Shamanic work in the dreamworld - The Wider Web of Life

Shamanism Made Easy: Awaken and Develop the Shamanic Force Within - Christa Mackinnon 2018

Shamanic work in the dreamworld
The Wider Web of Life

The shaman is often also called ’the dreamer’, which gives you an idea of the importance of dreaming and dream-like states within shamanism. Besides describing the dreams we have at night, there are various meanings of the word ’dreaming’ or ’dream’ in the context of shamanism. ’Dreaming’ is sometimes used to describe everything that shamans experience and do when they alter their states and enter the spirit worlds. You might also hear the expression ’Dream of the Cosmos’ or ’Dreamtime’, which is based on a belief held in some cultures, such as the Aboriginal cultures of Australia, that the reality we know is the result of the Great Cosmic Dream, the Dreamtime of the ancestral souls, where the patterns of life were laid down and from which all threads of life flow. A third expression you might hear is ’the world is as you dream it’, which means that the reality we experience daily with our senses is the manifest reality of the underlying individual and collective dreams, which can be experienced, explored, altered and shaped.

Here I want to focus on the dreams we have when we are asleep. These play an important role, as the consensus view in shamanism is that we access underlying layers of reality during dreaming. The dream state is a state in which the worlds meet and we all have the ability to create within them.

Dream work must therefore be seen in the context of the shaman’s world-view. In shamanic tradition:

· The sleep state is a level of consciousness during which we become aware of and can enter the ’dream realm’, an energetic reality. In many cultures the dreamscape — which has many layers — is seen as the underlying energetic realm of our manifest existence on this planet.

· In traditional shamanic cosmology, the shaman’s flight takes them to the dream realms. Some cultures hold that it is the energy body that travels; others believe that it is the soul, or a certain energy centre, that leaves the body when we dream. However we describe the part that travels, shamanic flights into the dream worlds are not confined to the physical limitations of the body and the dreamscape is more than our personal unconscious.

· Dreams, although classified — for example into ’personal’, ’prophetic’, ’creation’ or ’dreams with information and ancestral messages’ — are generally seen as soul encounters, and dreaming, like other visionary states, is seen as connecting to the spirit worlds.

Within indigenous traditions there is much understanding of what to expect in dreams, how to deal with dream messages, how to interpret them and how to be co-creators when we dream. There are different systems in different cultures, but frequently dream work distinguishes between normal dreams, intended dreams and lucid dreams:

· Normal dreams are those we all have.

· Intended dreams are those we ask for.

· Lucid dreams are dreams where the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. They can be intended or not.

The second distinction is between ’big dreams’ and ’small dreams’. Traditionally, big dreams are dreams that concern the community or humankind as a whole, whilst ’little dreams’ are for the individual. Today, we also regard some of the latter as big dreams, especially if they are dreamed repeatedly and/or if they concern major life lessons, prophecies or life directions.

There are many ways in which dreams are used in traditional and contemporary shamanism, especially, but not only, dreams that are intentional and lucid. Dreams are used, for example, for healing. In the dream state, the shaman can find information about an ailment and the healing method required and then either carry out the healing in the dream state or later in the waking state. Dreams are also seen as prophecy. If a shaman has a prophetic dream, they will act upon it without question. ’Bad’ prophetic dreams may warn people about negative events so that measures, either in the dream state or in manifest reality, can be taken to avoid, redirect or rebalance them. There are also dreams that include a calling, initiation dreams that can go on over long periods of time and dreams in which spirit teaches the shaman in various ways.