Animals in Dreams


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"The Sleeping Beauty, the Prince and the Dragon"
An Exploration of the Soul

Seminar 1
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Seminar Main Page What is the Soul? click here
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Seminar 2 The Origins of the Concept of Soul click here
Seminar 3
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Seminar 3 The Myth of the Fall click here
Seminar 4
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Seminar 4   Myths, Fairy Tales and Dreams  click here
Seminar 4A
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Seminar 4   Animals in Dreams 
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Seminar 5
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Seminar 5  The Roots of Depression click here
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Seminar 6 The Care of the Child click here
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Seminar 7 The Great Web of Life   click here
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Seminar 8 The Brain and the Neuro-psycho-immune System  click here  
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Seminar 9 The Dragon: Integrating the Archaic Psyche and the Shadow click here
Seminar 10
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Seminar 10 Rebalancing the Masculine and the Feminine click here
Seminar 11
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Seminar 11 Base Metal into Gold: The Process of the Soul's Transformation click here
Seminar 12
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Seminar 12 Individual Soul, Cosmic Soul and Spirit
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Seminar 12 The Wisdom Texts
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Seminar 4A


Reconnecting with the Instinctual Soul

ŠAnne Baring

…and already the knowing animals are aware that we are not really at home in our interpreted world

                                                                                       — Rilke, Duino Elegies

I have always loved the fairy tales which have an animal guiding the hero or heroine, as in the story of Conneda and the Little Shaggy Horse which I share later in this chapter. (1) In the Louvre, there is a painting by Henri Rousseau called La Charmeuse des Serpents where a woman in a moonlit landscape is playing a reed pipe, enchanting snakes and other animals—a painting which evokes the mysterious world of the dream and the importance of animals in dreams. And not only in dreams, for the ability of humans to understand the thoughts and feelings of animals and to communicate with them has been demonstrated by Amelia Kinkade in her workshops and her books where she explores her ability to “hear” the thoughts of animals and see the world as they see it and teaches people to develop these clairvoyant skills themselves. “Somewhere between poetry and science, somewhere between heaven and earth, clairaudience is born. Clairaudience is the sweetest mystery any human being could ever experience. Fortunately it’s contagious too. We all have amazing powers that we never before dreamed possible…we all have extrasensory perception…It just takes concentration and patience to harness it, develop it and distil it.”(2) As we can connect with and learn from animals in real life, so with the animals that appear in our dreams.
           Animals speak to us from the painted walls of caves in Africa, Australia and Europe where shamans traveled to other dimensions to encounter the souls of the animals the tribe held sacred. All this archaic experience is still alive in us, although deeply buried. Animals have visited us in our dreams for thousands of generations, but what of the animals in dreams today? What do animals represent in relation to ourselves? Surely they symbolize our own primordial soul, a part of our own nature that is older, closer to and more embedded in the life of the natural world. So many fairy tales portray the animal as guide, often appearing just when the hero or heroine has given up, not knowing what to do. As Jung eloquently writes in Psychology and Alchemy: Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy:

The way begins in the children's land, i.e. at a time when the rational present day consciousness was not yet separated from the historical psyche, the collective unconscious. The separation is indeed inevitable, but it leads to such an alienation from that dim psyche of the dawn of mankind that a loss of instinct ensues. The result is instinctual atrophy and hence disorientation in everyday human situations. But it also follows from the separation that the “children's land” will remain definitely infantile and become a perpetual source of childish inclinations and impulses. These intrusions are naturally most unwelcome to the conscious mind, and it consistently represses them for that reason. But the very consistency of the repression only serves to bring about a still greater alienation from the fountainhead, thus increasing the lack of instinct until it becomes lack of soul. (3)

Animals are one of the primary symbols of the instincts and speak to us in dreams from the older, mammalian and reptilian level of the instinctive primordial soul. The more archaic animals - the mammoth, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the bear, the wolf, the lion and the tiger personify older layers of the instinct - with the dinosaur or dragon as the oldest of all. Dreams of the domesticated animals - the horse, bull, cow, sheep, goat, dog, and cat - may describe feelings which are closer to the human dimension and, therefore, less threatening to consciousness. How they act, what their relationship is to the dreamer, whether threatening to him or threatened by him; whether they injure or are injured or whether they are in a harmonious relationship with the dreamer—all the different forms they can take are of vital significance for an understanding of what instinct is trying to communicate to us. They can shed light on the nature of the relationship between the conscious personality and those deeper, older levels of our primordial soul of which we may be utterly unconscious.
           All kinds of animals appear in dreams. We may dream of animals which approach in trust and friendliness, or of animals which are wounded and frightened or which attack, rend and devour. They may reveal a deep imprinting on the nervous system that happened when we were children. They may recall an early experience of abject fear when a child felt threatened by a critical or destructive parent or a situation such as the trauma of war. They may reveal the presence of powerful instincts which can be threatening or overwhelming if we neglect or repress them but can be transformed into great energy and creative power if we acknowledge and listen to them. From the way animals present themselves in dreams we may deduce from what level the instinct is trying to send us a message - archaic or more recent - and what feeling it is expressing: happiness, trust and delight, or rage, fear, distress or pain.
           We can learn to recognize which instinct is represented by the different animals we encounter in our own dreams. Sometimes they are much larger than life size and may come to awaken us to their guiding presence or to the fact that we are in the grip of a powerful imprinted belief or forgotten experience that needs to be made conscious in order for the soul to be freed from something that has injured it. In this archetypal form they can also bring healing and insight, becoming guides to mysteries we cannot fathom with our conscious mind alone. Sometimes, as in fairy tales like the story of Conneda and the shaggy horse below, they may even speak to us and turn out to be princes or princesses in disguise.
           Animals in dreams can warn, protect and guide as well as threaten and terrify, just as they can in life. The charge of a rhinoceros or an elephant in a dream can be as deadly as an actual charge in the African bush. If, for example, one can discover what the dream appearance of a hostile or wounded animal means in relation to some event or experience in one's life, the potential threat or unrecognised wound can be transformed into a powerful charge of energy which can be used creatively by us instead of our remaining the victim of its destructive assault. Anyone who has a dog or a cat will know that animals have intelligence, sensitivity to the thoughts and emotions of humans and advance awareness of things that are about to happen, such as their owner returning home after an absence. (4) But we are only just beginning to discover, or rediscover, as Amelia Kinkade has, the range of feelings and thoughts that animals can convey to humans if we learn how to listen and tune in to these.
           The most important approach to dream interpretation is to ask: what does the animal mean to the dreamer, what specific associations and memories of earlier experience does the animal evoke, what feelings does the dreamer have in relation to that animal in life as well as to the dream animal. It is helpful to write these down and keep a careful record of them.
           In my work with clients, whenever a particularly difficult phase in the analysis was encountered, and if no dream of an animal had presented itself, I would ask, “What animal comes to mind?” and then, “What does it look like? What state is it in? Does it have a message it wants to communicate?” Sometimes the animal would be so real to both of us that we would feel as if it were actually in the room. Sometimes the animal would be aggressive, sometimes wounded, sometimes helpless, sometimes dying or dead. Sometimes a dream would follow the session. In either case, I would ask my client to talk to the animal and listen carefully to what it had to say.
           Often, the memory of a childhood (or more recent) grief or trauma may be expressed in the image of a wounded animal—a horse or a dog, but sometimes a wild animal like a deer. Here is an example of a frightening dream of particular significance to a client:

I am in a wood. Suddenly, I am aware that a rhinoceros is charging me from behind. I jump on a mound in terror and it rushes past me, then turns to charge again. I am paralysed with fear.

