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Reply To: Dream a Little Dream . . .



Here’s a follow-up returning the focus to dreams.

The articles I found online researching zigzag petroglyphs were The snake and zig-zag motifs in Finnish rock paintings and Saami drums, by Eero Autio in the January 1991 Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 14:52-79, and

A Touch of Red : Archaeological and Ethnographic Approaches to Interpreting Finnish Rock Paintings, by Antti Lahelma, published by the Finnish Antiquarian Society in Helsinki in 2008

The following morning I looked through several books I have on rock art and petroglyphs in the American southwest. Though hundreds of images are documented in all these works, the most substantial volume, in terms of scholarship, is Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park, text by Todd W. Bostwick (M.A. in Anthropology, Ph.D. in History), published by the University of Arizona Press in 2002 – a study of hundreds of images etched into rocks and cliffsides in and around Phoenix, Arizona.

Whether found in Finland or the southwestern U.S., zigzags appear to relate to water, lightning, snakes and shamans (occasionally all at once) and carry tremendous power.

What’s more, both Lahelma’s A Touch of Red and Bostwick’s Landscape of the Spirits reference the same study by J.D. Lewis-Williams and Thomas A. Dowson from 1988: The Signs of All Times: Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Paleolithic Art, which appeared in Current Anthropology Volume 29(2), p. 201-45.  This work finds three stages of trance experienced by individuals under altered state of consciousness (whether induced by hallucinogenic plants, drumming and dancing, etc.), apparently grounded in the neuropsychology of humans.

In the early stages of such a trance experience one encounters pure geometric shapes (referred to as “form constants” or “phosphenes”: this can include grid lines, parallel lines, dots and circles, zigzags, nested curves, filigrees, meanders, and vortices (spirals, concentric circles, circles with dots. In later stages these shapes become stylized and combine with human and animal forms.

This certainly resonates with my own experience of altered states via psychedelics: mushrooms, peyote, mescaline, morning glory seeds, datura, DMT (dimethyltryptamine), and LSD. Also, without the use of psychedelics, usually once or twice a month I will see glowing, translucent, crystalline zigzag lines of light rimming the edge of my field of vision, accompanied by an intense, pleasant, streaming sensation aka ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), that might last ten minutes to half an hour.

Though this is no means a Jungian work, the observations and conclusions suggest to me a biological/neurophysiological origin of archetypal imagery.

Since the scholars I looked up see an association between zigzags, snakes, and shamanic journeys into the netherworld, I’d agree with your assessment that “The symbols in this dream seem to be pointing to the underworld . . . ”

And no surprise. The creative project that I’m immersed in right now revolves around my one and only encounter with a real live ghost (pun intended), in the spring of 2005, in room 329 of the 134-year-old Delaware Hotel in Leadville, Colorado (Leadville, an old silver mining town, is at 10,152 feet elevation literally the highest incorporated community in the United States, very much part of the wild west – Doc Holliday shot his last man here).

I was not looking for, or expecting to see, a ghost, but I did. During our brief encounter she addressed me (“And you’ll be completing Pandora’s Box?”), which after years of reflection I have taken as an assignment. After much research I have learned not only who she is, who killed her, and what led up to that, but also her maiden name, where she was born, where she was raised (all the way across the country from where she was born), and a wealth of other material.

Now I’m wrestling all that together, using the myth of Pandora as a framing tale (Pandora was originally a name of the Earth Goddess, who bestows her gifts equally upon all (pan = all; dora = gift), but in the wake of the invasions of patriarchal Indo-European peoples that overwhelmed the goddess-oriented cultures of the peninsula and isles of Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor, Pandora morphs into a beautiful evil Zeus gives to mankind as punishment (long, elaborate, multi-layered story there with its original in the war between the Titans and the Olympian pantheon, but that’s the gist).

So lots to play with – and this very much involves a visit to the underworld of myth.

As for your dream, I loved the image of following the diamond road. Yes, there is danger to those ski trails, but I wonder about the mistakes you have made, as that’s in the past – the road you have already traveled. Seems the diamonds relate to what lies ahead. Perhaps more significant is that you don’t recognize that you – yes, you! –are one of the “true experts.”

A diamond – hard, translucent, bright – can be considered a “mature” crystal, a symbol of perfection (so I can see the linkage with expertise). They are also apotropaic – a talisman against poisons, diseases, evils, nightmares, wild animals, ghosts, sorcerers, and other terrors of the night. It also relates to innocence, wisdom, and spiritual truth.

I do like your associations of the diamond with the cross, which can be both shattering and an expression of wholeness at once (whether working with dreams or myths, it’s essential to be willing to embrace paradox).

I am intrigued that both our dreams contain geometric shapes – finding the bedrock beneath all the drama?

Bliss On,