Marija Gimbutas, the great Lithuanian scholar of Old Europe and its Goddess traditions, declared with urgent clarity in The Civilization of the Goddess, her chef d’oeuvre: “We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity of this has never been greater as we discover that the path of ‘progress’ is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth.”
The new art and science of dream archaeology provides powerful tools for refocusing collective memory, exactly as the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess proposed. I invented the term “dream archaeology”. It is the study of first and essential (arche) things with the aid of dreamwork and techniques of shamanic lucid dreaming. It is a discipline that enables us to access the living past, to enter into direct communication with the keepers of ancestral wisdom and heal the collective and cultural soul loss that is a feature of our age.
The practice of dream archaeology involves reclaiming authentic knowledge of ancestral traditions, including those that may have been buried or suppressed in the course of history, through a combination of careful research and shamanic journeying across time and between dimensions. The dream archaeologist combines the skills of the shaman, the scholar and the detective.
We let dreams set us assignments. Secrets of the past, of which the waking mind may know nothing or very little, come to us in dreams because we are ready for them, and because the ancestors speak to us in dreams. As dream archaeologists, we learn to work with such dreams, both through focused research and by learning the technique of dream reentry, which means making a shamanic journey through the doorway of a remembered dream to harvest more information, to deepen communication with the ancestors, and to travel beyond the maps.
When we are already engaged in a line of research, we draw on the skills of shamanic lucid dreaming, as well as spontaneous gifts of the night, to find what cannot be located in ordinary ways, but can often be confirmed by subsequent dream-directed research. We are open to the phenomenon that Yeats, with poetic insight, called the “mingling of minds”. This means that when we give our best efforts and passion to our chosen work or study, we draw the support of intelligences beyond the everyday world, including those of past masters in the same field.
After her death, Marija Gimbutas appeared to her friend and biographer Joan Marler in a powerful dream. Marija said fiercely, “You must remember us.” Joan understood that the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess was speaking from the realm of the ancestors, “a place of collective memory and wisdom”. She describes this encounter in an essay in From the Realm of the Ancestors, a magnificent Festchrift in honor of Marija that she edited.
I have been privileged to lead three workshops in shamanic dreaming and dream archaeology in Lithuania. Each visit has been a grand adventure and a deepening encounter with the ancestors of the land. On my first visit to Marija’s native country, in the summer of 2004, 40 Lithuanians joined me at Nida to reclaim the arts of dreaming. With the aid of shamanic drumming, we made a group journey together through the gateway of an ancient oak, with the aim of establishing direct and authentic communication with the ancestors of the land.
I found myself in direct contact with a priestess of Žemyna, the Earth Goddess. The priestess belonged to an earlier time, but seemed to speak from a place of amber light outside time. She instructed me in methods of healing and visioning involving the use of amber, and gave me symbols and words in old Lithuanian – a language previously unknown to me – that others in the workshop helped me translate. I am glad to report that I am returning to Lithuania in May this year to lead new adventures in dream archaeology and shamanic dreaming in Vilnius and Kaunas.
Wherever I go now, I find myself traveling in two worlds. From behind the curtains of ordinary perception, the ancestors are calling. I am reminded again and again that one of the gifts of dreaming is that it opens authentic connections to the ancestors, offering us the chance to heal the wounds of the past and to perform cultural soul retrieval.