In a potted plant sitting obscurely in a corner of the patio behind our house sits a lamp that when night falls begins to glow an eerie blue. White crystals at its base fracture the light and send it helter-skelter across the garden floor eventually being absorbed into the dense forest of green across the miniature meadow. “What is that Grandpa?” Said my Granddaughter one warm spring evening while we sat in the dark before the moon took over the sky and dispelled the eerie shadows of the night.
“Ah yes, that’s a Fairy Lamp” I explained. “Ohh, what is that?” she whispered.
“A Faery Lantern, the link between two worlds (or the link between worlds) is like what the dream is to those who sleep and leave the world of light for the world of the night, the world of bright consciousness to the world of dark shadows.”
“The faeries are those images that reside within the dream and guide the dream body through the labyrinth of the inner psyche. Like Dickens’ ghosts of the Christmas Carol they cross through time and solid walls as though they didn’t exist. They are of the intuitive and imaginal world beholding to nothing of the material and rational and yet, and yet, hold the very secret of life, the cradle of our soul.”
“Light the lantern and sleep will overtake you and the fairies will come, dancing and flitting, soaring and buzzing through the air with an invitation to follow deeper into the night realm, deeper into the shadows of the unknown.”
“It’s mostly a curious world, a mad hatters craziness that can turn on the moment to either the sublime or upon a nightmarish Jabberwocky” I growled and clawed the air menacingly while my granddaughter recoiled in mock fear.
“It’s a place of wizards, wisdom keepers and great ladies, heroes, lovers, martyrs, tricksters, devils and death. It is a world where unicorns still forage and people can take wing over vast green meadows. Here the archetypal male in us all holds his hand to the female we all share and rejoices in the union that eludes us in the waking world.”
“As we travel through the world of the night the shape-shifting creatures of the dark will lure us into the Neverseen, the Land of Faery and introduce us to our true self. Once met and understood we can never ever be the same.”
“What do you think of that?? I queried and looked over at her, but the faeries had already come and taken her through the light of the lamp. I smiled and pulled my jacket against the encroaching cold.
I was doing some research this morning for my website when I came across a reference for the symbol of the Dragon in a dream. I’ve recorded several symbols for the dragon (see Dragon Symbols in the Dreaming Wizard website ), but was not aware that they are often seen as riddle makers as well. Given my run in with a Riddlegnome in the book The Archipelago of dreams (see Books by Author on right hand column), I wondered what part a riddle played in fantasy stories, or dreams for that matter.
Frequently riddles are a collection of opposing characteristics describing a single person, place or thing and yet it is the essence of the answer that reconciles the opposites into a single correct answer.
Riddles are often found at the entrance to all kinds of things and are presented as a means of opening the doors to something such as a cave, lair, or bridge and as such aid in the protection of these things. The riddle’s solution is thus the answer to an achievement of something valuable and nothing worth achieving is won without struggle. So it’s no wonder that the Dragon that is often seen as the protector of human treasure is affiliated with the riddle.
The riddle also represents mystery and mans struggle to discover the truth of things. Its solution elicits many of the same feelings associated with the discovery of an unknown truth–the conquering of something heretofore bigger than oneself.
For me at least, any riddle always tries my patience and tests my wit. It is also a metaphor for something that makes me feel stupid and requiring usually a higher degree of analysis and synthesis skill than I think I have. It can often be seen as the prelude to failure and an obstruction to progress. But I must be in pretty good company, or it wouldn’t be used as a protective charm so often in stories of magic. However, I also suspect that they are used in most cases to strengthen one’s higher-order thinking skills and as such as a game to test, or hone, one’s mettle.
While researching, my own dragon entered the room and of course, true to form, posed its own riddle that I present to you now, but unlike my encounter with the Riddlegnome, I will not munch on your bones should you fail to answer correctly.
“It is as warm as a summer’s breeze, or as cold as a stone on a winters day.
It is brighter than a star, or as black as a moonless night.
It can be as hard as rock, or as malleable as clay.
It is of the flesh and of the spirit.
It opens itself up to the universe and yet it can close hard latched when vulnerable.
It is all-powerful and yet easily broken.”
What is it?
There is no reward, or punishment for a correct answer other than the one presented by your own ego. Is that not always so?
Do whatever you do for the sheer joy of it and to honor, that which gave you the life to do it.
