Dreaming can be a powerful ally in your quest for the Way of the Druid. Some shamanic cultures believe that when we dream, our soul ventures to other worlds and other lives, and when we wake, our lives in this world are the dreams of another existence. Whether you believe this to be true or not, dreams are a powerful way to get in touch with our unconscious mind. The unconscious is the seat of creativity and power. By learning to explore our dreams, we tap into this almost infinite source. In this chapter we will explore the use of dreaming as a shamanic tool to further your practice of Druidry.
To begin your exploration of dream work, you may wish to buy a notebook or diary. This will be your Dream Journal. Keep it on the nightstand or somewhere near your bed. When you first wake every morning, make it a practice to try to recall your dreams from the night before. Write them in your journal, preferably before you get out of bed. What does paying attention to your dream life tell you about yourself?
As much as some would have you believe otherwise, there are no absolute meanings to symbols and situations we encounter in dreams. Each dream is totally subjective. Its ultimate meaning resides within the dreamer. There are, however, some guidelines that will help you to delve into the meanings and the lessons of your dreams.
The first thing to consider is the symbols in your dreams. Carl Jung used the idea of archetypes to interpret dreams for his patients. An archetype is a powerful symbol that is common to people of all cultures. The universality of the archetype makes dreams about archetypes very meaningful indeed. Jung believed that archetypes were universal because they are hardwired into our brains. That is to say that all human beings throughout the world share the archetypes because we are all born with the same basic brain structure. There is a repository of archetypes in the brain of every human who ever lived. Jung called this repository the collective unconscious.
Because these archetypes are universal and a shared experience among all of humankind, you should pay particular attention to any dreams that contain archetypal information. Here are a few of the more common archetypes to be found in our dreams:
The Persona is the mask we show to the world every day. It’s the face we put on in order to be able to interact with the world. When dreaming, we may not appear in the dream exactly as ourselves. We may put on another mask. But in the dream, there is a part of us that knows that the Persona is still us. When dreaming about the Persona, pay particular attention to who you are and what you are doing. Is it different from your everyday life? What is your dream trying to tell you about the mask you wear every day?
The Shadow is the part of ourselves that we reject, repress and refuse to express in the Persona. Jung believed that all humans had the potential for all possible human behavior. The parts we choose not to act upon are pushed into the Shadow. In dreams, the Shadow may appear as an attacker, a pursuer, or some other danger. In dreams, the Shadow is attempting to force us to come to terms with our darker selves. By embracing the fact that we have darker impulses, we give ourselves the opportunity to control and even use them to our advantage. If, however, we choose to repress and deny these darker impulses, they lie in wait for an opportunity to burst forth.
The Anima and Animus are the male and female aspects of ourselves. If, as Jung believed, all humans have the potential for all human behavior, then we all have both masculine and feminine qualities. The masculine qualities are expressed in the Animus, and the feminine qualities are expressed in the Anima. If you are male and dream of being a female, then your Anima is trying to express itself; or if you are female and dream of being a male, then your Animus is trying to tell you something. Pay particular attention to what you are doing in this experience so that you can understand the message later.
The Divine Child is your True Self in its most innocent and pure manifestation. While this child of pure innocence is vulnerable, it is also full of pure potential. In dreams, the Divine Child (or the Mabon in the Way of the Druid) is represented by a baby or a young child. What is this child doing? Is it trying to tell you something? The actions of the Mabon in your dream will tell you about potentials and opportunities you may have missed in the waking world.
The Sage or the Crone is the wise old tutor who comes to give you advice. In dreams they may appear as a teacher, or a doctor, or an elder, or a parent or grandparent, or other old and trusted individual. In dreams the Sage and the Crone come to set your feet on the right path.
The Great Mother is the nurturer and caretaker. In the Way of the Druid she is seen as the Mother Goddess. In dreams she may appear as your own mother, grandmother, or other trusted nurturing female caretaker. When the Great Mother appears in your dreams, she is there to give you positive reassurance and nurturing. Heed her advice.
The Trickster is there to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. In Celtic mythology the Trickster manifests as Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Norse mythology he is Loki. In many Native American traditions he is Coyote. A Trickster may appear in your dreams as someone who plays a prank or laughs at you. The Trickster shows us where we have overreacted to a situation. He also shows up when we are unsure about a decision to goad us into choosing one way or another.
