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Reply To: The Returning Warrior


I appreciate your mention of Campbell’s observation about how, say, the Diné (or Navajo) might use a feather as a totem – “as a reference to a psychological aid to hold to and keep from cracking up as the individual goes through their emotional process.”

This reminds me of the film Inception, which is about dreams within dreams within dreams, and entering into other people’s dreams. The lead character, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, carries a totem, a spinning top that belonged to his dead wife. If he spins it and it falls, he knows he is awake; if it continues to spin endlessly, doing what can’t be done in waking reality, then he knows he is in someone else’s dream.

Spinning top from Inception

(Taking a brief tangent unrelated to tokens, I was just this morning reviewing the 26 dreams I recorded in my dream journal since the world first became aware of the novel coronavirus in mid-January: in several of the dreams I tumbled to the realization I was dreaming on questioning an element in the dream behaving in a way that would not happen in waking reality – everything from a tiny civet cat morphing into a manatee, to a conversation with my first girlfriend that I eventually recognized could not be “real” as she passed away four years ago; usually that realization led to the dream dissolving as I woke, but occasionally to a period of lucidity – being awake within the dream.)

I do have a few ritual objects that serve as totems for me in waking life. One is a walnut-sized amethyst that was a gift from a very magic, nature-oriented lady over a quarter century ago (well, maybe “girl” is a more accurate description for a senior in high school). The amethyst is rich in color and has an occlusion in the center, where three facets of the crystal come together. The night I received the amethyst, I dreamt it was huge – the size of Yosemite’s Half Dome; the occlusion in the center was a deep, dark cave with an infinite line of Buddhas, all different individuals, all clad in bright, colorful yet different raiment, sitting in meditation and receding into the interior.

Ever since that night it’s been a personal totem that’s been part of my journey – a powerful “psychological aid to hold to and keep from cracking up.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the historical, religious, anthropological, academic discussion of mythology – but Joe adds something extra to the mix, a practical application of myth and ritual to everyday life . . .