Pagan Dreaming is not your standard dream interpretation book with pat meanings for common symbols. Brown has a philosophy about life, spirituality, waking and dreaming that propel this book. She doesn’t want to tell you how to view your own dreams but gives you permission to consider how you can interpret your dreams based on your own personal set of symbols and meanings. This is a tall order and while she lays out the concept very well and provides some ideas for how to work with your dreams, it is not a rigid step by step plan that will please the anal, black and white, logical reader.  Dream work is about letting go of that control. Part of the message here is that our sleeping brain in its ancient, animalian, symbolic language can sometimes be a better guide to understanding our emotional lives than the rational, got it under control, socially acceptable, modern, cultural prerogative.

What you will find is a lot of speculation about the reason and purpose of dreaming with a very limited amount of scientific research.  What we really, truly know in a scientific sense about dreaming seems to be in its infancy in the same way that brain science remains still largely mysterious. My logical mind found the constant speculation about dreaming annoying.  It’s like picking up a 19thcentury book speculating about space exploration. We needed the ideas, the questions, to do the work that allowed space exploration to eventually take place but anyone looking for certainty about how to build space craft in that era would find flights of fancy rather than engineering. This book is not about scientific certainty but about philosophical quests and finding personal meaning through dreams.

There are truths that we do know about dreaming, for instance, the importance sleep has for health and well-being. Brown strongly promotes better sleep habits as a means to have a better dream life. For her it goes far beyond health with dreams connecting to who we are as spiritual people. Dreams delve into our deepest emotions, the raw unfiltered mind. Brown states that the best reasons to explore dreaming as a spiritual practice are to experience, to learn, to discover and to feel and be more alive and engaged in life, to be inspired and nourished, cultivate personal virtues and to find passion and meaning.

Dream language is not the same as waking language. What appears in dreams read literally appears ridiculous but makes sense to the symbolic mind. So your pet project may show up as a dream about trying to teach your pet tricks. You wake up wondering why you were training a parakeet in sign language when you could have been trying to teach it to speak words.  The insights into the strange way that dreams communicate can be useful.

Pagan Dreaming is also about techniques of most interest to those who practice magic. She discussed magic on the edge of sleep, using the liminal consciousness between waking and sleeping for practicing magic involving visualization. She notes that the moments prior to falling asleep are not conducive to work involving focus and control. She recommends keeping a dream diary and developing a personal language to interpret your dreams. She also promotes the idea of sharing dreams with others, making it a pagan spiritual practice to talk about our dreams. Her thoughts on connecting with deity through dreams and whether to take this as real or imagined are interesting as they acknowledge the way that pagan ego can interfere with pagan experience of the numinous.

This book is more abstract and more philosophical than most and in my opinion probably longer than necessary. Instead of telling us what we ought to know about dreaming, we are asked what do you need to change to give your dream life the importance and the resources to be as fulfilling as your waking moments? Taken as a self-help guide for those who need to pay attention to sleep and dreams, this could be a kick in the pants.  The real benefit will come more in the process of analyzing your own dreams and doing the work suggested.

Recommended for those with a serious interest in the spiritual meaning of dreams.

~review by Larissa Carlson Viana

Author: Nimue Brown
Moon Books, 2017
pp. 211, $16.95

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