Dreams can provide a quick path to connecting with our direct ancestors. They are waiting to remembered. The road has simply been covered by a few inches of cultural plastic debris whose gods are industry and ecological warfare. But the older path is still laid, hidden in the dreams, folklore, and sayings of our families of origin. Exploring ancestral elements in dreams helped me move beyond gross stereotypes of my Irish, Scottish and German heritages, into a deeper connection with my past. They also, in general, keep me grounded. Thinking about ancestry, after all, has some clinically noted benefits, including boosting intelligence, confidence and self-esteem.1 This is the Ancestor Effect.
Ancestral dreams come when we lay out a strong intention for them, but they also can come when we need them. Sometimes ancestral dreams simply help with reframing a situation with a deeper significance.
Other times, they may lead to unconsciously held information that is embedded in your own dream mythology and has been passed down for generations.
The trick is recognizing them, and then honoring them in waking life.
Remembering the Bigger Picture
My wife and I recently had our son baptized. Even though I am comfortable with Baptism on an intellectual level, I had some trepidation about the ceremony, simply because I come from a different background (I was raised Unitarian and chiefly as a humanist).
My wife’s uncle officiated the ceremony, adding another layer of inclusion and also (well-meaning) social pressure.
The night before the baptism I had the following dream:
My wife’s uncle is preparing a mine cart ride in the front yard of his home. I walk with him to make sure the path of the cart is clear. As we walk along, I am surprised to see there are no rails, but rather a stone path barely visible beneath the grass. Some large clear quartz crystal boulders line the path as well. We kick debris such as sticks from the path and I see how the stones making up the path look very old, consisting of interlocking carved stones with intricate designs all over them. The patterns include spirals, concentric rings and other sacred geometric patterns. In the dream, I wonder if they are Celtic in origin, or if they are Native (American). They seem to be both. (12/8/12)
As I fried up the bacon and eggs the next morning, I reflected on how the dream revealed some of the designs that one often sees in the architecture of the church (the amazing Bryn Athyn Cathedral) where the ceremony was to be held. I puzzled over how it was a different uncle in the dream than who was presiding over the ceremony later that morning.
I then had an “A-HA” moment when I remembered another significance: I also have my own family roots in this area of Pennsylvania.
In fact, I’m a direct descendent of an Irish pastor who, in the 1680s, baptized members of his congregation on the banks of the Pennypack Creek, which happens to flow less than a quarter mile from the cathedral.
Bringing the dream back into waking life
Remembering my own family legacy on this land, and its association with the rites of Baptism, allowed me to relax completely about the ceremony.
All day long, as I walked along the grounds, I imagined those intricately patterned stones at my feet, connecting me to my own ancestry as I prepared the way for my son’s spiritual “path-clearing.” (As it turns out, the iron spiral bannister pictured above from the Bryn Athyn Cathedral also throws spiral shadows onto the stones, much like the dream, as can be seen here).
And after the ceremony, I spoke to both of my wife’s uncles about my ancestry and the dream. This was a move I made spontaneously, while most everyone else was eating coffee cake. I felt very vulnerable as I told the dream, but it opened up new dialogue and connection with both men that had not been previously possible.
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First Image: Stairway by la fattina CC 2008
1 Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C., and Weisweiler, S. (2010). The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. European Journal of Social Psychology. 41 (1), 11-16.