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Reply To: Dream a Little Dream . . .


I woke in the dark at 3:30 a.m. from a brief dream (at least the part I remembered was brief), where I am on a rock or earthen platform somewhere in a rugged area with the feel of the American southwest, and the sense that this is an archaeological site. There is a female guiding me,  dark hair in a sophisticated pixie cut a’la Audrey Hepburn c. 1967 (and, come to think of it, my fifth grade teacher that same year, Diane Storli – my first real teacher crush), who speaks with authority about what we see. We are looking at zig-zag lines several feet long gouged into a dry gully at the edge of the platform, maybe at the base of a cliff.

The Lady tells me these were made in the long ago by the snake cult that was sacred here. She shows me a real red-black snake that this image is supposed to depict (not an alternating red-and-black pattern, but a reddish-black color, such as in a Rothko painting), maybe only three feet long or less – definitely not as long as the zig-zag pattern itself. She holds the snake stretched straight – no zigzag rhythm of a serpent in motion. I step to the far end of the platform to take a closer look at it on the altar, which also holds a heart-shaped wreath formed of red foliage – I am to place the Snake there.

When I wake I immediately think of rock art – petroglyphs, found in so many pre-literate cultures around the world, though most I’ve seen are in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Hawaii. Zig-zag lines are common; besides snake, I wonder about water, as I am reminded of the meanders Marija Gimbutas points to in neolithic art, and in dream I see this image on the side of a dry gully, which at one time must have carried water.

Popping online at that early hour of the morning, I found two different-yet-overlapping and intriguing articles in scholarly journals about the rock art of the Saami people, a reindeer herding people in what is Finnland today. The zigzag pattern can be found in petroglyphs, and also on the drumheads of their shamans, representing snakes (the adder – whose name in their tongue is a synonym for shaman); in trance visions triggered by rhythmic drumming, the shaman transforms into a snake to visit the Under/Otherworld.

The zigzags also signify water, lightning, and power, sometimes all at once (multiple associations and meanings are layered in to any given symbol).

Zigzag in rock art

zigzag snake petroglyph
According to a number of works, zigzag motifs in rock art from the desert and mountain areas of the American southwest seem  to mirror the same nexus of associations (snakes, lightning, water).

A wealth of information imparted in dream that comports with findings of archaeological studies of actual sacred sites from many different cultures around the world – a numinous experience, courtesy of the collective unconscious! I’m making associations to this image in the dream, and more on waking – and then find that countless others across many cultures appear to have arrived at the same space.

I am reminded of Joseph Campbell’s aphorism:

Dreams are private myths.
Myths are public dreams.