The dreamer had come for analysis because of a crippling depression. The rhinoceros was an image of the deep terror and rage arising from a recent experience of rape to which she had been subjected. However, analysis gradually uncovered older memories of the childhood experience of a parent’s continual criticism which had led to an unconscious internalized indictment of herself as worthless. Her instinctive childhood delight in life and her original trusting and spontaneous response to it had been killed by that criticism, and with it the possibility of her discovering her true femininity and her creative gifts as well as being able to trust any man sufficiently to have a relationship with him because she was unable to trust herself. The negative pattern of self-destructive criticism had deeply injured the balance of her psyche. Sometimes such a pattern can lead a woman to neglect her safety or her physical health, living a self-destructive pattern such as sexual promiscuity, drug-taking and alcoholism or forming relationships with men who are addicted to any of these patterns. She may be so unconscious of her inner negativity that she cannot recognize the danger she is in. The actual violent attack on my client was the catalyst which helped her to become aware of the situation in the unconscious. Her trauma led her to seek help and become aware of an unconscious self-image that was blocking her path in life.
           Two years later she had a dream that she was riding bareback on an elephant, moving up a gentle slope. From this dream I knew that she was truly in touch with her instincts. She would be safe now because she could trust herself and them. Life would look after her. Her greatest longing was to find the right man to marry and to have children. I did not hear from her for some time but one day received a card with a photograph of herself with two small children, saying that she had met a wonderful man while on a visit to a distant country and was now happily married and the mother of two beautiful children.
           Animals often appear in dreams at key moments of transformation in our lives. To repress or deny the instinctive longing to create can be reflected in a dream like the following:

I am in a zoo, in the house where the lions and tigers are. I see an enormous sabre-tooth tiger in a cage. It is black and the stench coming from it is overpowering. I am afraid.

This dream revealed a situation where the caged instinct had become as dangerous as a sabre-toothed tiger—dangerous to the person who had this dream and to others. The stench was from the putrifying life that was not allowed to live. The blackness pointed to her unconsciousness of it. The dream was a stark warning from the caged instinct. Several decades later this woman dreamed that a magnificent male tiger came into her bedroom, which was open to the forest beyond. It approached her and suckled from her left breast, then lay down by her bed with its head on its paws.
           The most archaic animals—those which were familiar to Palaeolithic men and women and which were painted on the walls of their caves in south-western France—the mammoth, the rhinoceros, the bear, the auroch or bull and the cave lion—represent in dreams the most archaic instincts that function at the furthest remove from the conscious personality. All of these animals were once a danger to man, and many were the fearsome encounters he had with them as he hunted them or explored the labyrinthine passages of the caves in which they had their lairs. Yet Palaeolithic man lived much closer to the animals than we do and the animal was almost like a brother, another order of life on which he depended for food. Killing this “brother” broke the sacred order and required a ritual to atone for this action and also to invite the protection of the spirit world that would provide further animals for the hunt. To the consciousness of that time, animals did not “die” any more than humans did but were “recycled” from the womb of the Great Mother to supply the food garnered in future hunts. But it was thought necessary that rituals to secure the return of the slain animals were enacted in which the soul of the slain animals was honoured and thanked. To this day, hunters in the arctic circle may stroke the head and body of the walrus or whale they have hunted and killed, thanking it for its sacrifice. How different this attitude is to that of the whalers who kill whales for scientific research or for commercial exploitation of the valuable oil extracted from their blubber.
           Over many thousands of years, certain animals came to have immense symbolic significance, in particular the bear, the wolf, the lion and the stag as well as the snake and powerful birds such as the eagle. Along with these, there were insects such as the bee, which was of particular significance in the goddess culture where the queen bee personified the Great Mother. Other insects like the butterfly, the spider, the beetle and the dragonfly were also important. Obviously, different animals lived in different terrain and so which animals were significant depended upon the part of the world where both human and animal lived. These specific animals entered into the mythologies created by the tribe from the earliest beginnings of consciousness and the development of language. For example, Palaeolithic man chose as the totem of the tribe an animal that represented a specific quality he wished to make magically available to the tribe through the practice of ritual. Possibly the tribal shaman would journey to the animal realm and would be told to adopt this totem by the other-world embodiment of an animal or a bird. Today, people who are training to be shamans enter a trance in order to ask for an animal guide to appear. Once it has appeared, the trainee shaman works to develop a relationship with it.
           An example of this close relationship with the spirit world of the animals is found in African and Australian cave paintings. Certain animals such as the eland in Africa carried immense significance in the rituals devised to keep the tribe in touch with the spirit world and to guarantee the continued abundance of the animals hunted for food. Laurens van der Post, in his description of the mythology of the African Bushman, gives many examples of the close interweaving of the life of men, women and animals which give us great insight into the kind of relationship between them that existed many thousands of years ago. All animals, whether of land, sea or air, personify in dreams aspects of the instinct as a manifestation of spirit that can help, guide and protect as well as threaten and destroy.

The Bear
Certain animals became the totem animal of tribes and then of nations. The bear became the totem animal of Russia, the lion of England, and the eagle of Germany and the United States. In Europe, the bear may be the oldest totem animal, for its ritually arranged remains have been found in caves in the Swiss Alps that were inhabited in the inter-glacial era, before 75,000 BC. To this day, in the Arctic regions nearest to the North Pole, particularly with the Ainu people, the bear still plays a role in shamanic rites. The bear is also one of the oldest images associated with the Great Mother, perhaps because of the way the bear mother cares for her cubs, rearing them alone. Bear mothers made from bone and clay and holding their cubs in the way a human mother holds her child were excavated in the area that the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas named as “Old Europe”, dating to 7000 BC. (5) In Greek times, the bear was sacred to Artemis, the goddess who presided over childbirth. Annually in Athens, little girls, known as arctoi or bear cubs, were chosen to serve as priestesses of the goddess at her festival. Artemis was the goddess of wild or untamed nature, and the animal sacrifices she was believed to require were the most bloody of those offered to the Greek gods and goddesses. This fact should be borne in mind when a bear appears in dreams, for the maternal instinct, if it is totally archaic and unconscious, can destroy as well as nurture. The dream below shows the terror aroused in a young girl by the destructive power of her mother's instinct, of which both were unaware.

I am lying on my bed. Another girl who is like my sister is lying on it with me. A bear comes into the room. I am beside myself with terror and say to it, "Take her,” pointing to the girl beside me.

In a desperate attempt to save herself, the girl sacrifices her sister - also an aspect of herself - to the bear mother. This is an example of a cautionary dream that warns that “Mother,” whether seen as the Mother-state in politics, “Mother church” or the mother of a family, can devour her children through the unconscious desire to control and direct their lives. If one can become aware of this danger , one can more easily free oneself from its negative power.

The Wolf
The huge success of a book called Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, should alert us to the fact that she touched on something in the psyche of women that was of great importance and significance, namely, to make them aware of the importance and value of their instincts. The wolf is another wild animal that may appear in dreams. Like the bear, it may have associations with the mother archetype, as it has in the story of Romulus and Remus, the twin babies who were suckled by a she-wolf and grew up to become the founders of Rome. But the word for “wolf” in Rome also designated a harlot who was viewed as a woman who preyed on men. In Greece, the wolf , like the dog, was sacred to the goddess Hecate, who personified the dark side of the moon and, therefore, what is most deeply unconscious from the perspective of the conscious personality. On the whole I think it is true to say that the wolf has usually represented something dangerous and frightening to humans.
           While there have been attempts to domesticate wolves and even stories of extraordinary relationships between men and wolves, wolves seem to appear in people's dreams more as the symbol of a predatory instinctual pattern of behaviour which may cause the dreamer who is unconscious of it to act like “a wolf to man”, as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described it. The wolf within, unrecognised and banished to the tundra or darkest forest of our nature, can represent our most predatory instincts and swallow up our humanity. A recent and horrifying example (2008) of someone taken over by his predatory instinct is the Austrian father who kept his daughter prisoner in the cellar of his house for twenty-four years, fathering seven children on her, three of which were imprisoned with her and had never once seen daylight until the day of their release. Another is the paedophiles who sexually abuse children.
           Wherever a child has been savaged by the “wolf” in others, it may in turn behave like a wolf. Hence the terrible murders of children by other children as well as the repetition of the predatory pattern of abuse of other vulnerable children when an abused child becomes an adult. If these traumas remain unacknowledged and untended, the victim or victims may become the predator who unconsciously revenges himself on others for the injury he has sustained, however distant that injury may be in the past.
           Overwhelming rage, hatred and compulsive greed are the end result of rejection, abandonment and cruelty. Wounds festering in the unconscious can have a devastating effect on relationships with others. But the instinct has the power to transform itself if its wounds are recognized and treated. A woman who had endured a tormented childhood and was often taken over by uncontrollable rage had this dream after she had understood the cause of her rage and the possibility of it being transformed:

A wolf is being skinned. It is a very painful process. I sit by its side and stroke its head to soothe it. Because of my sympathy for it, it allows the process to continue.

The dream reminded her of the story of St. Francis meeting with the wolf of Gubbio, which pledged to the Saint as it placed a paw in his hand, not to molest and kill the people of that city any more. The creation of a relationship with a dangerous instinct may transform it from lethal enemy into friend and ally.

The Snake
The snake is one of the most fascinating of all dream images, difficult to interpret as it can mean so many different things to different people. It has so many associations and meanings, and plays so important a role in mythology and dreams that it would require volumes to explore its significance. To some people, the snake symbolizes good, to others, evil. To some it is an image of healing, to others an image which inspires absolute terror and revulsion. Because of its ability to slough off its skin and regenerate itself, the snake is one of the oldest images of life’s power to renew itself. Over immense periods of time, in many different cultures, it became an image of spirit, both the eternal spirit of life in general, and the life spirit of the individual, the quintessence or core of his or her being.
           The anthropologist Peter Worsley, in his book The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of “Cargo” Cults in Melanesia, gives an example of what the snake may signify in the shamanic cultures that still survive in the modern world:

The snake is commonly identified in New Guinea with the old Man or Woman, the Demiurge who created men, animals, tools and social groups alike. The snake symbol has further significance in representing the essence or soul, the continuing vital part of the organism which persists eternally while the outer husk of the body dies and is sloughed off...snakes and lizard frequent men's houses, which they enter unseen from the wild. They are thus friendly towards men, but at the same time potentially very dangerous. This makes them peculiarly suitable symbols for the ancestors who keep a close watch on the affairs of the living, and who are helpful if placated, but vengeful if mishandled. The symbol of the snake thus combines a number of symbolic ideas fused into one, and is particularly rich in its associations and overtones. It symbolises human fertility because of its phallic implications, but it also symbolises the fertility of non-human animal life and natural life in general… Because it never dies, it transcends all these narrow implications, and stands for the cycle of life itself, the continuity of the whole cosmos and the perpetuation of the soul...The snake is also a nigh-universal symbol of rebirth...It is the sloughing off of the skin which has given rise to the universal association of the snake with resurrection and regeneration. (6)

The snake lives in the desert, in the jungle, in rivers, swamps and oceans, under stones and in secret hidden places. It moves with lightning swiftness yet with a graceful, undulating movement. It can suffocate, poison and devour yet it is also an age-old symbol of healing. In dreams it can be both an image of archaic fear, yet also a symbol of the creative spirit. It is the oldest known image of the wisdom of instinct. The deeper levels of the soul carry a charge of great danger but they also contain the potential of undreamed of powers of healing and renewal. Our reptilian brain is our oldest brain system and functions in us as the autonomic nervous system below the threshold of our consciousness. Yet how miraculous the working of this system is and how severely it can be injured or destroyed by the way we live our lives or the way we treat each other, particularly our children.
           The serpent or snake, like the dragon, is the traditional guardian of the treasure. In the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia and Greece, it was the symbol of wisdom, power and healing until, with the rise of the patriarchal religions, it came to symbolize deception and evil because it was associated with the tempting of Eve in the Myth of the Fall.
           In Bronze Age Egypt and Sumer, goddess and serpent are seen together—the serpent representing her power to regenerate life. In Egypt, Pharoah's crown carried the image of the cobra, the uraeus, symbol of the goddess Hathor, from whom flowed his power to rule Egypt. The Cretan goddess carried serpents in both hands as a symbol of her power to bestow both life and death. The goddess Athene wore the Gorgon's head wreathed in snakes upon her breast and, in a magnificent statue of her from the archaic temple on the Acropolis, snakes undulate along the edges of her robe.
           In Greece, Aesclepius, the god of healing, was always shown with a snake coiled by his side. This ancient image of healing has come down to us as the two snakes twined about the staff of Hermes or Mercury, which today has become the symbol of the medical profession.
           In the West, the image of the serpent is deeply implicated in the role it played in the drama of the Garden of Eden in tempting Eve to take the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. As the primary symbol of the goddess’s power of regeneration, it was vilified in this myth, punished by God and condemned to bite man’s heel and to be bruised and crushed by it. Unsurprisingly, in the Christian tradition, because of its role in the Myth of the Fall, the serpent came to be viewed as a symbol of evil, even of the devil.
           An altogether different approach is found in the East where the serpent is ubiquitous as a symbol of life’s creative and destructive power. It is found most strongly represented in the magnificent temples of Angkor in Cambodia and in countless temple sculptures throughout India and south-east Asia. Often, the Buddha is shown seated on the coils of a gigantic serpent whose seven cobra heads fan out behind him to form a protective canopy. To have the serpent as guardian and guide rather than adversary means that what was blind and unconscious and in its primordial state in us has been raised to full consciousness. In the Eastern traditions, the power of the primordial instinct to kill and destroy has been transformed into compassion for all life and the power to heal.

