Dream paraphernalia

dreamcatcherLast night I was telling my son about the dream of the house where nothing was what it seemed, everything shifting, slippery, treacherous and untenable.
We stood under the overhead lights in the kitchen, he towering above me as I said I thought it was about the job I quit on Tuesday.
“Oh, but you don’t know that”, he snapped with annoyance – one of mom’s hare-brained, hippie inclinations at work again.
He is a computer science student with a rare flare for mathematics. He is an excellent student, top of his class. I see the pages of his homework, a language of ciphers and glyphs that I will never ever in my life understand even a spec of.
Dreams, however, I know a little bit about – I’ve spent some time with them.dream shelf“It’s not like math, it’s an interpretive art”, I said to my too-cool-for-school, skeptical son. My son who insists it’s not that he doesn’t remember his dreams, it’s just that he doesn’t have them.
On a similar note, a number of the new visitors and commenters here on followyournose have mentioned they rarely remember their dreams.
So I’d like to share a few of the authors and influences I’ve come across, in case any of it might be helpful to someone.
I was telling Poshpedlar and Agniva how I keep a dream journal, THE single most important tool, I think, if you want to start remembering dreams.dream journalIt sits open beside my bed with a blank page ready in case I want to scribble in the dark in the middle of the night, and also for the blurry morning fragments, captured first thing, before turning over or getting up, any fleeting whispy images.
A good source for some of these fundamental things to try is dream-master, shaman-teacher Robert Moss – he’s got a Tools & Techniques page, very helpful.
Although the dream journal is one key tool, personally I use kind of a bunch…like kind of a lot….like I’m so heavy into the dream thing, it’s kinda way out in woo-woo land. In an exchange with jethag at Jet Lag, I allowed as how there may be “dream paraphernalia”…
For example, the dream catcher at the top of the post. Of course.
For example, this silver bowl – silver dream bowlIt sits on the bedside table with water in it – I refresh the water regularly.
This practice came from Ohki Simine Forest, a fascinating shaman-woman who lives in Chiapas, Mexico, though she’s originally Canadian (Québécoise / Mohawk). I got the silver dream bowl practice from her book, Dreaming the Council Ways, a book I loaned out to someone and along the way have forgotten the particulars of the why’s of this practice, but I still feel some magic quality, some mystery in the aquatic reflecting vessel by my bedside for facilitating, channelling dreams.
Also beside the bed is this buffalo fetish –
buffalo fetishHe reminds me of a dream I had some years ago, a dream of a buffalo in a zocalo, a town square, and of how I followed the dream to a place, traveled to try and find and understand the dream, and along the way found him in a shop just off the zocalo of a town that looked an awful lot like the dream.
He reminds me that I’m willing to travel for my dreams, to follow them to the places they show me, to think about what they are trying to tell me.dream crystalsThese crystals are quite tiny and special in a way that is so far out in the land of woo I can’t even describe it, I’ll let you explore for yourself here.
But I love putting one under my pillow each night, as a kind of promise to myself to try and pay attention to any dreams that come.
This little ritual emerged from a fellow student in an online dream workshop, Dreamwork with Toko-pa, a lovely experience. Toko-pa also has some tips for dream recall in a video on youtube – a nice way to get some ideas and introduce you to her fabulously exotic west-coast self.lion biting - brighterAnother favourite thing to do with really strong, vivid dreams when they come, is to draw them or paint them – it’s a great way to spend more time with them in a visual, visceral, sensual kind of way.
The lion above was from one striking dream I had, and the panthers below another strong onepanther collage - brighterEach of these practices is essentially about one thing – I am telling my dreams and myself that I’m listening. That I want to hear from them. That I respect and value what they have to tell me.
Some years ago I took a series of dreams I’d had to an elder, Joanne Longboat, a woman Robert Moss writes about in Dreamways of the Iroquois, referring to her as “Turtle Woman”.
She said to me, “They say the Spirits will come talking to those who listen.”
So I’m listening…

Animal Friends and Strangers

At Nicky’s Sunday morning Nia dance class there is a dance she does every once in a while that involves a series of moves which she performs as if she is both a hunter and a bird – several steps take her over to the right where she draws one arm back as if drawing an arrow in a bow, then several steps to the left are taken as the bird flapping its wings, flying away.  I’d always thought it was the nature of the dance that drew out this bird and hunter characterization.

