The Rat: A Dream
Text:© 2011 Hallfridur J. Ragnheidardottir
The fantasy that follows is based on the dream of an anonymous woman who is unknown to me, except for her approximate age. The dream, as conveyed by the dreamer, is rendered in italics in the text. The tarot reading that leads into the exploration of the dream happened precisely the way it is described in the text. In other words, the cards were not selected to fit the picture but randomly chosen to shine light on the dream. The use of the dream is by permission of the dreamer.
Hanging like a Christmas decoration on the firmament, the luminous sliver of a newborn moon oozes a ray of light onto the ancient oak table by the window. At the table two women sit silently facing each other. The younger woman’s gaze is focused on a deck of cards between them. What is she feeling? Anticipation… or is it apprehension – maybe both? She senses that something momentous is trying to break through in her. That is why she has come here with this dream though she would have really liked to push it back to where it came from. But it won’t let go of her. It has planted in her a sense of urgency, a strong feeling of duty that she cannot pin down. She needs to know where it is pointing to and that need is stronger than her will. She had to swallow her pride when she finally picked up the phone and made this clandestine appointment with a Tarot reader. No one will ever know, she reassures herself, not even her closest friends, and most certainly not her academic husband, for how can she justify the ‘belief’ that a pack of cards will reveal the answer she so urgently seeks. She would be the laughing stock of her peers and colleagues if word were to get out.
She takes her eyes off the cards and lets them rest on the woman opposite her whose serene gaze betrays an absence that contradicts her commanding presence. She finds a sense of security in her simple elegance, set off by her silver-streaked hair gathered in a loose knot at the crown of her head. A lavender dress drapes softly around the ankles of her sandal-shod feet. Silver sandals they are, matching her pendant, a basket woven of silver thread holding a hexagonal, upward pointing rock crystal which she rubs absentmindedly with the fingertips of her left hand. Where is she? she wonders. What is she thinking?
She is listening within herself, the reader is, exploring the impact of the dream she has just heard from her client. Why, she asks herself, is she so deeply affected? The obvious answer is that the dream does not solely expose the problem of this one woman but also that of her culture. Their culture. The opening of the dream points toward this conclusion. She is standing on a street corner downtown. The traffic is moving beside her and a cross street in front of her, that is how she phrased it. It is staged in a busy downtown area and she is at crossroads. The personal is tied in with the public. The dream apparently shines light on a collective issue which has been dumped into the underworld where it breeds vermin that preys upon people’s souls. It is a dream dreamed in the service of the common good! The thought descends on her from out of the blue. She knows that this is so. Knows that the dream conveys an important message which needs to be extracted from the trash in the underground landscape it depicts.
She comes back and looks smilingly at her client, an attractive woman, tall and slender with short auburn hair. Dressed in black, a short skirt and a chic freeflowing loosly knitted top. About fifty, she would guess. “Shall we see what the cards say?”
“Why don’t you shuffle.” Her invitation is put forth in a low and calming voice. “Meanwhile concentrate on your dream. When you feel that you have shuffled enough, fan out the deck and with your left hand draw three cards and lay them out in a row, face down. The first one goes in the center, the second on the left, the third on the right. Then gather the remaining cards together and put the stack face down above the central card.”
Her client picks up the deck.
“Let me explain,” the reader continues. “Card number one reflects the core message of the dream with reference to your present situation, the other two shine further light on that message. The one on the left refers to your relationship with your inner self in regard to the situation, the one on the right to your relationship with the outer world. The card at the bottom of the stack is the root-card, the foundation on which the reading, and the dream, rest.”
The younger woman follows her instructions, and as if searching for the right notes on the keyboard of a musical instrument, her slightly trembling fingers move to and fro over the fanned out deck before pulling out the three cards.
“Now turn the cards over, one by one, and allow yourself ample time for the impact of each image to sink in.” The reader leans back tuning into the suspense of the moment while closely observing her client as she examines the cards. Looking at the pattern that emerges before her, and weaving between the cards and the dream, she is once again struck by the magic of this medium which the mainstream culture contemptuously dismisses as a Gipsy fortunetelling tool. Wouldn’t the prejudice attaching to this labeling be rooted in fear? Fear of those who live on the fringes? Inspired by a secret attraction that has to be banned? But then the dream has suffered much the same fate, hasn’t it? Dismissed as ‘just a dream’ by those who do not want to be disturbed by their dreams’ unsettling messages, or rejected as irrational nonsense by the arrogant rational mind who denounces those who take their dreams seriously as superstitious fools. What a waste!
When all the cards are turned over, her client is visibly relaxed. She looks up with a smile of relief in her eyes. “I was not expecting such bright and beautiful cards to turn up in connection with my dismal dream.”
The reader smiles back to her. “How does this impression contrast with the ambiance at the opening of your dream?”
“There all is grey and oppressive.”
“Let’s go over the cards.
Number one is the 2 of Cups, number two The High Priestess, number three The Queen of Cups, and The Star is the foundation. What catches your immediate attention when looking at those cards?”
“All that water!”
“Do you see any connection with your dream?”
“Well, it is raining at the beginning of my dream…” She hesitates before venturing with a nervous little laugh, “I suppose there could be a connection with my urinating?” And as if excusing herself, “It is after all my urgent need to urinate that leads to my encounter with the rat, isn’t it?”
