Dreaming with the Ancestors (PDF)

Dreaming with the Ancestors

by Teresa MacColl, MA

International Association for the Study of Dreams

Psiber-Dreaming Conference

September 5, 2008

Dreaming with the Ancestors

by Teresa MacColl, MA

In Irish myth, the Salmon is the oldest and wisest of all the animals, and it was said that any person who ate the Salmon of Wisdom would gain the gift of prophecy… they would be able to see their future. By seeking and working with the Salmon of Wisdom, we can gain an understanding that is rooted deep in the collective awareness of all humanity. By remembering the dreams and stories of our ancestors, we can remember our ancestor’s future, and reclaim a more balanced, holistic, and ecologically sustainable world.

My name is Teresa Rae MacColl, and my tribes are Celtic from Ireland and Scotland, Teutonic, and Anglo-Saxon. I am a graduate of Dr. Apela Colorado’s Indigenous Mind (IM) Master’s Program at Naropa University, where I chose to research my Celtic Indigenous roots or rather my roots chose me that’s how the ancestors work.

When I first met Apela, she called me “Fish Girl” , and she said to me “I’ve waited years for a Fish Person to come along!” I had been working with white sturgeon in the fisheries department at UC Davis at the time, designing fish ladders for the sturgeon. Apela is from Wisconsin and her tribe, the Oneida, have a deep reverential connection to the sturgeon. So Apela too is a “Fish Person”.

After working in the sciences most of my adult life, where one is trained to not talk about or have feelings or emotions connected to the animals they work with, I had finally found a teacher and mentor who I knew loved and cared about fish and ecology in a very deep spiritual, ancestral, and traditional way, and I knew I was on the right path. So began my training as an indigenous scientist.

Indigenous science is a holistic discipline that considers nature to be alive and intelligent. Unlike western science, the data collected from indigenous science are not used to control the forces of nature. Instead, the data shows ways and means of accommodating nature.

Students conduct research using the critical distinctions that indigenous scientists rely upon (please see list below). This research offers a unique opportunity for students to encounter their ancestors and their whole self with the support of mind, body and spirit.

The indigenous scientist is an integral part of the research process and there is a defined process for insuring this integrity.

All of nature is considered to be intelligent and alive, thus and active research partner.

The purpose of indigenous science is to maintain balance

Compared to western time/space notions, indigenous science collapses time and space with the result that our fields of inquiry and participation extend into and overlap with past and present.

Indigenous science is concerned with relationships, we try to understand and complete our relationships with all living things.

Indigenous science is holistic, drawing on all the senses including the spiritual and psychic.

The end point of an indigenous scientific process is a known and recognized place. This point of balance, referred to by my own tribe as the Great Peace, is both peaceful and electrifyingly alive. In the joy of exact balance, creativity occurs, which is why we can think of our way of knowing as a life science.

When we reach the moment/place of balance we do not believe that we have transcended — we say that we are normal! Always we remain embodied in the natural world.

Humor is a critical ingredient of all truth seeking, even in the most powerful rituals. This is true because humor balances gravity.1

Indigenous Mind is a masters program where students study and research their own indigenous tribal ancestors earth-based spiritual traditions within a Western Academic framework.


Students individually and collectively go through a deep decolonization and ancestral remembrance process. This is especially important for those of us who are of European ancestry, who are more removed and disconnected from our indigenous roots, or even having awareness that we have indigenous ancestors. Students spend time with traditional native elders and learn what it means to remember who they are in an indigenous tradition, and make an ancestral journey to the land of their ancestors. The quest is to access earth-based spirituality, remember the traditional ways of ones own genealogical ancestors without appropriating from other cultures, healing both wounded masculine and feminine, maintaining balance, and promoting inter-tribal healing and understanding.

In 1855 Chief Seattle warned the white settlers of America that “when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men”, it would signal “the end of living and the beginning of survival.” Those American settlers had forgotten their own native tradition in favor of a religion that taught man he must “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish in the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen.I.26). This view of the natural environment denied there is any spirit in nature.

