Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forest of the night:
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
William Blake, from Songs of Experience
Who are the creatures in our dreams? And what does the way they are depicted express about our own experience and predicament? These are questions I have asked myself over the years, never fully comfortable with any one answer. Maybe that’s because dream creatures are so multifaceted. Like William Blake’s Tyger, dream creatures – especially ones with big energy – carry an element of our own creaturely qualities and also ‘something’ that goes beyond us. Whether we name that ‘something’ creative inspiration, potency or divinity may not matter: Wild cats, bears, wolves and whales evoke both awe and fear. No matter how much we learn about them, they carry an air of mystery that is inherent to their being.
I have never personally dreamt about wolves, but whales, bears and wild cats make their appearance more frequently in my dreams. One of the most memorable visitations was a dream about a black jaguar. This dream occurred about 11 years ago, and remains with me to this day:
I am at my ‘therapy office.’ A girl comes with her mother. She has a pet jaguar (black)with her. I am alarmed by the presence of the big wild cat: I emphatically tell her the jaguar cannot come in the office with her. Then suddenly, the jaguar is in a cage, outside in the hall. It is staring at me intensely through the bars of the cage.
I woke up haunted by the jaguar and the intensity of its gaze. I was aware how much the wild creature frightened me and at the same time, awestruck by its power and vitality. I wondered, What am I so afraid of, that I want to bar it from my presence, lock it up in a cage?
I didn’t have an answer. The only thing I knew was that I needed help: This search for help eventually led me to Rodger Kamenetz and Natural Dreamwork, but I never spoke this particular dream. It was already half buried by the time I took up the dreamwork in earnest.
The dream lay dormant in my psyche until very recently. Now the Jaguar has come alive again.
Some dreams are like that: a time release medicine working steadily in the background until we are ready for more active engagement. I ask myself, What is this black jaguar about? There is still so much I don’t know about her – I am pretty sure it is a her. I feel her presence, her potency more acutely than I when I first dreamt the dream. I feel her readiness to pounce, her purring within my own being. She is wild, both awesome and fearsome. Unlike other wild cats, jaguars like to swim: She is a creature who crosses readily from one medium to another. A nocturnal creature who hunts alone, a strong sense of territory, of boundaries. Revisiting the dream , I place the jaguar in the context of the dream’s other figures, the mother-daughter who come for healing… I suspect the caged jaguar is somehow related to the wounded dimension of my own daughter- mother relationship, as well as a call to liberate both the daughter and mother (in me). So I return to the dream to work with it some more. Still so many questions, still a mystery- never fully unveiled. Maybe it is inevitable that in our growing up, accommodating our family, culture and environment, something (or somethings) will end up in a cage. As adults we can make a choice to explore, to honor, to liberate the energies/ wild creatures/ divinities that seek us in our dreams. Usually we need help doing this – it’s a difficult voyage to make alone.
What’s in your cage?
If you would like a guide/companion for support as you encounter the awesome and fearsome visitations in your dreams, we invite you to visit the About Us page of the Natural Dreamwork website, to learn more about the Natural Dreamwork approach. Natural Dreamwork Practitioners work with clients throughout the world in person, on the phone and over video-conference. We are happy to connect with you, to continue the conversation with you about your dreams.
Keren Vishny is a psychotherapist as well as a practitioner and teacher of Natural Dreamwork. She has worked closely with Jungian Analyst Marion Woodman and completed the BodySoulRhythms ® Leadership Training Program offered by the Marion Woodman Foundation. She works with clients individually and in groups, and has offered numerous classes and workshops through the CG Jung Center and the Marion Woodman Foundation. To learn more visit her website, www.kerenvishny.com
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