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Shamanic Dreaming

The interpretation of dreams goes back to prehistoric times. Tribal shamans took dreams seriously, working with their own dreams as well as those reported by members of their tribes. Various tribes interpreted dreams differently; for members of the Mohave tribe, dreams were sources of knowledge and messages from the Great Spirit, while the Iroquois Indians saw dreams as "wishes of the soul."  (Stanley Krippner)

Hamatsa ritualist, 1914When we expand our consciousness and travel into our interior universe to explore other dimensions of being, we open ourselves up to powers or energies that can guide and deliver us to a body of knowledge and potential that can serve the whole of humanity, not just ourselves. This is the essence of shamanism. Contemporary shamanic dreamwork attempts to understand the spirit and energy contained within the dream and so bring about integration or resolution on an energetic level. (reference)

Dreams are a doorway through which the shamanic practitioner can travel to the inner realms and gain direct access to the unconscious impulses which gave rise to the dream. Nightmares can be transformed and their energy released from the body. Creative potential within the dream can be released and given permission to perform magic and miracles in your life. When the interior life has transformed, the exterior life or middle world is also transformed and you can start to live a new reality. Shamanic practice is a natural path to spiritual enlightenment. It honors the earth and everything connected to the earth. It acknowledges the magic and mystery of life and the spirit of everything around us. More importantly, it honors the human soul.

In a shamanic context the word "dreaming" can mean a number of things, including having a vision, going on a shamanic journey, or receiving information in a trance state. In the present context the word dream refers to the dreams you can have while sleeping. Shamanic dreaming has to do with interacting with the spirits while dreaming. This can be in the form of visitations, where the spirit teachers or guardian animals come to you in nightly encounters and we can receive teachings and initiations. In other words, the spirits begin to train us in the dream state, and we may receive certain initiations along the way. This is one of the classical ways of being called onto the shamanic path. (reference) One of the world’s leading shamans, Michael Harner, put together a list of the ten core principles of dreams. These principles may be used to help guide someone through the messages and symbols of their dreams: (reference)

  1.  Spirits are real: every part of understanding your dreams is based on accepting that spirits exist in a variety of capacities.
  2. Spirits produce dreams: whether it is your own soul or another spirit that you have become entangled with, all dreams are created by spirits
  3. Spirits have a variety of characteristics and differing preoccupations. Tthe differing spirits that influence your dreams will all be trying to tell you a different message, each one is concerned with a different aspect of life which they will communicate to you with a mix of literal symbols and metaphors.
  4.  Spirits that produce dreams can be personal souls such as guardian spirits, or they can be non-helping ones such as suffering spirits. The suffering beings that can affect your dreams are usually people who have died suddenly or traumatically and haven’t come to terms with their new state of being yet. Dreams containing these spirits will usually be nightmares, leaving you scared when you wake.
  5. Nightmares can be helpful warnings or simply the sign of a suffering spirit. Following on from the previous principle, nightmares can be either evidence of a suffering spirit becoming entangled with you or can be a warning from a guardian spirit that you could have an underlying health issue.
  6.  People with a high spirit power are more resistant to suffering souls . If you work on the health and power of your spirituality you will reduce the risk of becoming entangled with a suffering spirit. Your spirit power will act as a protective force field for unwanted and harmful spirits.
  7. Guardian spirits manifest themselves in big dreams. Big dreams are those which either repeat themselves or even overwhelm you with a strong waking dream. They will often offer clear life guidance, with the power to alter your the course of your life.
  8. The principles apply to every type of dream: sleeping, waking, daydreams and visions. The shamanic principles of dreams can be applied to any vision that you do not intentionally guide, daydreams that happen spontaneously and without your control fall under this category.
  9. To learn the meaning of your dreams you can merge with a helping spirit or shamanic teacher by sitting with someone else and both reimagining your non-voluntary dream you can begin to pick up the symbols and insights that are crucial to understanding its message.
  10. Any attempt to understand dreams should be accompanied by a serious study of metaphors, interpreting your dreams is never easy. Doing so without understanding the spiritual power of metaphors is impossible. Learn the power of symbols to tell a different story from the one explicitly stated.

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