STARHAWK THE WITCH
Dreamed 1983/8/19 by Chris Wayan
"Amass a store of gold and jade, and who can protect it?" -- Lao-zi
A California evening, blue and mild. I'm walking up the steps of Prometheus Center, a nonprofit theater where a psychodrama group's about to begin. Atop the steps, a gorgeous girl leans in the shadow of the arch: Chris the bluegrass singer. Delicate feline face, but a fierce cynical voice as she jokes with her friends. I'm attracted, but a bit scared of her. My friend Carol notices my shyness, says "Oh, she wouldn't hurt a fly." For a second I see me talking to her freely, asking her out. And then it clamps down again, and I walk meekly in. Less afraid of bizarre psychodrama scenes than of asking Chris out...
THE GIANT AND THE BEAR HUG
Robert is leading Psychodrama tonight instead of Vic? I don't want to go in, then! He's a big old lunk, gangle-angry: his wife ran off with a woman, and he's pissed at the whole gender, plus men like me who identify too much with women. His scenes are boring, all just fights. I'm disappointed. I was looking forward to this group all week.
The men's group is just leaving, in a chummy booming bunch. They include me, an occasional visitor, in their group hug, and invite me to join them for coffee. Of course they mean it symbolically since I can't drink coffee. They mean friendship.
I decline. Enjoy saying no, it tells me I have the strength to do this difficult thing, disappoint people, even hurt them. I'll die if I don't learn it.
I walk to the bookstore. See them in a cafe, and again they wave me in, and again I walk on.
COPSE AND ROBBERS
In the bookstore I find "Dreaming the Dark" by Starhawk, a local writer, therapist, and witch. I open it at random, and Starhawk writes "I was sitting under a tree in Golden Gate Park, and started meditating..." Deep in trance, she sees herself alone on a train, the train of shamanic/witch training. But she's wrong, the train is packed! She's just blind to her fellow passengers, because she wants to be the pioneer, the hero. Starhawk suddenly realizes solitary quests imply you're special, clever, ahead... and THAT hunger comes from believing your inner critic about how ordinary you are. Starhawk wakes full of insight... and finds... her purse is gone. Minding her spirit, she forgot to mind her wallet. Ah, the solo path.
This critic... she thinks this figure haunts the dreams of most modern people, and is not a personal or parental figure, but socially generated. Capitalism wants us to feel individually responsible, to ignore its biases and inherent unfairness. And not because society is flawed: this is a useful demon! Much better to have sick people who feel like individual failures than healthy ones who'll attack the rigged system.
She also feels, and I don't want to hear it, that vision-quests are only right for conformist tribal societies--they're a way to socially sanction individuality. Our culture acknowleges we're different (and wrong, and alone); our quest should be for community, not individuation.
There speaks a healer, an organizer, a public speaker--an extravert! But I lose myself around others; alone, I feel pretty good. Starhawk fights her demons by feedback from friends, that confirms she's not worthless. I learn my worthlessness from others; even Vic the director and the Psychodrama in-crowd patronize me. Solitude heals me. I think. Her one-size-fits-all theory feels like it binds me.
Starhawk argues that an individual cannot self-heal in this culture. Reading that, I feel despair. She's wakened loneliness and love, and they're begging me to force myself to socialize--since Starhawk says that's my only chance! But... if she's right, I'm doomed. People drain me. I need more solitude, not less; I want stronger walls.
I go home and after dinner write a list of people who I've been calling friends even though I know quite well they have traits that severely limit our friendship. I've been denying my own perceptions about other people's dishonesty or stupidity or lack of respect. Should I kill my own eyes, kill my shyness, force myself to associate? I feel like that's what Starhawk's advising. Kill my sense of superiority? BUT WHAT IF I AM?
My mother taught me it's rude to feel superior to anyone. ANYONE?
What a message to give to a child prodigy! I was capable, even as a very small child, of scaring grownups with my brain. So I learned that when adults (even my own father) felt threatened by my abilities, then I'd done well. If they praised me, I must have fallen short of my usual unnatural level. Incomprehension, hostility and fear, now THOSE were signs I was on the right track!
Have I ever grown past needing this feedback?
Just before sleep, I find myself back in second grade. I dropped my crayons. I crawled under the desk to pick them up, muttering angrily about it. The teacher kept saying "Chris! The whole class is waiting for YOU!" and finally "WHAT are you muttering?" and when I snapped "Nothing!" (meaning "none of your damn business", something I could not articulate since I'd never experienced or even observed anyone respecting a child's right to privacy). The teacher immediately asked the girl next to me, Cindy, "What did Chris say?" Cindy: "He said 'NO you're NOT!'" It was a lie. I hadn't been saying that. I'd been saying "Stupid crayons" and blaming myself. I'd dropped them after all. The teacher became furious and said "Go to the Principal's office!"
