connection with the inner life crack open when dad or granddad turns up in a dream. Take the case of Bull.

That was the nickname his buddies had given him. He is a huge man, a linebacker, and a police officer for a big city department, the kind of guy for whom touchy-feely doesn’t come easy. Then came the night when he would have died but for the intervention of a dead man.

As he tells the story, he came home hammered that night and fell into bed alone. His girlfriend was working late. As he slept, his grandfather appeared to him in a dream. He had loved his granddad and they had been very close when Bull was a boy. But this was not a gentle visitation. Bull’s grandfather slapped him and shook him, shouting “Wake up!”

Bull woke with a start and sat up. The bedside clock told him it was 5:00 a.m. He felt wet. He looked down and saw that the whole bed was filled with blood. He had a varicose vein that had popped .He called 911 and the ambulance came right away He lost 5 pints of blood and was in intensive care for two days. They told him that if he had not woken up when he did, he would have died.

Bull says, “I never thought much about my dreams but after this I am a believer.” The dream visitation saved his life and shook his world.

For much more on dreaming with the departed see chapter 7 of Conscious Dreaming and The Dreamer's Book of the Dead.

Cave art: Aurochs at Lascaux


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Drowning Boy and His Sister

When I was nine years old, before I left my body in an operating theater and went to another world, I nearly drowned. I had been out fishing with my father and his friends on a boat on a river near Melbourne, Australia. When we docked, I slipped on the gangplank and fell into the water. Nobody could understand that I was in any danger. The water was shallow and I was a good swimmer. Yet all my short life was swirling through my mind, with glimpses of places and people I had not met in ordinary reality. Finally someone reached down and hauled me out. Then I was on my belly, coughing up the brackish water I had swallowed.

Half a world away, in Memphis, Tennessee, a girl my age dreamed that a boy with a round, freckled face, was drowning, though no one understood he was in danger. In her dream, she reached down into the water and helped to pull him out.

In many nights during my lonely boyhood, this girl was the sister I longed for. We went riding through the sky together, leaping from cloudbank to cloudbank to get to fresh worlds of adventure. Usually my horse was gleaming black, with a star on his forehead, while hers was white. Sometimes, we would meet in a garden of fruit trees and rambling roses, where a bear guarded the gate to color worlds, as vivid and fascinating and scary as the Color Books of Fairies. We could count on Bear to keep us safe. He tied a red cord round our middles so we could not get lost, and would tug when it was time to come back.

It took more than three decades after my near-death in the river before I met the girl from Memphis. Because of my dreams of ancestors of the land, I was now on my quest for Sir William Johnson and the world he made in the Mohawk Valley. I drove from the farm where I was living to Johnson Hall, his last home in the Valley, and met Wanda Burch, who had been curator of this historic site for many years. I did not know her right away as my dream sister, but I felt completely at home with her. She was generous in opening her vast trove of personal knowledge of the records of Johnson, and in escorting me to other places connected with him and the Mohawk Indians he came to know so well. 

We soon discovered we were both dreamers. We traveled into the same dreamscapes, as we came to believe we had done as children. Wanda revealed an ability to dream into other aspects of my life that would have been disturbing had we not almost immediately developed a relationship of deep trust and agreed to adopt each other as brother and sister. 

One morning, Wanda shared a dream report in which she saw me exploring a strange triangular castle on the borders of England and Scotland. While she was dreaming, I was studying photos and descriptions of Caerlaverock castle, the ancestral home of the Maxwell clan (of which the Scots Mosses are a sub-clan). This stronghold on the Western Borders, near Dumfriesshire, was built in the shape of a triangle for both ease of defense (it takes fewer soldiers to guard three walls than four) and for magical purposes (the triangle is a favorite ritual portal for evocation, or bringing things through from a hidden dimension).

Sometimes Wanda seemed to be dreaming my material. She would call and say, “I have another of your dreams.” Sure enough, her report would look and feel exactly like one of my own dreams, stamped with personal markers like picking up a phrase from another language, discovering a secret room or a rare book, or cloak-and-dagger adventures in far-flung places.

The great and daily gift in this ever-deepening friendship was our ability to give each other mutual support and validation and to grow our practice of dreaming together. We realized early on that dreams require action..
Over lunch soon after the pull of dreams and the play of synchronicity had led me to sell the farm and move to a house on a hill in the city of Troy, I told Wanda that I had dreamed that a famous author of dream books had moved to my town and was leading dream classes and everyone was very excited. Wanda and I had not yet learned to offer comments by saying “if it were my dream”. She fired her interpretation of my dream right at me. “Robert, you are the famous author who has moved to Troy. Why not give some dream workshops?”

This had me poised for action, but I did nothing until the next day when, in the way of synchronicity, I got a call from a local arts center. Would I be willing to give some classes? Sure. They were expecting me to offer writing classes, but readily readjusted their expectations when I said I wanted to lead dream workshops. Prior to the first of my evening dream classes, I dreamed we had 41 people signed up, and that there was a problem with a man seated near a piano who was trying to record the class without asking permission. I was perplexed by the number 41, since we had agreed to limit the class to 35 – until I got to the center and learned that we had 35 registered and 6 on a waiting list. I was now alert for possible appearance of a man with a tape recorder near the baby grand piano in the gallery we were using. I spotted him as soon as he started fiddling with the machine he was trying to conceal under his raincoat, and laid down the law.
Wanda and I practiced dream archaeology together, culling the holographic memories of the land at sites in the Mohawk Valley and further afield where the events of Johnson’s life, and those of the settlers and natives he knew, had unfolded. We also found ourselves developing “far memory” of other lives where we felt we had been connected.

We learned how to companion people who are moving through the gates of death. We learned how to grow dreams for people who are in need of a dream, and wrap the energy of vision around them so that it can bring body and mind towards healing.

I don’t recall exactly when Wanda told me her dream, from when she was nine, of rescuing the drowning boy. I remember her talking of it to me again, when we visited a Mohawk community in Ontario because a Mohawk grandmother had asked me to help her people remember how to dream in the old way. At the lunch table, I found myself sitting opposite young women whose surnames were Johnson and Brant, and may well have been lineal descendants of the 18th century people who called me into their world and brought Wanda and me together.

“Your own will come to you,” asserted the Irish visionary writer George Russell, beset known by his pen name 
Æ. My soul friendship with Wanda, in its inception and its ever-renewing gifts, has taught me that this is simple truth. In his beautiful little book The Candle of VisionÆ gave a personal example. When he first attempted to write verse, he immediately met a new friend, a dreaming boy “whose voice was soon to be the most beautiful voice in Irish literature” This was William Butler Yeats. “The concurrence of our personalities seemed mysterious and controlled by some law of spiritual gravitation.”

In his later life, Æ found a soul companion in the Australian writer P.L.Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and also a deep student of the Western Mysteries and a world-class mythographer. Æ wrote to her, “I feel I belong to a spiritual clan whose members are scattered all over the world and these are my kinsmen.” Yes. And our spiritual kin can reach to us across oceans, and across centuries, even into the drowning pool.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo by RM

For Wanda's odyssey of healing through dreamwork, please see her beautiful book She Who Dreams 

Tarot Cards from the World


I have the sense that the world is sometimes slipping us a Tarot card, from an infinite deck. On the literal roads of everyday life, I'm often struck by how the first thing that comes on the car radio, or the first vanity plate or bumper sticker I spot on a car, may contain a clue to the quality of the day. One morning the first vanity plate I noticed while walking my dog read WAT U WISH. This got me thinking long and deep about the nature of wishcraft. What we encounter in life has a great deal to do with what we wish - or fail to wish - and whether our wishes come from the head or the heart, from the little self of the big Self. 

A friend reported that the first bumper sticker she saw that day read "I Won the Time War". That feels to me like an nod of approval from the universe, whether you read it in the mundane sense of managing to get things done in allotted tick-tock time, of in the larger sense of inhabiting a more spacious time in the multiverse (which my friend had been discussing at the moment she spotted the bumper sticker). 

The behavior of birds and animals sometimes has the quality of one of the Major Arcana coming into play. Once when I was speaking to a group about the character of the Trickster in mythology, a fox appeared on a grassy knoll behind my head, visible to everyone in the meeting space except me. Every time I turned my head, he would vanish, only to reappear when I wasn't looking, until that session was done. Hard to miss the fact that the Trickster card was in play that day - as proved to be the case, richly, beyond that workshop session.

