Most dreams are rubbish and we’re right to forget them. Yet every so often a dream will follow us into the waking world and prove helpful.
To be honest with you, most of my so-called ‘witch-learning’ comes directly from dreams. I used to have a lovely Chinese notebook in which I wrote these things down, magical lessons from teachers in the dream world. It still happens, but far less often. I taught myself how to have lucid dreams as a child, to escape nightmares. Such practices are much easier to adopt when you’re small – I didn’t realise that it was supposed to be tricky to master!
My dream-recording is somewhat haphazard. Every once in a while, I’ll have a dream that feels different and so that goes in my journal. I can usually figure them out, and again, this is something that I have been doing since I was very young.
I do think that dream interpretation is a very personal thing; those books you can buy, they’re kind of relics of a time when we were all on the same page culturally, I think. In the one I have, cats symbolise betrayal and dogs symbolise loyalty; that kind of thing. It seems a bit daft to hand over the messages from your own subconscious to a translator who doesn’t speak your language. For me, cats are usually delivering messages from my unconscious; they are usually hiding somewhere then appear on their hind legs, just like Puss in Boots and tell me something interesting. Dogs on the other hand represent fearful encounters; they’ll be aggressive and growling, sometimes they leap to attack me. I usually dream about dogs when I am anxious about something.
So, when interpreting your dream I think that its important to involve your own personal mythology.
I do work with Jungian ideas about the collective unconscious, archetypes and so on, but here’s the thing: I think that he was writing at a time before media overload and we’re not all sharing the same fairy tales and folklore anymore. Our heroes may present themselves in many guises, not just the strapping woodsman or clever third son. Dreams love metaphor, but the frog in your dream might not mean the same as the frog in mine.
I’m not sure if I actually ‘go’ anywhere when I dream. I’m mentioning that because I’m going through a period of hard materialism (this is something that happens regularly, it doesn’t distress me and I think its healthy). However I do ‘visit’ certain places with some regularity : the Goblin Market (exactly as you’d expect); my Aunty’s cottage (one up, one down, tiny circular house with the bathtub under the kitchen table and an outside loo – I honestly believe that I saw faeries there once, but that’s another post); the Castle beneath the Tree; the Atlantean Brighton coast (I’m walking along the promenade dressed in Regency clothes – the tidal wave is coming and we’re all as excited as if its the circus) and the Caucasus University, hidden in the mountains.
But it’s boring isn’t it, to listen to someone else’s dreams? I tried to initiate a habit in my household that we tell one another our dreams over breakfast. It didn’t work as most dreams are instantly forgotten (they vanish in daylight) or, as I mentioned earlier, to dull to be bothered with. Last night I dreamt that I was taking a happily married friend to a Dating Agency. We had to queue up and so we decided to gel one another’s hair. There are no hidden messages there: all the factors in that dream where present in the day before.
Some dreams are special though. There are precognitive ones – here’s one of mine from the year I was doing my ‘A’ Levels – I dreamt that I went to a pub I never went to and met a girl I knew who’d left after doing her ‘O’ levels. She invited me to a party and I went with her and met a man I’d marry, but in the dream I knew I’d be unhappy. That night, I suggested to my friend that we went to that pub – when you’re 17, you have to be careful about which pubs will serve you, which is why we never went to this particular one; it was a proper ‘old man’ pub, no carpet, no lager, nothing to recommend it. But we went and, sure enough, in walked the girl I’d dreamed of the night before. She was, of course, on route to a party and she naturally invited us to go with her – but I thought I’d better not, just in case I ended up married!
I’ve had other dreams in which I’ve learnt about my genuine feelings towards something or someone. For example, I had a long term acquaintance with a lady who was extremely friendly towards me. She’d push towards us spending more time together, and I couldn’t think of a logical reason why I shouldn’t, after all we had a lot in common and she was such a nice person. Then one night I dreamt that she was hiding up a tree and lept down upon me like a leopard – it was quite a horrible dream – and when I woke up I realised that I had a strong dislike to her after all and took steps to distance myself, rather than continuing this polite association. The dream, and the intensity of the feeling within it, completely broke any pretence upon my part that we could ever be friends. As it turned out, I later found out that if we had got to know one another better, we’d definitely not have got along well!
Not all dreams are going to be as interesting as Little Nemo’s, but I do recommend keeping a dream journal, even if its only for curiosity value. And if you do have a precognitive dream, its great to be able to have some evidence.
So what have we learned today?
- that dreams can deliver useful messages.
- they can help clarify how you feel about something or someone
- that they can be interesting conversation starters (if someone recoils in horror at your dream, do you really want to know them?)
- that most dreams are nonsense
- that the best way to interpret dreams is to do it for yourself
Recommended Reading: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman of course! In it’s entirety.
The illustrations in this post are from Yoshitaka Amano, Winsor McCay, John Anster Fitzgerald, Michael Zulli and Mike Dringenburg (I might have that last one wrong btw)