“Let us for a moment consider the ingenious logic of the dream language. The skies emit water and so does your body. What we have is the old dictum, as above, so below, which could be translated into mind and body relations. What is going on in the mind has repercussions in the body, or vice versa. You associate the greyness that reigns at the opening of your dream with the rain, but if I remember correctly you said that it seems like early spring?”
“And what associations does spring evoke in you?”
“Greening, freshness… youth…” She stops short.
“Would you say then that the mood at the opening of your dream contradicts your feelings about spring?”
“It is my favorite season, but also so very transient, a fleeting moment in the rapid flux of time. It makes me keenly aware of my years and I find myself thinking that I may not have that many left to live. It is a depressing thought. A painful reminder, I suppose, that I am entering the autumn of my life.” Her words are followed by an embarrassed little laughter. She cannot help feeling somewhat silly exposing her worries about aging to this older woman who is seemingly very much at ease with her years. But how can she deny her fear of no longer being sexually attractive? Of no longer having the opportunity to live unlived parts of herself? She has to be honest about this. “I guess you could say that my feeling about spring is affected by my desire to hold on to its ephemeral beauty. Yet I am aware that it is precisely that evanesence which makes it so precious.”
The reader lets her eyes rest for a brief moment on her client’s carefully made-up face that betrays subtle signs of aging, on her impeccable hairdo and well manicured hands. A perfectionist, she would say. “Are you saying that you cannot allow yourself to fully enjoy for fear of losing?”
“Having joy taken away from me is the worst thing I know. It is like falling into an icecold pit. I imagine that instinctively I try to protect myself from landing in that situation. So yes, you are right, I can see how that would affect my ability to fully surrender to joy. It is as if a part of me stays on the sideline and does not want to risk itself.”
“Would it meet with your approval if it did?”
“You mean… are you saying that I am keeping this part of me at bay because I disapprove of it? Does it make sense that I choose to deprive myself of joy?”
“Maybe you do have a choice in the matter but it might mean going against what you have been taught? If a part of you is alienated you do not engage life whole-heartedly. In early spring the earth awakens to life under the fertilzing rain and to you all is grey. How do you understand that?”
“I experience this greyness as oppression. It is as if the skies are weighing on me, pushing me down into the earth.”
“And your body reacts to this oppression with an urgent need to urinate. What might it be trying to tell you? Let us see if The Star, your foundation card, can shed some light on that.
What do you see?”
“A nude woman under a golden star pours water from two jugs. She kneels with one foot on the green earth and rests the other foot on a pool of blue water. Curiously it is as if she hovers above the water. Maybe even the earth too? I suppose that is because she is an immaterial being, a star not a human?” She pauses to digest her observation, enlivened by her engagement with the image. “And she is pouring water from one jug on the earth and from the other into the pool. Her focus is on the pool. Clearly she is watering the earth, but why is she pouring water into the pool?”
“If we read the pool as a symbol for the creative wellspring, she would be nurturing that spiritual source as well as the physical represented by the earth. Note her nuditity. She has nothing to hide, holds nothing back, she pours it all out. That would be her message. Do not be inhibited by shame. How might that apply to you in your present situation?”
“I know it sounds vain, but I find myself being preoccupied with my body betraying signs of aging and losing its appeal. Old age has become stigmatized in our society. It somehow feels shameful to grow old. We do our best to fight it and hide it, yet longevity is what we crave. How can this make sense? I sometimes wonder who sets the standards for beauty in our culture. But even if I am aware of the superficiality of it all – the plastic surgery, the hair coloring, the fitness craze… it is difficult not to be swept along. Yet I feel pity for those unnatural elderly women who have given in to the propaganda. The plastic surgeon’s goldmine, that is what they are. I don’t want to be one of them. Maybe I feel shame for not fully daring to be me.”
“Are you saying that you feel shame for betraying yourself?”
“If you put it that way then, yes, that would be the naked truth.”
“Self-betrayal means repressing your true nature, doesn’t it? And repression poisons the inner source. What the Star says is that you need to face the fears that hold you enthralled and redeem them. Note her golden hair which shows the purity of her thoughts. She has transformed her demons into gold.”
“Quite a paradisiacal scene. But then that is where shame was born, in Eden, wasn’t it? When Adam and Eve discovered that they were nude.”
“She has risen above that indoctrination. As the Star she points the way for us.”
“I see a little bird perching on the tree behind her, is that significant? A snake would have been more to the point considering the Eden-like setting!”
“That is an interesting point, for the bird would be a symbol of thought and in Eden it was the snake that instilled the thought in Eve to reach for the apple. According to tradition the bird is an ibis, sacred to Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and inventor of all arts. Some associate it with his Greek counterpart, the elusive trickster Hermes, messenger of the gods and guide of souls to the other world. What seems to me important in the context of thought is the contemplative poise of the woman. Her serenity implies that she is open to thoughts, or images, that emerge from deep within her. This is a prerequisite for personal growth.”
“Like dreams, yes. Let us consider for a moment who instills the thought in you to go to the bathroom – downstairs in the building across the street, you said?”
“It is a man with dark hair and a beard who is standing beside me at the beginning of the dream.”
“Do you know this man?”
“No, but strangely he seems to know my need and gives me complicated instructions on how to find the bathroom – it is old and has been dismantled and what is left is surrounded by large plastic sheets blowing in the rain and the wind. Not an inviting description, but I really need to go to urinate so I run across the street and go down into the old bathroom as it is an urgent need.”
“Crossing the street suggests transition from one state of being to another. You are in the familiar collective and you go into the unknown, driven by an urgent need. – Imagine yourself in that bathroom. Lead me through it again… Close your eyes and breathe deeply… relax and enter the scene. Take your time.”
