Pegasus, the winged steed who carried heroes across the sky in mythical episodes, had his origin in earlier goddess myths. He sprang from the blood of serpent-haired Medusa when the hero Perseus cut off her head. The “wise blood” of Medusa had origins in the principle of medha, an Indo-European word for female wisdom.
Venturing further into the realm of forgotten wisdom, we encounter a female Pegasus. Aganippe, called “the mare who destroys mercifully,” was a more ancient winged horse. This was one of the titles of the goddess Demeter in a destroying lunar aspect of the waning crescent moon. This mare was said to visit as a nighttime messenger and is the origin of the word Night Mare.
A nightmare is a very intense dream that engenders powerful emotions such as anger, guilt and grief, but the most common feelings are crippling anxiety or disabling fear. A nightmare may wake us, screaming perhaps, in the middle of the night. Nightmares are characterized by sudden awakening with no sense of confusion or disorientation and with a feeling of impending harm and vivid recall. Because of the frightening nature of the images, the dream tends to remain with us through the day, inviting deeper interpretation. These dreams are meant as “wake up calls” literally and symbolically.
Many people experience nightmares after suffering some traumatic event such as surgery, death of a loved one, an accident or devastation in the aftermath of a destructive storm. The nightmares of combat veterans fall into this category. In these cases the content of the nightmares is directly related to the trauma, and the disturbing dreams recur on a continual basis until healing takes place. Sometimes therapy is required to unlock what’s been suppressed.
Nightmares that are not related to trauma generally occur when we have ignored the subtle or purely symbolic communication from our dream guidance and need a more dramatic statement. The main message of a nightmare is “Wake up and pay attention.” Nightmares contain themes of “survival” and we are being admonished to see the truth. Nightmares contain subject matter that can be difficult to manage on a conscious level. These dramatic messages can be signals that we are either denying or ignoring in our waking life. Sometimes these messages relate to our health.
One dreamer, a two-pack-per-day smoker, reported a vivid dream of having inoperable lung cancer. In the dream state he looked at an ominous shadow on his own chest X-Ray, realizing that the entire right lung was infiltrated. He experienced the incredible anguish of knowing his life would soon end, that he would never see his children grow up, and none of this would have happened if he had quit smoking. When he woke he felt surprise, relief and joy; he felt reborn. Fortunately, the dream galvanized him to quit cigarettes for good.
When we wake from a bad dream the tendency is to want to go back to sleep. That’s the very thing a nightmare is trying to prevent. It’s a bit like unplugging an annoying smoke alarm rather than looking for the potential fire. Nightmares function as early warning systems, revealing behavior patterns or imbalances in our life that may be leading to disaster. These disturbing dreams vary in theme but the most prevalent is being chased by an unknown assailant. Children usually dream of being chased by animals while adults are usually pursued by a male figure. Although the encounter may seem frightening and unwelcome, this type of dream may in fact have the greatest potential to change our lives if heeded, and there is great benefit in mining the imagery for its symbolic content.
Although there isn’t a hard and fast answer to dealing with the complex issue of nightmares, and those which arise from devastating trauma take much more care and work, there is a rule of thumb which can be applied. Whatever it takes to reexperience the emotions of the dream, and examine our waking life to determine where this same feeling emerges, will help to release what needs to be healed. Emotions are revealed through the dream setting, and “naming” what causes us to be afraid identifies the source of concern in waking life. Psychologically this is called associative logic; the dream “associates” with our waking life, sometimes to a past event, through a specific emotion. Identify the emotion, locate this feeling in waking life, and healing can begin.
From the standpoint of the spiritual aspirant there is a great irony in the phenomenon of nightmares. Namely, the more disturbing the dream imagery the greater the potential for increased understanding and creative power for change the dream possesses. Like a magical steed who will carry us to the heights of heaven, Night Mares can be our most profound blessings in disguise. The choice is up to us whether we face our fear or give up and go back to sleep.
About The Author:Julie Loar is the multiple award-winning author of six books and dozens of articles. She has a BS in Psychology, has done postgraduate work, and has been certified in numerous professional training and development programs. Julie was a Human Resources executive in two major corporations, and an independent training consultant, working with large companies. Her latest book, Goddesses For Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom & Power of the Divine Feminine Around the World, (available at Satiama) has won three national awards. Her popular astrology feature appears in ATLANTIS RISING magazine, and she is a featured contributor on John Edward’s web site, InfiniteQuest.com where she has her own internet TV show. She has traveled to sacred sites around the world, researching the material for her books and teachings. Each year she leads a sacred journey to Egypt. Visit her at http://www.julieloar.com