A magical time portal


Kotor, Montenegro (Black Mountain)


I hope you will forgive me but as I have been writing a new novel (working title “A Primer on Magic”) I ran across an earlier article I had written some time ago and wanted to share with you all. The experience of which I wrote was more like a dream or vision at the time and it still feels that way. I hope you enjoy it.


The ancient Greek, Roman, Venetian, and Ottoman world is steeped in myth, mysticism, and magic and that was never made more clear to me than when I found myself climbing with four other intrepid souls the mountain battlements of Kotor a coastal town in the small Dalmation Coast country of Montenegro (part of the old Yugoslavia) along the Adriatic. This area was first mentioned during the Roman era around 168 BCE. It is an area in the Aegean/Adriatic where many ancient Greek legends were born and where I was researching the ruins of several Asclepeions where people from all over the ancient world would come for healing. They were clinics where people would incubate a dream and the onsite priests would decipher and prescribe cures.

As we trekked through “black Mountain” hillsides we climbed over 1300 stone steps that lead us to a fortress lookout high above the city making the crème colored stucco buildings with red tile roofs look like a miniature diorama nestled in a narrow valley sloping from the high mountains to the sea. When Kotor was part of the maritime Venetian empire and prone to attacks from pirates and Arabs of the Ottoman Empire this medieval fortress was built to protect the region.

Exhausted at the end of the climb on an unseasonably hot day I was not looking forward to our descent back to the town, but Rok our Slovenian guide who was climbing with us lead us down to another path that would take us off the mountain through a little known back door.

100_3455.JPGA few hundred feet down the way we had come he left the steps, veering onto a path that traversed a defensive wall perpendicular to the one we had been traveling beside. Built into the wall was a narrow stone portal barely high enough to allow a person to duck down into a crouch in order to pass through. On the other side of this tunnel was a verdant valley hidden from the town below. It was then that I noticed that the temperature had dropped considerably. “That’s curious!” I thought. But the sun was on the western side of mountain now so I didn’t think any more about it.

Unknown to me at that moment was that we had passed through a portal in time.

We climbed down the rocky side of a cliff and landed upon a narrow path that lead us down into the valley toward a stone ruin of a church. The rocky cliff gave way to a forest of olive, pomegranate, and fig trees.

As we made our way deeper into the trees I caught movement to my right and turned to see long horned mountain goats grazing the hillside from whence we had come. A female herder sat among the rocks and under the shade of an old and twisted olive tree. There she sat paying us no attention and rolling some tobacco she’d pulled from a pouch into a small sheet of paper. Behind her one of the goats tried to pull a low hanging fig from a tree growing from a crag in the cliff above.

We approached the ruins of the ancient church, that from close up had somehow morphed into a building more intact and still useable and looking for all the world as though it had been built yesterday, I noticed other stone buildings with their roofs collapsed or missing, connected by high walls that may have formed courtyards and pens for animals at a much earlier time– a Hereford cow munched on the grassy area between the ruins.

Something nudged my rear and I turned to see what was happening and saw a black goat nibbling at a stash of wild flowers I’d stuffed into a pocket for later inspection. “So much for that” I thought and pulled the last of them and offered the bundle to the cheeky little fellow who then devoured them gleefully.

The day was getting late and we still had some distance to go so we left this bucolic scene from another time and place and headed down the gently slopping switchbacks that would lead us toward the outskirts of the town. The road was covered with stone what with the Venetians having used this passage to shuttle both cattle and cannon to and from the fortress but offered us many an opportunity to trip and stumble down the hillside. The way demanded careful negotiation and caused slow going.

Eventually the trail led to a seasonal river, a wash really, and we crossed a stone bridge into the outskirts of the town. At the crossing I noticed immediately that we had passed through yet another portal in time for there before us was a modern mall where we stopped for a few smoothies in a refreshing air-conditioned space. From the window the world we had come through could no longer be seen.

The contrast between these two worlds helped me to be more aware of the realm the earlier peoples of the region were immersed in and how the terrain, weather, and culture conspired to infuse magic into everyday life. This was a phenomenon that was much harder to see in my world.


Use of plants for sleep, dream intensity and nightmare control

Ancient Greek Asclepeion on the island of Kos

Various cultures throughout the written history of humankind have used plants to heal and induce trances and dreams. The ancient Ayurveda method of using plants to heal and induce sleep comes from the Indian subcontinent and is believed to bring balance back to an unbalanced system i.e. to heal what ails you.

In Ancient Greece people used to come from all over the known world to stay at clinics called Asclepeion where they would sleep amongst such plants as Lavender so as to incubate dreams. They would then tell their dream to a priest who would then diagnose their health issue and prescribe certain herbal or diet remedies and even some surgery if warranted through the dream interpretation.

This practice has attained some recent popularity though there is a substantial danger in using the over-the-counter material in that it has been found to contain high amounts of toxins such as mercury and other heavy metals and because there is no real oversight of this industry the concentrations of the plant ingredients is often too low to affect any healthful usefulness.