She poses her hands, palms up, on the table and closes her eyes. There is an expression of pain and disgust on her face. She is struggling with the memory. Then she starts talking, as if from a distant place. “I push the door open and take a quick look around. The walls have been stripped of all the plaster… there is only the bare wood, dirty, dark and old… it’s grimy and awful.” She shudders at the sight of it. “I see a hole in the far left corner. It is a hole in the floor with a dark green plastic bag taped into the hole to act as the toilet. It is filled with filth.” She makes an effort to continue. “It will have to do in a pinch… I go and step over the hole and manage to urinate standing up. I have no need to get anywhere near the filth… As I urinate I look before me and at eye level I see a wire metal screen; the holes are about one inch square. Behind the screen is an air shaft filled with debris and… as I look there I see a grey sewer rat walking towards me, staring me straight in the eye.” She dwells on the encounter before slowly coming back.
“Now let us take a closer look at this. A toilet in the basement would refer to the instinctual sphere, to our private parts, as this is where we take care of our basic bodily needs. As this toilet is in a building downtown and not in your private house, the dream seemingly presents a collective issue that affects you as an individual. Your body responds to your conscious, possibly indoctrinated, attitude by pulling you down into this disintegrating, dirty place. Do you follow me?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
“I note that the word old is thrice repeated in connection with the bathroom, that there is emphasis on filth, that you urinate standing up like a man would, and that you do so into a dark green plastic bag.”
“I could not very well sit down under the circumstances, could I?”
“Squatting would have been a more feminine posture.”
“It would have brought me closer to the filth.”
“Let us consider the dark green plastic bag, what associations come to mind?”
“Garbage, pollution – I’ve heard that it takes a plastic bag a hundred years to decompose so in my mind a green plastic bag is a contradition in terms – consumerism…”
“Your dream emphasizes the urgency inherent in the message that your body is sending to you, your need to urinate is great, and that urgent message is being dumped in its raw and unassimilated form into a green plastic bag that will not disintegrate for a hundred years… The cycle needs to be broken. That is where the rat comes in.”
“I wonder… as you mention cycle… that with menopause around the corner I have been dealing with some annoying problems due to profuse bleedings. Fibroids, they said. My gynocologist suggested hysterectomy, the uterus being of no use for a woman my age. Thrown on the dump, I suppose. I felt I had no choice, I was losing a lot of blood and my professional life was affected. I had previously seen another doctor who suggested the same procedure but when he told me that he was going to cut out my cervix and ovaries also to prevent me from getting cancer later on, I walked out on him. I am not stupid. I know that a surgeon gets paid per organ! I felt that I was being exploited. It made me angry.”
“Quite disturbing the pathologizing of female nature in our culture, isn’t it? ”
“A trap for cancer, that is what our sexual organs are made out to be! A fear that has haunted me ever since puberty.” There is anger in her voice. “And now, if it invades my cervix and ovaries, I will have myself to blame, won’t I?”
“In myths and fairy tales, as you no doubt know, the ‘womb’ is the hero’s symbolic field of exploits from which he brings the ‘treasure hard to attain’ to heal his sick community. Today, invading the womb is a routine medical procedure and it still yields gold, the difference being that now the gold has lost its spiritual value. I would say that you are being expedited on a hero’s journey into the infamous womb. The question is, what healing elixir will you bring back?”
“You are making this sound like an exciting adventure!”
The reader sends her an approving smile. “Maybe that is how you should look at it. As an exciting and worthy task. – Ever heard of phantom limbs?”
“As a matter of fact I have. An amputee can experience feeling in a lost limb.” She laughs. “You wouldn’t be suggesting that my uterus has risen from the dumps to haunt me?”
The reader remains silent.
The younger woman looks at her with disbelief. “You are seriously suggesting that!”
“It used to be an important part of your body and its functions. It played a part in your sexual response, every month it shed its lining which exited your vagina in a stream of blood, it fostered your offspring while it grew within you… would such a complex and intimate relationship between body and mind be severed for good and all by surgery? Wouldn’t you think that the memory lingers on?”
“You make it sound as if it has a life of its own!”
“In a sense it does. The function of the uterus is not subject to a woman’s will. She can exerce certain control through pills and other medical devices which have replaced the futile effort of the king in the fairy tale, who by destroying all the spindles in his kingdom hoped to save his daughter from the curse of menstruation, if saving her was indeed his real motive. The bleeding uterus has long been the enemy of man. Yet this was not always so.”
“Whatever the king’s motive, it feels downright wrong that a woman be fated to have a ‘curse’ as her companion during the period.”
“Indeed. But she needs not content herself with such destructive companionship. The perceived curse can be transformed into a blessing, and maybe that is your task. Let us look at the rat, shall we, and see what it wants from you. You say that it walks towards you and stares you right in the eye… try to relive the encounter.”
“What immediately strikes me is that it looks amused. It is as if it has human qualities, really. I am a bit freaked out by this but find some relief in the fact that at least there is the screenbetween us. I start to arrange myself and as I do the rat pops its head and then its body out, right beside my face – so close and intimate.”
Do I detect compassion in her voice? the reader muses as she observes the expression of wonder on her client’s face.
“I back away pulling up my pants and grab a clean dish towel in the colours of violet, yellow and white. This is a fairly gentle swishing. The rat is not scared at all and keeps following me, trying to get close.” She looks at the reader, wonder still lingering in her eyes.