And I did. I waited on a bench for two hours. You know, twelve adult hours. The principal let me in at last. He wanted me to apologize. I wouldn't. I said "You shouldn't believe liars." He didn't threaten or punish me, yet I felt angry. NOW I see why. He was saying I had no right to express anger--not only could I not criticize the teacher, I couldn't even criticize a fucking crayon. Yet the teacher could lose her temper over a small child picking up crayons and she wasn't apologizing. And no one was making Cindy apologize...
IN MY DREAMS
I'm being stalked by a giant: eight feet tall, triple my weight. He was built, not born--stitched together by Victor Frankenstein. Not that one, his great-great something. The giant goes by another name, he doesn't like that whole legend, he's a modern monster. He can almost pass as a man, if you don't mind seamy guys.
First he entered my dreams, repeatedly--closer and closer, bigger and bigger. And now in waking life... if this isn't a dream. No matter; I have to deal with him either way.
He wants revenge. I used to have a hostile attitude toward him; I thought he was created by the part that's been making me sick. I go back through my dream-journals trying to understand him... they're a real mess, I've been neglecting my dreams! My own fault. If I'd dealt with him then, when he was smaller...
I go out a lot; with a monster stalking you, it's safer to be in public than alone, right? He keeps looming up through the crowds, plowing toward me like an icebreaker. And I break and run. I can run fast, I'm a fine sprinter. He's grabbed me a couple of times, and I've torn myself away. But his slow strength is unlike mine: I'm good for bursts, but he gets stronger as I tire. If he gets me in a bear hug and I can't break loose in the first seconds, he'll crush me to death in his Kodiak arms.
Finally I decide to leave town; maybe getting some distance, some breathing space will help. In the airport, he shambles up. The flight's delayed, and for two hours I have to lure him down ramps, up escalators, through the noisy maze. He's slow and none too bright, trails me rather than wait by the exit gate. And I lose him--and he finds me. Always he finds me.
I wonder what he thinks of his creator? Does he hate him like the original Frankenstein monster? Has he been ordered to kill me, or is that his own idea?
ROBBERS AND TRANCE
I duck into a movie theater at the airport. W.C. Fields is stumbling though the middle of a crime thriller. Daffy Duck bursts in, but it's too fast-paced for me to catch all the jokes. Shots and scenes change every second, half-second, quarter-second... it becomes intolerable, a comedy-flicker. The screen blanks to white, though the soundtrack goes on. The film makers, looking very pleased with themselves, walk out in front of the screen and say "It's a joke, get it?" We all think it's pretty stupid, and say so, but we do need the visual rest, regardless of their reasons for the breather. Oops, here comes the picture again. The gang that W.C. Fields offended is in a hotel room... right here, in this airport! It's the room of a young man sleeping in the bed as the gang confers in whispers. He looks strange--flat on his back, hands crossed on his chest--looks more like some deep trance than mere sleep. They creep around him, open his briefcase on the nightstand. I know what's coming. Hardly seems fair--here he rented a room and locked it and everything. Where can you meditate if not in your bed? But they broke in, and now they're pulling out bundles of C-notes, and... What? These guys have a fortune in their hands, and they're stuffing it IN his case, not pulling it out! Now they jam in a gun, some shells, some cord and plastic explosive... ski masks... Jesus, a grenade! They did a BIG job, and they're giving all their tools AND their loot to him! Enough to make him rich--or jail him forever. Why? Unwanted, dangerous treasure, for a man locked in meditation...
His valise is handsome, a black dove-gray and silver square. Jammed with hot money. "What an elegant case" I think, and I have to admit I find this funny... such a devout guy, such a flawless case... Isn't Customs gonna be surprised when they open up his case! Like Starhawk's purse, in reverse. Hey, you could chant that as a money-spell. "Starhawk's purse, in reverse..."
Oh, shit. Here comes Frankenstein. I run down the aisle to an exit by the screen and out into the airport. Back to the gate, fast, with the giant close behind me. I run through the security portal... and as the field in the archway sweeps through me I feel a whirling and stop, dizzy...
And I'm in the square of an Elizabethan town. It was a time-portal! When am I exactly? People seem sober, uneasy, not the rowdy raunchy mob of Shakespeare's time. I see Roundhead guards... the English Civil War?
