If healing is one of the obligations of a shaman, then dreams is one of the domains. I haven't talked much about dreams, but it's important to remember that sometimes a dream is just a dream, a cigar is just a cigar.... but a black bear is something special and a dragon is always something to be careful around.
There is a song and once when I was in a class studying comparative mythology and symbology I interpreted this song as if it were a dream. I didn't get a very good grade on the paper because the teacher, although familiar with myths, was unfamiliar with shamanic dreaming. Here are some of the lyrics of the song:
I had a dream the other night when everything was still....
A person has gone spirit walking, the stillness is a clue, because although dreams have no sound people who are merely dreaming nearly always never notice the lack of sound. Sound, usually takes the form of songs or music or people talking in jumbled, unclear sentences. Spirits in the dream world can take any form, even sound.
I thought I saw Suzanna a-walking round the hill.....
Suzanna is a derivation of Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess who walked into the underworld to become Queen of the Dead. When a Goddess is seen walking round a hill it means she is walking the maze, which is formed on a hill, like cattle paths. Cattle are sacred to the Goddess and she often takes their form, most famously as Hathor.
A buckwheat cake was in her mouth, a tear was in her eye.....
Small seedcakes are often given as offerings to the dead, even sometimes being placed in their mouth before burying. When Inanna went to the underworld she saw her sister, who was also her, mourning for her husband-son, a symbol of winter. Inanna allowed herself to be flayed and hung and when her messenger came to find her she was released by the fact that the messenger cried for the dead husband-son.
I said I'm coming from the south, Suzanna don't you cry.....
The South is the domain of the Dead, below the horizon. The dreaming is suggesting that he, too, will emerge from the realm of the dead and sorrow will turn to joy. The next line, the chorus, is an American addition and has no symbolism.
I had a dream the other night when everything was still, I found a black bear cub alone and lost and I took it up and tried to find it's mother, knowing that I might be killed by the angry mother, but it was important enough to take up the task. I crept along, hiding from others until I found a hole in the ground beneath the roots of a huge tree and I knew the mother bear was down there, so I put the cub near the entrance and gently pushed it down.
The black bear is a symbol of the Goddess as Protector of children. The cub is both the Goddess and the child. Hiding from people referred to the persecution pagans suffer at the hands of modern religions. The hole was the same hole that Inanna walked into to go to Hel. This dream was a symbol of my faith and my role as one who tries to defend the Old Faith even at the risk of persecution. It may refer to my hope that the Goddess will protect me and my family.
I dreamed last night I was with old friends from the SCA and we had all been to a tourney. There was a stream running by and many of us had walked into the waters to cool off. One of my friends was lounging in the waters with tiny fish tickling his skin. None of the people had aged, they all looked like the way they looked when I was with them.
Being with friends was an reflection of how friendless I have become in recent years. Few people want to talk to me because my emotions have become different, I am angry and saddened by wars and foolish chances, bad parents....more than before I tend to rage against the harm we do one another, especially children. Having a son in a coma does that to you. My old friends were always there for me before I left Arizona, up to when my wife had gone slightly insane and was saying terrible things about them, thinking people were whispering about her. They were, but out of fear and concern. She thought they were jealous of her beauty, but by being so foul mouthed she had lost much of her beauty, her eyes had become hard and lost. When I awoke I was struck most by the image of one of my friends being tickled by small fish, because his skin had been pale and it occurred to me in the dream how fish nibble at corpses in the water. Streams are often symbols of time and being in and out of time can be a symbol of how we are both in the stream of time as we age and move along, but we are also out of the stream of time, both by being held in the memory of friends, and by our being spirits, who never really age. A dream like this could presage a death.
Dreaming is different than spirit walking, when we enter the realm while awake. IN spirit walking most of the symbols are active and can even identify themselves. Once when I was spirit walking I can to a plain, a rounded plain like the top of a huge hill. It was the Earth, and the tiny crack I saw in the dirt were canyons. The pools of water were oceans and the little piles of dirt were mountains. On this hill were figures of paper, like paper dolls. One man figure represented all men on Earth and was the prototype. Spirits coming to Earth as men would look at this symbol and know their appearance by it. There were little paper dolls for all the races and sexes on Earth. The Keeper of this little place was there, the One. I asked where the doll was that I had looked upon to be born a shaman and the One told me that shamans had no prototype and that was how we were able to spirit walk without dying. When you dream it is as if you were really there, but when spirit walking you can see the silver cord which runs from you to your physical body and you know how to come back by following that cord. You know that you could, if you wanted, sever that cord and stay on the spirit plane without sickness or pain and that temptation is very strong. The trick is to remember that eventually we all die and return to the spirit plane, so patience is a virtue and a curse. I returned to my broken body and it's pain and sorrow, but also it's joys.
People like Martin Luther King Jr. are shamans without knowing it. I doubt anyone ever told him that, but his drive to heal and to wrestle the demons and spirits which sicken this country is obviously shamanic drive. His speech "I had a dream" is so powerful because he could use the Voice of Power and try to use his dreams as curative psychic potions. His loss was predictable, at least for me, because in part a shaman can always tell when another shaman is going to die, but also because he was working with a mixture of symbols, being a Christian and not knowing the nature of the god he worshipped. It is a typical thing for Yahweh-Trickster-Odin to promise life and give death. As Odin He frequently leads a man to battle promising victory and then, at the moment of highest expectations, he slays the Hero. King had dreamed of his death and tried to tell the people about it, but he confused the symbols and the timing. Trickster had told him lies.
It is impossible to heal a nation, it must be put down, either by time and evolution, or by a sacrifice of blood, because countries are fictions given by Trickster. There are no lines on the Great Hill which is the earth. No boundaries between nations, only canyons, seas, and mountains. Trickster says there is a South Dakota and a France or China, but in the end there is only the Earth. People who follow a person into war worship and feed the lies of Trickster. People who grow gardens and offer sacrifices of buckwheat cakes to their dead support and feed the Goddess. Shamans dance on the edge between waking and dreaming. We heal by singing, dancing or painting symbolically. Oddly enough, in the structure of things most ethnologists would suggest that shamans are part of Trickster's realm, in part because of his singing and dancing and odd costumes, cross dressing etc. I believe that Trickster is not the God of shamans but is a shaman himself and not a true god at all. I think he's lying.
Dawn and sunset are the main times of shamans, the liminal points of day and night. Midnight and noon are also liminal, but like the equinoxes are lesser times. A shaman would rarely Walk at noon, for that time is when the Sun is greatest, and the Sun is intolerant of shamans. Midnight is the time when Death is greatest and She is too great to dance before. Myself, I've always been fond of Dawn. She is so soft and beautiful and so full of promise. My best Dreams are at dawn.