Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dreaming My LIfe

This is a picture of the statue of Kwan Yin, Asian Great Mother of Compassion, that Jim gave me for Christmas many years ago and of roses from my garden just now.

In a comment on my previous post, "Howling Mary" my dear friend and former student, Lisa, took me to task for doubting myself.

When a young woman from a generation before says, Hail, it's all Grace, let's keep it going, and tells me it was I who inspired her, then who am I to give up?

I wrote about that dream with such pleasure. That dream is 40 years old! Yet, it's so fresh, vibrant and guiding now that I have to howl with pleasure.

Those of you who are veteran teachers, as am I, can appreciate the joy of hearing from a former student that we continue to make sense to them.

I think we're all on to something and if we collectively dream the future we want, we may get it.

I look to Mary. What would Mary do?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Howling Mary

I’m excited to tell you my Howling Mary dream from May, I think, 1971. It was the end of my Senior year at University of Rochester. I only wished that at that time I was recording my dreams in journals. I didn’t really start till 1976 with another BIG DREAM.

What’s a BIG DREAM? Oh, it’s like the diving horn on a submarine or like the in your face divine apparition.

Howling Mary was the middle dream of what I call a triptych dream - three dreams in a row that transition from one setting, etc to the next – tied together by the fact that they all happen in succession.

I don’t remember the first and have vague image recollections of the third, but even though I didn’t write and draw HM till 1982, eleven years after the dream, she was as vivid then as she is to me now. ‘

The telling of this dream and the image I created for your pleasure of it are both the contemporary versions.

I’m inside the small Catholic church I knew as a teenager, “Our Lady of Good Counsel” (The picture above of the statue outside this little church was taken on a family visit back a couple of years ago.)

I walk in and instead of going up the center aisle towards the altar, I turn and go up the left side aisle, by the stained glass windows and the Stations of the Cross. Mass is in process. I’m probably the 21-year-old self I am while I’m dreaming this, dressed as I would be usually, entering the church by some compulsion.

I take to the left side, drawn by an overwhelming pull, something calling to me inside my heart. Ignoring the worshipers following their lines, I quietly make my way up to the statue of Mary that is to the left of the altar, if you’re facing that direction.

She is Mother Mary of Mercy who in her compassion steps on the head of the snake so we don’t have to worry about it so much anymore.

As I approach her, the statue animates, like in Fantasia; she looms 10 times her size above me and howls. I rush to the foot of her howling form and place my hand at her feet and bow my head in reverence and awe. I know she is howling from outrage and pain, I just don’t know what that outrage and pain is.

However, when I look to my right, the priest has finished consecrating the Host and is about to commence the giving of communion to the congregation. I know I must intervene. I rush to where he is poised in front of the first communicant and snatch the chalice from his hand.

Looking in, I’m horrified to see that there are worms in the chalice, but as I take one out it becomes a rubber band, which I hand to each person to take away with them.

My dream ends. After the third dream I wake up in my room at college and marvel at the images and complexity of the dreams. It was Howling Mary, though, that I remember in detail, the way you do with a Big Dream.

I’ve had lots of time to see this dream manifest.

First, I was on my way to graduate school in English Literature and had no idea I’d end up so involved in the Women’s Ordination Movement of the Roman Catholic Church in the mid 70’s and 80’s that I pursued my Masters in Scriptural Studies and Pastoral Counseling from Colgate Rochester Divinity School instead.

And I certainly didn’t anticipate discovering that my beloved patriarchal Christian paradigm had such serious flaws that it really wasn’t worth bolstering with my efforts. Especially when Mary shape-shifted thanks to Erich Neumann’s “The Great Mother”, Mary Daly’s “Beyond God the Father” and Merlin Stone’s “When God Was a Woman” to name but a few paradigm-blowing master works.

Who knew? Apparently, Howling Mary did.

I was only 21 when that dream created a Divine Theater for me of things to come. As a great Mother archetype, I can’t imagine any finer. She is pissed off; she is aching. She howls like a wolf calling the troops that will hear her, come to her and run with her. In the last two years, I've had many wolf dream visits; She’s back. Howling for justice; howling for compassion and for innovative, loving and creative ways to fix this mess, She is my direct connection to the Divine. She can be Mother Mary, Kwan Yin, Isis, Demeter, Yemaya or so many of the Mother Archetype manifestations that have graced our humanity since the beginning of time.

