One of the games we play in my Tarot for Dreamers programs - and may play any day at home - is to let a card provide a second opinion on what is going on in a dream. Often all that is required is to pull a single card; sometimes we may be moved to draw a series of cards corresponding to different scenes, characters or elements in a dream on which we would like some further insight.
We never consign the meaning of a dream to what the cards reveal, because dreams are vastly deeper and more various than any set of 78 cards designed according to someone else's ideas. Nonetheless, what the cards show can be provocative and illuminating. Upon occasion, the tarot can even produce an ally to help a dreamer move through a stuck place or confront a terror, in dreams of the night and in passages of the day.
This is what happened, in a memorable way, in my Tarot for Dreamers playshop in Mystic, Connecticut, over the weekend. A dreamer named Ann recounted a dream in which she was terrified by a giant snake.
The snake was enormous. It looked like a giant python. I was holding it by the neck, with my right hand. The huge, pale yellow head, lolled over my hand. I was trying to break its neck, but I couldn't. I woke up terrified.
In discussion, Ann revealed that she had been frightened by snakes in a series of dreams over many years. She was evidently uncomfortable talking about the latest snake dream now. Yet she told us that she had been inspired to do some research and had discovered that the snakes in the ancient temples of Asklepios, regarded as medicine allies of the god of dream healing, were pale yellow in color. Thus she was open to the suggestion that there might be a power in her dream that was waiting to be claimed - if she was ready to brave up to the giant snake and see what needed to be done with it.
I suggested that she might want to pull a card from her tarot deck for guidance on this. She drew one of the keys: Trump II, the High Priestess. The Priestess card, for me, offers a path of initiation, a way of going beyond the veil into the heart of the Mysteries. In pathworking on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the path of the High Priestess, running from Tiphareth to Kether across the abyss of Daath, is the longest and most challenging, requiring the journeyer to pass a series of tests and brave up to a series of challenges. I also thought of the snake priestesses of the ancient world, especially the famous statue from Crete, and of the Pythia, the priestess-seer of the oracle at Delphi whose name literally means The Pythoness.
The entry of the High Priestess into our circle of dreamers prompted me to suggest a travel itinerary to Ann: to journey to the High Priestess and seek her blessing for a close-up encounter with the giant snake. "See yourself stepping through the border of the card, as through the frame of the door, to meet the Priestess. Seek her counsel and protection for a further journey, to the place of the python, to see what you need to do with it." We agreed that, with Ann's permission, all of the participants would travel with her, as family support.
We shared powerful and mutually confirming experiences during the group journey, fueled and focused by my shamanic drumming. The most important and profound travel report came from Ann:
I found myself at once before the High Priestess. From her throne, four snakes darted forward and wrapped themselves around my arms and my legs. To my amazement, I felt neither fear nor revulsion. The Priestess told me that the easiest way for my to connect with the serpent power was to let the giant snake swallow me. Now I was facing it. I saw its great jaws open and I let it devour me. I felt myself traveling at amazing speed through a series of landscapes. Then everything turned inside out and the serpent was inside me. I felt it move through all of my energy centers in a zigzag path, clearing blockages, raising a terrific vital energy inside me. I have finally conquered my fear of snakes and I am ready to dance with the Serpent Power.
And she did. We were delighted to see her move into the midst of the circle with the sinuous grace of a snake dancer.
Note: "Qabalistic"? Yes: the Tarot system inherited from the magicians of the Golden Dawn is related to the Western "Qabalah" rather than to Kabbalah. A useful guide to the correspondences is Robert Wang's The Qabalistic Tarot.