Dream Goddess: Mari
I’m tired this morning and it’s not because I didn’t sleep. I feel as if I was dreaming all night about doing Shamanic healing for people. It seemed in my dreams that many people needed help, especially extraction of dangerous and unwanted entities and soul retrieval. One person needed help to pass over. In my dreams I was using a jam jar with no lid as my Shamanic tool. I also looked really good in my new shoes!
When we sleep our mind relaxes and processes our day. People would die if they did not sleep and all who sleep, even if they don’t remember, dream. Dream Shamans are people that practice the discipline of lucid dreaming. They can ‘fly’ to anywhere to do healing and helping in their dreams, travel to other levels of existence, find spirit allies and dream the world into existence. These strange ideas are not mine, but the ideas of many Shamanic dreaming cultures. (1) One thing all of them say is that it is a very difficult Shamanic path that takes a lot of practice and discipline; they don’t just lie down and sleep! During the day they spend a lot of time bringing their waking consciousness into a very high state, in other words transforming their lives and their energies so that it reflects in their dreams. You can’t lead a life of non-awareness and no spiritual practice and then expect to fall asleep and be the enlightened master!
In our study of Goddesses we often look to the five major Pagan Pantheons of Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Celtic but another Pagan culture was the Basques. The origin of the Basques and the Basque language is a controversial topic but interestingly the ancient language of the Basque people, which developed from the Proto-Basque language, is the only Pre-Indo-European language that is still spoken in contemporary Europe. (2)
Basque country was Northern Spain and the south of France. Their main deity was the Goddess Mari, the woman in red, who was depicted sometimes as a tree-woman, a fire-woman or a thunderbolt. She was married to Sugaar who was thought to be a dragon and they met only on Fridays, the Witches day. They were worshipped, cared for and honoured by the Sorginak, the Witches who were also Dream Shamans. Sorginak are often said to recite the following spell to travel to and back from the akelarre (Witches Sabbat): “Under the clouds and over the brambles”. Sorginak often are said to transform themselves into animals, most commonly cats. (3) Doesn’t this remind you of the stories of Witches from the British Isles and also the Shamanic cultures around the world?
Dream Shamanism in Other Cultures
In an article by Ryan Hurd (5) he suggests that in many indigenous cultures around the world dreaming is practiced as a shamanic art. The dream journeys are marked by clarity, intense imagery and emotions, are invariably known as big dreams, and in most cultures are treated and interpreted differently than the dreams that reflect anxieties and everyday-life concerns. A few years ago I attended a workshop given by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies on dreaming as a Shamanic practice and they proposed the same idea.
Here are some other examples closely resembling the stories from the Basque. Shamans of the Orang Asli culture in Malaysia use their dreams and vision states to shape-shift into animals and retrieve information in order to gain power, protect individuals and villages, and communicate with the forest directly. Similarly, dream hunting has also been reported by Hugh Brody, in his 1997 narrative Maps and Dreams about the Beaver Indians in Northern Canada. Shamanic lucid dreaming is well known in South America, as well. Chilean anthropologist Rosa Anwandter suggests that there are over 20 dream-honoring societies in the Amazon basin and another half-dozen in Peru. One clear example is the Guarani peoples, who meet regularly in circle to share their dreams. The Guaranis of Paraguay also recognize lucid dreaming, and are said to move their villages based on dream warnings of future floods.
Learning Lucid Dreaming as a Shamanic Witch Practice
Wicca is fundamentally a Shamanic religion, although modern in its application. Casting a Circle, calling in Spirits, aspecting Deity, dancing and drumming to raise power, divination, trancework and meditation are all common within the Witch’s Circle. These practices change us and Witches often find themselves becoming active in their dreams.
The way to cultivate this practice is to keep a dream journal and eventually to pinpoint the dreams that recur. These are important dreams. Next try to dream those dreams. When you have some control over the dreams try and dream about a place you know. Then dream about a place you don’t know and go there when you wake up (or look at pictures) to compare. I have dreamt about places and later visited them for the first time. It’s a strange feeling! Later on you can practice healing work in the dreams and also dreaming the future.
The Goddess Mari was honoured by Witches who were Dream Shamans. If you want to learn more about this dreaming you could make an altar to her and create a ritual to the dream shamans who were associated with her. I made a small altar in my room and since I didn’t know what Mari looked like I put a small statue of a Witch with some little animal figures to represent familiars and some rocks to hold the stone of Mari’s mountain. I put some bread as an offering (see reference 4 from the Spanish encyclopedia below) and I made up the following poem. Then I wore red clothes, since that is Mari’s colour, lit some incense and went to sleep. I plan to write down my important dreams and put them in an empty jam jar to honour the dream I had this morning.
Under the clouds and over the brambles
Sorginak dream and Sorginak ramble
Through time and space their dreams meander
By Mari’s mountains and Mari’s thunder
Bread for the Goddess under the stars
Dreams for healing and for the dream jar
Not For Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions Of A Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman by Guy Mount and Ruby Modesto
Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss
3. See: Enciclopedia General Ilustrada del Pais Vasco Encyclopedia Auñamendi, which in turn cite Euskalerriaren Yakintza, Tomo I “Costumbres y supersticiones”, by folklorist Resurrección María de Azkue (1864-1951). It notes that additional legends were recorded by Jose Miguel Barandiaran and Juan Thalamas Labandibar.
Esteban de Garibay Zamalloa, Memorial histórico español: colección de documentos, opúsculos y antigüedades, Tomo VII.
Margaret Bullen, Basque Gender Studies, page 150 (Reno: University of Nevada, 2003). ISBN 1-877802-31-X
From the Spanish Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Auñamendi:
The most prominent mythical being of the Basque traditions, without any doubt, is a beautiful woman: Mari. She habitually resides in the interior of the Earth and emerges at the surface in specific epochs via various caves and caverns. She alternates, therefore, moving from one mountain to another before the amazed look of man. Mari is beautiful and dressed in elegance, the quintessential essence of feminine guile. At other times, she adopts the form of different animals, or becomes a ball of fire crossing the horizon. The quality of her personal effects, such as her household furnishings, is considered the equivalent of solid gold, as prime example of the magnificence corresponding to her station. Haughty and arrogant in the defense of her interests, she allows no mortal to enter her dwelling, so that none of her personal goods are unduly appropriated.
Mari has powers that allow her to reduce the stolen gold to coal with the simple contact of day light; and she knows how to turn the coal into gold for good services. At times it is risky to approach her, including her cave. She does not put up with the shepherds building their cabins in the environs of Supelegor. One such was pursued by the Lady, transformed into a raven, and although he escaped with his life, he died shortly afterwards as a consequence of the scare. The geography of Mari’s influence was at one time more extensive than it is today. The children of la Burunda called the leftovers of the meal with bread that the men brought when they returned home «pan of Mari of the mountain», basoko Mariren ogia. And, to the south of Urbasa, in Améscoa, this custom continued until very recently: they used to tell the children «Eat the bread of the old woman of the mountain» or also, «bread of the little grandmother of the mountain». There are also areas where the traditions of this spirit are still very much alive, but where they do not use her name. They call her, simply, the Lady, Damea. These stories, however, are usually very similar and refer to the same person.