The Buddha protected by Mucalinda
This greatest potential achievement of human consciousness is symbolised in Indian mystical teaching by the journey of the serpent goddess Kundalini from the lowest chakra at the base of the spine to the highest chakra at the crown of the head where the twin masculine and feminine conduits of the life energy meet in the central channel – the sushuma – and flower into the thousand-petalled lotus. The long and arduous journey of the instinct from an unconscious state to full consciousness accomplishes its transformation from blind archaic impulse to the highest expression of wisdom and compassion. In the Buddha’s words, “Incomparable are those who are Awake”.
           We can see everywhere, both in people's personal lives and in the world as a whole, that instinct acting blindly and unconsciously brings untold suffering and evil into being. As long as we shut off this greatly feared instinctual part of ourselves from our awareness, it has the power to take over our fragile consciousness by triggering responses to events that happen to us or by powering negative projections onto other people. But it is also an incomparable guide and ally, and dreams often show it in this guise.
           Some people are afraid of being bitten by snakes or suffocated by their coils, yet others can be completely at home with them. Few may realise, when dreaming of a snake, that they are receiving a message from the deepest layers of the primordial soul. The instinctual layers of the soul carry a charge of great danger - even mortal peril - but they also carry the potential of undreamed of powers of healing, as the two snakes winding around the caduceus of Hermes suggest. Dreams of snakes need, therefore, to be given great attention.
           The snake-bite in a dream can be a warning, making one aware that something is amiss in the depths of the psyche, perhaps initiating an awakening to a dangerous pattern of unconscious instinctuality that can range from inertia, through greed and jealousy, to addictions of all kinds or to violent rage. Yet the snake-bite that seems to be so painful, frightening or even deadly can mark the beginning of a process of awakening, healing and transformation, as my own dream of the giant serpent, described in Chapter Two, did for me. A woman engaged in creating a relationship with these depths dreamed the following:

I am swimming in a stream which wanders through a beautiful tropical paradise. Beneath me are many huge snakes which are moving along the bottom of the stream. I am a little afraid but they seem very peaceful and I swim on inches above them with a sense of trust and delight.

Another client, a man who became a writer during the course of his analysis, dreamed:

I am walking up a grassy incline in front of a beautiful country house. There is a line of trees on either side and a woman is walking with me. Accompanying us on both sides as we climb the slope is an enormous snake. I remember that there was a general sense of beneficence rather than fear and that I also associated this feeling with my creativity.

The snake in dreams can give us an image of what is happening at the level of the autonomic nervous system, for the snake personifies our oldest brain system, the reptilian brain. Since our health and well-being and, indeed, our life, depend on the healthy functioning of these autonomic processes, a snake in great distress or in pain can be interpreted as an image of a disruption or interference with them which could lead, ultimately, to a fatal illness and to death. This dream of a woman at the beginning of her analysis alarmed me because it suggested that she was in great danger, even that her life was threatened:

I am in a garden shed. A man has told me to impale a huge snake on a meat hook. It has eight sections and hangs limply, as though dead.

Her instinctual life had been so cut off from her conscious self that she was completely unaware of her suffering. For years she had endured the pain and persecution of an unhappy marriage, trying to be a good mother to her children, and literally denying the value of her own life in a pattern of unconscious sacrifice. In living her life in this way, she was following her mother's own pattern of self-sacrifice which she had absorbed as a child. The dream gave her an image of the plight and the suffering of her instinctual life, as well as insight into the controlling masculine power in her psyche which had told her to impale the snake on the meat hook, as if she had no choice. Two instinctive levels of the psyche were in conflict with each other. The one reflected a pattern of learned behaviour that had been imprinted on her as a child by her stern, controlling father, who had ruled her mother and the household with a rod of iron. The other reflected her denied feelings of distress. She ruled her own life with the same rigid control, never listening to her feelings of exhaustion, pain and despair. This “stiff upper lip” attitude is characteristic of women who have had a strong religious or disciplinary indoctrination from a controlling parent in their childhood. The impaled snake gave her an image of her repressed unconscious feelings, specifically her denied sexual and emotional needs. The strain of carrying the tension of the conflict was exhausting her and even threatening her life. Another dream of a wounded and flagellated horse whose flesh was hanging in ribbons, brought this message home to her. About a year later, having become aware of the suffering she was carrying in her heart, she at last began to listen to her feelings and dreamed the following:

I am holding a baby alligator in my arms. I stroke it and cuddle it, then it slips from my grasp and I lose it. Later I find it again in a cave and it has grown into an adult with eight sections to its body.

Sometime after this dream, she left her husband and entered into a rewarding relationship with another man with whom she could share her life and her interests.

Creatures of the Deep: the Crocodile, Whale, Dolphin, Octopus
Watching a crocodile devour an animal or a human being is a horrifying experience and crocodiles in dreams, speaking to us from the oldest level of the limbic brain, can arouse primordial fear in the same way as a dinosaur would. Yet the dream above shows the crocodile or alligator in a different light. I remember reading about a group of people living on the banks of a river in the Sudan. Apparently the crocodiles in this region are not aggressive towards humans nor are humans afraid of them. Children climb on their backs, swim with them and are totally at ease with them.