I had a dream the once where I was watching a small airplane struggling to gain altitude, to free itself from the gravity restraints of the Earth below. The engine sputtered and it looked as though it was going to crash into the side of a bridge. At the last moment it pulled up sharply, did a backward barrel roll, and barely missed the ground as it pulled out. I thought him a fool until I could see the pilot grinning as he turned the plane into a corkscrew roll, climbed and dove again, oblivious to the danger of failure and screaming with joy. Then I understood and grinned with him.
The dream reminded me of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach*. Jonathan was a seagull who lived to fly. He practiced impossible dives and rolls for the shear joy of the flight. The other gulls frowned in disgust and judgment because that wasn’t appropriate behavior for a seagull, but that didn’t affect Jonathan, because he wasn’t doing what he was doing for the approval of others–Jonathan was doing it for his own soul.
Sometimes I find myself dismayed at how few people show interest in my work with dreams. I keep looking at my blog, book, and website statistics to validate that I’m succeeding. But the real truth for myself is that I do what I do because of the sheer joy of doing it–I do it to free my soul and to let it soar. When I allow the judgments of others to define me, there’s no freedom to soar, much struggle, and no joy.
Yes, it’s nice to get acknowledgment for who you are and what you’re doing, but engineering your life so as to gain acceptance is a trap with no joy in it. Yes, you may need to work toward acceptance in order to advance or maintain a career, that’s a good strategy sometimes, but notice that the people who are flying high sometimes take risks as well and nearly hit the ground time and again. Like Jonathan it is in their nature to soar. Deep down I believe that it is in all our natures to break free of our self-imposed restraints and do a barrel-roll through the clouds.
Deep down beneath our cultural, social, ego-bound, and well-trained personae there is a soul struggling to be free of the gravity of our restraints. The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you have such a soul, such a desire, such a need to be free– to fly as your self and not as someone else’s image of what you should be.
“He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.
“Set aside,” came a voice from the multitude, “even if it be the Law of the Flock?”
“The only true law is that which leads to freedom,” Jonathan said. “There is no other.”
It won’t be easy, even Jonathan crashed a few times before he got the hang of it, but that gnawing void in him kept pushing to be free.
Practice being free, a little at first until you begin to master its technique. Accept that there might be failures and that from them you’ll learn.
Dedicate everything you do to something bigger than yourself. Over time this will free you from your worry-filled ego-self that wants to be accepted, to blend, and not look too weird. Jonathan may have looked as though he was doing what he was doing just for his own pleasure, but in reality he was honoring the creator who never intended that we should constrain ourselves and become servant to our limited images.
Give thanks to your own wings, your own gifts, and the time you’ve been given on Earth to learn to soar.
“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”
Just as the New Testament of the Christian Bible attempts to portray a new covenant with human reality there is an equivalent in physics. The old world idea of reality can be outlined in what is known as Newtonian physics. You know Newton he was the guy who started pondering the geometry of the universe because an apple fell on his head. In this point-of-view the world outside ourselves was thought to behave in a particular way i.e. individual events were predictable and from this predictability a precise schematic of reality could be deduced. This was the world of Einstein and Sherlock Holmes.
But along came a new guy in town, quantum physics–the study of sub atomic phenomena– and a new testament to reality was born. In this new take on the way things are the predictability of the Newtonian world is turned on its head, instead of being dropped on the head as with the apple, and the predictable becomes unpredictable and probabilistic. No longer can individual events be predicted because in this reality only groups of events have any potential for reality.
It gets weirder in the quantum reality because in this world you and I create reality through our experience and there is no reality beyond our experience of it. In this fundamental world that lies at the foundation of all that we see or seem the old adage that “seeing is believing” is wrong because here “believing is seeing”– we see what we’ve programed ourselves to see (though I contend that outside the physical world this has always been the way for human beings, socially, politically and psychologically i.e. we only see what we want to see).
In the tiny world of the quantum everything seems mystical, intuitive, and irrational. In many ways the left-brain rational view of reality that adheres to a rigid understanding of cause and effect has to give way to the irrational, nonlinear, and whole pattern experience of the right brain.