For many games of Sidewalk Tarot, please see my book Sidewalk Oracles

Fox oracle card by Robert Moss

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Love advice from Icelandic sagas: Don't date someone who doesn't dream


“If you don’t dream, don’t bother to call on me again.” 

   Thyri Haraldsdóttir, a noblewoman, to a medieval king of Denmark who wanted to marry her.


Iceland has always been a country of dreamers. Dreaming is important in the Icelandic sagas and in the Völuspa even the gods go to wise women for help with their dreams. A Gallup survey of 1,200 Icelanders in 2003 found that 72 percent found meaning in their dreams, and many reported dreaming the future and sharing dreams regularly within their families. The Icelandic language distinguishes vital categories of significant dreams, such as dreams of the future (berdreymi) and dream visions (draumspa).

The story of Thyri Haraldsdóttir, from the Icelandic sagas, is a beautiful example of how dreaming can make us wiser, and opens the way of the heart. Thyri [written in Icelandic as Þyri] was the daughter of an earl in Holstein, although some say she was the daughter of an English king. She was a dreamer who saw far and deep into the nature of things, and her father consulted her on all important affairs.

Gormur, king of Denmark, wanted to marry Thyri and asked her father for her hand. The earl said that he would leave his daughter to decide for herself, “since she is much wiser than I am.” Thyri told her royal suitor to go home and build himself a new house, just big enough to sleep in, where no house had stood before. In this place he must sleep alone for three nights, and pay close attention to his dreams. Then he must send a messenger to her to report on his dreams.

“If you don’t dream, don’t bother to call on me again,” Thyri told him firmly.

Gormur remembered his dreams, and the content satisfied Thyri, because she consented to marry him. The dreams were recounted at the wedding feast.

 In the first dream, three white boars came out of the sea, fed on the grass, and went back to the sea. In the second, three red boars came out of the sea, and did the same. In the third dream, three black boars with great tusks did the same, but when they returned to the sea, there was such a loud rush of the waves returning to the land that the noise could be heard throughout Denmark.

Thyri's interpretation was that the three white boars represented three very cold, snowy winters which would kill "all the fruits of the ground." The red boars meant there would next be three mild winters, while the black boars with tusks indicated there would be wars in the land. The fact that they all went back into the sea showed that their effect would not be long-lasting. The loud noise as the waves of the sea rolled back on the Danish shores meant that "mighty men would come on the land with great wars, and many of his relations would take part." 

She said that had he dreamed of the black boars and the rushing waves the first night, she would not have married him, but now, since she would be available to provide advice, there would be little injury from the wars. We might wonder whether the writer who recorded this narrative was familiar with the tale in Genesis of Pharaoh's dream and how Joseph's interpretation saved Egypt from  famine. 

In a region of strong women, Thyri became the wisest of queens, remembered as "The Pride of Denmark". Through dreaming, she helped the king to scout the future and read the true factors at work behind the surface of events. Decisions of state were based on these dreams.



Source: The story of Thyri Haraldsdóttir is in the version of Ólafs Saga Tryggvasónar in the 14th century Icelandic Flateyjarbók. While Thyri is not actually Icelandic, her story comes to us through Icelandic tradition. I am indebted to Valgerður Hjördis Bjarnadóttir, a gifted Icelandic dreamer and scholar who is helping to revive the ancient dreamways, for bringing this wonderful story to my attention, and for the translation on which this summary is based. You can read more about Icelandic dreaming, both medieval and modern. in The Secret History of Dreaming.

Image: Viking queen from "The World of the Vikings" exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Dreaming Expands Our Humanity: Report from Paris, 1944

I'm in Paris early in August 1944. People are hungry and torn between hope and despair. Allied armored columns are speeding towards the capital, according to the BBC and the underground newspapers passed hand to hand. The word from Free French General Leclerc is Tenez bon. Nous arrivons. "Hold on. We're coming."

But not all the French are looking forward to the Liberation. I listen to frantic conversations of once-comfortable bourgeois merchants and functionaries who grew fatter by serving the Germans, and ordinary Parisians who obeyed Marshal Pétain's appeal to "collaborate" with the Militärverwaltung in Frankreich, the German Military Administration in France.