I find a College, and enter, listen to the debates in the halls. Human rights and the rights of rulers! I'd forgotten that the beginnings of the questions that led to modern democracy grew from Puritanism, from religious as much as political dissidence.
The victor of the Civil War, neither Cromwell nor the old King, visits the College. In fact, the final peace-treaty between the two surviving armies will be signed today. They meet in the quad. The victor is a tall moon-faced man with wideset enormous eyes: he has wide vision. It gives him a strong desire to heal the scars of the war, and proposes that the leader of the other side join the Cabinet. Not just a token position, he'll have real power: enough to block persecution of the losers.
Musketeers greet each other with bear hugs. I realize these best friends would never have met except for the war; one being a young gentleman, the other a peasant. Progress from turmoil.
THE OTHER KNIGHT
My attention's drawn to a young man in light armor, truly Elizabethan, incongruous here. Archaic. He's thin, with a girl's delicate face, narrow-chinned, with cat-cheeks--and a falcon's stare. He's riding away from the growing celebrations. Intrigued, I follow.
He rides down a steep bowl of meadow from the hilltop College. A narrow trail, deserted. He scarcely looks around, and lazes along, a knight returning home after the war. I'm disappointed: from his eyes, I took him for a man on a Quest. Now he just seems absentminded. The flowers are glorious. He rides on.
A second knight comes the other way, out of the woods. To my astonishment, it could be his twin; delicate, girl's face, light armor, black horse. But this rider IS a girl.
He can't ignore her! But he does, passes her with eyes front and center. She has to be kin, his double, how can he just ride by?
As she passes, she pulls out a short dagger and nicks his arm!
He jerks and pulls up, blinking, and turns to see her. And by his wide eyes, it's clear--he's never met her in his life. They stare a long time, silent. I see the red glint of blood from his arm, a few wet drops across the elegant silver and black and dove-gray armor.
She turns her horse and he follows her down to the river at the heart of the dale. As I follow these two, the trail gets steeper. I feel dizzy. It's impossible! The vale curls down and steeper down until it's vertical, past vertical, and still the green meadows and spangled flowers wave, the brook flows quietly, clinging to this tilted roof... and then I look up, disoriented, and see the horizon straight down in front of me! Perhaps even upside down... Madly askew from the horizon of the College. What's happening to me? Even the time-gate didn't affect me like this...
At the bottom of this ensorcelled dell, the brook meets a river by an old mill, abandoned by the look of it. The girl leads the young knight in. It's the perfect spot for a tryst. But that horizon! This mill's no empty shell; something's grinding space or time, some science or some spell. He seems not to question, not to care; he's found a girl who seems his twin, and that's a potent lure.
She leads him up a gray stone stair, and into darkness. I start to feel... fear. A lure for what? I swallow my timidity--and follow, into the mill's maw. Ahead, I see her stand, turn--and disappear into air.
Her creator appears atop the stair, and with a gesture freezes the young man. She's old, a Witch of power. Either she herself became his twin, or the girl was a simulacrum, driven by a spirit compelled. That's my guess; she had an Ariel look.
WHICH PART SHALL WE SACRIFICE?
The Witch prepares the ritual instruments. I ask "What are you going to do with him?"
She answers me frankly, with a look that tells me why she needn't hedge. I'll never tell, for I'll never leave this mill, this dell. "Nothing personal; just a contractual obligation. I have to feed the Devil now and then; I lure folk in and feed their lives to him."
She puts him in trance--as his spirit starts to rise, her devices grab and box it in. His ghost looks puzzled and worried, bumbling around the cube of air like a bad mime. But I don't think he knows; he's looking for the lost girl, hardly notices his cage yet--a fly in glass, banging his ectoplasmic head over and over, every time the first.
"Why pick a young and innocent man like this, when so many sour old folks are going to die soon anyway? Feed one of them to your devil!" I say. If this sounds cynical, I can only say that I believe souls return; her demon may eat the essence of this life, and to ooze through a devil's bowels can't be a pleasant experience, but no lasting harm will be done. She catches my meaning instantly. "My Devil digests not just the life but the soul itself. No one comes out his arse! Dante was just bragging. So I feed him empty, gullible little lives; he cares not. Surely 'tis better business to butcher souls who are good for naught else! Now the old are rich in spirit, and all their experience would be wasted forever. But this callow lad, now--his soul is worth less. Not worthless, I'll grant--but worth less."
