Dreaming with the Ancestors
by Teresa MacColl, MA
International Association for the Study of Dreams
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.