Note that these descriptions of rational vs. irrational, linear vs. creative, logical vs. intuitive follow the psychological profiles of the inner feminine and masculine that I’ve been writing about. Once again a singular left-brain masculine view of reality begs to be balanced by the right-brain feminine view. i.e. the world can be, and I assert that it should be, both assertive and receptive, rational and irrational1. Most societies reflect a left hemisphere bias on reality, the world of trying to understand everything. But there is room for the right hemisphere that stands in awe and wonderment.
Here’s an exercise to strengthen your right brain experience of reality: the next time you are awed by something just let the feeling be. Don’t try to figure out, label, or understand it. Just let the feeling sit within you–within the right hemisphere of your consciousness. Don’t engage the feeling with thought and logic, let the left-brain rest. Eventually you will ‘understand’, but in a whole new way, a way that words and formulae can’t describe, but every bit as real.
Do this with everything, a leaf, a bird flying across the sky, the rustle of a tree branch, the honk of a horn, the smell of food, a flower, or of a pretty girl walking by. Don’t identify it, label it, categorize it or phantasize about it, just “be” with it. It’s hard, I know, because we’re so used to giving precedence to our left, language based, and rationalizing brain. Practice this when it’s practical to do so (trying it while a truck is bearing down on you and blaring its horn is not a good time to “be with” the experience of it all) and you will experience the world in a much larger way.
1When I use the word “irrational” I don’t use it in the derogatory sense. I use it to refer an other than linear cause and effect way of seeing things an “other than rational” experience such as is experienced through intuition, or the so-called sixth sense.
Early one morning as the sun was still climbing above the tops of the faraway mountains, I threw on my jacket as insurance against the lingering cold from the night just passing and headed down the street to the old river trail. As I descended from road to trail a cold wind skipped playfully about me and I zipped the jacket tighter.
It was a gorgeous morning full of promise, birds calling to one another, a croaking frog and the buzzing of bees busily working the pollen of the flowers along the water’s edge.
I decided to head toward the little town off to the west and was sure that the path I was on was the true path toward that destiny. But somehow I got lost. “Funny”, I thought “This was always the way before!”
A little further down the path the ground became rocky with pools of muddy water and broken branches making the going much tougher than I remembered. I should have turned around, but I was convinced that this had always been the way to town and that I needed to persevere.
The sky became grey and ominous, threatening to pour down and a stiff wind snaked down the gully pushing me back against the way of travel. What had started off in beauty had quickly changed into darkening struggle, but I soldiered on. Debris began to build up against my forward progress and the rain had become so forceful it actually blew horizontal to the path and every step became painful. The sun had become so covered that the sky was nearly black and I could no longer see either my way forward or my way back.
I was cold, wet and lost and rapidly losing all hope, and to make it worse, the river was rising and lapping at the edge of the trail as it crumbled and began to disappear. A stepped back against a soggy berm so as to not be pulled into the chaotic waters but soon found I had no place to stand and the thoroughly drenched hillside offered no safety even if I could have climbed its muddy flank.
It was then that an old woman came out of the thicket and beckoned me to follow. At first I resisted, who knew what this old hag was up to and what dangers she would lead me into? But after several waves to me I decided that it couldn’t get any worse should I follow her and it was a sure bet that the way I was going wasn’t going to get me home so I let go my pride and followed her into the dense forest she had come from.
The going was tough, but the deeper I went into these woods the quieter the storm became until eventually we came to the edge of a great meadow ringed with tall redwoods. A grove of fruit trees stood to the east of us and it was there that the woman led me. Crossing the meadow the sun began to dry my clothes and warm the deadening cold that had gripped my soul earlier.
Somehow the world had changed, new vistas revealed themselves and just beyond the grove sat the sweetest log cabin I’d ever seen. As she stood at the door the woman beckoned to me to enter and because I had learned to follow her lead I walked inside. It was all I could have imagined it to be, I was home.
The patriarchal society that I grew up in had always told me that I should know where I was going and how I was to get there, but the road it lead me down was never-ending and never ever felt like home– I never felt as though I’d made it.
It wasn’t until I began to trust my inner feminine nature, that part of all of us that teaches us to open to our true Self, the wholeness that we are through our connectedness with everything, that I was able to see the real path for my life.
When we let go of our fantasy of what life is and follow our destiny even though it may not seem like the rational path we’ve been taught was the only true path, when we leave our preconceived goals and ideas and carefully conceived plans, then can we follow a path toward authenticity.
