Dream Gates

Dream Gates

How to stop dreaming dead men’s dreams II

Cara was haunted by horrific dreams of blood and death in Vietnam for forty years. As described in yesterday’s article, in our work together I realized that we needed to determine exactly how memories that did not belong to her or to immediate family members had come to invade her nights. This is the story of how we solved that mystery through shamanic lucid dreaming, and of how Cara proceeded to effect spiritual release for some of the ghosts of Vietnam.

“Change of plan,” I say to Cara, and our little group. “You don’t need to go back inside a dream that belongs to someone else. Can we try to travel back to your place you were living when you were four years old, and try to find out why you started dreaming of Vietnam?”


She bursts into tears. “There were so many bodies.” She is shaking.

“You’re not going alone,“ I remind her. “We’re coming with you. We’ll be your family, your bodyguards, your protectors. We’ll help you see what you want to see. I think there’s a chance to get to the root of this now and life the shadow that’s been over you for forty years. Are you willing to give that a shot?“

Bravely, she says, “Yes.“

“When you go back to that beautiful four-year-old girl, remember you are going as your present self, a mother and mature woman who has made it through and can help little Cara to get through. At the very least, you can promise her – You‘re going to make it. You are going to survive.”


During the drumming, we cross space and time and find the ranch house in Arizona where Cara started having the evil dreams. Cara holds her four-year-old self tight and safe in her embrace, proving the love and support she needed when the adult world was telling her that her dreams were “only” dreams and that she should stop screaming and go back to sleep, back to the place of terror.

As tracker, my job is to find the link, the connection to Vietnam and its dead soldiers. I see two things with clarity. Body bags being lifted out of a big transport plane at a military airfield near Cara’s home. A man I take to be her father inspecting a shell casing, a medallion, a good luck charm and other metal objects that appear to be mementoes of the war, items taken from the bodies of men who died in Vietnam.


If these sightings are accurate, either one might explain why Vietnam’s ghosts came bleeding into the dreamspace of a sensitive child. The physical proximity of the dead. The persisting energy of the dead that is often carried by physical objects worn next to the skin. Either or both could bring lost soldiers confused about how they died and where they should go into Cara’s home, and into her energy field and her mind.

When I report my discoveries, Cara gasps. She now remembers how she often saw her father poking around in a box he kept in a closet. The box contained military relics, especially medals and protective medallions. She recalls a good luck charm. Her dad started collecting these items, bequeathed by dead soldiers, around the time she started having the war dreams. She doesn’t recall a military airfield, near her home, let alone the transshipment of body bags. But when she calls her mother later that day, she discovers that there was indeed a military air base less than a mile from that house, and that it was a major reception for the corpses of soldiers in the last years of the Vietnam war.


How do you stop dreaming dead mean’s dreams? We discuss a ritual of releasing. Cara will call on the guides of the dead soldiers who have been with her to help them find their way. She will speak to the dead directly, explaining their situation and encouraging them to move on. She will also conduct a second burial to lay to rest the denser energy of the departed.

I suggest that for this she should go to a toy shop and purchase a number of plastic U.S. soldiers. She will literally bury these figures in the earth with the intention that the energy of the dead that is meant to go into the ground should be discharged in this way.

Cara performed this ritual when she went home, and asked her six-year-old daughter to take part in it. Her heart was touched when her child said to the dead soldiers, “Thank you for protecting us.”


After this mutual  releasing, Cara wrote to me: “That day with you and our helpers was so potent. I felt like I had regressed in age as soon as we started talking.  Terror was the feeling.  I remember you saying it was possible to clear it quickly and I wondered – really?  Years of this and it could be gone so easily?  I was worried that going back would “stir the turd” and I would go home that night to a dark room of dead men waiting for me.  What a miracle experience. I was freed.”

Cara stopped dreaming dead men’s dreams. She is no longer terrified by the sound of a helicopter or an air conditioner.

The deeper we go into dreaming, the more we recover the ancient skills of the shamanic dreamer, the more ways we have of recognizing what is going on in a dream and how it can offer portals for healing.

To learn more about “second burial” as a method of spiritual release, please see The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead.

  • Wanda Burch

    Thank you for sharing this poignant story of ritual releasing and the resolution of a terrifying dream of dead soldiers. This is such important work, not only for those such as Cara who innocently picked up the nightmare of the war dead but for those returning from battle who bring the dead with them into the sleeping and waking environment.

    A woman attended our arts and reintegration retreat last year, haunted by a nightmare brigade of men with severed limbs, one holding his head in his arms. The dreamer, “Ernie,” had been the first combat nurse in Vietnam. The dream had contributed to alcohol addiction, only recently resolved in rehab, and recurring anxiety from this decades old relentless dream. She had been to therapists, who had given her drugs, to retreats, that saddled her with ridiculous meditations that led no where. She squeezed my hand as she asked a room full of women war veterans to come with her inside her nightmare with the protection and love of their experience; and she spoke to each man, all but one dead. She had cared for all of them before they died. She asked what they wanted. They wanted her to share their stories with any remaining family. Ernie sat beside me. In tears she placed a medal in my hand. On its face was the image of a rose, an image of her regiment. For the man still alive and for the dead, she had also agreed to plant a rose bush and to bury the medal beneath the rose bush. One of the women there that day visited Ernie in West Virginia several months later. They together planted the rose bush; and Ernie had fulfilled her promise to speak with each family and to visit the one soldier still alive. The nightmare had ended. Ernie will return this summer to help others.

    • Robert Moss

      Wanda – This is beautiful and exemplary work. Our ancestors, like many indigenous peoples today, understood that warriors returning from battle need help to lay the ghosts of war to rest. This involves spiritual cleansing and doing for the dead what they need in order to finish their business on this plane and move on. It is immensely instructive to realize that one thing the dead may require is to have their stories told properly. Yeats maintained (with poetic insight) that in a transitional stage of the afterlife the dead come close to the living in order to understand what happened and what did not happen in the life that has ended, and get their story clear.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nina

    Neither in time nor space I am familiar with the subject of Vietnamese veterans. Even so when I have run through last two posts and comments I have just realized that no human being or society can resolve their problems by ignoring them. I recalled how disquieting it was to read some years ago in the book Worlds in Harmony (it is written as a dialog between Dalai Lama and American therapists, artists and other professions) about the reality of Vietnamese soldiers coming from the war. I cannot verify the accuracy of statistics but Joel Edelman says that 100 000 of veterans died by violent death and most of them by their own hand. According to him it proves that more soldiers were killed after returning home than during military actions. Daniel Brown explains that the main cause of their unnatural deaths was that for majority of Americans the war wasn´t acceptable, so there wasn´t any social ritual to aid veterans to accept and transform what happened. In the end they remained very lonely with their heavy feelings of self-hatred and guilt. Brown also says that people who were “more passive”, he means doctors and nurses, suffered from far more serious mental problems then soldiers who participated in the direct aggression.
    I am very sorry if I touch someone´s feelings but it seems to me incredibly unjust that people who experienced the living hell of battle fields are not treated with respect and help they need and deserve. Simple soldiers didn´t invent the war and most of them went to fight because they had to. I wonder if the acceptance of society on deeper soul levels would lead to alleviation of pain on both shores.
    Best wishes to everyone.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Aaron

    What a beautiful turn with the six-year-old daughter and her statement.
    The innocent wisdom of children will always amaze me.
    Thank you for sharing.

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