Katrina Messenger once told me that magic workers who ignore their dreams put their spiritual growth at peril (or words to that effect). I've been working with my dreams ever since.
One of the first, slipperiest, and most challenging things for many of us to do is to remember our dreams. Not those great, big, life-changing dreams that you can't help but notice, but our every-night dreams. Gotta know what you dreamt before you can easily work with it. There are lots of suggestions for how to begin to better remember your dreams: tell yourself before sleeping that you'll remember your dream, keep a pen and journal by your bed and write it down as soon as you wake up, etc. I've tried lots of things.
I find that if, before I move physically, I can tell myself the story of the dream, often starting with the last little bit and remembering backwards, tell myself the story in words, I can keep the dream from slipping -- as our shadows and unconscious fears half want for it to do -- back into oblivion. Once I move (roll over, get up to pee (I'm an old woman!), turn the pillow over), I tell myself the story another time or two, trying to "see" the dream and recapture the "feeling" of it, often managing to remember another detail or two. Finally, I tell myself the story again, paying special attention to the words that came to me when I was telling myself the story. My subconscious likes to communicate through (or hide its messages behind!) synonyms, puns, word games. Thus, a dream about "one deer" may really be about a "dear one." A dream about a bridge may be about "Brigid," a dream about business on the river "bank" may be about my finances. Then, I look carefully for Goddesses, Gods, archetypes, Tarot. That old housewife in the thatched house in Ireland may be Brigid. That cool Japanese woman with long hair, a younger lover, and a house full of fountains and gardens may be Kwan Yin. That African American woman with green skin in the doctor's office may be Green Tara. That swan that carries me and my six male concubines (swordsmen) to the cave may be, duh!, the Six of Swords.
Then, I often slip back into that not-quite-asleep-not-all-the-way-awake place and "re-enter" the dream. I then "dream" the outcome that I want. For example, a very common dream for me involves being somewhere and trying to get to somewhere else, running into one obstacle after another. (Lately, this has morphed. I'm on a cell phone trying to call someone and the contacts list won't come up, I can't get a signal, I can't find the number, I call but nothing happens, etc. I blame Apple, for making me switch from Verizon to AT&T.) When I wake up from one of those dreams, I go back to the, for example, train station, but, this time, I decide ahead of time that there will be an "Arrivals/Departures" board that gives accurate information. When it tells me to go to Gate 8 1/2, I go there, the gate is there, the right train pulls up (and this time, it looks like the Hogwarts train, damn it; it's my dream; I don't have to take Amtrak! and Younger Self works best with strong images), I get on and easily find a seat, enjoy some scenery, and arrive safely at my destination. Someone I love is there to greet me and help me with all of my baggage (double entendre intended).
Years of practice have yielded the result that I can now, sometimes, even before waking up, realize that "I'm having that dream again. I need to pull into the gas station that has a lovely lady working behind the counter, the one whose maps always show me exactly how to get where I need to go. I should throw the old Slim Jims at Coyote, Trickster, who's hanging by the door, to divert Her, and then run into the store." Then, when I wake up, all I have to do is go back, thank the cashier, pay her a bit extra, ask her to show up the next time that I need her, hide a pack of Slim Jims near the door for next time.
I had a variation on this dream the other night.
It was snowing (and, in real life, with my little car, I HATE to drive in snow). I generally avoid it at any cost, but, in this dream, it wasn't expected to snow, yet when I leave wherever I've been, there's snow on the ground. I get in my car and begin to drive home, but it's dark and I'm having more and more trouble even seeing the road. I try blowing hard on the window, but that only fogs things up, and now I have no idea where I am or how to get home. It's pitch black; I don't even know if I'm still on the road. I decide to pull over to what feels like the side of the road, get out my GPS, and plug it in. It will make a little light and will tell me where I am and how to get home. I do pull over and now I can see that I've pulled, at a bit of an angle, into someone's driveway. It's late February; there's no more snow. I pull out my GPS and by now I can see pretty well. It's a small house, poor but respectable neighborhood, with a window in the front of the house through which I can see a beefy guy watching tv in a recliner. I plug in the GPS, program it for home, and begin to back carefully out of the driveway.
It's at this point that the guy in the window looks out and sees me. He's enraged -- in a way that doesn't surprise me, that reminds me a bit of my father and a bit of most white men in general -- that I've dared to pull into his driveway. "Hey! You! Quit pulling in here and messing up our yard and our furniture!" he screams in rage, getting up and heading for the door so he can come outside. He's furious. I say, calmly, and somehow resignedly, "I'm not messing up anything. I'm just trying to get home. Calm down. Have a nice day." I begin to drive away, but he's following me, running after me, yelling and screaming and demanding that he has the right to question me. I feel horrible; this feels too familiar, that I'm trying to fix a problem and getting yelled at for it. My nice, calm response didn't soothe the savage beast; it didn't save me.
Next, I'm running from him, through a walled alley, between buildings, out into a crossroads. He catches up with me there, I turn to face him. Looking at him, I realize he's an old guy in a grey sweater, not quite the beefy, strong guy I was so scared of. I say, "Fine. What do you want?" This is a victory for him. Meanwhile, I'm looking around and realizing that we're near a small corner market, but more or less alone on the street.
At that point, I woke up, heart pounding, still terrified, really upset. It was one of those "I need to get somewhere" dreams, I was about to work out a solution, and unjustified, raw, male anger sidelined me.
So I told myself the story a few times, got up and splashed water on my face, grounded, did some deep breathing. I suddenly realized: I met this scary person at the crossroads. That's Hecate's ground. No way I'm not the stronger party in that location; my Patroness loves me and I KNOW this territory. I may have no idea where I am, but I am never lost where three roads meet. I'm at home. Then, I paid attention to the words. Blowing hard on the window just fogged things up. This guy is a blowhard, his anger and sense of entitlement fog things up, but I can use tools to achieve clarity. I know it may sound silly, but it was at this point that I began to really calm down.
In Kissing the Limitless, Thorn Coyle suggests a technique for dealing with our demons. Fairly sure this angry guy is one of my demons, I sat in bed, grounded, and called the Elements, my allies, my Goddesses, cast a circle as I've done thousands of times in my life. I cast a double triangle in front of the circle, bound around with words of security, protection, my own "entitlement," and I summoned the demon -- both in his terrifying, beefy form and in his "real" form, a grey old guy, standing in a ratty sweater near a corner market facing me and trying to keep his image as a scary guy --into the triangle. I said, "Well, it's three in the morning, you've awakened me from a deep sleep and you've fucked up my almost-successful attempt to get myself home in the middle of one of my 'can't get where I'm going dreams.' You must have a pretty important reason for being here, something pretty important to tell me. I'm listening."
We had a decent talk, although, like most demons, this one has trouble speaking clearly, is hesitant to tell what he knows, tries to hide or misdirect, and then grudgingly gives up what he knows while still trying to appear sly. In the end, he told me what I needed to know. Next, I asked him where all of his energy came from and all that I could get was that he believes that he is entitled to it. So I thanked him and told him, "I'm going to send you back to your recliner. I want you to sit there for as long as you need to figure out how you can help me instead of terrifying me. I'd like to use all of the energy bound up in you and my fear of you. I'm sure that you and I will speak again." He left, and then I opened his triangle, thanked the Goddesses, allies, Elements. I opened my circle, lay down, and slept like a baby for five more hours.
What I still can't figure out, though, is what that corner market is all about.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."