After my last post about the dragon dream, Rob asked if we dream out of both the personal and the collective (archetypal, therefore shared by everyone) unconscious, and if dreams about one’s personal unconscious sometimes use archetypal imagery. Yes. Many dreams seem to be purely personal, a few are purely archetypal, and most, like my dragon dream, are a combination of both. In fact, every dream symbol and theme actually has three possible levels of meaning: personal, cultural, and archetypal, so I always look for associations at all three levels. I’ll demonstrate with the symbol of a house.
Personal Meaning of House: My dragon dream took place in the house in which my husband grew up. When Fred and I were dating I was invited often for meals, and after our marriage it was the setting for numerous family gatherings and fun celebrations. I have many warm associations with this house, all involving Fred and his funny, quirky family. Although my mother visited there a few times, I do not associate this house with her. I find this a curious aspect of the dream. The kitchen in Fred’s house was the core of family activity and most of our gatherings were centered around meals cooked by Fred’s beloved grandmother or stepmother (with whom he had a conflict-filled relationship). My mother never entertained and she cooked only the simplest of meals out of necessity, never passion or even interest, so her presence in this kitchen is an odd detail. The room in the far left corner of the house, streetside, was the bedroom shared by Fred’s brothers George and Tony. I adore them both and imagine them dreaming many beautiful dreams in there. In realilty, of course, the room had no garage door, although there were high windows. The actual garage was on the other end of the house, on the right side next to the kitchen. This was the garage I was heading for at the end of the dream.
Cultural Meaning of House: Houses everywhere represent protection from the elements, family, warmth, and comfort: nurturing qualities all. Kitchens are traditionally the purviews of grandmothers, mothers and other women who prepare food for their families. They are also rooms in which flour, milk, water, yeast, sugar and salt are mixed and baked in ovens, a magical process which transforms them into nourishing bread. Kitchens also have fresh water available for cooking and cleaning up.
Archetypal Meaning of House: Houses represent the psyche and everything that goes on in our minds. Archetypes are mental pictures of physical instincts. The needs of all five instincts (nurturance, activity, reflection, sex, and creativity) can be met in houses. This dream features three instincts. Nurturance is represented by the house, my mother, and the kitchen. The kitchen contains two especially vital symbols: a womb-like oven which transforms basic elements into the bread of life, and a source of water, the cleansing, life-giving element associated with humanity’s maternal Source, the Great Mother (she’s also associated with dragons). Activity is shown in the dragon’s banging on the roof and walls, and in my dream ego’s walking, then running away. Reflection is symbolized by the windows which provide an outlook into the unconscious, the dragon with its fiercely knowing, staring eye, and the keys representing access to secret knowledge and wisdom.
Do you see the wealth of multi-leveled meanings I can glean from these symbols? All but the dragon are parts of everyone’s personal life, yet most also appear in the myths and fairy tales of every culture. I’m still working on the dream. It could take a long time to understand, if ever. For now I’m just letting it cook.
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave