There is a place in my dreams where the sharks swim close to shore.
I’ve been traveling to that spot for years, ever since I was a child. At first, I didn’t know that sharks patrolled those waters- I could see other beach-goers in the water, no one was screaming or being bitten. No blood. So, I figured it was safe, right? For a while, it was actually my favorite place to swim. The sea was mild, there were no jellyfish to suddenly bob madly up beside you with their jellythreats of jellystings. No seaweed to wind slick and insidious around your limbs. It was grand.
And then one day- something brushed against my leg. When I looked down, I was in the water up to my chest, and I saw its grey and white flank, its eye- black and soulless. I saw its razor grin. It was enormous. It was the first time I ever experienced the phenomenon of one’s blood running cold, whether awake or asleep. Quite unsettling, especially in a dream and especially for the first time. I began to avoid that area, like one does. If my dreams brought me there, I would panic and flee and ultimately- wake up. One time, I dreamt I was standing on a hill above the beach, looking down at the water and I could see them- all the sharks. There were so many and they were so huge. Now, I find myself still going to that area, but I sit on the hill only and I watch the sharks from afar.
I’ve always traveled to specific places in my dreams and there’s always been ones that I’ve continually visited, year after year as I grow older. I think I was probably about seven years old or so the first time I dreamt of the sharks. And it’s not the only place I go. There’s an enormous graveyard I frequently find myself in, sprawling tombs and headstones careening at wild angles in every direction as far as I can see. They stretch to the horizon and the sky is dark and featureless, no stars. I’ve walked the rows of those graves more times than I could count. Some of them feel quite still to me, quiet and restful- at peace, while others induce a deep, primordial dread. It rises within my chest, black and sick and swirling, until I almost can’t breathe. I try to stay away from those graves, there’s just so many of them. They’re hard to avoid.
I dream of houses with many rooms, sometimes they shift and I find myself moving between the walls. Sometimes I come upon a room that appears ordinary enough and mundane- just an ordinary room with a bed or a couch or a kitchen table, chest of drawers, a bookcase, but the idea of entering it fills me with fear (a similar dread to the sour graves). Sometimes I know the houses I’m in, sometimes they’re of the sort where when you describe them to someone in the waking world, you would say, “it was my house, but not actually my house- you know?” And the person you just said this to would nod their head in agreement because yes- they did know. We all know. It’s our house, too.
Our dreams connect us in strange ways, pathways formed between individual brains without either party ever knowing it. There are beings that dwell there, purely formed of weird, that are neither man nor spirit. They talk to us sometimes- most never listen to them. Occasionally, they attack us. We flee from their knives, from their teeth, from their hunger and gullets. We all find the same quicksand floors, the same too-slow flight. We die the same deaths and awaken- gasping. Alone. We dream the same things, we meet people we will never meet, we have conversations we never keep.
We spend so much time dreaming, so much of our lives asleep. It only makes sense to actually put this time to good use. There are so many hours at our disposal, so many opportunities for knowledge, for experience, for practice. A favorite exercise of mine is as I lay in bed for that evening’s rest, to bring to my mind an animal nearby. I close my eyes and feel the night on my skin, on my feathers, on my fur. I breathe in and taste everything around me, this tiny life of mine, I pull the air across my teeth and down my throat. The earth, damp and chill beneath my feet. I can feel it. Is it raining? How does that feel? Is it cold? Maybe it’s the kind of hot August night that feels as if everything were wrapped in sweltering velvet, no breeze and everything is still.
I pull this animal to me and I learn whatever there is for me to learn.
Sometimes, most of the time, the dreams have a life of their own. Lucid dreaming is difficult and I am lazy, so I will frequently let things take me as they go. There is always information to be gathered, no matter where I wind up or how bizarrely the dream fractures into itself. I make connections, I ask questions, I read the road signs. Then I bring it all back home. As much as I can carry, for dreams slide between your fingers and disappear like fog in the sun against the floor quicker than one may be prepared for. Even worse when you go into it prepared, then- then you just know this is going to get all fucked up and you’re going to come out of all this with absolutely nothing to show for it. Simply nothing to make up for the sharks and the graveyards and the creepy rooms and the men with teeth in their eyes and the lost locker combinations and the constant, never-ending, futile search for an acceptable bathroom. God. Damn. It.
Sometimes, yes- I make it out and my fingers are still tightly wrapped around something. Something good. A piece of ritual poetry, a sigil, an herbal combination, or a protective construction. A viewpoint, a perspective. A calibration or an orientation. It’s amazing to come from a dream, breathless when you realize that what made it out with you is actually useful.
You could call me an oneironaut, but really- when you get down to it, right down to it, I’m just a witch. Journeys with a capital J can be taken in all different manners and boundaries surround us on all different planes. Any sideways step is a Journey and every dream is a sideways step. We are all always in reach of one boundary or another, we live within liminality at all times.
Where do you go when you sleep, when you dream? Are there commonalities you’ve picked up, places you recognize? Do you treat your dreams as Journeys, as hedges to be crossed?
Witches, where do you go?