It occurs to me that the job of a rubber band is to hold something together by first stretching to contain it. It stretches and contracts according to the need. What a beautiful symbol for the life-giving sacrament of communion. Expanding to nourish us and give us what we need to hold it together and continue to grow until we finally get it and Mary doesn’t have to feel so frustrated any more.

Latinas always have their patron Mary. Mexicans love Guadalupe and La Caridad del Cobre is the beautiful Ochun of Cuba. My Mary is Howling Mary. I don’t need to keep her to myself, but she is the Archetype who first announced to me a mission She hopes I’ll lend a hand in while on the planet. Don’t know if I’ve done much yet; but, as long as there is breath in my body, I will honor her and do what I think she wants me to do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The word archetype derives from the Greek, archetupon. meaning something like, first-molded. It combines arche, the beginning and tupos, a pattern, model or type. (My source is Wikipedia.)

According to one on-line dictionary I used, it’s come to mean:

1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

I bring this concept up because my husband, Jim, and I have a favorite "discussion"; "What is an archetype?" We often lapse into it lying in bed, waiting for sleep; I love when the room is dark and we talk. If I bring up our archetype discussion he’s likely to pose the question; "If there were no people, would archetypes exist?"

I think he believes that "archetypes" are human constructs. For instance, he'll say, "our pre-historic ancestors are out in a terrifying storm, the lightning blazing and the thunder booming so loud their teeth chatter. For that ineffable power they’ve experienced, they create an archetype, the God/Goddess of Thunder or Storm, the ultimate source of all this power.

Well, it makes sense. The purpose of it, I suppose, is to interact with this power in some approachable form in order to see if you can get IT to go easy on your neighborhood.

No people, no archetypes seems to be his thinking, but maybe it’s no people, less pressure on the Archetypes to make it better. Here's how I see it:

Archetypes are Energies that have been intuited by humans from the dawn of our habitation here on earth. They are energies experienced universally by woman and man of any race, in any culture, at any time in history. I don't think we create the Energies, although I think we create the forms they take in our personal or elected cultural mythology. These Energies can shape shift into many forms and can be recognized in stories, myths, religions and now, the mind-bending science of contemporary physics.

Because the Archetypes are actually Energies not subject to one permanent form, I think it's a waste of time and an invitation to trouble to fix the Energy, say of Divine Love, into one immutable aspect of itself. Especially when that concrete image excludes other aspects of that same energy vital for it to flow and do its job. For instance, God the Father definitely suffers from a lack of God the Mother.

In our dreams, the archetypes show up in many forms and communicate a lot of useful information. Jung identified some common ones as: the Self, the complete person, integrated in her or his many aspects, body, mind and soul; the Animus/Anima, the opposite gender aspect of each person’s psyche, one we’re likely to project on to the person with whom we “fall in love.” In dreams, this archetype can be tracked in the opposite gender characters peopling our night adventures; the Shadow, which contains the disavowed aspects of ourselves we commonly project on to others, shows up in characters we dislike, envy or of whom we are in awe, usually the same sex as the dreamer; and the Persona, is the mask to meet the faces that we meet, the one Ego dons to face the public. Sometimes when we dream of ourselves naked in public, it may have to do with how we think we’re perceived or how we desire to be seen.

There are many Archetypes; the Major Arcana of the Tarot is a gallery of universal archetypes preserved through centuries in a pack of playing cards. The greater the Archetypal figure in our psyche, the stronger the energy that accompanies its appearance. How I feel about a figure in my dream is often the first clue to who I’m really dealing with.

In my next post, I’ll tell you my Howling Mary dream. This is a Big Dream in my life story, a visit from the Mother Archetype. It came some forty years ago, before I had any idea what its message was, but to this day, it’s my moral compass and spiritual paradigm.

Although we may name the Archetypes, we don’t invent them and we certainly don’t control them. In my opinion, religion tries to bottle these archetypes and sell them under their brand name. I see no point in denying that the Archetypal Energy manifests in a myriad of metaphors and shape shifts according to each persons needs. That is normal. What's not normal is trying to claim absolute TRUTH status for one manifestation.

Being in tune with personal revelations in our dreams can save us from believing the projections of those whose intentions may be to manipulate us where we are most vulnerable, our imaginations. Dream work helps us claim our imaginations for our own ends, making us far less vulnerable to the myths of others.