The Whale
People all over the world have been appalled by the spectacle of the whale-hunt and have made strenuous efforts to outlaw it. It seems so barbaric, so predatory and so wrong that man should kill this wonderful mammal. Equally, evidence is coming to light that naval exercises in the deep ocean have disturbed and disoriented whales, driving them inshore to die stranded on beaches.
           The New Zealand Aboriginal film Whale Rider illustrates both the loss of the shamanic connection with whales and its recovery through the extraordinary courage of a young girl. This film draws attention to the recent phenomenon of people wanting to swim with whales and dolphins, as if trying to recover the feeling of that ancient relationship with these creatures of the deep and, at the same time, recovering the lost connection to their instincts. People return exhilarated as well as deeply moved by these encounters. Sometimes, their lives change out of all recognition as a result of them, particularly the lives of children. These types of encounters have been filmed many times and it is an incredibly beautiful sight to see someone swimming with dolphins or with a whale and her calf, gracefully keeping in tune with their movements and seeming able to communicate with them and draw an empathic response.
           In 2006 a story appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle that described the rescue of a female humpback whale that had become entangled in a spider web of hundreds of pounds of crab traps and yards of ropes. These had all become wrapped around her body and her tail, with a line tugging at her mouth. A fisherman saw her struggling and radioed an environmental group for help. They decided that they could only release her by trying to untangle the web of ropes in which she was enmeshed. For hours, at great risk to themselves, they worked with curved knives to free her. When she was eventually freed, the divers said that at first she swam in joyous circles. Then she swam up to each and every one of them and gently nudged him. She pushed them around, as if saying, “Thank you.” The man who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eye was following him the whole time. He said he will never be the same after that experience. Others said it was the most moving and beautiful experience of their lives. What a contrast this story offers to the totally unnecessary killing of the whales by the Japanese and other whaling fleets.
           Years ago I had a dream that I was on a liner with many other passengers. I was looking out to sea while the others were on the other side of the ship. Suddenly, an enormous whale rose out of the water and headed straight for the ship. It was so huge that I thought it would capsize it, but as the whale approached it became clear that it simply wished to communicate with us. I saluted it and thanked it for showing itself. I took the dream as a message to humanity, traveling in the ship of consciousness, unaware of the great sea of the soul and its messenger, the whale.

The Dolphin
Dolphins appear often in people’s dreams. I remember a client’s dream where a dolphin swam towards her and kissed the palm of her hand. This dream was so inspiring that she began writing a novel.
           In 2008, an incident was reported suggesting that dolphins have an empathic instinct similar to humans that could we directed to protecting other species. A group of dolphins began to circle closely some life guards who were swimming off the coast of New Zealand, calling to more dolphins for help and tightening the circle in such a way that no-one could break out of it, banging their tails on the water and making a tremendous rumpus. After three quarters of an hour of treading water till they were all exhausted, one man did eventually dive out of the circle and saw what had given rise to the dolphins’ extraordinary behavior – a great white shark was circling the group, waiting for an opportunity to attack. Eventually, it gave up and swam away. The dolphins by their protective action had saved the lives of five exhausted and perplexed people who were unaware of the danger that threatened them.
           In March 2008, another recent eye-witness account from the North Island of New Zealand (14/3/2008), reported how a dolphin known to the human observers as Moko had come to the aid of a pygmy sperm whale and her calf which had repeatedly beached themselves on a sandy bank. Whereas the efforts of humans had failed, the dolphin continually called to the whales, eventually persuading mother and calf to move out into the open sea. As Audrey Manning, Emeritus Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University, comments, “This would be one of the most amazing cases of inter-species cooperation ever recorded, especially as from Moko’s perspective it appears to be an entirely selfless act”.
           In her article she brought up other examples of altruistic behavior on the part of animals, in particular the story told to her by a game warden in South Africa of an elephant who had lost most of its trunk. This elephant should have died very quickly but instead, it was being kept alive by other elephants who used their own trunks to suck up water from the water-hole and squirt it into the mouth of the injured elephant. “For an animal to show that sort of empathy for another and to follow it up with genuinely altruistic behaviour is nothing short of astonishing”. We could take note of these examples and understand that our own capacity for empathy and compassion may derive ultimately from the archaic programming of our mammalian brain.

The Octopus
Encountering the octopus or sea-monster in dreams can be a terrifying experience, particularly if one is dragged down by its tentacles or limbs far below the surface of the sea. A client had a dream that a huge sea-monster had attacked a ship and dragged it down into the depths. This was the beginning of uncovering a long-forgotten childhood trauma—an experience of sexual abuse by a grandfather of which neither of us had any idea at the beginning of her analysis.

The Domesticated Animals
The domesticated animals - those who have lived closer to human habitations—such as the bull, cow, horse, pig, dog and cat—may personify a level of the instinct that is closer to and, therefore, more accessible to the conscious personality. All these animals were, in past civilizations, associated with the Goddess: the cow with Hathor in Egypt and Inanna in Sumer, the bull with the rites of the Cretan goddess and the Greek god, Dionysus, the pig with Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries, the horse with Athene, the dog with Hecate and the cat with Isis. It is helpful, when interpreting dreams, to hold these ancient associations, as well as more personal ones, in mind. In the Islamic tradition, pork may have been considered an unclean food because the pig was once sacred to the goddess (because of its fertility). As the goddess was replaced by Allah as supreme deity, so her sacred food became unclean.

The Bull
Many women have dreams of being pursued by a bull. Writers and analysts often associate the bull with un-integrated sexuality, and there the dream interpretation rests. But the image of the bull is so fascinating and complex that, just as with the snake, a book could be written on its symbolism alone. In Bronze Age lunar culture, the bull like all horned animals, represented the life-giving potential of nature, associated with the horns of the crescent moon and sacred from time immemorial to the goddess. It was the principal animal symbol of her dying and resurrected son who personified the eternally regenerating life force of the earth. Bulls were sacred animals in the lunar culture of the Bronze Age. In Crete, the dangerous art of bull-vaulting was a part of sacred ritual in the courtyard of the temple at Knossos. In ancient Greece, white bulls were sacrificed to Poseidon, the god of the sea. The god Dionysus was often portrayed as a bull and bulls were sacrificed to him and their raw flesh eaten in a ritual feast. Later, in the Mithraic rituals of the Roman period, the blood of the sacrificed animal drenched the initiate standing beneath a special platform. Any or all of these ancient images stand behind the dream image of the bull today, held in our unconscious collective memory, for the soul does not forget such things.
           If someone is not in a right relationship with this creative energy, it can turn negative and destructive; its horns can toss, rend and kill. It can metaphorically attack in a headlong charge of violent rage that can be a danger to others as well as oneself, since someone who is in the power of such a strong instinct, may be “beside him-or-herself,” crashing around like a bull in a china shop. However, the frightening dream experience of being chased by a bull might be the only way that a person’s attention can be drawn to something of vital importance that is being denied expression. A bull appearing in a dream in a way that frightens the dreamer can be a warning of the need to become aware of powerful instincts that are threatening the dreamer or can indicate the need to find a channel of expression for a deeply denied longing to create or to heal. The bull is, after all, the symbol of St. Luke, the healer-physician. It often seems to me that people charged by bulls in their dreams are unable to recognize and acknowledge their creative gifts or their ability to heal. A woman who had countless dreams of being chased by a bull finally had a dream in which she was sitting by one, singing to it, while the bull, enchanted, listened to her song. In another dream she watched astounded as a handsome man climbed out of a bull’s skin, exactly as fairy tales describe this kind of transformation.
           One of Jung's closest colleagues, Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz, told an amusing story of a client of hers whom she knew had the talent to write, but who insisted that he was not a writer. One day he came to her with a dream in which he was being chased by an enormous bull. Running for his life, at the last minute he leapt over a fence and looked back. The bull had risen up on top of the fence as if to leap over it after him, and as he did so his extended penis was exposed. At the end of his penis was a ball-point pen! The unconscious could hardly have given a clearer or more witty message to the dreamer. “After that,” Dr. von Franz commented, “he wrote an excellent thesis”. (7)