But in this Sunday morning’s class, during a totally different routine, she tried to get us to do a chicken flap of the wings while carrying out some steps, and it occurred to me, no it’s not the dance.  The thing is, Nicky IS a bird.

What kind of bird?  I don’t know, I don’t know all the different birds that well or I can’t see it that clearly, I don’t have that kind of shamanic sight, but something slender, with quite a long neck I think – perhaps a heron.

And her husband is just so obviously a bear – big and bumbly and sweet and generous but with a surprising sudden temper – all around larger than life.  As a couple they are quite an interesting combination.

My animal is described in one book I read as “short and stocky”.  Oh well.  I still love her.

I was thinking about this whole animal spirits idea on the plane coming back from Santa Fe and Ohki’s teachings.  My first flight was from Albuquerque to Atlanta, where I had a changeover to a flight that would take me up to Buffalo.  But looking at my itinerary on the first plane I realized I only had half an hour to get off one plane and onto the next, and I knew from the flight down that Atlanta is quite a large airport.

First I tried speaking to one of the stewardesses to see if they might help me out – make an announcement to the other passengers to let me out first given the tight time frame.   As I told her my plight, her face remained unmoved – no help forthcoming there.

My seat was just behind first class and beyond them was the front door of the plane where we had boarded, so when the plane came to a stop in Atlanta, I grabbed my purse and shot forward into first class, hoping to get close to that front door when it opened.

The passengers in first class were already getting to their feet, so I was stuck in the midst of them and could feel the hostility instantly.   I made noises about having a very tight changeover time, explaining my presence.  One man on my right looked at me with a sour face and said, “In Atlanta they usually use the middle doors of the plane”.   I thanked him for this information and together we stood watching out the window to see where the accordion corridor contraption would go – front or middle.  When it became clear that it was moving towards the center doors and I was therefor even worse off than I had been, his look was a triumphant smirk.

I turned towards the back, to see if I might be able to push my way through the crowd somewhat, improving my time, but the man directly behind me had risen to his feet and stood towering over me.  He was maybe 6’5″ and wearing a tall cowboy hat and sharp nosed cowboy boots.  He had a bit of bloodied kleenex stuck in one nostril and as I gazed up at him with a mixture of amusement at the kleenex and the stress of my hurry and the decades of training in Canadian feminine politeness, he looked down at me with a cold glare that clearly said, “I do not move for you”.

We stood for a minute, feeling each other out for size, attitude, power, and I wondered, where does this man derive all his self-confidence, superiority and entitlement.  Clearly physical size and class are a big part of what was going on there, but it did also cross my mind….What animal is that?

Power Animals and Santos

Buffalo-DancerOne of the teachers I follow – travelling when possible to her workshops in the States cause yes, she is that unique and interesting – is Ohki Simine Forest.
An important element of the work she does with people is helping each person discover and build a relationship with their personal power animal. It’s a modernized, workshop-able version of what was pretty traditional Native custom.  Ohki herself is Mohawk of the Wolf Clan (clan animals being entirely separate from power animals) and she currently lives in Chiapas amongst the Maya, so she is influenced by both Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Mayan cultures, with a dash of Mongolian shamanic education thrown in.
The idea of a power animal or animal totem is that an animal guides and influences your spirit throughout this life. It’s not really as exotic as it sounds – chances are you already have an inkling of your animal, dream of them often or feel some affinity for a particular species. But this relationship can be developed, enriched. As Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak writes –

By discovering your animal totem, studying it and then learning to merge with it, you will be able to call its energy forth whenever needed.

