And Then There Is Dream

Sometimes magic is fast and dirty; the kind of magic that’s worked on the fly with whatever is to hand, with words that tumble unbidden from lips and adrenaline pumping a wild fire through the blood.

But other times though. Or perhaps most of the time even, it’s a far more subtle and well-considered thing. The planned, the plotted, the consistently performed over time to bring about a specific goal.

And then there is dream.

To work with dreams is to blur the lines between waking and sleeping. It is the realization that sometimes, what is seen in dream is another kind of reality – a middle ground where human and the Other may also meet, create bonds, and learn. In some ways, dream makes it easier to do these things, to have these interactions and have these experiences. However, sleep also makes it harder, pulling on the mind like a recalcitrant toddler who just wants to go on the playground slide over and over again.

The first challenge is to actually get to dream, to take the right path at the fork in the road fork -dreamwhere dream and trancing-while-asleep part from each other. I’ve found the latter mostly only comes when doors must be beaten down and messages gotten across, and the day afterwards is always marked by the rough dragging of exhausted limbs. Whether you are awake or asleep, trance is work. Most people don’t see this fork or experience anything but dream. But for those of us that do this kind of work, it seems to be the case that the more you do the work, the more that fork in the road is revealed.

When the first challenge is passed, and the path of dream is under foot, the next challenge Dream - mandrakeis to have a meaningful dream. We all dream, but not all dreams are created equal. Not all dreams are messages or interactions, and far too many are lost in a waters-of-Lethe-like forgetfulness. There are ways to increase the odds of dreaming meaningfully – especially if you wish to encounter the Other – but you’ll need to be skilled in other areas too lest you have that interaction but sleep binds your mind too tightly to react appropriately. Sigils or signs associated with those you wish to speak to under the mattress or pillow can help, as can offerings to the right beings. Entheogens can also push you further along that road and give you more profound experiences, but again, caution must be taken.

And what of the skills required for such things?

The ability to move consciously in dream, to interact deliberately, and to choose – these are all necessary if you wish to work in this place. The good news is that most people can learn the skill of lucid dreaming. But like meditation, it’s a muscle to be developed over time.

The two mainstays of magical work are important here too: journaling and meditation. Both practices increase awareness of self and require discipline. This makes them both important components of developing the ability to dream lucidly. Through the journal you’ll identify wider themes, develop a record of what worked for you, the factors that improved or worsened your ability to dream, and most importantly, record any interactions you have. Especially the promises you make. (Please, always be sure to record the promises you make.) Through meditation and the myriad of exercises involved in developing your meditation practice (especially mindfulness), you will gain not only the self-knowledge to identify what state you are in, but the muscles to make the transition from automatically reacting to interacting. Through the discipline involved in both, you will build on your will power.

Sometimes though, no matter what you do, your dreams will be brain junk. Just like not all dreams are created equally, not all times or places are either. Factors in your life may also affect your ability to have these experiences. Just go with it, sometimes that’s just what you need.

Over time, your journal will become your friend and may come to hold rituals, secrets, symbols, and messages – all gotten from dream. Your dreams will increase in intensity and vividness, and you may find certain themes repeated in dream that signal the transition from regular dream to dream of a more magical sort. Sometimes these themes are mundane but out of place (e.g., taking a shower in a strange place, walking through a public place and passing the same three people looking at you), and other times they’re most definitely strange (e.g., a flip of time of day/season/weather that feels more like a huge shift rather than anything random).  You will meet beings who are not of dream but using it as common ground. Some of them may even become allies, but have a care – this can be practice at the knife edge.

In 1919 John Brodie Innes, a clergyman friend of Charles Darwin recorded the story of two friends who fell out over a shared romantic interest. After the transgressor refused to apologize, the man who felt slighted challenged the other to a duel – a duel to the death. However, a week before the duel, the man who made the challenge, called Innes to his home. He’d had a dream about the duel and seen himself get wounded in the face before killing his opponent. To Innes’ amazement, there was a large red welt upon the man’s face which he claimed was dream-gotten. Shortly after that, the other man also called Innes to his home with a strange story of a dream. In it, he had seen himself killed and was subsequently more than happy to issue an apology.