The Horse
One of my favorite stories is told by Heinrich Zimmer in his book, The King and the Corpse. Conneda, son of the king and queen of Connaught in Ireland, sets out on a quest which takes him into a forest. There he meets a Druid who tells him to mount the little shaggy horse he will shortly come across, to let the reins fall loose on its neck and to let it guide him where it will. Conneda does as he is told, mounts the horse and is taken first beneath the deep waters of a lake and then over a mountain flaming with fire. The burns he sustains in the flames are healed by a magic bottle of elixir—All-Heal—which, the little horse tells him, is concealed in one of his ears. Surviving these dangers and trials, Conneda is told by the little horse to kill him, flay his hide and afterwards anoint the remains with the elixir. Deeply distressed at having to kill his friend, Conneda nevertheless does as instructed and is amazed to see a handsome prince, who had been changed into the form of the horse by a wicked wizard, emerge from the flayed remains of his faithful friend. The prince takes him into a fairy city where his brother gives Conneda the magic trophies he has set out to find.
           At times the horse in dreams seems to symbolize the instinct that, so to speak, carries the conscious personality on its back. The attitude of the conscious self towards the horse that carries it is of vital importance. A book called The Man Who Listens to Horses by Monty Roberts and the film, The Horse Whisperer, have shown the incredible sensitivity and capacity of the horse to respond to gentle training by the person who has the patience and empathy to create a relationship with it and to wait for the horse’s own response to the man or woman standing in the center of the ring. For centuries, it was thought that the horse’s will had to be “broken” before it would accept saddle, bridle and rider. Now attitudes are changing. The sight of a dressage horse moving absolutely in tune with the music being played and in sympathy with the leg and hand movements of its rider is one of the most moving and beautiful things that it is possible to see.
           In dreams, therefore, it is important to be aware of how the horse is behaving. Is it able to move freely, even under the control of the bridle or, if unbridled, to gallop in freedom across the land? Is it out of control, too tightly bridled, exhausted, lame or injured? Does it call to mind the sculptor Maraini’s final statue of a horse and its rider where the horse is shown forced into an unnatural position, almost a scream of tortured anguish? Perhaps this statue symbolizes the predicament of the instinct which has to endure the suffering we force on it by our conscious attitudes.
           The horse can also represent the body in dreams. The horse as body carries us faithfully through life. Often its rider has no idea that its weight has become burdensome to the animal-instinct. Our intense relationship with our animals—horse, dog or cat—represents the externalized expression of a relationship that could be established with our own instinct. It too could benefit from the same quality of compassionate attention and affection we give to our animals. That caring attention may, in fact, calm and soothe our own instinct. Recently, it has been found that taking dogs into children’s hospital wards and old people’s homes helps them to recover more quickly and to feel much happier.
           Here is a dream of a deeply wounded horse, representative of a woman’s traumatized nervous system:

There was a movement behind me, to the left and I saw a horse, a lovely palomino/gold horse with a pale muzzle. I could see its jaw was somehow distorted, the muzzle enlarged - as if its lower lip jutted forward below the top. It was bleeding too, its skin hanging in ribbons. As it turned towards me, I saw the flesh of its right shoulder shredded and bunched together like a knot of ribbons. A woman said it was in a terrible way, and implied it should really be put down.

Asked to relate this image to what might have happened to her as a child, her six-year-old self came back to her. She suddenly remembered that she had been given a wonderful Chinese painting of chrysanthemums by a friend of her parents, in the expectation that she would color it. She had been thrilled and did indeed color in the flowers but then, wanting to add something to the magic, she had cut pictures of fairies and flowers and other images she loved out of her books and pasted them onto the picture. When her parents saw what she had done, she was severely beaten (beatings were a regular occurrence in her family). Not understanding why her parents were so angry with her, she was deeply imprinted with the idea that her instinctive and joyous impulse to create was wrong or bad and would invite punishment. This was the primal wound to her limbic brain that lay behind the image of the bleeding and flayed palomino horse. The negative charge of that experience affected her life forty years after it happened, giving rise to severe episodes of depression whenever she embarked on a commission or tried to express her creativity (she was an artist). Imprinted on her nervous system was the expectation of punishment if she took up her brushes and dared to express her creative gift.
           Here is the dream of a dyslexic twelve-year-old girl, deeply distressed by her difficulties at school and unsure of her path in life:

I am with a little old man with a long white beard who takes me up to the attic of a house. It is empty except for twelve trunks. We look into each of the trunks and they are all empty until we come to the last. In this one there is nothing save a tiny black horse with a jewelled saddle and bridle, studded with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds. The horse is alive. The old man hands it to me.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the girl became fascinated by horses, became an event rider and a highly respected riding teacher.

As long ago as the Neolithic era, birds were regarded as messengers of the Great Mother. All birds were sacred to her, among them the crane, the swan, the goose, duck, owl, diver bird and vulture as well as smaller birds like the dove and the swallow. These find their way into later mythologies and into fairy tales that tell of the magical guidance of swans, doves or hoopoes, as in the famous twelfth century Sufi story of The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud Din Attar. In dreams birds may appear as messengers of the soul.
           Years ago, in the spring of 1983, a journalist called Christopher Booker wrote two articles in the Daily Telegraph (UK) recounting people’s experience with owls which seemed to announce the death of someone close to them. I kept these articles because I found them so interesting and have drawn on them to write this section. After giving several examples of owls as connected with death, he drew attention to the fact that people both in the past and present who lived on the most intimate terms with the rhythms of the life around them, saw themselves “… as part of an unending cosmic drama in which everything which happens, both in their own lives and in that of nature around them, is mysteriously interrelated. They perceive a dimension to existence which in our hyperconscious civilisation we have almost entirely lost touch with – and which is vital to their profound reverence for the whole business of being alive.”
           A month later, he wrote a second article, having received many moving letters about people’s experience of owls acting as “messengers” of the imminent death of someone close to them or returning to comfort the bereaved some time after their death.
           One story in particular seemed to stand out. A woman wrote describing how her husband had been fascinated by owls and had photos of them around the house. On the first anniversary of her husband’s death, when she had awakened feeling desperately sad and lonely, she became aware of an owl calling in the distance. “I stopped and listened. It came closer, hooting at intervals, and finally settled in the tree outside my window, where it ceased hooting and made a series of clucking, comforting noises which sounded so comical that I burst out laughing. I closed my eyes, and slept in great peace till the morning.”
           “It is said,” writes a woman of Cherokee descent in a recent book, Mind Before Matter: Visions of a New Science of Consciousness, “that at one time the animals, the stones, the many forms of life and humans spoke the same language. This changed and the animals and the other forms of life stopped speaking to aid humans in their learning of many things, among them, listening.” (8) Maybe, when people were still able to listen, even the stones spoke to them the way one did to me in my dream, recounted in Chapter Thirteen. In earlier shamanic cultures, people would have been aware that the animal and the human world interacted with a hidden dimension of reality. They would have observed and taken note of the messages transmitted from this dimension through what Jung called “synchronicities,” among them the appearance or unusual behaviour of an animal or bird, whether in dream or waking reality, that seemed to bring a message from a loved one who had died or was about to die or who had come to communicate a warning to humans. (9)
            As my understanding deepened, I realized that birds can personify the soul itself, bringing messages to our conscious self through the medium of the dream. The hoopoe has held great numinosity for me ever since I read the Sufi story of The Conference of the Birds. It deepened as I worked on the text of my children’s book, The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time. So when a close friend of mine had several dreams about the hoopoe, a most beautiful bird with black and white striped wings, a pink breast and a striking crest, which can be seen in southern Europe and countries around the Mediterranean, I felt it came to life for both of us. While on holiday in Crete she had a dream that three hoopoes appeared to her as she lay in a dark cave, one of them feeding from her hand.

I was lying on my right side, exactly as I was in reality, and seemed to be in a dark cave. The ceiling was low. To my right, at the mouth of the cave, I could see a sliver of light. It became brighter, illuminating a shelf of soft green grass at the entrance. Over this shelf stepped a hoopoe. I said in amazement: "Robert (my husband) will not believe this." Another hoopoe stepped into the cave behind it. The first bird flew towards me, over my body, becoming slightly heavier and greyer, its beak more parrot-like. It flew down to my right hand and started feeding from it, although I could not imagine what I might have upon which it could feed. It rejoined its companion at the cave mouth, becoming more like a true hoopoe again. A third hoopoe entered, I remember little else of the dream, except my voice saying: "I do believe." When I woke I felt like a child that had been given exactly what it had asked for. It was my birthday. All day the palm of my right hand itched uncomfortably. When I got home, the research began.

She was so moved and inspired by this dream and others in which the hoopoe again appeared that she wrote an MA thesis on the history and mythological meaning of the hoopoe. In the prologue to her thesis she wrote:

In the Sufi tradition of Islam, one symbol of the soul's guide is the hoopoe, King Solomon's bird, “messenger of the Presence and courier of the Invisible”. In my own dreams, and in states between waking and sleeping, the hoopoe has appeared, bringing with it a sense of numinosity. Such appearances have led me back, through Sufi, Hermetic and Neoplatonic thought, to Greek myth , and to the soul journeys of the ancient Egyptians...Imagination is the liminal place where Heaven and Earth meet, the place of soul and its transformation. It is the place where the hoopoe is guide, mediating between God and humankind.

The Butterfly

The butterfly is one of the oldest symbols of transformation and regeneration, No one who, as a child, has waited for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly can forget the moment when the earth-bound caterpillar turns into the beautiful, fragile winged creature that can fly. Together, these two aspects of a single life-form suggested that the soul could survive the death of the outworn “form” of the body. In the Cretan seal below in the left upper quadrant, above the heads of the young couple seated on a branch, there are two chrysalises becoming butterflies, signifying the release of the soul into the “Immortal Realm”.

Cretan Seal from Pylos

The Bee
Bees as well as all insects that spin cocoons or weave webs, serve as images of the miraculous interconnectedness of life. The intricate intercellular structure that secretes the golden essence of life is an image of the network of invisible nature that relates all things to each other in an ordered harmonious pattern. Perhaps this is the meaning of the tale in which the infant Zeus is fed on honey in a cave in Crete, and why honey was the nectar of the gods. Furthermore the busy bee, following the impulsion of its nature to pollinate the flowers and gather their nectar to be transformed into honey, was an example of the continual activity required of human beings to gather the crops and transform them into food. The queen bee, who all the others serve during their brief lives, was, in Neolithic times, considered to be an epiphany of the goddess herself. For a watchful eye, the relationship between the queen bee and the goddess must have seemed irresistible. The hive was her womb – perhaps also an image of the underworld – and later reappears in the beehive tombs of Mycenae.
          In 2007 we heard that honey bees were dying all over the world and are becoming an endangered species. Colonies are collapsing and the cause is not known—whether it is parasitic mites, the effects of climate change, a virus—or stress resulting from bees being transported huge distances to pollinate specific crops in order to “maximize profits”. There is a theory put forward by a group of bee-keepers that the collapse of the hives is due to the introduction of queens from foreign countries being sent by post to their remote destinations. And another that the pesticides used on crops are affecting the bees and leading to colony collapse or that the phone masts for mobile phones disturb and even destroy the nervous system of the bees. There is a risk that the harvests of fruit and all the crops that bees pollinate will be affected. Einstein warned that if the bee disappears off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. (Sunday Times article 1/2/09).
          Ancient cultures would have been appalled by our casual treatment of the bees because their dying would have meant that the Goddess was withdrawing her blessing from the earth and that life would no longer be regenerated. Both the butterfly and the bee belong to the lunar mythology of the Great Mother. The intricate cellular network that secretes the golden essence of life is an image of the Web of Life which secretes the treasure of wisdom that is “sweeter than honey or the honey-comb.” (S. of Songs)
          The bee held a particular importance in Cretan mythology. A beautiful golden seal was found buried in a tomb near Knossos, dating to 1450 BC and depicts the goddess and her priestesses in the form of bees dancing with a child in a field of lilies.

Bee Goddess and Bee Priestesses

Honey was used to embalm the dead in great jars or pithoi in Crete. The stone omphalos at Delphi had the shape of a beehive and the oracular priestess of Apollo at Delphi was called the Delphic Bee. The bee priestesses of Crete reappear in Greece as the three bee-maidens or wise women who taught Apollo how to prophesy. The priestesses of Demeter were called Melissae (bees) and the goddess herself was sometimes portrayed as a beehive and named as the “Mother-Bee”. In some cultures, bees were thought to be the souls of the dead. The sound of bees humming was believed to be the voice of the goddess, the secret creative sound of life itself. In an extraordinary and beautifully written book called The Shamanic Way of the Bee, the author, Simon Buxton, tells the story of his initiation into the rich and ancient tradition of “The Path of Pollen” at the hands of a Bee-master who taught him the practices, rituals and tools of bee shamanism during an apprenticeship that lasted thirteen years. (10)
          Something of these ancient associations comes through in this extraordinary dream of a friend of mine, a poet and an artist. In previous dreams she had walked through a town or building with many rooms, searching for something precious, but to no avail:

In a waking dream I walk in an empty town that had many arched cells and white walls. I pass a young man dressed in a white gown. His legs were apart, as if to span two thousand years. His brown hair curled from his crown, a halo stiff with aromatic propolis. In a shaft of light, his dome-shaped head was alive with bees, a human hive. Bees flew out and in from his ears and eyes. Honey trickled over the lower lip of his generous mouth. He seemed alive with the humming of bees inside his head. As though half asleep he slowly raised his eyes to gaze at the light in the window above. I stood amazed to see his eyelids were fringed with a flickering border of bees. His bowed eyebrows were a crowded landing place. I fell in love and my tongue became sweet with honey. I knew that inside his head was the golden Comb of perfect order, the space within for the One and All. Stung into life, I started back, my slow feet stuck with honey. I struggled to the crack of light where two figures came with a shroud for my beloved. Veiled in a cloud of bee-proof gauze, they touched his honeyed fingers with their gloved hands saying, “Why call us here today? This Fellow is the Host, the Keeper of Bees. Go on your way.”

My dream became a poem
And the poem a journey
Beyond dreams, beyond time
Beyond Being.

          Later she wrote: “It seems to me that all that I think I know is that we beings on earth, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, are of the same substance and are all part of a larger being. Just as we have countless cells in our body, we are the numberless cells in the body of the Being we call God.”

The Power of the Imagination
The imagination has extraordinary power to heal. The imaginative relationship we can create with the primordial brain has the power to alter the neuronal pathways, replacing negative messages with positive ones, re-structuring the responses of the sympathetic nervous system, healing the heart and releasing the creative impulse of life to flow in the direction it seeks.
           This is why it is important to pay attention to the animal, reptile, bird or insect which appears in our dreams. Through this image, we can enter into a dialogue with the most archaic part of ourselves as an actual entity that has consciousness, intelligence, feelings, and the possibility of communicating with us. Many of you who read this will be familiar with the image of the inner child that has been the focus of therapy in the past few years. But what about the inner animal? There are many animals, as well as birds and fish that may carry specific meaning for you. Stop a moment as you read this. What animal image presents itself to you, flitting across the screen of the mind? Through this image, you can enter into a dialogue with your instinct not as a something, but as a someone—as an actual entity that has consciousness and feelings and the ability to communicate with you.
           For centuries we have been taught that instinctive feelings are dangerous or sinful and must be repressed and rigidly controlled. Therefore, the creation of an empathic relationship with this much-maligned part of ourselves is essential to the healing process. The crucial point I want to make here is that like the Beast in the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” this part of our nature does not have the power to release itself from the programming it has received and in which it is imprisoned. It can only signal its plight to us through emotional or physical symptoms of distress and through addictive patterns of behavior which reflect and reveal this distress. Instinct is dependent on our conscious mind to become aware of its suffering and to find ways of releasing it from its prison and healing its pain. It may, to begin with, be deeply resistant to any attempt to enter into contact with it in the way a wounded animal may reject an attempt to draw near it. But once the relationship is established, it has extraordinary power to heal itself. This is as true for society as a whole as it is for the individual. The relationship between the two aspects of our nature—the conscious mind and the instinctive soul—can be healed and made whole.
           What was the animal image that came to mind as you read this chapter? What instinct or feeling does it reflect? Can you ask it to show you what gave rise to that instinct or feeling? Did it threaten or frighten you, or did it approach you trustingly as if it wanted to befriend you? How did you react to this creature emerging from the depths of yourself—with fear and dislike, or with empathy and interest? It may be helpful to re-read some fairy tale you remember in which an animal played a part. Again, see what story first comes to mind and perhaps look for the book in your shelves that holds that story. Perhaps you may remember a favorite story you loved as a child.
           Once a relationship is established with this part of yourself, ask it to tell you its story. Write that story down, exactly as if you were listening to and recording a fairy tale. You will be amazed and fascinated to read what this hitherto unknown part of yourself has to say.
           As it becomes aware of your interest and your empathy, this part of yourself may speak to you, telling you what has happened to it, explaining how it feels, even offering suggestions as to how it can be helped. Write these down and keep a record of your dialogue. As you pay attention to this neglected part of yourself, the flow of life, the flow of a creative relationship with life that has been blocked by neglect or trauma begins to be released. Something begins to awaken in you that has been held paralysed, frozen, turned to stone, something that may have been buried alive.
           With the creation of an empathic relationship with the deep animal soul, toxic emotions and the toxic neuronal chemistry in the body/mind organism that accompany them begin to change. Other pathways in the brain and the nervous system are activated. Where fear and anger were the primary response to life, trust and love and a sense of joy begin to replace them.
           We need to create a space for this vital part of ourselves, a space where it is free to speak to us and where we can listen to what it has to tell us. We need to enchant it by telling it myths and fairy tales. We can play music to it. We can ask it to dance, paint pictures of it, act out its story, releasing the buried memories held in the muscular system of the body. We can respond to its longings, notice the signals it sends us. By our empathic attention, we free it from the black hole of our neglect. We restore to it the hope it had lost, the happiness it never thought to experience. By doing this, we transform its sorrow into joy, its fear into hope. Treating this “unconscious” part of us as if it were a person aligns our different brain systems so they can begin to function harmoniously with less conflict and tension. With this encouragement, the life of the soul begins to flower in some form of creative expression. We release the authentic voice of the soul that may have been held prisoner by our failure to connect with it.


1. Heinrich Zimmer, The King and the Corpse, Bollingen Foundation, Pantheon Books, New York, 1957, p. 26
2. Amelia Kinkade, Straight from the Horse’s Mouth (2001) and The Language of Miracles, New World Library, USA, 2006.
3. C.G. Jung, CW12, Psychology and Alchemy: Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy, p.
4. Rupert Sheldrake, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, 2000
5. Marija Gimbutas, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe 6500-3500 BC, Thames and Hudson, London, 1984
6. Peter Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of “Cargo” Cults in Melanesia
7. The Way of the Dream, a book based on documentary film of that name, Windrose Films Ltd., Toronto, 1988; editors Fraser Boa and Jenny Donald, p. 128
8. Rose von Thater-Braan, Mind Before Matter: Visions of a New Science of Consciousness, O Books, Ropley, Hampshire, UK, 2008
9. I have a friend called Peter Kingsley who, a few years ago, wrote a book on Parmenides and his shamanic journey into the realm of the goddess Persephone. In relation to the attack of 9/11/01 he wrote a remarkable description of a communication from a raven that held deep meaning for him and could have for us. You can find the whole experience along with his comments, to which he gave the title ‘Raven’s Appearance: The Language of Prophecy’, by clicking on http://www.peterkingsley.org/pages.cfm?ID=7
10. Simon Buxton, The Shamanic Way of the Bee, Destiny books, Rochester, Vermont, 2004

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