This morning I was service leader at my church, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. The theme was “War and the Soul,” and the speaker, Dr. Ed Tick, specializes in treatment of post traumatic stress disorder among soldiers returning from war. His remembrance ritual and sermon were somber reminders of the significance of Memorial Day.
I’d volunteered for today because I knew Ed slightly – several years ago, he and his wife Kate had provided dog sitting for our aging black mutt, Shasta, while we were on vacation. Shasta and their equally geriatric dog Cupid enjoyed each others’ company. Both dogs have long since passed on, and before the service, we talked about the key roles dogs had played in our families.
I had no idea Ed had written a book on dreamwork, though. At his signing after the service, The Practice of Dream Healing caught my eye. We swapped books; he loved the title of Eldercide and asked if I’d invented the word (I didn’t, but in Google it shows up only in a few scholarly articles.) To my surprise, the foreword to his book was by Dr. Stephen Larsen, author of The Mythic Imagination and a former therapist of mine. More importantly, though, another beloved dog of mine, Rishi,* was born on Steve’s farm in the Hudson Valley.
Dogs are one of the animal totems of Asklepios, the Greek god of healing and the focus of Ed’s book. Asklepian sanctuaries flourished throughout the Mediterranean world for almost a thousand years until 600 CE. People in search of physical, psychological or spiritual healing would journey to these sanctuaries to incubate their dreams. They would undergo a prolonged period of purification, then enter the abaton, or sleeping chamber. “Upon entering the abaton, the seeker was put into a narrow, womblike chamber. There the seeker waited, for hours or days, for a healing dream or vision in which Asklepios in any of his guises – god, bearded man, boy, snake, or dog – appeared.” (Tick, p. 5)
So you think you have it bad, sitting and waiting for inspiration to surge through your fingers to the keyboard and computer screen? Picture yourself laid out in an abaton! Oh yes, fasting and snakes were part of the ritual process too. This is fascinating stuff, but I think I’ll stick to the comparatively quick and easy Faraday dreamwork process I described in my recent blog.
My best wishes for a memorable Memorial Day tomorrow – and may you incubate some marvellous dreams tonight!
*Steve actually suggested Rishi’s name. He was a magnificent but scary beast, the progeny of a German shepherd mother with champion bloodlines and an unknown tall, dark and handsome stranger she encountered when she escaped one night. He lives on as a major character in my first novel, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders.