Would you think me crazy if I said that I was visited by the moon goddess Jana/Hekate at two hours past midnight on New Year’s Eve? I’m guessing you would. But let’s just assume, for a moment, that the line between insanity and mystical vision is blurry, especially at liminal times like the transition between the old year and the new. Let’s throw ourselves back, just for a short while, to a time when gods and goddesses were an integral part of the world’s fabric. And let’s explore the possibility, ever so briefly, that hallucination and holes in reality caused by minor mental disturbances like sleep disorders, have had something to do with the development of mythology and legend. So while you might dismiss my tale as a run of the mill bad dream, or a night terror, or a manifestation of anxiety (and it could certainly be explored in that specifically clinical way) what if we looked at it in the tradition of shamanism, mysticism, or even visions of of the virgin Mary? Because visions come from somewhere and even if that somewhere is just an overactive part of our own minds it doesn’t mean that they don’t carry significance or power. It’s hard not to be affected by a visitation from a moon goddess, even if she is just a fragment of dream that carried over into consciousness.
So prepare to suspend your disbelief for a moment. Here is what happened. Listen.
I went to bed shortly after ringing in a quiet New Year: the kids long asleep, my husband and I half watching Rick Mercer on TV, and feeling relief after midnight finally reached us on the West Coast of Canada. I fell asleep quickly, slept for an hour or so, then suddenly found myself conscious again just before 2 am. At first my eyes were still closed, but I could tell that I was awake. I was aware of the room around me, the feel of sheets and my pyjamas. I was lying on my back and distinctly felt that I was not alone in the room. Something was there with me. Or someone. And that someone was terrifying. My heart began pounding and I opened my eyes to see a figure hovering in the air above me. It was a witch-like creature–a crone. An old woman with a haggard face was floating directly above my body. She wore long brown robes that rippled out behind her as if she were swimming in water. She didn’t say anything. I might have screamed but I’m not sure. I dragged myself out of bed, stumbled into the hallway, and the vision disintegrated. Upon turning on my bedroom light there was nothing there at all. I left my light on. Not even adults can tolerate the darkness after such a shake up!
In Jungian theory there is a distinction between our regular run of the mill dreams and something called Big Dreams. Jung borrowed the idea from shamanic tradition. Big Dreams are distinguished by:
- abstract geometric patterns and kaleidoscopic mandalas,
- the experience of flying, floating or falling,
- encounters with mythological creatures and strange, intelligent animals
- feeling awe, fascination, fear and terror, and a sense of “Other”
My own dream definitely includes the last two characteristics. Big Dreams are also characterized as feeling “more real” than reality itself. They are dreams that don’t fade upon waking and that you might well remember for the rest of your life. I once had such a dream in which I was visited by the Horned God Cernunnos. This visitation from The Crone will be the second Big Dream of my life. (Or perhaps the third if you count the time I saw Santa when I was a child. I kid you not, I woke up and saw him in my living room and to this day it seems as real as any memory I have.) Jung thought these dreams came directly from the pool of the Collective Unconscious. Wherever they come from, whatever ancient dreaming part of our human brain concocts them, Big Dreams are startling and sometimes terrifying.
In the light of January 1st I dug around a bit to see where my visitor might fit into already existing systems of myth. I made some interesting discoveries.
Jana is a little known Goddess from the Roman tradition. We are more familiar with her brother/husband Janus, the two faced God who sees both the past and the future. Jana shares a lot of his qualities. She is also two faced, is associated with the New Year where the past and the future figuratively meet, and is associated with doorways and portals (such as the metaphorical threshold of the New Year), as well as initiations, and new beginnings (including childbirth). She is associated with the moon and while she doesn’t generally appear as a crone her associations with portals and thresholds align her closely with Hekate, the Greek Goddess who does appear in crone form and makes journeys to the underworld.
So if I had to locate my dream within the framework of world mythology I would say it is an amalgamation of Jana, Goddess of the New Year, and Hekate, Crone and underworld traveler. Why my brain cooked up this vision is another question entirely, and not one that I have any great insight into. And while I am perfectly happy to admit, from the comfort of my rational brain, that I was not LITERALLY visited by a goddess, my reptile brain keeps insisting that the visitation was indeed quite real. And unfortunately, while I tried to talk myself into seeing the dream as auspicious, my nervous system kept returning me to the feeling of terror and doom that accompanied the hovering witch. The presence didn’t feel at all friendly and I half jokingly wondered if it was the dying ghost of a despicable 2017 then worried that it was instead a harbinger of destruction to come in 2018.
What I do know is that real or not, Big Dream or anxiety provoked nightmare, the vision will colour the year to come as it works its way into my own personal mythology and narrative. It can’t help but become a part of the way I view the events of the coming year and it will most certainly become part of the framework of this year’s unfolding story. If nothing else Jana/Hekate unlocked my dream life.
I have always had wild and vivid dreams, even as a child. But lately I have noticed that I rarely remember my dreams. In the weeks leading up to the New Year I was consciously thinking about my unusual lack of dreams since my daughter was born 18 months ago. While my son’s birth six years ago opened me up to intense and shattering dreams, my daughter’s birth seemed to close the door to the dream world. I was very grounded and present in the days and months after her birth. While my first journey into motherhood sucked me straight into the darkest caves of the underworld, my second journey took place above ground, in blinding light that was lovely but lacking in the richness of dark dreams and chthonic adventures. It is Hekate who holds the key to the underworld and perhaps to the space where Big Dreams and their smaller cousins originate. What I can say is that ever since my Big Dream on New Year’s Eve I have been dreaming more. Nothing so intense as the visitation, but memorable nonetheless: dreams of old friends returned as wise teachers, dreams where I navigate the confusing rooms of unfamiliar houses and climb staircases that shouldn’t go anywhere but do.
Unfortunately all this dreaming has been accompanied by a bout of insomnia. I am rarely getting more than 5 hours sleep a night and it’s taking a bit of a toll. I’ll surrender to it for now. Life without dreams lacks texture and it’s harder to write and reflect without access to an ever shifting source of images and metaphor.
So here’s to 2018:
May Jana guide me to consider the past and future equally. May Hekate lend me her keys to the underworld. And may I make my journeys in the light and darkness of the moon, and find what wisdom grows there in the fertile night.