Sometimes the path has to be shattered and all seem lost before we can be open to the outstretched hand that offers us something new. Sometimes we need to let go our stubborn resolve of what is supposed to be in order to create a better way.
Some years ago I wrote a short story highlighting a young man’s adventure into magic, the kind of magic that we all can administer if we knew but how. It is 9:30 am here where I live and the first of the seven chapters will appear in The Dark Knight of the Soul blog this evening. Why the time-delay? Because this story can only be told when the sun has set and the mind leaves the illusions of the day and begins its journey toward sleep. Each chapter opens the heart to a place found only in ones dreams and for that reason I highly recommend that after reading you be open to the dreams of the nights following for they will magically add depth to the experience and take you further into the story than reading alone.
But first I present a little groundwork for the story.
I’ve written about magic on several occasions. You know, the kind of magic of the every day, a gorgeous sunrise, an airplane with outstretched arms leaping into the air and defying gravity, the silence of a redwood forest, fireflies darting through the branches, the birth of a child, falling in love, the gift of forgiveness, or a prayer answered are all forms of magic. There are also remarkable coincidences that transform life, graces that should never have happened, epiphanies, and miracles. There are moments when somehow you know that you are connected to everyone and everything else and that life is not just about survival.
That’s all magic, but sometimes, just sometimes, I ache for the magic of faeries, wizards and unicorns, potions, spells, and charms. I want to go where the shaman goes in his trance or to raise my magic staff and vanquish all the evildoers. I want to fly, ride dragons and hunt with Elves in a forest.
But when I look more closely I find that what I really want is the energy, the wonder, and awe that lie deep within my heart, my core, and my immortal soul. This is why I search, question and dig into the unknown. It’s all there hidden beneath the conscious images of life.
There is a glowing orb in the darkness that I sense more than see and that when touched it transforms all that I see. It is the other me whom I knew as a child but somehow lost touch with along the way to being grown up. It’s the magic of the child you were and still are, and when in his or her space you remember whom you are and are once again drawn to explore anything and everything because it’s there. And again you remember that you chose this because that’s what souls want to do– explore and express themselves fully.
The process of growing up often leaves a void in one’s soul and only the magical can fill it up. I think we all long for that place of never ending imagination where everything was possible and you were the true hero of your own story. There’s a certain safety and peacefulness in a world of faeries, dragons and unicorns, because there’s always a personal wizard that can make it so. We have lost touch with that personal wizard and thus feel lost in the world of man where no one can protect us from the evil.
My stories are designed to help regain the lost wizard. In the Archipelago of Dreams (2011) Robert regains what he had lost, though it took him many pains to do so. Hidden within the story is a word map that if understood and followed can lead one back to their core self and the lost wizard of their soul. In The Dragon’s Treasure (2009) the reader is lead back to the magic within them that waits patiently to be released once again and the skills of the wizard that resides in all of us are slowly revealed– it is a book that every Wizard’s Apprentice should have on their bookshelf.
Over the next few weeks I’ll explore this nearly lost art both in story and research, through the shaman’s mind and pieces of fact and lore that have been passed down through the ages. Tonight jump into the Dark Knight’s link to begin the story of a young apprentice’s awakening and his journey into the light. Tread carefully through all the pages to come for buried there is magic beyond your dreams.
In one of my videos* I used a mirror as a prop and symbol for the unconscious mind.
In myth Narcissus loved his reflection so much that he lost his will to live and admired himself to death. In our dreams mirrors can represent vanity, self-consciousness, a reflection of our self-image, an entry into the soul, or the need to reflect on our lives.
Whether in our waking world or in our dreams mirrors have always been seen as mystical, magical, metaphors for what lies within us.
For thousands of years mirrors and reflective surfaces have been used for divination and magic. They have been used for Scrying, developing clairvoyance, to repel evil, and in fact, mirrors have an ancient tradition of being associated with superstition, fear and evil.
1) Prior to the thirteenth century and as far back as the 3rd century BCE, mirrors were predominantly polished pieces of metal e.g. gold, silver and brass. These pretty much disappeared when the Christian church banned them during the middle ages because it was thought that the devil was watching from the other side of the mirror. This idea was probably reinforced because witches were said to use them for all kinds of dark spell casting. Glass mirrors showed up again in Venice in the 1200s.
