“Dreams are private myths. Myths are public dreams.” -Joseph Campbell
As I am halfway through and completely absorbed in Carl Jung’s “Man & His Symbols,” required reading for anyone who is even remotely interested in the individual and collective unconscious, I’m going to take a dream I had recently and interpret it in Jungian fashion. I’ve been writing my dreams down, fairly consistently, for the last ten years in an effort to understand and not fear them (I have a lot of bad nightmares, pretty often).
Here is a “brief” synopsis (I hope to soon develop into a children’s book, it’s a bit like a fairy tale): somewhere in the far east, northern China, outside of Beijing perhaps there’s a queen, who’s married to a very wealthy, strong and somewhat foolhardy king. They had a son, a daughter, and the queen was pregnant again. The king wanders off on a hunting trip and a sorcerer swoops down and lays a curse on the family. The queen and the princess are turned into hen-girls, and the prince turns into a fish-boy. But before the queen is changed into a hen woman, with fine brown feathers, she loses the baby. A tender silkscreened scene of an Asian queen looking forlornly at the curve in her kimono; the king’s form somewhere above, the whole setting is blues and greens. Then, as a hen mother of a hen girl and fish boy, the queen somehow realizes they can travel to a certain mountain, stand in the eye of a terrible storm, and the bravery & devotion of this act will restore them all to their former selves.
And so they set out, in a carriage drawn by two black horses. They ride up a chain of mountains until they reach the summit, where they find themselves under a giant dark cloud. They stand in the middle of this cloud, a storm cloud with thunder and lightning expanding out, and their animal halves go away. They come down the mountain as humans again. The royal horses are white now.
Then the dowager and her two children, (maybe, 14 year old prince and eleven year old princess) find a palace by the sea. An evil fish queen seduces the prince back into the water. he turns into a fish completely. A kind of a stylized cartoon yet somehow Asian fish. Everything in this image is blue & green. The son is completely taken in by the fantasia fish. And so his sister sets out in a rowboat after her brother. She rows over the secret briny ballroom & sends down a hook. And hauls up the seductress fish, slowly killing her in the boat, reverse drowning. Then the fish-boy swims to the surface and realizes he used to be a boy. His sister pours some water from the rain storm (saved in a fancy cloisonné vessel) and he turns back into a boy. I won’t go on any further, as the dream dissipated here, and I feel I’ve gone on too long already.
In the interest of full disclosure, this was a dream I had in the first person, and I was the hen-queen; it just felt too weird and naked to write out my dream in the first person, so, sorry. And now, I will haphazardly apply Carl Jung’s approach to interpreting this dream. Jung was big on dreams having meanings specific to individual dreamers (unlike Freud, who correlated certain objects in many people’s dreams with set meanings). But, Jung was also a believer in the whole-sale transmission of cultural myths and stories through a sort of unconscious evolutionary process. (Let me apologize to any dyed-in-the wool Jungians out there who are cringing at my simplistic, reductive explanations; it’s just too much information for a blog posting. Everyone interested, read Jung’s book). So, I’ll try to read the symbols in my dream, as they tie into our greater human story,
Birds are frequently spirits on journeys; Hermes’ wings are symbolic as his role as a spirit guide through Hades. Interesting that the birds in my dreams are hens; is my spirit flightless? Trying to fly but stuck on the ground? And then the fish-boy; I’m not sure what fish represent in our mythological canon, but for some reason I think it has to do with returning to the place of origin. The oceans, the source of life. Traveling and climbing a mountain are another kind of spirit journey—Mt. Olympus is a memorable mountain where drastic changes in nature occur (often tied to the thorny weather up there), Mt. Fuji is another—this was present in my dream too. The storm that turned us all back from half-animal/half-humans was a violent transformation; I remember not being able to see two feet in front of me, for all the rain and darkness. An external force, but reliable; you got the sense it rained hard on this mountain a lot. And the absent king/husband: are my yin & yang out of alignment?
Rather than carry on in this fashion for another six or eight paragraphs, I’ll leave off here; I haven’t satisfactorily interpreted the whole dream, but, I will learn more shortly, when I draw up the story board for the book that might come out of this. So, stayed tuned for Dream interpreter, part two.