To that end I have mostly grown my own plants so that I have better control over their quality.

These plants made into teas or just tucked under a pillow or growing in a pot next to your bed have been found throughout the centuries to induce sleep, dream recall, and the reduction of nightmares. I cannot vouch for all of them and note this with the following icon: X. Those that I’ve tried and found to work I’ve used the following code: !=works; !!=works well .

WARNING: Of course none of these should be used in any form without consulting a physician. Those taking prescription medications should consult with a doctor for any negative interactions regarding these herbal interventions.






Lavender (as a tea additive–use sparingly; as an under the pillow sachet; growing in a pot near the bed) !! 







Chamomile (as a tea, or growing in a pot near the bed) !!





Licorice (It’s not Anise. Infused into a tea; or as a hard candy drop before bed) !!





Wormwood (Fresh and under your pillow; in a tea; has been used to calm nightmares. There are side effects [such as seizures] so if ingesting this plant in any form, one should be very careful–see warning below. It is also found in Absinth) !

 Vervain (used in its dried form in a sachet near your pillow helps with sleep) X

 Valerian root (as a tea it will promote restful sleep– can cause diarrhea and heart palpitations– see warning below) X





Passionflower (the fresh flower can be used to treat insomnia) X


Violets (to aid in restful sleep in a tonic) X

 Hops (Yes, the flavoring used in beer can help in its non-alcoholic form induce a restful nights sleep and powerful dreams when sleeping on a pillow filled with it, or in a tea) X




Ginseng (in a tea can help induce sleep) !




Thyme tea (to cure nightmares) X

Skullcap (as a tea it can help with insomnia) X



Sage (burn it as a smudge during a meditation just before sleep) !






Lemon Balm (as a tea for a soothing nights sleep) !!




Catnip (in a tea can help with insomnia) X




Kava Kava (sleep inducer, stress relief as a tea– in some concentrations this tea has caused some liver distress and is banned in some European countries, though it is still allowed in the U.S.– see warning below) !!



WARNING: Of course none of these should be used in any form without consulting a physician. Those taking prescription medications should consult with a doctor for any negative interactions regarding these herbal interventions.

Flowers have a special place in our dreams



My last blog of the year is on flowers and their meaning in dreams.




“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts. There’s fennel for you, and columbines—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference—There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. “

–In Shakespeare’s Hamlet


On a walk with my wife early this summer I was admiring all the gardens along our route, not just the quality of the landscaping but the profusion of flowers as well. While bending down to take in the fragrance of a rose I recalled an earlier dream where a rose played a prominent part. This got me to thinking about flowers in general and the special place they have in all our lives and dreams.

Poinsettia-not actually a flower because the red flower-like top are leaves called bracts.

We adorn our church sanctuaries with flowers, brides carry a bouquet of flowers as they walk down the aisle and the space is often covered in flowers. The poinsettia shows up at Christmas, the lily makes an entrance at the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Lotus is divine, symbolic of creation. Gods and goddesses sit upon the Lotus that symbolizes purity and raising them above the common, muddy existence of desire and attachment.

Flowers are at our funerals, our graves, our love affairs, our weddings, on national and regional flags, significant celebrations, and we even name our children after them is it any wonder that they also show up in our dreams?

Though today flowers tend to be just pretty emblems of occasion they once had great social and spiritual meaning.

Though Roses may mean a declaration of love today, Marigolds once held that position. Basil is pretty much an aromatic herb for many of us, but for many Indians it is the symbol for the god Vishnu and can be found in a place of honor in their family gardens. Forget-me-nots are the flower of Pisces from the Zodiac, the Yellow Wattle is symbolic of Australia, Tulips are symbolic of Sagittarius and heralds of Spring, and Daisies perfectly symbolize young innocence.


All mandalas have concentric circles to represent layers of consciousness as it moves from outer to inner i.e. from the world to the soul.

Carl Jung, the 20th century Swiss psychiatrist and guru of dreams saw the rose as representing the Mandala, a symbol of the unconscious self. He thought that dreams with roses were very spiritual in nature and that they were the equivalent of the lotus signifying transformation.

Across the millennia people have assigned mythical and religious meaning to flowers. For example, Lilies might represent the Trinity or the Virgin Mary, Easter, rebirth, or royalty (as in the fleur di lis).

The morning-glory is appropriately named, because the flower blooms in the morning and dies by the afternoon. Georgia O’Keeffe brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted the viewer to look closely at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Many of her paintings are considered by some to be spiritual in nature, though some see many of them as sexual so I’m not sure how successful she was at having people see her paintings without preconceived notions. However, the concept of “seeing” something with no preconceived notions is often the Eastern way of seeing a thing’s true nature.

Calla Lily by.- Georgia O’Keeffe 


Continue reading Flowers have a special place in our dreams