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Razor Ghost

Dreamed 1974/5/5 by Chris Wayan

A man lives alone for many years, in a lonely house in the hills. Houses start encroaching on his land, building up around him, closer and closer until they build on both sides, then in his back yard, then in front. His door is sealed, there are walls all around and no way out.

I try to get him out but can't. Dream: a mad ghost bursts from a sofa, threatening people with a knife. Click to enlarge.

With an old-fashioned razor, he cuts through the wall into the next house, through that room's door, and on, to the outside. Free. But whenever he sees walls, doors, anything reminding him of his prison-room, he cuts it.

He is quite mad. People remind him, so he cuts people, too. They die.

Then he dies too.

But he is reincarnated in a factory as a rubbery gray gas: he lurks in every closed space, and when any of them are opened, a gray smoke boils out. A gray smoke--with a razor, slashing blind and wild.

The killing goes on. We call in an exorcist. But there's a problem with banishing this malevolent spirit. He's not an invader. This is his home. He was here before all the rest--how can we drive out his spirit, when he has the prior and the deepest claim, mad and dead though he is?

As the priest begins the rite anyway, a rite I'm not sure will work, a rite I'm not sure is right, I wake.

This is the question--even if it's mad and dead, CAN I exorcise the real, original me? Do I have the strength?

And even if I do... do I have the right?


What inspired the nightmare?

My childhood home was full of black widow spiders--big, fast, aggressive, and poisonous. To this day, I never open dark, sealed spaces casually--I always check before reaching in, just as desert folks check their shoes for scorpions in the morning.

Also... I didn't know it when I dreamed this, but when I was very small my parents regularly took me along to visit my uncle inside one of the worst madhouses in California. He escaped, was caught, was given shock. Finally he was released. He lived with us a while when I was two or three, and he told me of electroshock and other tortures.

So I grew up hiding all sorts of feelings out of fear they'd lock me up too and torture me too, if I didn't conform. I repressed more and more, the repressed me got desperate, vicious... a ghost of itself.

And this dream suggests that at some point your true, original self can die, become purely destructive. And then you have to banish it, and start over with what you've got--what's living. Not an easy or pleasant decision to make. And especially difficult in a culture where psychology emphasizes accepting, integrating and re-incorporating lost and alienated parts.

But when they're dead...


I only noticed just now that I drew the ghost with a knife, not a razor--and a peculiar knife at that. It's an ATHELM--a sharp, triangular, strictly ritual dagger used in some witch rites, symbolizing the male principle, reason/logic, winter, the north... the Sword principle, in the Tarot. Jung calls it the thinking orientation, as opposed to feeling, intuition and sensation. What's all this arcane stuff mean? It means my dream tried to tell me just what this mad part is. I analyze things to death--cut them up cruelly.

LISTS AND LINKS: heritages - home is where the knife is - death - ghosts - nightmares - violent dreams - buried memories - repression, suppression, all those pressions - personality integration - sharp-edged dreams - uncle Hugh

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