2) Those ancient black Scrying (from descry–to see or perceive) mirrors used for divination by witches and sorcerers were once made black by using asphaltum painted on the glass three times. These were used for foretelling the future, or being able to “see” what is happening from distances, but is this real?
I imagine the staring at crystal balls, or Scrying mirrors to be similar to a focused meditation. Try closing your eyes in a meditation and focus on an individual, place, or event and “see” what you get.
Some studies have suggested the possibility that at least some individuals can see from distances beyond the physical abilities of the natural eye. Though these studies are not conclusive, they do provide tantalizing evidence for the technique of “remote viewing.”
Dreams too are like projections onto a darkened mirror some of which defy an explanation of anything other than what might be called precognition, or a shared viewing with someone else.
In short, meditation can often quiet the chattering mind just enough for us to see what the unconscious has picked up, but the conscious was too busy to notice. Thus too the Scrying mirror may act as a focusing instrument to still the mind and lay open the secrets of the inner psyche.
3) Today some tribal societies believe that to expose your self to a mirror is to render the soul vulnerable to misfortune, or even death. There used to be a widespread custom, and in some areas there still is, to remove all the mirrors from the house when a person is sick so as to prevent the mirror from stealing their soul.
When someone has died there was a tradition of turning the mirrors to face the wall because to see your reflection in a mirror after someone’s death will cause that person’s death as well. There was also a legend in the southern United States that suggested that an uncovered mirror in the house of a person who had just died would capture the soul of that person.
4) In the case of necromancy (communication with the deceased), the mirror represents absorption of the soul and then reflection, or its return, Could this reflect the concept of death and resurrection?
5) There is a myth concerning years of ill fortune surrounding the breaking of a mirror, but did you know that there is also a superstition that says if a mirror falls on its own accord and breaks, it is also a death omen? On the other hand a girl who sees the reflection of the moon in a mirror will learn the date of her wedding (given that women generally determine the day and then tell the man when it’s to be, this is no surprise).
6) There is also an old superstition that if you were to stare into the reflection of yourself at night, one would see the devil. Though I don’t believe this, I also have an aversion to staring at my reflection in a darkened room for too long–something creepy always seems to hover close by.
7) However, I have heard it said and have tried this myself, that if you are feeling blue, or anxious with no one around to talk to, try staring into your eyes reflected in a mirror. After awhile the negative mood will disappear.
8) Some Buddhists believe that if you hang a mirror on the wall directly facing the front door, evil spirits will be reflected out of the house.
9) In Tarot reading the Mirror Spread is used to work with existing relationships, e.g. the cards are placed with the 1st, or querent card, placed at the top and then 3 cards in descending order to the left of it and 3 cards in descending order to the right and the result card placed at the bottom between these two rows. In this way the reader and querent can see the relationships in opposition i.e. The way you see the other person in the relationship; The way they see themselves; What the person represents to you; What you represent to them; Obstacles within the relationship; Strengths within the relationship.
I spell all this out because I think this isn’t a bad way of looking at relationship symbols in a dream, or in a person’s waking life as well.
10) In Corinthians 13:12 is the line, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” Which some have taken to mean that to see something reflected in a mirror is less of the reality of that thing than to gaze upon it directly. This can happen when one looks back upon their childhood, or try to see what the child saw of the world, or to assign meaning to past events, or to look at God’s works through ones biases. To look through a window, or gaze at a mirror that has been darkened by your judgments and self-criticisms makes it difficult to see your true nature or what lies beyond your projected biases. This also reminds me of the saying involving “rose colored glasses.” To look through either does not give a true picture of the world.
As Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet was purported to have said,
“Maybe you should glimpse your most beautiful face…Maybe you are the bearer of hidden treasure. Maybe you always have been.”
*See facebook.com/darcharithinn and click on the Video section then click on the 4th video on the top row. This is “Beginning Shadow Work #6”.
“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
–William Butler Yeats
“On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a dinner party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.
And the world seems right.
But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts that whirl like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.
And nothing in the world seems right.
I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”
That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me ‘. And I remember once again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.
And the world seems right again.”
“True magic is discovered in creative interaction with the world and one’s inner life and imagination, not the misguided desire to have power over the world of time and its illusions. The Magus liberates one from bondage to the world of appearances, teaching that the secret of true magic is the right use of will and intention based in recognition of the holistic nature of reality.”