Most people of European ancestry believe their culture is rooted in Christianity, and are unaware of the tens of thousands of years of pre-Christian heritage and spirituality preceding the last two millennia of Christian experience. Christianity is relatively recent, and before it was the pre-dominant religion in Western Europe, most people practiced a spirituality that wasn’t expressed in sacred texts, but which arose out of the experience of being sensitive to the land and sky — to the changing seasons, to the power of the hills and rivers, to the mystery of the stars, and the movements of the sun and moon.2

To the ancient Celts, the realms of the Otherworld were in full view all the time, which included the ancestors, the deities, and the sidhe or faeries. In the Scottish Highlands, you find the “two sights” or an da shealladh in Gaelic, also known as the “second sight”, which denotes the capacity to see both the normal waking world (ordinary reality) and the world of spirit and energy that is intertwined and connected to this one. We find the two sights among certain individuals, who are the dream-seers and the vision-seers.3

When St. Patrick came to Ireland in AD 432, he spent nearly 30 years traveling throughout the countryside bringing Christianity to the local people and establishing churches and monastic foundations upon many Druidic sacred sites. He was not the first one to bring Christianity to Ireland, but he was the one to abolish the pagan rites of the Druids at Tara. Supposedly, first he got rid of the snakes, and then he got rid of the dragons. There were no snakes in Ireland. The Celts used the serpent imagery as a symbol of the universal life energy, a positive symbol of the goddess. So this legend of St. Patrick ridding the land of snakes and dragons was about the conversion of the pagan priests and the killing of the goddess, the feminine. St. Patrick also banned different forms of divination as “giving offerings to the demons”, which included the dream-seers and the vision seers.4

2 Carr-Gomm, 4-11.

3 MacEowen, 253

4 Concannon, 150-151.

“Your dreams are your doorways” —

Auntie Poepoe, Hawaiian elder

Much of our post-modern world does not have elders or intact cultures to link the modern and dissociative way of studying our dreams, with the ancient integrated ways of our ancestors. So in the IM program, we are attempting to reclaim what our indigenous ancestors did, and that is to use our dreams as guides, and to connect with our ancestors, and dream tribally.

Students learn how to understand and interpret dream messages from the ancestors and the spiritual world, and are taught by elders how dreams work on multiple levels to impart messages and understandings for today, and simultaneously reconstitute tribal ways. Tools for understanding dreams as guides in the waking world, particularly in their propensity for cross-cultural understanding and healing, are also provided. Dreams are one way the ancestors “speak” to us.

Our ancestors used to dream together as a tribal group, and they would share their collective dreams with the community. As we re-create a tribal dream community, we are able to gather up and perceive patterns and large writ ancestral communications that may come only to a group, and may be too much for a single person, or perhaps the dream is unifying people towards something that involves a group. We can perceive a collective Gestalt.5 In our IM tribal dream community, we collect and record our dreams together in a “dream database”, where we can look at our dreams collectively and track different patterns and themes in relation to the phases and signs of the moon. Working with dreams using indigenous protocol has enabled us to bring back the sacred art of tribal dreaming

5. A structure, configuration, or a pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gestalt).

“It’s time to make your dreams come true.”

-Mr. Hale Makua, Hawaiian elder

IM Dream Data:

Those of us that are the “Dreamers” started dreaming with and for each other or what I like to call “dream weaving”, and the collective dreams give a more informed story of what the dream messages were communicating to us. Ancestral information would come through the dreams of others as well our own individual dreams. Working with the community, one let’s go of their attachment to the dreams, because sometimes we are being “dreamed through”. The other message that comes through is that Mother Earth needs healing, and through our collective dream research we find that our ancestors used this dream information such as this to help maintain balance and harmony.

Below are some examples of storytelling through the dreams, and “dream weaving” with other students, connected to the ancestors and the land of the ancestors. The first dream I had is an example of one of many dreams I had that was connected to someone else, their ancestors, and the land of their ancestors. I was being “dreamed through”, and “seeing” ancestral information for someone else (this is how my Celtic ancestors dreamed, they had dreams of prophecy or the “second sight”) but also there was a message and work for me in the dream. What we are also finding is that we are becoming a global tribal dram community, and that ultimately the dreams and the “work” transcends space and time. For me personally, I know the dreams I have are connected to healing Mother Earth, which is not separate from healing and finding balance in the masculine and feminine within ourselves.

