Dream Delay, Dream Decay:  Dreaming in Sacred Places
By Curtiss Hoffman


The Taj Mahal, Agra, India2. Trip to India

My trip to India in August and September of 2001 was 11 days in length.  While I visited obvious tourist attractions like the Taj Majal (see Figure 3), I spent most of the time in Kerala state in south India, to observe a major music festival, and the high point of the trip was a visit to the temple of Kali in Trivandranum at the full moon of Virgo.  Of the six dreams about India I recorded during the trip, five were from the last three days of our stay.  This one involved a student who was on the trip with me, and it conveys a sense of awe about a sacred place:

My student tells me of her journey by boat in the Kerala backwaters.  Actually it was a counterclockwise circular journey, 3/4 of which was through the countryside.  I go on this journey as far as the first landward village, Ododam.  The people there welcome me in triumph.  They have created archways in the shape of the outline of the Taj Mahal out of white flowers all along the roads and sidewalks.  I am awed by this spectacle as I proceed through the arches.

The name of the festival I viewed is Onam, which probably relates to the name of the village in the dream.  Once again, my related dream frequency picked up during the month following and tended to decline thereafter (see Figure 4).


3. Trip to France

My visit to France was the longest of any trip I’ve taken in which my dreams were recorded, and as noted above it was devoted to dream incubation, so it is not surprising that the frequency of dreams of French locations, and of caves and castles in general, were higher during the stay.  Image 5 is of the enormous entrance to Bedeilac cave, which is large enough to fly a small aircraft into it.  This dream was from the night after I visited it:

I am with a group of people seeking entrance to a cave which contains some Paleolithic engravings.  None of our group knows the way.  Finally I find our guide, a short, slender woman named Margaret.  She alone is able to guide us into the cave.  We organize ourselves into a single line and follow her in.


This dream conveys the same sense of awe as the preceding dream.  One of the things I learned about the caves is that none of the images are found until one has passed beyond the point where ambient light from outside is present.   This replicates the dreaming process, where one has to pass through several levels of sleep before REM periods begin.  Of the 18 dreams relating to caves and castles I recorded during this period, 14 dated after the first week of the trip (see Figure 6).  As with the Japan trip, I recorded numerous dreams related to the region and to the sacred caves during the subsequent year, with a sharp decline thereafter.

4. Trip to Mexico

Over winter break in 2004-05, I visited Mexico for 10 days, mostly staying in the Valley of Mexico and visiting places like Teotihuacan, “the dwelling place of the gods,” and for the last few days I visited sacred sites in Oaxaca.  One of the three dreams about Mexico recorded during the trip occurred on the first night; the other two were from our stay in Oaxaca.  This dream, months after the trip, relates directly to a frieze we had seen at Teotihuacan, shown in Figure 7:

I conduct a group of dreamworkers on an archaeological tour of Mexico.  We begin at the earliest sites and work forward in time.  We come to Teotihuacan.  The entire scene -- buildings, sky, surroundings -- is cast in a light shade of orange.  The group members are impressed with the many sculpted feathered-serpent heads protruding from the facade of the Quetzalcoatl Temple there.  In keeping with the theme of the tour, I take them to the earliest buildings first.  We come to a palace with square columns in front and the bas relief of a serpent on the front wall behind the portico.  I tell them that a famous queen held court there.

The pattern of my dreaming about the country during the month and year following the trip was more strongly marked than in the previous trips, with a decline thereafter (see Figure 8).


5. Trip to New Zealand

Spring Break in 2006 brought me to New Zealand, on a trip whose objective was chiefly to visit sites used during the filming of The Lord of the Rings.  However, there were also some sacred places with awesome vistas, including this view on the road to Milford Sound (see Figure 9).  I dreamt about New Zealand not at all during our 12 days there, but the country was strongly featured in my dreams during the subsequent month.  I also did not spend much time among the Maori, since that was not the purpose of our journey, but I was sufficiently impressed with what I saw of their culture that I received a formal dream initiation into it shortly after our return to the U.S.:

I am a female anthropologist studying Maori culture in a village in the same unstable area of New Zealand as the preceding dream.  The ground is covered by a thick brown mat of woven reeds, and it undergoes swells which are very disconcerting.   The women of the village have decided to accept me as one of their own, and initiate me into their clan.  This is a very long ritual which takes place in a big marae on the shifting mat.  I am quite disconcerted by the swells, they make me feel emotionally unstable.  The tribal elder -- a heavily tattooed woman -- is very nurturing and keeps reassuring me that it will be OK.  I have to abandon my Western preconceptions and rely on her strength to get me through.  I know that I will never be the same after this experience.

Typical of the pattern discussed here, my dreaming of New Zealand has fallen off sharply since then (see Figure 10).

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