The Jicara

My friend Kate lived for several years in Yuma, Arizona, and worked as an environmental lawyer on an Army base. She and her fiancé Ken made numerous trips down the Mexican coast visiting the tiny towns along the Gulf of California. One particular family befriended them, and welcomed them into their home repeatedly.

The years have been difficult. Ken died in a horrific accident, leaving Kate in great mourning. Then the Mexican family’s matriarch died, leaving behind a sad but kindly husband and two young kids. huichol_yarn_painting_by_rojelio_beuites.jpgBut though Kate moved back to the D.C. area, she makes regular visits to the family in Mexico, and always brings interesting gifts for the kids (who are growing like weeds; it makes Kate feel very old).

Every year she sends me some memento from Mexico, most of them pieces of Huichol art. She has given me two blankets woven in the most amazing colors, a decidedly hallucinogenic wooden dog, and two intriguing crucifixes (blending several different religious traditions).

Perhaps the most recognizable type of Huichol art is the nieli’ka, or yarn painting (like the one depicted here). In traditional Huichol communities, nieli’kas are important ritual artifacts. They’re usually small square or round tablets covered on one or both sides with a mixture of beeswax and pine resin into which threads of yarn are pressed. Nieli’kas are found in most Huichol sacred places such as house shrines (xiriki), temples, springs, and caves. Continue reading

Categories: Art, Dreams, Earth-based Religions, First Nations, Shamanism, The Medicine Wheel | 10 Comments

Night Flights

When I was five, I knew I had a remarkable power. I could fly. Sometimes I’d sit on top of the stairs leading down to the basement, cross my legs (right over left), and float down without touching a single step.

The key was always to have complete faith in my ability; even the tiniest bit of doubt would keep me from flying. But I know I could do it. Flying was effortless.

Other flights took place during my dreams. I would take a few running steps, jump into the air and dive toward the ground, as if I had a diving board and a deep pool before me. A few inches before impact, I’d start skimming along the grass, arms outstretched (“Like Peter Pan,” I’d say, “not like Superman”), then once I had sufficient momentum I’d vault into the sky, skimming the treetops, swooping and doing aerial tricks, playing like an otter in no less fluid a medium.

Continue reading

Categories: Dreams, Psychology, Spirituality | 5 Comments

The Big Trip: Terror in the Black Hills


My first shock was the realization that Kyle, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where I was to meet with Vincent Blackfeather, the medicine man, is south of the Badlands, and that it is 3 hours and 100 miles back there from Rockerville, where I have stopped for dinner. black-hills.jpgI’ve missed it utterly, and the realization has put me in a panic.

I head into town and call my friend Jim to ask his advice, and reach only his answering machine.

It’s dark now. What do I do? I’m very near Mount Rushmore; do I visit it in the morning, or now? Do I camp in the forest somewhere, or find a comfy-but-cheap bed in a motel? Do I go back to Kyle after doing the Black Hills circuit?

I feel like such a coward whenever I think of Vincent Blackfeather and the Ceremonial. I’m feeling stymied by the Unknown; it’s as if all my Christian upbringing is reasserting itself in the face of this rampant “paganism” I’m being drawn toward. But if I don’t see him, what will I miss? If I travel back all that way and go to the reservation, will Vincent even be there, since he’s not expecting me? Should I try and call him in the morning? If I’m able to talk to Jim after all, will he have the proper discernment for me, since my intuition seems to be on the blink? Should I throw an I Ching hexagram? Do a tarot spread? Pray?

So I have dinner at the Old West Town Saloon. Continue reading

Categories: Dreams, Nature, Psychology, Shamanism, The Big Trip, Travel | 5 Comments

Harry’s Magic Cigarette Pack

This was one of those dreams that I can’t decipher, and I’m not certain it really wants deciphering. I’m only posting it because in the dream itself I was so alarmed by what happened that I’m thinking perhaps has some import I’m not catching. Then again, we’re at the full moon right now, and Mr. Cardinal is outside my window singing loudly at me, so everything might be expected to be a little wonky.

I’m at dinner with a few acquaintances or perhaps business associates (no one I know in real life). It seems like we’re at some convention or something; the tables are big, and people come in, singly or in irregular groups, and sit wherever there is room, and leave when they’re done. In come three or four lively individuals whom I apparently recognize from their presence in earlier workshops or meetings, and I invite them to sit at my table. Immediately the noise level in the room rises, and they generate much laughter and enthusiasm.

At some point one of them asks if I had seen Harry’s magic cigarette pack. I answer with a “Huh?” and he gets out an ordinary pack of cigarettes and balances it on the top of something, like a wine bottle, sitting on the table. A few moments later it shoots off its perch by itself, hits Harry in the chest, and suddenly he’s sitting there shirtless. The shirt doesn’t come off, it’s just . . . gone. Everyone laughs, but I’m so alarmed by this that I scramble out of my chair and back away from the table to get a better view.

Harry then goes through a few more changes—a fedora appears on his head, then disappears; he becomes an animal of some sort, briefly; then he’s dressed as a lumberjack, then in top hat and tails, before becoming himself again—each for only a few moments, maybe seven or eight seconds. He did this to the great amusement and applause of the other diners, except for the attractive woman (who looks rather like Salma Hayak) sitting next to him, perhaps because one of these transformations makes him into a clone of her for a few moments. Finally he puts the cigarettes back into his pocket, and the transmutations cease.

I’m boggled. Was this an illusion, a collective hallucination? Was the magic cigarette pack actually doing the transforming? Was it projecting these images like holograms, or sending the images directly into our minds? Was Harry in control of these changes, or was he at the mercy of that package? His friends had clearly seen this many times before, and viewed it as some sort of parlor trick, and it seemed harmless enough—Harry came through it unscathed and comfortable. But the more I witnessed, the more agitated I became, both at the idea of a mysterious phenomenon this baffling (which everyone else seemed happy to let pass unscrutinized), and at the sudden and dramatic physical changes themselves.

The dream ends there, except for this odd little voice-over: “It was the time of blue tarps. . . .” For readers who don’t live in Florida, the blue tarps refer to the many, many homes whose roofs were destroyed in the hurricanes that hit in 2005—there weren’t enough roofers available, so one could drive down the street and see blue tarps covering house after house. I have no idea what this has to do with Harry’s magic cigarette pack.

Thoughts? Comments?

Categories: Dreams | 1 Comment

Four Lesbians and a Zombie

Dreams are such peculiar things. They come in a few different varieties. There are ones that are the flotsam and jetsam of the mind, free-associating snippets that are the tired chaff of the day’s (or week’s) events. Then there are the Big Dreams, the ones that haunt you years afterward, that were pregnant with meaning; some even may have been life-changing.

Then there are those in the middle. I think of them as the Rorschach blots of the brain. The images we see may be caused by the random firing of neurons, but our minds crave order, so they recognize them as little surrealistic movies, strange landscapes that we strive to make sense of. Movies which, if we remember them in the morning, we chew on and try to find some deeper meaning from.

Last night’s movie was a trilogy. In the first, I lived in a futuristic high-rise apartment building with a curved balcony that was so close to a neighbor’s balcony that one could easily step from one to the other. My neighbor—played, in this particular dream, by actress/comedienne/activist/political commentator Janeane Garofolo (bizarre, but that’s the nature of dreams)—is a lesbian whose relationship had just broken up, and she is packing up and moving out. Apparently I’m friends with both her and her partner, but she’s obviously distressed and her partner is nowhere in sight, so I’m trying to comfort her. She doesn’t want to talk about it, but we leave the door open for her to call on me if and when she’s ready for a shoulder to cry on.

Cut to movie #2. More lesbians, an older couple, a tall skinny one and a short fat one. The short one is diabetic and rather ill, and the tall one is able to pick her up and carry her around easily, as if she’s extremely light despite her girth. What I remember most is the tall one’s attitude of protectiveness: the short one’s illness had made her rather childlike and vulnerable. I see them in the kitchen of their house, but I don’t recall anything more than that.

In the last segment, I’m performing on stage with a bunch of adults (mostly parents, I think) at a children’s school. Almost all of us are zombies, though I’m a bit more animated than most you see in the movies; I growl and moan and make menacing faces, my fingers curled into claws. There are children on stage, our pretend victims, screaming happily, and the audience is pleased.

That’s it: four lesbians, a zombie (me), and Janeane Garofalo. Have at it—I invite your interpretive insights! Remember, it’s a Rorschach blot; there are no right or wrong answers.

Categories: Dreams, Psychology | 4 Comments

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