06 December 1988 Personal Correspondence on Lust and Eros (PDF)

Dec. 6, ’88

Dear Pam

This is a note about “Lust”. It came from a title of a book about Van Gogh, the insane Dutch painter who chased the Swirling Universe, which was more like Goedel’s universe than that of Einstein. I did not know this, but another author Milan Kundera argues that the word “Passion” in Christian Culture carries a certain tinge of “Guilt”, and “Lust” is a much better word. Kundera, also argue that”Love” has little to do with “Making Love”, and “Making Love” is just a minor part of “Sleeping With” a woman or man. The latter is far deeper. I guess one can go to “Living With” from there. But Kundera drew a line there and his story “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” is about “how not live with” , or rather how incapable we are to live with. We can possibly Flirt but “Living With” is difficult. As it was in the story “Sleeping With” was already too difficult to do.

From there, I tried very hard to imagine if two or more people could have the same Dream. Jung talked of “Collective Unconscious” which is somewhat like sharing a “Collective Dream”. But we rationalistic intellectual individualists do not wish to have awareness of it. Suppose we find out that we share a common Dream, we do not know what to do with it any way. But that may be the reason why we have so much trouble. So we deny Dream.

According my dictionary “Onei” of Oneida means “Dream”. Some missionary saw Oneidas as Dream People and hence the name came? I was looking for a connection/relation of Rock and Dream. So far, nothing turned up. I am in “between Rock and Hard Place”.

Tonight, I heard Guitar Concierto “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Rodrigo. The Adagio part is very famous and you may know of it. I suppose the sad music is about the pain of having “Lust”, though different sense from that of Van Gogh. Human beings are vulnerable, ephemeral, and weak. It’s all because humans are sensual. They need someone to sleep and dream with. And at the same time, they are afraid of doing that. Because that makes people vulnerable to hurts. It is a lot easier to go on a power trip. To score woman, to achieve orgasm is easier than to live with. To dream with is almost impossible. Music convey some of that pain — the expressions in music form are permitted because we can pretend not knowing what is is and hence can deny it. Stories are harder to deny. And therefore handicapped. We have to contrive disguises, half hoping that people would see it obvious and half hoping that people cannot pin it down so that one can escape. We write about sex, but not “eros”. We are only “Flirting”.

When we cannot do any better than flirting — some authors are complaining that even the “Art of Flirting” is dying in the modern ages, between two persons, we can hardly do any better between two peoples. We flirt with “Revolutionary Ideals” etc. Stories about Europeans and Native Americans are full of such “Romances”. They do “move us” alright, but we may be mistaken in feeling that we “Loved”. Our reason of “be moved” may be “Moaning” about what we failed, missed, or lost. They are telling us what we did not do. That pains us. Yet, what could we do?

I wrote 3 letters to Department of Education about Science Education, but discarded two fo long “articles” and decided to send a short note. I am very sad that there is no chance that they would read anything beyond short “memos”.  I have know “pleasure” of reading books, without any care about people escape from Reality when I am hurt, that seems the only thing I can. There is a Dream World which is like a Forest without damned humans.

My name came from an ancient Chinese poem about a love affair. My father somehow picked two letters out of the poem and I and my brother got one each. But the poem ends with a scene where the emperor utters “What am I going to do with you, my darling?” They are killed as the empire was conquered. That is the end of the poem. My father must have known the inevitable end of love affair. (At least I knew, when I took a letter from the same poem to name my daughter.)

But then, what is “Lust” or “Eros”? In conscious intellect, we are thinking of Orgasm, Rapture, but the Pain, Hurt is just as important part of the affair. If one has not tasted tears, it is the same as not having experience of orgasm/rapture. To preferone side may be natural, but it seems inevitable that the other side comes with it. Whether to know/accept that or not makes the distinction between the modern intellectuals and ancient people. Sensitivity, Empathy, Compassion, Understanding, and if I may add a Christian word “Grace”, all come from there. The Success centered mentality of modern scientists (or rather Technicians) is made by cutting off the vulnerability, in Fear or in Arrogance. Native Braves did not negate one’s vulnerability. That has nothing to do with “Winning” battles. but rather they are brave precisely because they were not afraid of knowing/accepting pains and hurts. The “Sun Dance” meant that. I think Deloria is already Europeanized and could not see the meaning of Sun Dance beyond the surface of physical pain. the “Brave” of taking Inner Pain is far greater.

Listening to the sad music, I was thinking like that. The funny thing is, the World, the Universe looks different from that view point. I heard of every instrument for each and did not miss a single note that they are making in a transparency. Goedel’s Cosmology was there. I was glad that I studied Geometry which helped me to appreciate the transparency, though that means absolute “Nothingness”.


Sam K.