But as Yesterday
Dreamed 1948 by Nancy Price
Source: Acquainted with the Night by Nancy Price (1949), selections from an experimental dream journal she kept for one year.
"Your daughter is chosen by the gods," said the voice.
I saw my mother's face and over it passed emotions I could well read: torture, a sense of impotence. "Oh, why, why ?" she cried.
"So says the High Priest. Honoured by their choice, this house is indeed blessed."
"My child means more to me than honour or blessing, she is all I have," said my mother.
"Be silent, woman, the gods have chosen." And so he departed.
I was stricken with fear, and my tongue refused to utter. I struggled in vain to speak--but my mind was feverishly active. At last I found words.
"Mother, Mother, help me--I cannot, will not die--life is sweet--never again to feel the warmth of the sun, smell the earth, feel the benediction of the rain, hear the birds and the talk of trees and running water, no I cannot die. Death is for the old, the tired and sick. Cannot you take away any beauty I may have which brings this evil upon me?"
My mother fell silent. Then, "If you are not afraid to suffer I will so mar your face that no god will desire you."
"Give me life, that is all I desire," I said.
Then it seemed to me that I slept and waking knew untold hours of torture, but I kept saying to myself--"this pain brings with it the gift of life--life--life".
There came a day when the Priest arrived and I saw white oxen were drawing a chariot and in it was a golden chair garlanded with sweet flowers. "Come," said my mother, "now behold my fair daughter that the gods have chosen."
"I cannot see her, I am blind. The sacrificial priest is blinded early so that he may never be moved to pity or desire to preserve that which is young and fair," he sighed.
Then I thought my mother gave a terrible cry and that cry was more fearful to me than all the branding of the fire. I was bound and placed in the chair on the chariot.
"Look upon me," I cried, "Look upon me, I am not worthy."
But no one heeded. Then I saw that all the men who followed the chariot were also blind. We came to a great slab of stone, and someone fastened a cloth over my face. I could hear and feel a multitude were crowding round, there was singing and shouting.
"No one must look upon her face but the gods," came the voice. Then I was bound to the stone, cords cut into my flesh. "You will be left all night and guarded by the blind priests, and at the first streak of dawn you will find your bridegroom."
I knew an agony of body and mind, heard chanting and one terrible wailing which I know was my mother. Unutterable darkness was with me, then little tongues licked my hands, it was the wild creatures I had loved. I heard dimly a bird's song, I felt a sudden shaft of light and then--I awoke.
That these impressions were vivid is not strange--but that I woke and dreamt it all again is unusual, and the reason, perhaps, why the memory stayed more consecutively. Many times I have awakened and then continued with a dream, but not so often has the dream and the impression been repeated.
I think Price means that she woke, didn't recall her dream too clearly, went back to sleep, and dreamed it again--a recurring dream. But it's possible she means she dreamed of being sacrificed, "woke" to find herself in a hut, being chosen by priests "for real"--echoing her now apparently predictive dream--then woke again in the morning to realize the first waking was false--from a dream into a dream. This second experience has various labels: nested dreams, false waking. I'm not sure Price knew to make the distinction. Yet she takes care to distinguish this dream from episodic dreams, "continued in next dream" dreams... because she has them often.
We each assume our dreams are normal, and what's novel to us truly is rare. But dreamers vary. I often have nested dreams or recurring dreams, but rarely episodic ones. Some WDB readers have recurring dreams but NEVER episodics OR nested dreams; others, like Price, episodics only. Do not assume your dreamlife is the norm! I'm not sure there IS a norm.
What can we say about the story, aside from its form? Mom painfully uglifying her child; a patriarchal, sacrificial religion; a cult of beauty that is, paradoxically, blind. A hunger to live, denied by powerful men who won't see her... It's startling to see such feminism in 1948 England--but what's suppressed in the waking world blooms in dreams.
Is the dream autobiographical? Price was not a teen; she was 68, overworked and tired. No need for mother to mutilate her face; time had done the job. And that sacrificial cult? It's no fantasy; Price knew it intimately. She'd spent her life in live theatre. She knew all about cults that revere--and blindly sacrifice--beauty.
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