The Tree of Life is the World Tree that symbolizes the axis upon which the world turns. This archetypal tree is the source of all knowledge and a symbol of the union of the forces of Chaos and Order. If this tree appears in your dreams, it may have knowledge to give you, or it may indicate that you need to seek knowledge.
The Wounded Healer is an archetype found in many mythologies. In Arthurian legend, the Wounded Healer is the Fisher King, who had suffered an injury that would not heal. Even so, the Fisher King was the guardian of the Holy Grail, the source of all healing. In dreams, the Wounded Healer may appear as an injured person who wishes to help you in some way. If such a person offers to help you in your dreams, notice what their wounds are, and what they offer to help you with. The Wounded Healer’s injury may be something in yourself that has not yet been acknowledged.
The Mandala is a circular motif routinely used as a focal point for meditation. In The Way of the Druid, the Feige Find, or Fionn’s Wheel, is a type of Mandala. In dreams, the Mandala may show up in any motif of a circle. It may be a Sun, or a Moon, or a ball, or a dinner plate, or any recurring circular theme. If a Mandala occurs in your dreams, it indicates a desire or need to find wholeness and harmony.
The archetypes listed above are just a few that routinely occur in dreams. Archetypal dreams usually occur at periods of transition or intense change in a person’s life. They are characterized by being very vivid, full of symbol, emotion and meaning, and unforgettable. While many people forget most dreams a day or two later, people remember archetypal dreams for months or years. Pay particular attention to these dreams, exploring their symbolism and meaning until you are satisfied that you have gleaned the message from the content.
Sometimes when we dream, we become consciously aware that we are dreaming. This dream-within-a-dream state is known as lucid dreaming. There are two types of lucid dreaming. The first, called a “dream-initiated lucid dream,” occurs when the dreamer is having a regular dream and eventually concludes that it is a dream. The second happens when the dreamer goes directly from a waking state into a dream state, and remains consciously aware that she is dreaming. This is called a “wake-initiated lucid dream.”
There are many benefits to lucid dreaming. You can improve your creativity by consciously directing the unconscious process of dreaming. You may also use lucid dreaming to help conquer fears that might seem too threatening in the waking world. Some lucid dreamers have reported improving their problem-solving skills by learning to control and direct their dreams.
One significant power of lucid dreaming is the ability to consciously direct unconscious processes. The collective unconscious is a rich source of much of humankind’s wisdom, but since it remains unconscious there is no way to consciously access it. It must be accessed indirectly. Since lucid dreaming allows you to use your consciousness to direct your dreams, and since dreams are an unconscious process, lucid dreaming is a powerful way to access the collective unconscious.
If you are interested in lucid dreaming, it is a skill that may be learned. The first step in learning to lucid dream is to believe that you can do it. Like all skills, it is something that becomes easier with practice. Once you are able to have your first lucid dreams, subsequent lucid dreams will become progressively easier.
The next step is to focus on the goal. What do you hope to achieve by lucid dreaming? If you focus on your intention instead of the process itself, lucid dreaming happens more naturally. The more important you find your goal to be, the easier it becomes to achieve.
Set small goals for yourself first. On your first attempt, you may just want to remember to look at your hands. Before you go to sleep, say to yourself, “I will look at my hands when I dream tonight.” When you wake, note whether or not you were able to achieve your intention. If you weren’t successful on your first attempt, continue until you achieve success. Then add more bit by bit until you are able to consciously direct your dreams.
Recalling your dreams is an important component of lucid dreaming. When you wake in the morning, don’t immediately get out of bed. Lie quietly for a few moments and allow yourself to remember what you dreamed. Try to remember as many details as possible. Keep a dream journal by the bed and write these details down after you’ve taken a few moments to reflect and recall the night’s activities. If you find it difficult to form coherent words and sentences first thing in the morning, you may choose to draw pictures instead.
In your dream journal, note the pattern and frequency of your dreams. Do you see any recurring themes? What do these patterns tell you? As your mastery of lucid dreaming increases, can you use your conscious mind to direct changes in these patterns?