From her perspective, this makes sense. Waste not, want not. Neither of us says so, but I know I'm arguing for my own life. "The old have already achieved what they will in this life--their potential is gone. I don't believe that being devoured by your Devil is the end--but he is an end to all this young man might do in this life. Better to cut the tree that no longer bears, than a sapling that may bear wondrous fruit in time. Take those who have learned all they can of life." A faint sound is nagging me from across the river. I ignore it in my earnestness. "And this fellow is a dreamer. Look what you lured him with--the Faerie Queen, Joan of Arc! His double..."
"So?" says the Witch.
"He's a poetic sort. Dante following Beatrice. He's sensitive and will feel more pain." My argument's a bit thin, but somehow her trick seems more offensive than if she'd lured a man in with the semblance of a whore, with gold, or gambling, or rum, or fighting. Or power. Not a soul-mate! It's wrong.
I hear the sound again. It's familiar, dismissable, for at home it'd mean nothing: the throb of a car engine. In this alien time, I'm unsure at first... then it stops. The Witch notices and asks "What beast is that? I see you know."
I don't answer, listening, intent. Another noise, a mix of ring and hiss and growl--a POWER SAW! I'm certain no other culture could have anything to mimic that distinctive whine.
Instantly my loyalties change. The moderns are coming.
Frankenstein's maker has followed me through the gate. And I see why. The Witch sees my face and says "Tell me."
TIME PILGRIM'S WARNING
"I'll tell you. We're allies now, like it or not. I've been used. I'm... no different from your bait-girl. I was driven here from the future, three centuries hence--by a man and his creation, a monster, a golem of sorts, from even farther ahead. While I know much about your world--and future--they know mine as well. Here they are nearly all-powerful: he CREATED LIFE, true life, understand? They drove me here for a reason--so I'd find this war, and you, and kill you in outrage, and clean up the witchcraft and the devils and civil strife, to unify the world and make it well-ordered, a peaceful paradise, with the knowledge gained from my vantage point in time. I was to make this world over--for them. I was the string to wrap up the bundle. And then they'd carry it off. World-thieves!
"So, I warn you. I fled here. They expected to track me easily, but I hid better than I knew, within the bubble of your spell, your twisted horizon. But now they're close. Warn the world about them! Stay divided! Witch, Puritan, Satanist, Catholic, all are your strength! And... lie low!"
I hear noise just outside. They're closing in. I step back through the arch of the mill, and... time flies, again. Perhaps a hundred years by the feel of it; can't be sure.
The mill still stands, indeed it's clean and light: no mill, but a College of Magic! Tears brim, and I say softly "She took my advice." She's changed time. The Craft is open. One more strand to resist them. A grad student walks by. Stops, gasps. "You're... Time Pilgrim!" I'm remembered! The Witch described me well. "Our founder said to heed you, if you ever appeared again. Do you come to warn us again?"
Slowly I realize I do. "It isn't enough to nurse your own strength. Diversity is healthy but health is a risk. If your world pulls itself into good shape, the hounds of the future will appear, to use you all. The folk of time to come base their lives on principles you can't grasp... as individuals they may seem decent, and may indeed be so. Yet mad Economics, or mystic Political Theories, or arcane Sciences may be their guiding star, may compel them to devour your age. If you make the world a garden clear of weeds, if you even stanch too many of the your bleeding wounds, you'll attract the future, and lose all!"
To my surprise the young Student seems to grasp this: "We have seen much change in a century, more perhaps than in any since Rome fell. I think... we can imagine still greater changes. If you say we could not withstand these folk, I believe you. We cannot smooth the turmoil of our age, nor plan a rational society as so many have suggested. For not only order but even too much overt happiness will attract these vultures. This is your warning?"
"I'm afraid so. And I don't know what to do about it."
"I hope you will, in time--indeed, I know not where else you could find an answer--Time Pilgrim."
And I wake, heartened by this earnest grad student in Witch College, in the Enlightenment, accepting the value of chaos and misery. But what answer is there, beyond hiding?
I write the dream out immediately, thousands of words, scattered and interpolated with confused notes connecting bits with the ideas I encountered in the day, in Starhawk's book... Exhausting. My hand hurts. I got the gist though. Glad I got it down right away; this dream would be liable to distortion if even a few details were lost, given its abstract focus on moral ideas, the ambiguities about who the good guys are, and the paradoxicality of its warning. I look back at all the pages of it and think "This is the longest, most coherent vision in at least a year. It's VERY IMPORTANT."
And then I wake again, and find I've written it all out in my dreams, not in the material world. I have to do it all again!
But I know why I have to do it twice--tedious though it is. Reluctant students must repeat lessons; tedious drill is sometimes needed for clarity.
And this warning must be clear. Both capitalism's values AND Starhawk's vision of community hide dangers--the risk of too much unity, too much productivity...
Too much health.
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