“The rat approaches you and you back away. It has an advantage over you as it sees you before you see it.”
“How do you mean?”
“A scene in an ancient Norse poem called the Prophecy of the Seeress has an interesting resemblance with the scene in your dream. It describes an encounter between Odin and a seeress. – In case you don’t know, Odin was the principal god in Norse heathendom and had much in common with the Greek Hermes whom we talked about before. – In the poem Odin is the first to look the seeress in the eye. He thereby gains power over her and compels the very reluctant seeress to prophesy his future. The rat sees you before you see it…”
“You are comparing the rat with a god? And then I am no seeress who can foretell the future!”
“No? What about your dream, is it not a vision? A vision moreover that holds the potential future of the rat or that which it personifies?”
“Let us begin by looking at your interaction with the rat. You say it looks amused. I am tempted to think that with its prankish glint in the eye it is trying to engage you in play. But you resist and try to scare it away, and with what? A clean and colorful dish towel. Now there is an odd thing in a filthy bathroom!”
“It is a mystery, really.”
“What is a dish towel to you?”
“A housewife’s attribute!”
“And how do you feel about that role?”
“The ‘just a housewife’ labeling says it all. No modern woman wants to be stuck in that role. It has taken us a long time to work our way out of the kitchen and be taken seriously in the outside world. But we still have a long way to go. The unequal status of the sexes in terms of salary and job opportunities is intolerable and downright humiliating in this day and age.”
“Let us play with the rat a bit. It throws you off balance in the midst of urinating, it wants to convey something to you and that message seems to be coded in the dish towel. Where do you grab it from?
“Curiously, I cannot remember. It was just there for me as I was pulling up my pants.”
“Like a magic device, manifesting out of thin air to ward off the aggressive rat! But it does not do the trick, does it. The rat keeps following you. Do you note that not only are you urinating standing up, you are also wearing pants?”
“It is not unusual for me to wear pants and the filth compelled me to urinate standing up. If you are suggesting that I am siding with the male by taking a stand against a typical female role, I can assure you that I am an ardent advocate of women’s rights.”
“I am not suggesting anything. It is your dream speaking.”
“Yes, of course, I am sorry. I am not unaware that we are marked by the fact that we live in a male dominated society. Maybe that is what my dream is hinting at? We have flocked out of the kitchen into an established order to which we have been forced to adapt. If we want to advance, we have to play by their rules, don’t we?” She bites her lip as she realizes to whom she is speaking.
“We may have more choices than we realize. The essential is not to betray one’s truth, as you suggested before. The rat is ‘the enemy’ trying to win your intimacy. What could be its relationship with the magic towel?”
She hesitates for a moment before venturing with a laugh, “I am struck by this kind of crazy idea… if the rat is the ghost of my heavily bleeding uterus… I guess what I am trying to say is that in a crisis, if a woman is called on unexpectedly by the blood, she might just grab any rag to ward off an accident.”
“Accident meaning that she would not want her predicament exposed in public?”
“When you say that, I am struck by how shaming the blood is. I remember having once discovered a stain on my skirt when I came home from a dinner party and finding myself in the throes of agony at the thought that other people might have noticed it. I staged the evening over and over in my mind, trying to see myself from all angles in order to discover who might have possibly detected my situation! I have never really stopped to think why this shame is so matter-of-course. It is not something I have developed personally, it pervades the culture like some ever present secret whispering.”
The reader keeps her distance while her client wrestles with her thoughts.
“In actuality, I frequently had to resort to a towel when I was assaulted by an avalanche of clotted blood towards the end. A regular pad was by no means sufficient protection. It really does make sense.”
“And how does that resolution make you feel?”
“I cannot help wondering why I am having this visitation now that my bleeding has stopped. You would have thought that it was a chapter closed.”
The psychic wound is still bleeding. To heal a deep seated repression is a long term task that requires cooperation from the conscious personality. By confronting you with the rat, a creature despised and hated by man, the dream is trying to shock you into awareness. It means that you are prepared to look the problem in the eye and actively engage the healing process. Remember that you told me how you feel unable to fully surrender to joy, that a part of you stays on the sideline? Do you think the rat could represent that part proscribed from participating in your experience? There is that screen between the two of you. A wire metal screen reminiscent of a cage or a prison. The question is, who is encaged or imprisoned, you or the rat? By putting the rat in this role your dream is telling you that there is a part of you that you undervaluate and avoid acknowledging.”
“How am I to understand this?”
“So far we have associated the rat with the bleeding uterus and by extension with play which manifests in the mystery of the magic towel. What you see is your own playful imagination at work, but it is kept underground. How do you give expression to your creative imagination in your life?”
“I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I find myself wondering when, for instance, I decided to stop drawing images. As a child drawing was a natural expression for my fantasy and perception of the world around me. Then one day, it was all put aside. I was never a good draughtsman, I suppose that was part of the reason. If I had had artistic potential, it would have been different.”
“In other words, either you excel or you drop it altogether?”
“Well, do we want to spend our time and energy on something we are not good at or do we pour it into something which we know will bring results?”
“I guess it is a matter of being able to tolerate uncertainty regarding the outcome. But we might learn a great deal about ourselves while testing our way. I believe you risked yourself when you gave free reign to you imagination regarding the dish towel. Was there a lesson in that for you?”
“As a matter of fact there was. It makes me realize how prone I am to censor myself. I do not want to risk being foolish.”