And then of course, there is Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (or SUNDS)

Dream nightmare

‘The Nightmare’ by John Henry Fuseli

to take into account. Although it is extremely rare among people who are not of Southeast Asian descent – especially those who live within far more traditional cultural contexts – it is significant that for many Southeast Asian cultures, the deaths are usually attributed to spirit attack. Many Europeans had a similar explanation in the past too – the word ‘nightmare’ for ‘bad dream’ once signified a terrifying nocturnal spirit that would kill the sleeping.

These are disjointed examples, but hopefully they serve to illustrate that this is no ‘safe’ alternative to going into the wilds and encountering the Other. The beings you encounter in dream, the ones who stand out from the normal dream characters, who feel more real and significant and solid, and who guide you to places beyond your normal dreamscape,

apple dream

One of these things is not like the other.

require no less caution than in any other setting. Don’t eat the food you are offered that looks all too perfect for where you are by the people who look out of place and yet so perfect. Especially if you find yourself in a venue that seems particularly ‘catered’ to you in an impossible ‘Santa-came-early’ kind of way. Don’t say yes to bargains you cannot keep in waking life no matter how logically they’re presented to you, and don’t ever think that everything will be ok when you wake up again or that what you did and said in dream will be automatically forgotten. Plot spoiler, but they’re not. Things from dream will follow you and will demand you pay your dues if you promised them. Over time, if you continue with this, a landscape will be revealed to you with places you will see again and again. Over time, you will see the same beings, and even sometimes the same objects. You may even carry objects through multiple dreams. Dream, when you work with it, loses much of its randomness and gains similar rules to those of the Otherworld. The folklore of times past can serve as a guidebook for us here too.

If this is a form of practice that intrigues and interests you, be sure to study and practice hard to develop those magical skills that you use in the waking world. Grounding, centering, banishing, shielding, licenses to depart, casting, creating space for magic, summoning – all of it, all the stuff I’ve missed out here. Study and practice because magic is a language that works far more overtly in dream than the waking world. In dream, your ability to protect yourself is far more pressing and the consequences far greater than in waking life. Lastly, learn how to make the quick exit for when you’re outnumbered or overwhelmed, because some day, it could save you a whole lot of trouble.

Deciphering the Alien Views of the Unseen

This past fortnight seems to have been a time for confronting and dealing with what may seem to each of us to be ‘alien views’. But I don’t want to get into the politics of that here, because that conversation is dominating the discourse pretty much everywhere else.

No, I want to go in a different direction with this post. Instead, I want to talk once more about agency, patterns, and if it is truly possible to understand that ‘alien’, non-human logic of the Unseen.

It all started with a conversation on Facebook (where else?) this morning, with a young man who thought there was nothing wrong with putting on a Native American war bonnet while in the ‘wilderness’ and invoking the energies of a Native American chief. (This is a young man who is from and still lives in the UK, I might add.)

I have to admit, the idea of that – all of it – is just so wrong to me for so many reasons. I can’t even understand the thought process behind it or what this man would hope to even gain from doing so, let alone the amount of false entitlement involved in the use of a war bonnet and expectation that the spirit of a Native American chief would just show up for a person in a completely foreign geographical area.

The conversation went on for a while, but along the way, we got back to the question of agency and spirits of land again. (Ah, that old chestnut!) So here I am, writing another post on the Unseen and agency, only with a little twist.

I’ve talked about the land being like an onion before: this idea that land from a more ‘spiritual’ perspective is made up of many layers comprised of the traditions, beliefs, actions, and magical practices of each people that has ever dwelled upon it. Of course, Magus Unseenthis onion also affects the kinds of Unseen that might be there: the types of Unseen, their attitudes towards humans, how they expect interactions to look, the pacts that were made between humans and Unseen in years past, and the kinds of offerings they like. Sometimes these layers are things that you might expect. After all, who doesn’t expect Native American layers, and other layers made up of mostly Christianity in America? But even in America, there are also often layers that are far less expected – like the layer of occultism derived from Francis Barrett’s ‘The Magus’ that permeated the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism (Horowitz, 23), or the Freemason connections that a good number of the founders held.  And regarding that first American religion, I can’t help but feel it significant in some way that its founder and first American prophet not only participated in the occult for years and scryed a holy book from a shew stone, but met his death by mob while allegedly wearing an incorrectly engraved Jupiter talisman.  (Quinn 1998). Let that sink in for a moment. America may have layers of Native American religions and crosses, but she also has layers of sigils and magic – even among the saints. (As an aside, there’s a book I really want to pick up at some point called Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People that apparently attempts to track the plurality of religious expression, magic, and sacralization of the land in pre-revolutionary America.)

Jupiter Unseen

The alleged Jupiter talisman of Joseph Smith.

But that’s not the end of it.  Now imagine that onion has a pattern running through it. Something scored on each layer that has built up into a larger and more coherent pattern over time.

For those of you that bought my book (thankyouthankyouthankyou), you may recall the essay called Sources of Power, Layers of Action and the explanation of how what we do now affects what we have to work with in the future. For those of you that didn’t, a Cliff Notes version of that would be to say that every action a person undertakes sets down a ‘layer’ for that person that goes into a kind of universal store of events and that the accumulation of those ‘layers’ over time, affects what you have to work with in life. In other words, it all builds a pattern, but more about that later.

In ‘The Well and the Tree’, Paul Bauschatz wrote that “For the Germanic peoples, space, as it is encountered and perceived in the created worlds of men and other beings, exists, to any significant degree only as a location or container for the occurrence of action.” (Bauschatz 86). This is a pretty significant concept in of itself. After all, I think most of us have been to places that have had a certain vibe or lived in homes we’ve felt were ‘luckier’ than others. However, we are also told that , “Every action calls to itself other actions to which it is significantly linked.” (Bauschatz 64), and that “They would bring factors from beyond the immediate to work and predicate events, returning them, as it were, to the great universal store of events from which all power came and in which all meaningful action returned.” (Bauschatz 113).Nornir - Unseen

In other words, if space is a container for action, actions set down layers (which call other similar actions to themselves), and there is a force that ensures that those contexts are revisited, then it would stand to reason that spaces have ‘patterns’ or contexts that get revisited again and again. Not only that, but these patterns don’t just affect humans; as the first Bauschatz quote says, these spaces-as-containers-for-action also seem to apply other beings too. Or at least that’s the best guess of what Germanic Heathens thought about the matter during the Heathen period.

As a caveat, Bauschatz does limit these space-containers to spaces that are enclosed, but I think they can apply to outside spaces too. After all, if we believe in the existence and agency of Unseen beings, then why wouldn’t we believe them to be capable of creating and delineating their own spaces and enclosures that we just cannot see?

When you really think about these ideas, ideas about layers and patterns, even just as a Ribble Unseenthought experiment, it’s really no surprise that you have oddities like the freak accident that kills every seven years at a river that was once connected with a Romano-British goddess. Or that you have geographical areas that seem to have more murderers born within their boundaries than in other places. Or, as one of my favorite podcasts has been exploring of late, that there are places in which more people just seem to go missing (in the creepy ‘just disappear’ sense of the word) than others. Or why some houses seem to be a curse for those who live in them. Or…or…

Bauschatz’s work may be theoretical, but I do find a lot of practical application in his ideas, especially in light of my own experiences and UPG.

Does any of this give us the keys to these ‘alien views’ of non-human intelligences though? No, but there’s a lot to be said for drawing closer to an understanding of some of the (even theoretical) ‘rules of play’ so to speak. As always, the best way to understand as much of that non-human logic as much as possible, is to go back to the fairy and folk tales. These ‘rules of play’ further reinforce the importance of knowing the old tales, and the warnings and rules of etiquette they contain. To know the past and the things yet unknown to you in the present, is to have the best guess of how to proceed in the present. The future will be made when we get there.

I’ve written about understanding the previous religious, magical, and folk traditions held in the layers of the land onion before now. However, I think these layers are also patterns, groupings of actions that call out to actions that are similar to themselves and which are more likely to reoccur.  For many people, the great religious story of the US is that of Christianity, and yet for people like you and I, the far greater story is in the Joseph Smiths, the Fox sisters, the many homes in which a copy of Barrett’s ‘The Magus’ sat, and the myriad of other long-standing religious traditions that cluster in this land somewhat off the beaten path of the Nazarene.

Because it’s a story in which the Unseen were somewhat more seen, and that’s not something they’re likely to forget.

Sources
Mitch Horowitz – Occult America
Paul Bauschatz – The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture
D. Michael Quinn – Early Mormonism and the Magical Worldview