Dreamed 1994/5/4 by Chris Wayan
1: A SELDON CRISIS
Centuries after America fell, I walk out of the redwoods into a village on the Kelhonia coast. It's a stable society, carefully engineered by survivors to BE stable: they borrowed Native American religion wholesale. The founder of this village set up a row of altarstones, one for each era of the village's history. The stones are carved with the stylized face or body of the animal-god dominant in that era, the one who represents that generation's essence--and problems.
But the altars aren't just stones. Doors. Doors down to catacombs where spirits appear. Holograms? Or some sort of spacetime gates for real beings to "call"? Whatever they are, when there's a social crisis, a tomb-door opens, and if the village shaman descends into the kiva-maze beneath, that animal-god will appear with answers. The system has worked for centuries. This coastal strip, thinly populated before the Crash and not massively ecodamaged, has fully recovered--the people have loved and tended it, under the guidance of animal gods.
Until now. A door has opened; society's in crisis. But no one visits the altars now, to descend into the vault seeking answers. They've turned away from shamanism, back to machines. Just like last time--after just one generation of inventors and rediscoverers of science they've all gone gear-mad! Clockwork toys everywhere... and the shamans are all scientists again. Dismantling their own history like an obsolete watch. Are technology and eco-shamanism truly exclusive paths? I don't see why, but the pattern's ominous.
Just as medieval Europe rediscovered Greco-Roman culture, and adopted its myths as its own, so these Kelhonians, digging in the ruins, have gone Euro-mad. In a single generation their native eco-lore has been dismissed as superstition--and lost. And the one they ignore the most is the animal missing from the European culture they're so crazy about: Coyote. None of them believe Coyote EXISTS. Oh, not just the god--they're wilfully blind even to ordinary coyotes! The ancients--us, or US as we proudly capitaled ourselves--ignored coyotes. So coyotes must be a myth.
Guess whose door has opened.
2: SHAMAN MALL
I peer down into the mouth of Coyote's tomb, trying to decide what to do. Someone has to go down. I'm willing to do it, though I'm scared to go alone. But that's not the only reason I'm reluctant. A shaman of these people needs to come along--someone they'll trust. I know Coyote will give shocking advice. He always does. They won't take it from me.
Around the sacred hall of the stones, a shopping mall has grown. I wander the escalators looking for priests. But they've all turned scientist. I find the local library branch and ask at the information desk: "Shamans, please." They blink, direct me to the priests' longhouse, now a lab. At the entrance: a shop, the direct factory outlet for their mechanical toys. The shop is crowded with yellow cubes of cardboard, each with the black silhouette of the particular toy it contains, every gear shown proudly. The animal gods were always shown thus, as black silhouettes on yellow. I feel sad seeing the sacred colors prostituted for advertising.
I ask the young man on duty at the sales counter if anyone here still knows about the animal gods, or at least the history of the order. If he says no, I'm ready to settle for any open-minded intelligent person. I have to trust that Coyote's vision will convince anyone who'll see. My job is just to get someone to look.
Or am I letting my fear distort my judgment? Is it my job to go down and get the message alone, if no one else will come?
3: RITES OF PASSAGE
Dusk, now. High on a brushy slope above the sea. I found no one to face Coyote with me. I heard there'd be rituals here and came to recruit. Near me, an empty cabin on a huge stone slab--a natural altar. I know the shack is a gate through spacetime, like the catacombs. Feel the power...
But all the people seem to be hiding. At last I see a flicker of firelight far down on the point, at the mouth of the sacred sea-caves where the men undergo their rites of passage. That explains where THEY are... Someone's being initiated tonight. In the new religion, I suppose. Technology.
Well. A last resort for me. A long hike down, and they're probably technologists, and they're men.
But where the hell are all the women?
A girl's head pops out of the brush. She's blonde and smiles with a new sexual confidence. Initated! Another appears. They emerge from the bushes, in diaphonous robes, bearing candles. More of them come around the stone slab--all the young women of the village. They glow like ghosts in the still dusk. Smiling slyly, knowing how beautiful they are, they flow round me, off into the night... and every single one is blonde.
Now I know this society was founded by refugees from the Bay Area, fusing with a native Californian population on a reservation just inland: everyone has lots of Asian, African, and American blood, there should be lots of brown and black hair. They've been bleaching! That must be part of the rite of passage for women here. And it works: they glow, not only with the belief they're all beautiful, but with a primitive pleasure in putting on a different self. A generation ago they'd have animal masks, a variety, chosen in dreams; now, they all become the Love Goddess salvaged from the Ancients: Marilyn Monroe.
I mutely wait, hoping someone will come back and join me as I face Coyote's summons--into the cabin of time. But no one comes. At last, I force myself to climb onto the great stone altar and look inside the sacred cabin. The door swings open. Strange objects hang on the walls. They're compelling. I step in. I've been here before, I can't quite remember... but the objects form a riddle, I know that. I solved it more than once! But I'm so tired and discouraged tonight I can't see the answer, though I know it tells us where to go to solve the crisis. I let my instincts move me around the cabin, hoping unconscious memory will guide me to the right spot. Notice I'm shying away from the windows--fear a gunshot from outside!
Well, it works... sort of. I stumble on a spot in the cabin that's a spacetime gate and reach into empty air and feel... a strange double flashlight. They've appeared before, in dark times. A horizontal gray metal bar with upturned ends that are beveled inward, two lenses set in at a 45° angle, the whole thing looking like a phone with periscope lenses instead of speakers. And the lenses glow. Their source is not batteries. It's the spirit of the bearer! My own spirit.
When I say their civilization's in crisis, the light will show the villagers that I know what I'm talking about--if they remember their legends.
4: SHE JOINS ME
At the door of the cabin, a young woman is waiting, her candle extinguished.
"I saw you," she says. "I just had to finish the rite. That light... it means we have to change something, doesn't it?"
I nod, grinning, and walk toward the village with her, feeling suddenly much better.
I have the uncomfortable feeling this dream summons me to change the direction of the world's social evolution, not just my personal values.
The late Stephanie van Zandt Nelson, historian of social attitudes toward dreaming, concluded that up till the Witch Hunts, dreams were generally seen as friendly and interpretable by amateurs. But the Inquisition made dreaming treacherous--Satanically tainted! Such dangerous material required anointed experts. Centuries later, Eurocentric societies are still antidream, antivisionary, antipsychic. The fear of being called crazy or flaky for listening to intuition, visions, or dreams, especially in science, has historical roots in the witch-hunts! Tainted by animality, femininity... the devil. Science and technology (even Net Prophets) carry baggage from Descartes and the Inquisition.
"Get thee behind me, superstition!"
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