What are “archetypes” is a popular conversation with many people, in and out of bed. The wonderful astrologer, Caroline Casey, suggests that we consider “composting” the word; her Trickster Redeemer is a wonderful manifestation of her composting work with archetypes. I’m grateful for my own on-going dialogue with such a wit as is Jim; and now, I’m opening the discussion to you. Your comments are most welcome.

Video courtesy of Jim and Chango.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Expect An Answer

Dream "incubation" means that the dreamer went to sleep focused in an open hearted way on a question or a request to the Dream Source. In both the ancient cultures of Egypt and of Greece, dream incubation was a sacred practice that anyone who needed spiritual help and physical healing could access by going to the temples as a pilgrim in search of a dream cure. Gods and goddesses spoke to the dreamer and intervened on her or his behalf through dreams.

So if you need the answer to a problem or a question; just ask. But expect an answer. Not always that night and very often not the answer you might have anticipated. The pact I make with my dream guides is that no matter what comes through, icky or not, I'll write it down.

This has proved over and over again to me that my dream guides love me and have a superb sense of ironic humor. On the surface, the dream may seem distasteful, irrelevant or embarrassing; but when I sit down with a dear dream friend and play with it, light bulbs go off. I love the sheepish joy I feel; "Oh, I get it." That "aha" always floods me with gratitude for the unconditional, loving guidance of dreams.

I love telling my friend my dream as dramatically as possible. The theater of it, speaking the dream out loud, begins to release some of the emotional charges of particular images and characters in a first wave of enlightenment.

I also love to hear my friend describe to me her experience of my dream; whether it applies to me, or to her, I gain insight. She emphasizes different things; I hear another perspective. She uses only the personal pronoun, shares with me her feelings, associations and intuitions and opens wonderful new vistas in my dream for me to explore.

Re-entering the dream through my imagination in a dream journey, alone or in the good company of a dream friend, is my favorite form of dream exploration.

In a dream I recently explored, re-entering allowed me to find a close, unexpected ally in a Shadow figure (in the Jungian sense) whom I referred to in my dream as "the buxom blonde" but after an exciting re-entry conversation, she became my dear friend, Jezebelle.

The answer to the dream questions we incubate may appear in many unexpected ways. Perhaps a waking feeling, perhaps a synchronicity. They'll appear in an unlikely dream that I faithfully wrote and pursued, and continue over a series of subsequent dreams until I get it.

I'm fond of Jung's point of view that dreams don't come to tell us what we already know. They don't call it the unconscious for nothing. So when someone prefaces their dream narrative with, I know what this is about, I always keep an open mind and suggest a little further play.

You asked, an answer will come. Focused intention and attention to dream material regardless of seeming insignificance pays off big time in dream exploration. Do you knock on a door, knowing your friend is home, and not expect her to open it for you?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Fleeting Glimpse

Talking to a friend yesterday, she described an image she woke with, the only remnant of a dream. The image is of a friend of hers laughing, a very pleasant image.

It made me think of a dream I had recently, also just a fleeting image of a friend that carried wonderful energy for me.

Just one image can unlock an amazing dream narrative. One image can animate when I re-enter a dream and accompany me through expanded adventures of active imagination. One image can give me a portal into a dream moment and continue to provide real pleasure and enjoyment in my waking day.

If my friend's dream were my dream, maybe I'll hold the image of this person laughing in my mind's eye when I speak to my friend; or maybe I'll just share the image with her, painting the picture of her I saw and sharing the wonderful feelings it evoked for me. In this way, the dream image becomes a gift for us both, a gift which may deepen our friendship.

The language of dreams is imagery. In her wonderful book, "The Dream Game," psychologist Ann Faraday speculates that imagery was our prehistoric ancestors’ first language, and very likely our initial language when we're born. Our first vocabulary in other words, (pun intended) would require a pictionary, not a dictionary, to decipher. Imagery is a powerful psychic language; it impacts the mind, body and emotions.

A picture’s worth a thousand words; why is that? Perhaps because imagery is the language we can understand instinctively, innately and universally. The phrase, “dream interpretation” may be a misnomer. Instead of asking the cognitive question, “What does my dream mean?” perhaps it’s better to ask, “What is my dream depicting? Do I get the picture?”

This is especially true when all we can remember is a single fleeting image from a night of dreaming. I encourage you not to dismiss that little picture fragment. Make a note of it in your journal; carry it around with you in contemplation. Make a drawing of it or write a poem. It might prove a valuable cipher to a previous or future dream. It may provide the key to unlocking an inner psychological struggle; perhaps it will shed light on a difficult waking life situation.

Get the picture?