My dreams remain elusive this week; at best I still recall only fragments and vague images. This has gone on for a month now. When my dream-life isn’t available to me, I go looking for other sources of information and guidance.
The most prominent feature of my waking life right now is the horses. Midnight, the 22-year old Egyptian Arab, dropped from the sky into my life a few months ago: My friend the plumber, whom I had met all of three times, offered to let me care for his much-loved horse because his own time is taken up by his new business. Since then, I’ve been spending at least two hours a day, five days a week, at the barn. Lately I’ve also begun caring for Luka, a two-year-old Missouri Foxtrotter colt, whose owners find themselves in a similar bind.
Horses, in any normal world, do NOT fall from the sky into one’s life, and yet here are two of them. Archetypally, what is the horse for me? What is the personal meaning of this animal in my life?
Lately I’ve been thinking about a numinous dream-horse I encountered some years back, in a dream so powerful that I included it in my dissertation. This morning, when I looked it up, I discovered something very interesting: The dream occurred during a period when I was unable to contact the Ladies, my Guides for the dissertation process; a time just like the present moment, when I was terrified that I was spinning my wheels, doing nothing of value. Here’s the passage:
Throughout this period my dreams continued to encourage me at the same time they reminded me, sometimes not too gently, that I was avoiding “getting my feet wet” with the real work of the dissertation (which, in retrospect, was not the writing but more a state of mind). In one dream from early May,
I’m on a ferryboat, going to a lovely, quaint city that looks to me like Venice. The boat comes to a stop but in order to reach the shore we have to wade through water, chest-deep but very clear. I can see rocks covered with barnacles and coral-like living organisms, and I worry about stepping on and injuring them. I wade on and the water gets deeper as I go under a kind of waterfall—through which I have to wade in order to get to the city. I’m frightened as the water pours over my head, but I go on anyway. I know that I can swim but am very aware of how easy it would be to drown, and I’m terrified. I can hardly breathe.
The city, with its ancient, old-world feel, is reminiscent of the City of the Ladies [(an imaginal city described by Christine de Pizan in1405)]. Yes, there are dangers in working with the unconscious, but if I was ever to reach that City, I knew I had to take the chance.
During this time I was also avoiding active imagination—still resistant to whatever I might learn there—and not consciously giving the Ladies the opportunity to speak with me. However, I could sense their presence, and indeed at times I seemed to have a kind of invisible entourage with me, frightening the dog as I worked in the yard, but I was too busy defensively racing from one chore to another to be still and listen.
About this same time I had another dream, in which I encounter a dying horse. I comfort it in its last moments, and as it dies, I say, “A heavy soul has left this tiny body.” As I carefully rearrange its body for burial, I discover it weighs no more than a deer. The horse, a powerful symbol of shamanic travel between the worlds, seemed to offer itself as a guide into worlds to come. The small, beaded, wood-and-yarn effigy that I made in its honor now hangs over my desk as a talisman, reminding me that such travel is possible, and that I am not alone.
Fear remained, in spite of such reassurances. I dreamed of climbing a frightening wooden staircase, dark and old, carrying a lamp up to an old woman who lived there. When I forced myself to crawl up the stairway in active imagination, I found, not some dreadful witch’s den, but the bright and clean apartment of the Old Wise Woman. This was a theme that had shown up in my dreams every few nights: Face your fears! Nothing bad will happen!
As I re-read this passage this morning I was struck by the similarities between that time and this one, reflected by the symbols in dreams and waking-world experiences. Though at the moment I can’t seem to remember my dreams and active imagination seems blocked for me, my waking life is full of horses, and I dreamed the other night of water pouring over my head, nearly suffocating me.
I am now reminded of other horse images: There once was an imaginal horse who obediently raced alongside my parents’ car when I was a child, gracefully and effortlessly leaping driveways, hedges, even entire streets. As an adult, I dreamed of Elvish princes who could transform themselves into horses at will.
More recently, during a workshop with a shaman, a horse came to me in a vision, offering himself as a guide on the next stage of my life’s journey. “Conveniently,” I had forgotten about that….
And the messages—face your fears! Nothing bad will happen, and in fact, you are moving forward. Transformation is occurring unseen and unnoticed.
It seems I need to do some more work with the Horse.