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Monday, September 12, 2005

DREAMS AND DIVINATIONS

INITIATE: "I come from a virtuous people, oh pure Queen of Hades...for I believe I belong to your kind, but destiny struck me down...I broke free from the circle of pain and sorrow and I leapt lightly towards my chosen crown, I took refuge in the arms of the Lady, Queen of Hades."
THE GODDESS REPLIES: "Oh Fortunate One! Oh Blessed One! You have become a God, from the man you once were."
(Words which form the rites of initiation to the cult of Orpheus.)

I have been preoccupied lately with dreams and divinations mainly dreams regarding the illness of my friend. Last night I dreamt that I was visiting him in the hospital. I knew that my father was in a room down at the end of the long hall. I went to my father and urged him to go and speak to my friend, to say some words of comfort and encouragement. This is probably because on the weekend I found some sermon notes written by Dad in his old Bible. They were just the words I had wanted to say to A. last Friday when he was suffering so much pain. So I wrote them out...how soldiers are not made in the barracks ground, how, like the blacksmith forges from a piece of metal by fire and hammering, a strong horse-shoe...so we are made stronger by times of distress and tribulation.

In ancient Greek religion, dreams were under the control of the Olympian dieties. Gods and daemons were used for thepurpose of dream requests and in transmitting dreams. The moon goddess (Selene, Hecate) was active in both procedures and often a likeness of her was fashioned from a magic mixture of potter's clay, sulfur and the blood of a spotted goat.

"Now o'er the one half-world
Nature seeems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
the curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's offerings."
William Shakespear (1564=1616) "Macbeth" Act II,l.49

The history of Alexander the Great is interwoven with his reliance on consulting the seers regarding dreams, occurances in the heavens and auguries of blood sacrifices. No vital decisions were made in the ancient world without consulting the Oracles first.

I've visited most of the major oracles in Greece, including the healing shrines where interpreting the patient's dreams was a vital part of the psycho-therapy: Delphi, Epidaurus, the Amphiarion, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothraki, the sacred oak sanctuary of Zeus-Ammon at Dodoni, and the Necromanteion of Ayfa (the Oracle of the Dead) This Oracle existed from the Bronze Age. Odysseus visited it to conjur the ghost of Achilles. We can only speculate if Alexander ever went there for the same reason, but undoubtedly his mother Olympias did because it is located in her domain of Epirus. An article I wrote about visiting this Oracle has been published and is on-line
at www.http://travel-wise.com (Titled "Sailing to Hades")

"The soul, at the moment of death, feels the same impression as those who are initiated into the Great Mysteries. First it is like being lost on a long, winding walk through eerie darkness, then just before the end, the terror, the cold sweat, the horror are at their greatest. At once, a marvelous light appears to the eyes: we pass into a green meadow where singing is heard."
Themistius: "Religious chants to Persephone."


A long time ago I started recording my own significant dreams, a way of analyzing my life and figuring out what the dreams meant. My reoccuring dreams of tidal waves usually indicate that I'm stressed and overwhelmed by events; frightening nightmares are also stress related (though I've found that ceating choclate late at night is also a culprit.) Dreams of flying are usually carefree and celebrate a sense of 'freedom'.

Should our characters dream? In my novel "Shadow of the Lion", because dream analysis and auguries were a way of life in ancient times, I have sometimes used dreams as a way of enhancing the characters and events. And a couple of times I have used my own dreams as my characters'. (Or was I, in my dream, becoming my character?)

A big mistake in fiction is to allow your plot to be influenced by dreams. Except in some kinds of fantasy or sci-fi, where dreams are part of either magic or alternate science, dreams shouldn't be used as character motivation, climax or resolution. (Don't ever end a story with "And then he/she woke up"!) It will be contrived too, if your character doesn't know a piece of vital knowlege until it is revealed in a dream.

The use of dreams in fiction is to illuminate character, so simply recount the dream as the character has it, especially if that character is under great pressure. A short dream, mentioned in passing, can hint at complex emotions underneath. Some dreams, if used subtly, may also be symbolisms. Just so, daydreams can be used along with internal thought to tell your reader more about your characters. Your characters dreams and daydreams say a lot about them. Use them to see just who your characters truly are.

"Then be thou jocund. Ere the bat hath flown
His cloister'd flight, ere, to black Hecate's
summons
The shard-borne betetle with his drowsy hums
Hath run night's yawning peal, there shall be
done
a deed of dreadful note."

William Shakespeare "Macbeth" Act III, l.40

SWEET DREAMS!

5 comments:

Alex Bordessa said...

Thanks for this Wynn! I was intrigued because I have used a dream in one of my stories. As I read your piece, I was dismayed, thinking I may have mis-used the dream. But actually you've reassured me; the character's dream is recounted simply, and she is under constant pressure; the dream expresses repressed emotions, the depth of which isn't really shown until then.

As for my own dreams, I rarely remember them :-)

Wynn Bexton said...

Hi Alex, yes I think the dream is a useful tool if used in the right way. I am thinking to post a few of the dream sequences I've used in "Shadow". And yesterday when I was writing out a dream for the novel I realized that I had made the mistake of foreshadowing too much of the plot in it so now I can make the necessary corrections.

Sam said...

Dreams are interesting tools to use for the author. In Argentina, they are used mainly for playing the lottery. There is a dream book, and every object in a dream (or action) is related to a number. You play the numbers of your dreams. I remember going into the kitchen every morning and being quizzed by the cook and her helpers all about my dreams!

Wynn Bexton said...

Hi Sam, were you from Argentina or live there? My very best friend Roberto, the artist (sadly now deceased) was from Buenos Aires. My Chilean friend (the one who's ill) also spent some time there after escaping from the military regime in Chile, before coming to Canada as a refugee. I have always wanted to visit Buenos Aires because of these connections.

Sam said...

We used to go there quite a lot to buy polo ponies, and would stay for months at a time. It's a wonderful country - but full of paradox. It has so much going for it - but its rife with corruption. The people are both disparaging about themselves and proud.
Probably the best example of the Argentine mentality comes from a joke:
When the US invaded Iraq, two Argentines in a bar mused that it might be a good idea to have the US invade Argentina - after all - it would send in lots of money to rebuild.
"We could attack the US and they would send their troops. Then send in the money."
The other Argentine shook his head. "Yes, he said, "But what if we win?"