“You don’t know where that idea is going to lead you. It may lead to a treasure or it may lead to an impass. If you drop it you will never know which. It really depends on the attraction the image has for you whether you want to put in the energy to pursue it to the end. Shall we continue?”
“By all means!”
“Consider the colors of the towel. Those colors are the music in your dream, they represent your feeling-tones. What do they mean to you? Allow your response to flow spontaneously.”
“Violet makes me think of the flower. I love violets and their sweet smell. Yellow, the color of the sun, means joy for me. White I associate with purity and innocence.”
“Interestingly, the vulva is often likened to a flower, isn’t it? And the color violet, a mixture of red and blue, is associated with wisdom based on the merging of the opposites of feminine and masculine energies. If we stay with your idea of the dish towel being a metaphor for a sanitary towel, it would tell us that a creative union of opposites occurs in the woman during menstruation. She just needs to listen. Yellow is frequently associated with enlightenment, again brought about by the union of opposites. It is a state of being accompanied by a surge of joy which accords with your association to the color yellow. White is the color that contains all colors, and in terms of purity as you suggest, might be symbolic of the purging inherent in the flow. What your dream-towel is holding up to you is the wisdom inherent in your feminine nature which has been devalued, treated as garbage by the collective culture, and hence by you yourself.”
“Really! What can I do with this information now? It is too late to learn about the wisdom inherent in the flow when it is has stopped for good! If this is so, why have we been made believe that it is a curse we must endure? I cannot remember any questionaire that has asked me if my period brought me joy! It has all been about the negative. It is the same with menopause. The focus is on all the negative symptoms, be it the notorious hot flashes or the psychological disturbances. How is a woman to see any good in this?”
“Alas, the power of suggestion effected by the ruling perception of woman’s sexual being is tremendous. Our petrified collective attitudes need to dissolve in order for a sounder vision to emerge. And it begins with the individual. Think of the abundant water that attracted your immediate attention when you looked at your cards, the rain in your dream, the urine issuing from your body… this is a solvent, and purifying as such. I suggest that we now look at the card in your reading that stands for your relationship with your inner self, The High Priestess. Are you ready for that?”
“Let’s hope it brings some good news!”
“In a reading all news are good news. You get to know what you need to know in order to grow.
Now, besides the water, what strikes you?”
“The cross on her chest.”
“It is an even handed cross, not the Christian crucifix, yet it is in her heartplace…” She hesitates… “She reminds me of the Virgin Mary though, dressed in blue as she is. But Mary normally holds Jesus in her lap, either as a child or the crucified, while this woman holds… what is it? A scroll like the ancient papyrus books…”
The reader keeps silent as her client continues to contemplate the image.
“I think of crossroads,” she finally blurts out, “I think of menopause, transition into old age, of not being desireable, discarded… menopause is an entrance into a phase of decline not of growth, and that is scary.” She checks herself, fearing that she has gone too far considering the age of the woman across from her, but then continues, “The woman on this card is young. She has the future in front of her! If it stands for my relationship with my inner self, it reveals a discrepancy between my inner self and my aging bodily self.”
“The card depicts an archetype, a constant in our make-up. We all have that youthful source within which makes for the discrepancy between our feeling about our age and the number of years we have accumulated, which happen to be society’s yardstick in measuring our viable contribution to its system. A woman interviewed on account of her 107th birthday the other day owned that she still felt young and thus proved the dictum that we are as young, or as old, as we feel. It is a matter of keeping a harmonious relationship with that virginal spring of renewal within. The Priestess might signify the sense you have of early spring at the beginning of your dream while you fail, as you say, to embrace that feeling and allow it to sink in.”
“And the dream opens with me standing at crossroads!” There is a sense of wonder in her voice.
“In ancient times, the crossroads were believed to be an opening to the underworld. And this is where you go, down into the earth, to that old bathroom where you meet the rat. Are you familiar with Hecate, the Greek goddess of the crossroads and the underworld?”
“I have a vague idea. She was a hag, wasn’t she, old and shrivelled. Post-menopausal for sure!”
“She is as old as the source. A divine midwife who aided those in transition in bringing rebirth or regeneration about. As renewal implies the breaking down of old patterns, Hecate became a threat to patriarchal order whose proponents emphasized her destructive powers at the expense of her creative ones. Think of the state of affairs in the old bathroom. Does it give you the impression that renewal is underway, surrounded by plastic sheets as it is while dismantling is in process, the walls being stripped of plaster in preparation for a new layer? Maybe you are being called upon to help effectuate a transition in the collective? If you think about it, don’t you see that the process of disintegration and renewal held up to you in the dream has a parallel in woman’s menstrual nature?” Here the reader looks closely at her client whose attention is turned toward her descent and the disintegrating scene of her dream while she tries to imagine her uterus shedding its lining in profuse bleedings, the repeated scrapings, the cold sterility of the operating theatre, the hospital bed surrounded by curtains… “By attending to this nature in an accepting and conscious manner,” the reader gently continues, “we become Hecate’s disciples and come to know our innate creative power.”
“But where is she? How do I find her?” There is urgency in her voice.
“Hecate became queen of the cursed witches, wise women dreaded by authorities and driven undergound. As inhabitant of the underground sewers, the rat became the witch’s companion. Both were treated with equal hatred, as vermin to be exterminated.” She smiles. “In the middle ages women like me were burned at the stake. It seems farfetched in our enlightened age, but it would seem that our collective attitude towards older women still betrays an unconscious fear of Hecate’s powers.”