I look in on women who were kept as mistresses by German officers. Some have been living in luxury, in swank hotels, with running champagne and silk stockings. I watch them huddled together, talking about survival plans. They are terrified of what will be done to them when their protectors are gone. I watch some of them pleading with Hans or Otto, Don't leave us. Take us with you

A Wehrmacht colonel feels sympathy, but there's nothing he can do except to give his mistress his gold cigarette case. He has no idea what will happen to him, when Paris falls, as he knows it must. His comrades will simply dump the women they used and leave them to the mercies of their countrymen. Some will be stripped of their finery and their hair, beaten and shamed and used for rough sex.


I woke from this dream feeling oppressed, in a hotel off the Boulevard Saint-Germain during a visit to Paris in December, 2013. To clear my feelings, I trekked out to Montparnasse to visit the Memorial Maréchal Leclerc and the Museé Jean Moulin. I sat in a little theater with a wrap-around screen watching multiple images of Paris in the last days of the Occupation.

I wondered why I had dreamed into the situation of the people I had viewed the previous night, people who had made unpleasant choices and were facing unpleasant consequences, people who would not be among those jostling to cheer the Americans and the Free French as they entered Paris. Maybe one of those women was kept in a room in my hotel, under the Occupation.

It occurred to me, yet again, that one of the functions of dreaming is to expand our humanity. In a hotel bed in Paris, I traveled back across time into life situations of people who were compelled by history to make terrible choices. I was reminded that the typical Parisian during World War II was not a Resistance fighter but someone who was simply trying to survive, to put food on the table, to get through.

I was in Paris in 1970, a year after Marcel Ophüls' tremendous four-hour documentary film  Le chagrin et la pitié ("The Sorrow and the Pity") was released. The film showed how collaboration was normal for most of the French under Vichy, and all the justifications for it beyond acceptance of military defeat. A government committee ruled that the film “destroyed the myths that the people of France still need”. 

More recently, French historian Patrick Buisson has claimed in a book with the provocative title1940-1945 Anneés  Erotiques (“1940-45 Erotic Years”) that a remarkable number of French women traded sexual favors with the Germans. He floats the idea - infuriating to many - that for some French women this amounted to a kind of sexual liberation. Photos from Nazi archives, like the one above, were displayed in a big exhibition in Paris showing what look like high times shared by Nazi officers and French girls, generating more rage and disgust.

So perhaps I was dreaming not only into French lives in 1944, but into the continuing challenge, for the heirs of Occupation - in which everyone's family had a story - to come to terms with history. Mulling this, I recognize that those of us who are born and live in countries that have not suffered invasion and occupation in recent generations are truly privileged. It is a challenge to our empathy and imagination to grasp fully the history of other peoples.

I recalled a Latin tag from my school days. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. It is from Terence (aka Publius Terentius Afer, writing around 170 BCE) and it means, "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me."

Dreaming, nothing that is human is truly alien to us.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Dreams Are Not On Our Case, They’re On Our Side


Our dreams show us things we may prefer not to think about -- which is a major reason why many of us slam that door shut on our dreams and try to keep it closed. Those things may include future life problems, or parts of ourselves we tend to ignore or repress, or the larger values and issues involved in a situation we are approaching from a limited point of view. We may prefer not to think about these matters, but if they are in our dreams, it is because our wiser Self is telling us we need to think about them. 

When our dreams show us future problems, they are also offering tools to avoid or contain those problems -- if we will only heed the messages and take appropriate action. 

When our dreams reveal aspects of ourselves we tend to deny, they invite us to reclaim the energy we waste in denial and to integrate and work with all the aspects of our energy. When dreams reflect the bigger issues involved in a current situation, they offer us an inner compass and a corrective to decisions driven by ego or other people's expectations. When we see things in night dreams we don't like, we need to pay careful attention, because we are being shown elements in our life situation that require understanding and action. The scarier the dream, the more urgent the need to receive its message and figure out what needs to be done. 

Here's one of my personal mantras: 

Dreams are not on our case, they are on our side. 

We need to stop running away from what our dreams are showing us and learn to stand our ground and confront the issue or the monster in the space where it first presents itself. If we fail to resolve a challenge in our dreams then - as Jung discovered - it is likely to come after us in the waking world, perhaps with even more scary consequences. 

