Dream Gates

she_bear - James Ursell.jpg

A huge, woolly bear in fierce warrior guise is storming through many scenes of battle. Her footfalls make thunder in the earth. Soldiers of an ancient army crumple before her, as if a mountain has fallen on them.

I have been watching from a distance. Now a portal opens before me. It is a high stone gateway like an enormous keyhole, narrow in proportion to its great height. I step through the portal, and join a band of warriors in leather armor. They are the men of the Bear Goddess. They worship her as the lady of battles. Their tribal king is called The Arthur, meaning the consort of the She-Bear, known to the peoples of this time as Arto and Artio, as Artaois and Artemis, as Ursel and Ersel. These names stream through my mind. Some are new to me, yet none are unfamiliar.

The great warrior bear turns to me. Her energy shifts. She becomes the healer, still fierce, but doctoring. I feel her love as she cracks open my sternum, peels back the ribs, and extracts my heart and lungs. She rinses and cleanses my organs, and returns them to their place in my chest, packing them gently in a soft bed of fresh green moss. I see and endure this without pain or fear. 

Now the bear takes me by the land and leads me to a place of healing, a cottage on the woods. She shows me dried flowers,
herbs and spices, and lays dried lavender around my throat, like a necklace. Other dried stalks with nuts or seeds resembling tiny sealed pots remind me of the gumnuts of my native Australia..I was also shown mounds of ground spices, especially cardamom. As the bear mixes up a creamy-colored paste, I recognize that while she is the war goddess of my Old World ancestors, in the New World she is the master of medicine, the healer and apothecary among the animal spirits.

This is an account of a conscious or lucid dream that I wrote in my journal ten years ago, early in 2001.The adventure began quite spontaneously, in the drifty state between waking and sleep, when I was lying on  my back in the middle of the night.

I wasn’t surprised to find myself drawn – through a page in my own journal – into the realm of the Bear. I often feel myself close to Bear, and dream of Bear often. Where I live now, in the frozen Northeast of North America, it is tempting to slip into the winter dreaming of the bear, with snow and ice all around and the temperature far below freezing outside.

There is something more going on in my nocturnal adventure from a decade ago. It seemed to take me deep into the realm of the ancestors in two senses, and two landscapes – into that of my ancestors in the British Isles, and into that of the First Peoples of my adopted country. 

Not sure whether I was ready to share my report, I went searching for images of the She Bear. I was stunned to find, immediately, a painting that perfectly evokes the size and majesty of the She Bear I had encountered when I stepped through the stone keyhole. Eagerly, I searched for contact information for the artist, who lives in the West Country of England. His name was James Ursell. Wait a minute – wasn’t “Ursel” a name for the Bear, in my dream? I found the artist’s contact information, and soon we were in email conversation. Yes, his surname means “Bear”. Yes, he would be happy for me to use his image here. But wait. The title of the painting, on his website, is simply “She Bear”. He wants me to know the fuller version: “The She Bear of Old England Awakes.” Yes, she does.

The She Bear of Old England Awakes by James Ursell

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