The ambiance in the softly lit room is saturated with feeling as the affinity between the two women grows.
“Remind me what happens next.”
“At that moment, when the rat keeps following me, trying to get close, I remember that I left the food on the table by the river from last night’s party. I have to beat the rat there! I hurry up the hill and the rat is right behind me. I run faster…”
“Why do you have to beat the rat to the food?”
“To prevent it from getting to the food, isn’t that obvious? You don’t want a rat messing with your food.”
“This is like a lucid moment in your dream, a thought instilled in you by the rat. Something very important is trying to break through in your consciousness. Pay attention to the timeless pattern. Like the hero in a fairytale you go down into the underworld where you meet a rat with human qualities which instills the thought in you that you must beat it up a hill where you left food from last night’s party on a table by a river. What might a river signify?”
“The passing of time?”
“Yes. We could also think of it as flux, the change inherent in the passing of time, couldn’t we? Nothing ever remains the same, unless we try to hamper our progress to the detriment of our soul. You mentioned the container in which the food is kept. Would you describe it to me again?”
“It is a manger/container made of aged rough wood with slender black metal legs. The box is 6-8 inches deep. Strange, isn’t it?”
“Strange, yes. And by that very fact it must be significant. What does a manger make you think of?”
“A stable. It holds food for animals. And here it is a food container at a party!”
“Last night’s party.”
“A picknick by a river.”
“Let’s go back for a moment to the High Priestess, shall we, who is one with the source – the very beginning of time, if we look at the river as the passing of time. Every time something new comes into being in the psyche, when we sacrifice our limited and petrified worldview for a new and broader prespective, Creation is repeated in some form and the stagnant source flows forth again. We become creators of something new, enlivened, stimulated. Our world acquires a golden aura. The river in your dream suggests that a process of renewal is taking place in you. You said that the Priestess reminded you of the Virgin Mary who, in essence, gave birth to a new worldview on the collective level, Christianity.”
“And she gave birth in a stable!” her client exclaims in consternation. “And the child was laid in a manger… oh my… it is the Last Supper which my dream is referring to; the ‘party’ that took place on the last night of Christ’s life when he offered his body and blood up as food for man. It is the sacrament that I need to prevent the rat from getting to! This is it, I know.” She looks at the reader, her eyes wide with awe and wonder.
“Did you know that menstruating women were excluded from the communion table of the early Christian Church?”
“Why? Because they were unclean? Like rats?” There is disbelief in her voice. “This is terrible!”
“You seem to be driven to instinctually act out this old taboo. Your dream tells you in so many ways that you align yourself with the oppressive powers against your feminine nature. You have made it your enemy. As I said before, the dream is trying to shock you into awareness.”
“This seems too far-fetched. How can I be acting out a taboo that I am not even aware of? This is so cruel! I am not a cruel person.”
“Of course you are not a cruel person. What is playing out in your dream is an age old repression in the collective psyche which has been maintained through indoctrination and ignorance. It can be suffered no longer. By taking the communal meal outside the confines of the Church and placing it out in the open as a joyous party, the dream emphasizes the sacredness inherent in ever changing Nature. Being part of that larger picture, female menstrual nature is sacred. This is what your dream conveys to you. Go with the flow and accept what you are given. There is a major transformation in the cards for you.”
“How do I even begin?”
“You will find your way if you trust your inner guidance. ‘Jesus is the way,’ says the Bible. I imagine he felt himself to be at crossroads when he decided to surrender himself and follow his inner voice, his Truth. Maybe you are being asked to surrender to your feminine wisdom, to the High Priestess within?”
“This is food for thought! I know that we are encouraged to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, but I am not a religious church goer and I cannot say that I have intimate ties with the redeemer who sacrificed himself for us sinners on earth and now resides with God in Heaven. For me these are tales from a distant past that have nothing to do with my reality… On second thought that may not be altogether true, though, for it angers me that the Christian faith, presided over by an all powerful Father and His Divine Son, gives prerogatives to males in our culture.”
“I guess our task is to make the world a fairer place for all. Maybe that is why your dream takes you up to ‘Golgata’ where a momentous turn of events took place. Let us continue. You beat the rat up the hill, you said…”
“And when I get up the hill just ahead of the grey rat, I see that the man I know – I have a feeling that he may be a teacher for earlier in the dream he had suggested I read a certain book as it will bring me closer to the Divine Mother Earth – this man, I feel, has taken the remains of the meal away and planted a new garden. The earth appears sandy and golden and there are a few tiny pine trees planted in it. I note that they are well spaced.”
“And that is the end?”
“Yes, that is the end of the dream.”
“You are up on the hill, the rat disappears and a man appears. It is like one metamorphoses into the other, isn’t it? You were intent on preventing the rat from getting to the food and now you feel that the man has taken it away and replaced what you expected to find with a new garden. A teacher, it seems to you. But if you think about it, isn’t the rat just that, a teacher? It drives you up on the hill where a revelation awaits you. In essence it attempts to broaden your perspective and awaken you to the holiness of Nature. The rat is itself a symbol of how that holiness eludes us, a victim of our disgust and fear of contamination, as was menstrual blood and by extension the menstruating woman. In the middle ages post-menopausal women in particular were feared because they were believed to contain the menstrual blood in their veins. The evil was in their eyes.” She smiles. “Maybe there is a trace of that old belief in the amused gaze of the rat in your dream? Your rat is not without humor!”
“It is a part of you.”
“It wants to guide you into new territory that feels alien to you, a new garden. You are making a transition into a new phase in your life which calls for the death of the old myth you have lived by.”
“A new garden is like a return to Eden then?”
“And there you are alone with a man, just like the first couple at the dawn of time. Who is this man? You say that you know him.”
“He just felt so familiar.”
“Was it the same man who stood beside you at the crossroads and guided you to the bathroom?”
“Possibly. I realize that I had met him earlier in the dream when he suggested that I read that book.”
“We talked about Hermes earlier, messenger of the gods and guide of souls to the other world. Hermes too was honored at crossroads as was Hecate. Seemingly he was her masculine counterpart who partly took over her role while she was confined to the underworld. Hermes is mercurial energy, a trickster and a shapeshifter, elusive like the dream. He is the Magician in the psyche who initiates our growth process by planting a seed-thought in our mind and then guides us toward its unfolding and full blossoming.”
“The book! The title of that book eludes me, I could not recall it upon awakening.”
“Take another look at the High Priestess and again note the scroll in her lap. As you noted before it is an ancient equivalent of a book.”
“Tora… but that would be the Torah, the Jewish Law. There’s got to be a missing ‘h’ there at the end.”
“It may be a reference to that. But Tora can also be read as an acronym for Rota which is Latin for ‘wheel’, referring to the change inherent in Creation which is nonetheless subject to law. The rendition of the High Priestess on this card is inspired by the Egyptian Isis and the Jewish Mary.”
“I can see that her crown points to Isis.”
“She bridges the chasm between the dark heathen past and the monotheistic present, partaking of both. She keeps us rooted in the crucible of our divine origin.”
“It would seem that she holds the key but her book is a sealed mystery to me.”
“Tora can also be read as an acronym for Tarot, with a missing ‘t’. Did you know that the Tarot has been called ‘the book of all knowledge’? The High Priestess is the reservoir of the knowledge contained in the Tarot. And now you have come to me and together we are reading this book of images produced by the human imagination over many centuries.”
“You think this is it? Think he was pointing me to the Tarot?”
“Why did you come?”
“It was strange. I was on the bus and overheard a young woman telling her friend about a Tarot reading she had recently had. She was excited about it and spoke highly of the reader who had helped her work out some problem. When they stepped hurriedly of the bus I saw your business card flutter to the floor. I knew it was yours because she had been showing it to her friend. I don’t know what came over me but a picked it up and surreptuously tucked it in my pocket. I guess I knew then that I would contact you, but I let it brew for some time before I finally made the move.”
“Have you had a reading before?”
“Not a professional one. When I was in my teens my friends and I would play with cards in the hope of catching a glimpse of prince charming in them! They were fun to play with, but a little scary too as you could expect the Death and the Devil to show up at every turn. A little like playing Russian rulette, I always felt. But then we grew out of it and turned to more serious matters. – I am sorry, I did not mean to pass judgement. I can see that Tarot is more than frivolous play!”
The reader smiles. “So what do you think of the new garden?”
“Just thinking of Eve’s temptation. She was inspired by the serpent to eat of the apple whereby, according to scripture, she caused man to become alienated from his divine nature. And here I am being advised to read a book, possibly tarot which would no doubt be considered sinful by the Church, in order to bring me closer to my divine nature.”
“Tarot is a tool for divination, and divination means being ‘inspired by a god’”.
“A god, yes. But not necessary The God. Therein lies the conflict, does not it?”
“Dreams and Tarot guide us as enlightened individuals toward our own true selves. For all its wisdom, the Bible is the product of a distant time and it is written in stone. Keeping the High Priestess’s ‘Rota’ in mind, change is inherent in Creation. By listening to the voice of the living source within us, we become healers of ourselves and our world.”
“Isn’t this the proclaimed role of the Church, to be our healer? Their emphasis on the god of Christians as the One and Only True God creates more divisiveness than unity in the world, though.”
“Why are the trees planted in your garden pine?”
“It is an evergreen, and happens to be my favorite Christmas tree… nothing compares with its sweet, embalming fragrance. As such I imagine it symbolizes the promise of eternal life bestowed on us by Christ’s sacrifice… To tell you the truth, it throws me off that our religious institution is founded on such a violent act.” She hesitates before continuing, “Somehow I feel, given the religious context, that a few trees rather than just one may indicate the coexistence of different religions which nonetheless share the same hope but have evolved in different cultures. I know it sounds like an idealistic view of the future, but it is clear that we cannot carry on the way we do. The world has become a blazing war zone.”
“It is your vision of a new myth, planted in golden earth potent with future promise. But be aware that those tiny trees are sprouts that need careful tending. Nothing happens of its own accord here. The man in your dream is a gardener, someone who tills the earth. He is not an intellectual who closes himself off in his ivory tower, protecting his thoughts from getting sullied by the senses. Look again at your attitude while you take care of your need in the old bathroom… The reason why you are being brought down there indicates that you tend to be too much up in your head and need to be brought down to face your neglected feminine nature with which your masculine spirit guide is in alliance. It is the transformation of your aggressive male energy that is called for. The oppressor, your indoctrinated attitude toward your female nature, has to give way to the cultivator who aligns himself with the all-embracing Mother Earth.”
