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Dreamed between 1963 and 1968 by Jenny Badger Sultan
I am with a group of people in a desert landscape. We are building a Scythian church. I recall red tile roofs, whitewashed walls. When we are finished we gather inside the church and join hands in a large circle and do a circle dance together.
Later I wander around the dim interior by myself, looking around. On the floor, right near two steps leading down to a lower level, I see a painting and some words.
The painting shows a green bundle, all tied up, next to a black-haired woman dressed in green, with arms outstretched, flying. The words say:
"Little Saint Bridget was bound so hard, that when they released her she flew."
This dream was a major one; I've returned to it many times. Building this church together in the desert felt magical.
I do not recall exactly when I dreamt it; I was not keeping a regular dream journal at that time. But it was between finishing grad school in l963 and l968 when my husband Henry and I met.
- Scythians: one class in grad school, "Art of the Migrations", covered the Scythians, nomads related to the ancient Persians, who dominated the plains north of the Black Sea and east to the Aral Sea from 2800 to 2200 years ago. Known for graceful metalwork and mosaics (on floors as well as walls).
- Saint Bridget: I knew nothing about her when I dreamt this. In time I learned she is not just an Irish saint, but prior to Christianity was a manifestation of the Great Mother Goddess (who was becoming more and more real and important to me at the time). There are many aspects to the Irish St. Bridget which relate her to Bridget the Great Mother. The Irish St. Bridget had established her cell in the trunk of an oak tree that had been a shrine to the Mother Goddess, Brigid. The Irish Brigid was a triple goddess to whom fire and the hearth were sacred. St. Bridget's nuns tended a sacred flame. The flame images in the painting came spontaneously.
- the bound-up figure: such a healing image for my own life. I grew up as a "good girl"--extremely shy, not very physically capable except for drawing and writing, and very intimidated and often frightened by a brother 5 years older who was physically active and outgoing. Although I loved him, it was hard, as he felt angry and frustrated at our family and vented a lot of it on me. So I see the bound figure as both me and an image of hope for all women, who have suffered so much from the binding of patriarchy. And it also seemed to show the hope of the release and liberation of the Goddess energies which have been suppressed for such a long time.
- The flying figure: the same person (me, other women) unbound--able to stretch out and enjoy freedom in an ecstatic release. I feel the dream also expressed the resurgence of the Goddess which began in the sixties.
- The painting: I have depicted the dream three times in three media:
- as a small watercolor. I traded it for therapy; a few years later I asked to borrow it so I could photograph it, but my therapist couldn't find it.
- in l989, as a fairly large oil painting. I was feeling a slide down into a winter depression and two of my women friends were deep into cyclical depressions and I painted Saint Bridget as a healing painting.
- in fall 2008, for a friend who had always loved it the oil painting and commissioned an acrylic miniature. She wanted to celebrate a recent experience of feeling freed from an oppressive situation.
- In May 2013, I visited friends in Liscannor, Ireland, and visited St. Bridget’s holy well. People still pray and leave offerings there. I left a photocopy of my painting.
--Jenny Badger Sultan
The wording in the dream implies St Bridget's binding fostered or even allowed her flight. Do oppression and deprivation confer blessings, help us soar? Ancient and medieval people took it for granted that pain and limits can foster freedom and enlightenment--that binding fosters flight. But now it's unfashionable; we'd rather believe flight is easy. Just lower the bar, hire more teachers, add self-esteem courses, buy new computers, take vitamins--or Ritalin.
But in some fields the tradition survives; athletes, dancers, musicians, poets, doctors, scientists and soldiers still acknowledge that real achievement demands real sacrifice: time, expense, concentration, frustration, risk and pain.
Saint Bridget makes me re-evaluate my own childhood. I was pushed ahead in school, and older, larger boys treated me brutally. They taught me the dark side of human nature; taught me to fear. But today I wonder if they taught me strengths, too. Facing brutal giants, I stuck to my principles of nonviolence; learned both physical and moral courage. Boot camp of the soul.
LISTS AND LINKS:
Jenny Badger Sultan -
deserts & oases -
holy sites, temples etc -
religious figures -
paganism, Wicca, & Goddess cults -
austerity & asceticism -
healing from abuse - a dream on blessings rooted in lack:
Rabbit World - but binding can cripple flight too:
Salia and Chur - welcome to anorexic boot camp:
Bonk Veronica! -
Central Asia - Jenny's husband Henry is a dream artist too: see his
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