A nightmare, in my lexicon, isn't just a scary dream; it is and interrupted or aborted dream. We tried to escape from the dream, leaving it broken and unresolved, because we were too frightened to deal with what confronted us. 

We want to learn to go back inside an interrupted dream of this kind, when we can muster the strength and resources to do that, and dream it onward to healing and resolution. We can do this through the Dream Reentry technique explained in several of my books, including The Three "Only" Things and Active Dreaming. 

We can ask a friend to go along with us as family support in conscious shared dreaming. We can write a satisfactory ending for the broken dream, which can be a fabulous exercise in creativity. 

We may find we've been running away from an advisory than can help save our job or our relationship, or can enable us to avoid a road accident or an illness. Sometimes we find that what we've been running away from is our own power. 

When we manage to brave up and face the beast or the alien, we may discover that what was most alien to us was our own larger Self, or that the wild animal we feared is an invitation to move beyond self-limitation into a life of wild freedom. 

Part of text adapted from The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

"Fear Not" Art in RM collection

Thursday, July 28, 2022

My father came back decades after his death with a health warning

On this day in 2016, after surgery, I raised a glass of fine Oban whisky to toast and thank my father. He had died nearly nearly thirty years earlier, but he had turned up for me again, in the most vivid and helpful way, with a health advisory I acted upon.
    Early that month, in the liminal space between sleep and awake, I found myself on a high rooftop with sweeping views over a great city. In a corner of the rooftop terrace, standing near the edge, I saw my father.
    This was a tremendous surprise. Let me clarify. The reason for my surprise was not that my father was deceased. We had seen a lot of each other since his death. At his funeral, I felt his loving presence and his joy at being released from the confinement of an ailing body. Not long after, I was blessed by his direct intervention to make peace between family members.
    Soon he was able to present himself, in dreams and visions, in a youthful new body, resembling the one he had had as a dashing young cavalry officer, the equestrian champion of the Australian Army.

    Over several years, he often came to me in dreams and visions with specific guidance for the family, playing counselor and protector, As he moved through his transitions on the Other Side, he was able to share his experiences. As he remembered more about the multidimensional self and the relations between members of soul families across time and space, he was able to talk to me about our identities and connections in other life dramas. Eventually, he explained to me that he had graduated from his current life school on the Other Side and had made his choice about his next life experience. It was clear that we would no longer be able to see each other so frequently, if at all.
    Hence my surprise when I saw Dad on that high rooftop. I know he has been fully engaged in life adventures in another time. I did not expect to see him again this way in my own time..
    As soon as I saw him, I found myself standing in front of him, as if one or both of us had traveled without moving.
 . My father pointed a finger at my upper lip, at a spot on the right side. He said, "Go to a doctor and get that checked out."

    This was our entire exchange.
     I acted on Dad's counsel right away. I had had a spot just above my upper lip for a couple of years that did not look like a regular mole. It had started bothering me after I cut it while shaving and it took a long time to heal. However, I tend to avoid doctors and had not mentioned it to my general practitioner.
    Because of my father's intervention, I called a dermatologist when his office opened that morning. "That is something," he declared when I pointed to the spot above my lip. He did a biopsy. Wearing a Band-Aid mustache over the hole this opened in my face, I went ahead with my plan to make a personal odyssey to Yeats country in the west of Ireland. I got the results of the biopsy on the morning I caught a plane back from Dublin. The spot was what the skin doctor suspected: basal cell carcinoma.
    I was scheduled to lead two weeks of trainings, and went ahead with these, allowing my students to guess about why I was sporting a Band-Aid mustache. When I met the surgeon for a consultation, he told me that the procedure would leave a scar. We agreed that I could tell people that this was the result of a close encounter with a bear.
    The surgery was a complete success. It took a little while for the wound to heal and the sutures to come out and my lovely new "baby skin" to bloom but I felt absolutely fine.
    Problem solved, because my dead father found a way to get my attention.
    My father was a Scot by ancestry, and whisky was his preferred drink. The whisky in the glass looked like liquid sunlight.

   "Thanks, Dad!" I said aloud. "Here's to life!"

Drawing by RM