“It is true that I have striven for intellectual excellence. Grades were of utmost importance right from the start. I loved the praise when I came home with good results. In retrospect I think I mixed it up with love… But there came a time when I sensed that the foundation was insecure. No matter how much I studied, it was never enough to make me feel accomplished. I gradually came to realize that I had been stuffing myself with theories without ever stopping to ask to what end, save to excel on exams. If I failed to understand, I questioned myself and found myself lacking. In the light of the effort spent on teaching this material and making it understood who was I to question it? I guess I have not been gentle with myself.” There is pain her voice. “But how to turn this around? How do I secure my foundation?”
“There is work underway in the basement, isn’t there? You just need to be aware and cooperate.”
“Befriend the rat?”
“The rat is Hermes in disguise. The divine messenger who is guiding you through your transition. Let us in that context look the 2 of Cups, the card that reflects the core message to you at this time in your life.
What do you see?”
“A man and a woman facing each other, each holding a large golden cup. He reaches out his hand to touch hers. Above them hovers a winged head of a lion on a stake entwined by two black serpents. The background figures an idyllic country scene, a small farm on a green hill dotted by a few trees. It is like they are standing in front a painting… in fact it could very well be a theatrical setting.”
“That is an astute observation, for these people are in fact impersonating certain archetypal energies. How do you see their connection with that background scene?”
“It could be a vision of the future they are embarking on together. I would say they are pledging their betrothal to one another. Or maybe they are toasting the acquisition of the home of their dreams?”
“What kind of a home is it?”
“It is a country house. The green fields suggest farmland… I see what you are getting at. Cultivating that land lies ahead of this couple!”
“How would you describe their poises?’
“His poise indicates initiative, while hers is passive. There is one thing that strikes me. The color of the garland around his head matches that of her shoes. Red being the color of passion, it tells me that his passion is more of an intellectual nature while hers is grounded in the earth. Does this make sens?”
“What you are saying is that they complement each other?”
“So it seems. And the color code of their dresses is obviously significant. The sun and the moon, I would say.”
“Two cosmic energies of vital importance to the farmer. As we humans are microcosmic reflections of the macrocosmos, those energies are of vital imporance for our inner growth as well. They need to be in a complementary balance, to meet and to seperate to meet again, like the serpents that intertwine the staff.”
“Interesting. Somehow that symbol looks familiar to me.”
“It is the staff of Hermes. As an extension of his role as messenger of the gods and guide of souls to the beyond, his staff came to symbolize commerce and negotiations, a balanced exchange and reciprocity between two realms, in this case between the emotional receptivity reflected in the woman and the intellectual activity reflected in the male. We need to weave between the two in order to become balanced individuals. Can you see how your dream is reflecting your imbalanced attitude and then pointing the way towards the meeting of the two in a new garden?”
“And here they are even standing on golden ground!” There is laughter in her voice. “But what about the red lion?”
“The winged lion arising from the union of these opposite attitudes shows the sexual drive, symbolized by the lion, elevated to a spiritual level symbolized by the wings. This is the core message of your dream. It is a call to open up to and engaging the mystery welling up from within you which your intellect may have dismissed as irrational and primitive.”
“Like I dismissed Tarot as frivolous play.”
“Tarot is play but with a serious undertone. And if you think about it, in spite of its serious implications your dream is in essence a comic play with a rat in the key role. Play is creative. It reminds us not to take life too seriously for everything is subject to change, even those truths held up to us as immutable and eternal. That is what your dream is about.”
“One thing we did not talk about. Why, I wonder, did I note that the trees were well spaced? I felt compelled to write it down so it must be significant.”
“The earth, you said, appears sandy and golden which alludes to a desert, doesn’t it? It is a known fact that plants in a desert tend to be well spaced because of the scarcity of water. So from a pure geological standpoint, your dream is true to reality. If we consider your idea that they represent coexistence between different religions, then the fact that they are well spaced might indicate that each be given room to grow according to its spiritual aspirations while all are drawing from a common spring. What do you think?”
“That makes sense. Tolerance for difference is what we need to cultivate.”
“In symbolic parlance water stands for connectedness, for feeling and imagination. By lovingly cultivating this nature in yourself you will nurture the tiny pine trees and help them grow. Here your relationship with the High Priestess is of vital importance. As it happens she has an association with the desert. In the system of Tarot, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a Hebrew letter. Hers is Gimel, which means ‘camel’. Due to its ability to carry extra supplies of water in its humps the camel is the ideal means of transport in the desert. And so the High Priestess ferries us over the arid inner landscape in times of distress, guiding us toward the source through dreams, and signs…”
“Like the business card I picked up on the bus. What an extraordinarily rich and benevolent card.”
“And that rich and benevolent source is within your reach. Your reading exhorts you to open up to its creative energy.”
“How would you suggest I do that?”
“Your last card actually seems to answer that, the Queen of Cups.
Look at her poise, what does it tell you?”
“She is contemplative, focused. I note the reverence with which she holds her ornate cup.”
“Would she be meditating? Closing out the programmed chatter of the mind in order to stay open to the mystery emerging from her cup?”
“She reminds me of the Priestess… merging with the water like she does.”
“Yes, she is someone who has brought the Priestess-energy into her life. The water is her element, she is at home in her creative imagination like the fish in the sea. Pay attention to the little cherubs on her throne. These show her ability to stay open to her childlike and playful nature. This Queen is profoundly wise and creative, she is a healer of hearts. In your reading she stands for your relationship with the outer world. Through healing your own heart with love and compassion, you will help heal the hearts of others. I wish you well on your journey.”
Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®, known also as the Rider Tarot and Waite Tarot,
reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA.
Copyrights © 1991 and 1971 respectively by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Further reproduction prohibited.
The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck® is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.