The photo shows some of my active dreamers sharing dreams at the berakfast table and selectinng which ones will be used as portals for conscious adventured in shared dreaming during the recent training I led at Mosswood Hollow in the foothills of the Cascades.
If you want to know more about what dreams can be, consider what the words for “dream” mean in different languages. You’ll find clues here to what dreaming meant to our ancestors, before we lost respect for dreamers and contact with the Dreaming..
How about these:
– a dream is “a journey of the soul” (adekato) for a dreaming people of Venezuela, the Makiritare.
– a dream is a “zephyr”, a gentle breeze slipping through the keyhole, or the crack between the door and the lintel, to breathe in your ear, in ancient Assyria
– a dream is an “awakening” (rswt) in ancient Egypt
– a dream is also a spirit messenger (oneiros) that travels from the Republic of Dreams (Demos Oneiron) in archaic Greece.
In good Old English, a dream is “merriment” and “revelry” of the kind you might encounter from downing too many goblets in a mead-hall. But by Chaucer’s time, the same word, with a different, Northern derivation, can also imply an encounter with the dead. As in Northern Europe (German Traum, Dutch droom etc) the word “dream” we have inherited is linked to the Old Germanic Draugr, which means a visitation from the dead.
As explained by the great Tuscarora ethnographer J.N.B.Hewitt, the old Iroquoian word katera’swas means “I dream” but implies much more that we commonly mean when when say that phrase in English. Katera’swas means I dream as a habit, as a daily part of my way of being in the world. The expression also carries the connotation that I am lucky in a proactive way – that I bring myself luck because I am able to manifest good fortune and prosperity through my dream. The related term watera’swo not only means “dream”; it can also be translated as “I bring myself good luck.”
Early Jesuit missionaries reported that the Iroquois believed that neglect of dreams brings bad luck. Father Jean de Quens noted on a visit to the Onondaga, that “people are told they will have bad luck if they disregard their dreams.” So if you want to get lucky, you want to dream a lot.
~The last part of this article is adapted from my book Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul published by Destiny Books, 2005
Wishbone photo by Robin O’Neal Kissel,
Suzette reports that when she is ill a spider climbs inside her torso and starts spinning a web. While this would be terrifying to many dreamers, and might suggest a chest infection, Suzette’s dream spider is an ally who catches what is bugging her, rolls it up in a silk ball, and elegantly expels the possible complaint from her body.
By contrast, Wanda has found it necessary to eject spiders she felt were adversaries – possibly embodying a threatening disease – from her dream houses in various creative ways. In one of her examples, she managed to convert a large and menacing spider into a wind-up toy that could be put out into the street, like the trash.
I’ve had spider dreams of both kinds. I just rediscovered a dream report from two years ago in which I knew that I had to remove a large black spider – not a tarantula, and not furry, but about that size – from my dream kitchen. I tried to catch it in paper towels in order to carry it out without harming it, as I would probably try to do in regular life. However, the spider died as I struggled to contain it, and then promptly morphed into a set of plastic parts, like a broken child’s toy, that I carried out and placed in the trash. I woke from this dream feeling a strong sense of wellness and resolution, and felt no need to interpret the dream. Moving with the energy from a dream is often more important than figuring out what the content means.
When it comes to the pursuit of meanings, let’s remember that it’s usually a good idea to study the nature, habits and habitats of the critters that turn up in dreams. There is a vast variety of spiders on this planet, most of them non-venomous but some incredibly deadly, so when we dream of spiders we may want to pause and attempt an identity check.
We also want to study the specific gifts of different kinds of spiders: what kind of webs they weave, for example, and the uses of those webs. The first dream catchers were spider webs. An Onondaga friend told me that when his son was very young, he hung spider webs above his sleeping head to catch and keep out bugs of both the physical and the psychic kind, in the old way. Don reminds us in a comment on my last post that spider webs are helpful in stopping bleeding.
Finally (for now) let’s remember that in the shaman’s way of dreaming, we can learn to get close to fierce and dangerous creatures with whom safe encounters in the physical are generally inadvisable. In my dreams of my native Australia, I am sometimes offered a funnelweb portal to enter the Dreaming of the Koori, the Aboriginal people. I remember being sternly lectured by my parents, as a small boy in Queensland, to check boots and shoes every morning in case a funnelweb spider had built inside one of them overnight, and to avoid or kill this type of highly venomous spider on sight. In the Dreaming, things work rather differently.
Atrax robustus, Australian funnelweb spider, in threat position
A woman named Jennifer recently shared a vivid and very specific account of how
the behavior of a black spider in a series of dreams has given her
disease markers she has learned to take seriously. As she tells it,
the sequence includes the following prodromic dreams (and follow-up
1. “I am standing in an open doorway. A black spider leaps from the
frame onto my abdomen, scaring me badly. Three months later, I developed
appendicitis in the same spot and had to be rushed to hospital for an
2. “A black spider jumps on my face. I am terrified and grossed
Several months later, I developed a horrible and virulent skin
condition that made
about a hundred years old. After 5 days, hospitalized on intravenous
antibiotics and anti-viral medicine, I learn was a life-threatening
3. “A black spider leaps on my face, near my left
eye–again from the
door frame in former dreams. A few months later, I am driving on the
freeway and a black, spider web configuration covers the entire visual
field of this eye. In an urgent care intervention, the on-call eye
doctor discovers that I have a
retina in that eye, and I undergo emergency laser
This is a very instructive example of how dreams can anticipate physical symptoms. By learning to recognize personal markers, we may not only be forewarned of possible problems; we may be able to take action to avoid manifesting those problems.
The spider in Jennifer’s dreams is not the spider in your dreams, or mine. While we recognize common themes when we hear each other’s dreams, every dreamer’s experience is personal and unique to them. For some dreamers, the spider is an ally, offering the power to re-weave the web of possibility in life.
I worked with one dreamer, a gifted artist, for whom the spider was at first a disease marker- warning of a possible recurrence of cancer – but then became an extraordinary ally when she found the courage to go back inside her dream, through our Dream Reentry technique, and face the spider.
The artist was terrified by a recurring dream of a jumping spider that grew bigger and bigger until it took over her studio. I urged her to go back inside the dream and volunteered to go with her. Sitting together, with our hands joined, we embarked on conscious shared dreaming with a clear intention: the dreamer would face her terror and find out what she needed to do, while I would support her as friend and bodyguard inside the dream space.
Between the energy of her fear and the familiarity of her dream space – her studio – the artist had no difficulty reentering the dream. Almost effortlessly, we found ourselves together in the dream version of her studio, facing a spider that grew rapidly to enormous size. Its multiple eyes and cheliceral fangs were not a pleasant sight at close range. The artist was shaking and sobbing, but she stayed inside the dream.
Then spider shapeshifted into Spider Woman, an indigenous American form of the Goddess. Spider Woman told the artist: “Because you found the courage to meet me, I will give you the power to re-weave the energy web of your body and the web of possibility in your life.”
At that time, the dreamer was facing a biopsy. The results showed she was cancer free. She embarked on the most creative period of her personal and artistic life. Spider kept her promise, when the dreamer found the ability to brave up and reach for the power beyond the terror.
For more on the techniques of Dream Reentry and tracking (entering another person’s dreamspace to help bring through guidance and healing) please see my books The Three “Only” Things and Conscious Dreaming.