The final step in lucid dreaming is to be able to directly ask for information from your unconscious mind. To do this, create a character in your dreams. This character should be someone or something you trust and feel comfortable learning from. Remember that this is a construct of your own mind, so you are really talking to a deeper aspect of yourself. When you are able to consistently make this dream advisor appear, you are ready to ask it for information. Pose questions to your dream advisor and wait for answers. This dialog will allow you to directly access your unconscious mind, and through it, the collective unconscious.
Sometimes you may have dreams about events that have not happened yet. If these events subsequently come to pass, then you’ve just had a clairvoyant dream.
An advantage of keeping a dream journal is that you have a written record of the content of your dreams. Should any of your dreams have to do with realities that later occur in the waking world, note it in your dream journal. Having experienced such dreams in the past, I can tell you that there is a different quality to these clairvoyant dreams. The quality is difficult to describe, but once you’ve had one you will learn to recognize the difference. To me, clairvoyant dreams are much more vivid, colorful and engaging. In some ways they seem more real than reality itself.
There are types of dreams that are not necessarily archetypal, but they happen often enough that they are common among most people. These dreams have meanings that are common enough to draw some general conclusions about their interpretation. Note that the interpretations below are not universal absolutes. If you’ve had one of these dreams, the interpretations listed here may or may not apply; however, these meanings have been found to be true often enough to say that on average they are more likely to be accurate than not.
Chase Dreams: In Chase Dreams, the dreamer is being chased by someone or something. Usually the chaser in these dreams is a part of the dreamer that is fighting to be expressed. It represents repressed fears and anxiety. What is it that is chasing you? If you know, then is there something about your pursuer that you need to acknowledge about yourself? If you don’t know what is chasing you, what would need to change in order to bring that knowledge to the surface?
Test/Exam Dreams: These usually take the form of the dreamer suddenly discovering himself/herself at an exam that they haven’t studied for. Such dreams indicate that the dreamer feels unprepared in some area of life.
Falling Dreams: These dreams occur when the dreamer feels helpless about something. It could be an overwhelming challenge or a difficult life transition. If you have one of these dreams, what happened just before the fall? What are you falling from? Where are you, and what are the circumstances? The answers to these questions may help you to pinpoint what it is you feel helpless about.
Flying Dreams: Dreams about flying indicate a desire for freedom or an expression of joy at a freedom that has been attained. If you have a flying dream, what are you flying away from? What are you flying towards? If you have no particular destination, it could be an expression of newfound freedom, or a freedom yet to be realized.
Naked Dreams: Such dreams take the form of the individual waking in a public place, and suddenly discovering that they are naked. These dreams indicate vulnerabilities or a fear of being “found out.” This dream could be symbolic of any number of insecurities a person may have.
Teeth Dreams: In these dreams, the dreamer suddenly finds himself with no teeth. In another variation of this dream, the dreamer may find that her teeth are crumbling and falling out. Teeth are associated with personal power. If you dream of losing your teeth, it could mean that you fear losing control over some aspect of your life.
Guidelines for Dream Interpretation
There are some general rules for dream interpretation that were not covered in the preceding sections. Any dreams that do not fall into the categories above may be interpreted using these guidelines. To interpret your dream, ask yourself the questions below. It may help to write your answers in a notebook so that you may refer to them again when you’ve had time to digest the symbols.
- What is the general theme of the dream? That is, what is going on? Is it indoors or outdoors? Are you alone, or with others? What sort of activity is taking place?
- What is the plot of the dream? Is there a coherent story that the dream is telling? How can this plot be related to your personal life?
- Who are the people in the dream? Do you know them, or are they strangers? How are they dressed? What role are they playing? What are they doing?
- What are your thoughts and feelings as the dream unfolds?
- What is the emotional quality of the dream? Did you wake up feeling happy? Did you wake up scared? How did you feel during and after the dream?
- Were there any objects or symbols in the dream? What were they? What color were they? What does that color mean to you? What do the objects or symbols mean to you?
- What emotions come to mind when contemplating the symbols of the dream? The symbols and objects do not necessarily have direct correspondence with the real world. For example, if you dream of a castle, it may not mean that you’re going to visit a castle. It could mean that you feel the need to fortify some area of your life.
- Have you had this dream before? If so, is there some message the dream is trying to give you that you may have missed?
Apply these tools and techniques and see what you can learn from your dream life.