I remember the first time I tried Sacred Dreaming. I had just finished Scott Cunninghamâ€™s wonderful Dreaming the Divine, and I found it both sad and intriguing that nearly every world culture once had, at some point in time, dream temples that were fully staffed with skilled interpreters to guide and advise the dreamers who visited there, but that the only culture in the world that still had such temples was/is Japan. Being solitary and not Japanese, I set about following his sage advice regarding Sacred Dreaming in my own bedroom; I set up my dream altar and asked a beloved deity for a special and significant dream. The dream itself wowed me, giving me deep insights on healing my life and moving forward. I’ve been pursuing Sacred Dreaming ever since, teaching my students the value of dreams in general and Sacred Dreaming in particular.
Iâ€™ve always been intrigued by the messages of dreams. Sometimes deep and mysterious, sometimes confounding, sometimes hilarious (crazy, arenâ€™t theyâ€”the things thatâ€™ll make you laugh until you cry in the middle of the night?), dreams, many believe, are messages from the divine! The only problem in understanding these messages is that they are filtered through a human, and therefore fallible, lens.
Back when I was first studying spirituality and magic, I bought and read only a few of the dream dictionaries out there (there are thousands, by the way, spanning many cultures, countries, and ages), but the more I read and perused these dream volumes, the more I found to be rather off the mark, so to speak. The things many of them said simply didnâ€™t resonate with me. Then, in the early 1980s, I went to a lecture on dreams hosted by the School of Metaphysics. At that lecture, and in my short time attending regular classes at SOM, I learned something of their dream symbolism and a lot of what they taught made sense to me. The ideas that “everyone in the dream is the dreamer,” and that others in the dream are aspects of your conscious or subconscious mind with messages for you resonated with me; these ideas, along with many of their other practical and logical symbol interpretations, gave me a solid foundation on which to build.
Then, I saw this wonderful guest speaker on an Oprah Winfrey show, and although I never got her name, her philosophy about dream interpretation helped shape the structure of what I have come to believe about dreams and dream interpretation. She gave the example of someone dreaming about an airplane, to which she advised replying, â€śOkay, pretend Iâ€™m from Mars. Whatâ€™s an airplane?â€ť This, of course, encourages the dreamer to think in terms of what each particular symbol means to them personally, giving important keys to understanding the dream.
What all of these things say to me is that dreams are highly subjective, with the final word regarding their interpretation left to the dreamer. The idea of priests and priestesses at a dream temple giving their opinion and advice still resonates and holds great value, in my opinion, because for the dreamer to be sure of that final word requires a great deal of self-honesty, something that few of us are one hundred percent good at one hundred percent of the time. But we must be, if we want to truly understand the dreamâ€™s message.
In the old world, it was considered unlucky not to heed the dream interpreterâ€™s advice; in modern Pagandom, weâ€™re all such independent thinkers that I think itâ€™s really difficult for many of us to do that. The great value of having a dream interpreted by another, to me, is much like having your cards or runes read by an expert reader; you have all this wisdom available to you regarding the symbols and actions suggested, and again, I think itâ€™s likely best to heed such an expertâ€™s advice. Ultimately, the actions you take are up to you, and modern Pagans are probably more independent in this regard than the dreamers at those ancient temples. Still, I fantasize about building and running such a temple in these modern times, complete with starry decorations and deep blues, dimly glowing lighting, and priests and priestesses softly chanting the dreamers to sleep. In the rosy twilight of dawnâ€™s approach, the first of the dreamers awakens, and his wise and benevolent priestess stands waiting, steaming cups in hand, a smile of welcome on her face. Behind her, on a table paired with comfortable chairs, are notepads and books, runes and tarot cards to help with any clarifications they may need. She invites him to sit for a long morning of soft talk, gentle laughter and encouragement as, together, they unravel the deep mystery of his Sacred Dream.
Our thanks to Thuri for her guest post! For more from Thuri Calafia, read her article “The Initiate’s Path: A Sea of Holes?.”