I had a dream about a week ago that has been sticking with me. I didn’t think about it very much when I woke up from it, especially since it utterly lacked plot resolution, but it keeps coming back to mind. I’m writing it out here to see if I can get more of a handle on whatever it’s trying to tell me.
I was attending some sort of party/campout/cookout/gathering sort of affair – it was hosted by a vaguely Native tribal group of some sort but many of the attendees, myself included, were outsiders to the group. It was a casual sort of thing, with lots of socializing around the fire, eating, music, and storytelling. We were all camped out on tribal land. I got to flirting with an older member of the tribe – a man in his 70’s or so. It was all very lighthearted and fun and we hit it off so exceedingly well that we headed back to his tent. In my mind, there was nothing complicated about this – we were attracted to each other and we were off to do something about that, with no ideas and no real interest in thinking about what would happen when the party was over.
When we got to his tent, a group of men from the tribe – four or five of them, I guess – were blocking the way. They looked very disapproving and I knew they had seen us wander off from the fire and figured out what was up. They seemed like pillar-of-the-community types – successful men in their 40’s or so. They started speaking very harshly to my old man in their language. He looked deeply embarrassed – not because of shame about what we had been about to do, but embarrassed for me that I was being treated badly by these people. I couldn’t understand them but I knew that they were talking about me. I thought that they had learned something shameful about me and were warning the old man away. I asked him to tell me what they were saying, but he just looked embarrassed and looked away. So I turned to the man who had last spoken and demanded that he tell me what he had said. I was angry that they were talking about me like that and I yelled at them and demanded that they speak to me.
They explained that the old man was an important tribal elder, their greatest ceremonial leader. They didn’t want me with him because they didn’t want any child of his to be raised outside the tribe. It was very very important to them that his genetic lineage stayed within the tribe.
I explained angrily that it was really unlikely, considering my age, his age, and my reproductive history. I gave my age as 42 – I won’t be 42 for a few years yet but that number stuck out as important. (Maybe something interesting will happen that year…) I also pointed out that we were both adults and it was none of their business. I went on to tell them that if it happened, against all odds, I would be willing to raise the child as a member of the tribe.
They were adamant. It would be dire and terrible if the elder’s blood was mixed with mine and something important would be lost. The elder’s child had to be part of the tribe, but no one from a mixed lineage could be part of the tribe – therefore, there could be no such child. The old man agreed with them, but also agreed with me that he and I had no chance of making a baby together and thus it was none of their business what he and I did. I was angry enough that I kept arguing with them, even though the romantic impulse had pretty much passed.
The elder suggested I tell them about my own lineage. Suddenly we were all standing in front of a big table with a map of Europe and eastern North America on it. I started pointing at places. “I come from here” – the Loire valley – “and here” – somewhere along the border of Norway and Sweden – “and here” – somewhere in western England around Bristol – “and here” – New Brunswick (Canada, not New Jersey). This part of the dream seemed really important. I experienced it like a camera zooming in on each spot on the map and hovering over the spot. There were no labels on the map; it was entirely topographic and done in pen-and-ink.
That was it. The last bit with map felt like I was the one being shown something.
So now I am smacking myself in the head after writing that, because it seems terribly obvious all of a sudden. The old man, the tribal elder, represents a particular teaching lineage. Something old, well-respected, and not mine. The flirtation and attraction to it was entirely superficial but I was ready to throw myself in to an involvement with it. The guardians of the lineage didn’t like this as they realized that there was the possibility of something permanent coming from my involvement, something that while not really bad in itself would be inappropriate and would cause trouble. I think that means that when encountering something like that and merely flirting with it in a superficial way, there is the danger of getting a long-term sort of result that isn’t actually good for anyone involved – an inappropriate hybridization. The map was telling me to look elsewhere – to my own lineage, not to someone else’s. I know a little about my French and Canadian ancestors but not so much about the British or Scandinavian end of things. All my ancestors were early immigrants, before 1750 or so, down every line I’ve researched, so I tend to think of myself as “New England mutt” and not of any particular heritage besides that.
I think the message that is trying to come out here is that I need to start looking at ancestor work. This is kind of funny because I’ve been doing lots of work with Orion Foxwood’s material lately and he’s all about the ancestors, but I keep skipping over those bits in the books because it doesn’t seem immediately interesting or relevant to my practice. He says that it’s of key importance to work with the ancestors and that Faery work and ancestor work can’t be done without each other. I don’t really understand that so I haven’t been paying much attention to it except to shelve it in the back of my head for later thinking. I don’t think I’m going to get the choice to wait much longer on that.
I find the idea of making an altar to my ancestors to be a little bit scary. I don’t know them all that well, they had different religious ideas than me (I think) and I have no reason to think they’d be enthused by this work. But of course this isn’t about getting the ancestors to like me – it’s to honor them.