Ohki expands on this, suggesting more of a two-way street kind of arrangement –

In all cases, this exchange of energy between soul and power animal must be understood as a trade… In the exchange for mutual evolution, it obtains some of your mind’s energy, which you probably have in excess, while it gives you back the instinctual and intuitive power, powers often relinquished by humans.

Wolf Dancer Lakota NationAccording to Ohki, the power animal resides behind our backs and above our heads, attached to what she calls the “dream body”. So when you see someone wearing an animal skin or dancing with a skin draped over them, it approximates the location of their power animal living just ever so slightly behind, ever so slightly above the physical body. And dancing, descending into trance with the rhythm of the drum, the heartbeat of the earth, is a way to connect deeply with your animal.
Santeria, the religion of Afro-Cuban culture, has a somewhat similar current in its use of drums to connect with spirit, and in that when someone is born, they are not seen simply as individuals, but are considered a child of one of the various Orishas or Saints, incarnations of characters from Yoruba tradition. Some are found as children to be so highly charged with an Orisha, they are encouraged to follow the path, learn the Yoruba language, and as they get older will go into trance and channel their Santo at religious events. The use of drums, complex rhythms and song to enter into a state of deep connection with the spirits, is a huge part of what has created the spectacular range of Cuban music.

In the fall, my husband and I went to Cuba for his first visit back since he moved to Canada.  His mother told us to come over on Thursday night as there would be a party at the house, a Fiesta de Santo – a Saint’s Party, a Santeria event – in honour of Eleggua, the Trickster, dweller of crossroads, opener of gates and pathways.
eleggua-eshu-3-a-study-for-the-orishas-collectionWhen we arrived at the house – an apartment, really – people were crowded on the front balcony, spilling out from the tiny living room, the closet of a kitchen, and we could see through the half-open door to the bedroom the Eleggua, not yet dressed, but already deep into his trance, holding court, waving a half-empty bottle of rum as he channeled the ancient spirit. His voice rose with animation and agitation, speaking half in Spanish, half in Yoruba, calling various people into the room and looking deep into their souls and lives and telling them about themselves, what they must do to ease their burdens in life, to clear their paths.
Eleggua’s character is infantile and tempestuous – he sulks and plays tricks and demands candies and rum and songs, exhausting his hosts.  At one point, swaggering around the drummers and dancers squeezed into the living room, he took a swig on his bottle of rum and sprayed a mouthful all over my husband. No one reacted. My husband simply stood up, walked to the kitchen and wiped himself off. Apparently the thing is, one must endure his behaviour. And he will test and test and test the limits of that endurance.
I asked my husband who the man was in his everyday life and he said he would just be an ordinary man with an ordinary job who a babalao would have singled out at a young age as embodying the Eleggua. And so he would be called on to do these ceremonies, exhausting as they might be, as little as he might even remember of them.
At a certain point a chicken appeared from the shadows of the back porch, and Eleggua began to dance with the chicken poised on his shoulders.  Holding one arm out he balanced the chicken on his shoulder and began to dance the most natural symbiotic fusion of man and chicken, then without missing a beat dropped the chicken into his hands, clutching it in tight, lovingly, to his chest as he danced, and then up went the chicken onto the other extended arm, until he passed the chicken off to someone and began to dance AS a chicken, squatting down amongst the drums and drummers, his head jutting out in sharp pecks, arms as wings flapping, strutting around the room.
Of course the real live chicken didn’t make it to morning, and at some point there was a rather gory spectacle of the chicken’s demise. I was out on the front balcony talking to my sister-in-law when the chicken’s head came flying out, landing small and sad in the dust of the road, and I peeked into the living room just long enough to see the body of the chicken tipped up as Eleggua drank back the flow of blood.
But that image aside, what was most striking in his performance that night was the man’s ability to channel both the physicality of the chicken and the spirit of the Orisha Eleggua, the faculty, the facility for entering fully into a trance state and allowing the self to be coursed through with animal and ancient archetypal energies truly affecting and memorable.