Nagual

Painting painted at Burning Man, artist unknown

Two years ago I had an unusual dream:  Two Naguals, a woman and a man, (naguals are shamans in  Toltec culture and accompanying spirits in Meso-American healing journeys) entered a small indoor pavillion filled with friends from my hometown community.  All there sought healing from these two.  The naguals tended to each person in the stands, one at a time, in a clockwise direction.  I was the last one in the stands to make my request.  After declaring the healing I would receive, the Naguals invited me to lie down on the floor of a sunken stage in the centre of the pavilion.  With my feet facing south, the male Nagual leaned over me and told me that what I wanted was very easy to heal. With my feet facing north, he opened a black leather folder and out ran a four foot-long iguana.  The iguana ran like a panther, its green skin latticed in gold.  I followed the hybrid animal with my gaze as he ran clockwise around the stage.  Once he reached 12 o’clock, which was behind my head, in the south, I began to watch myself through his eyes as he continued to run.  He ran all the way around to 3 o’clock, the angle from where he first was released from. A black crow was also there, who followed the path of the panther-like iguana above me, from the sky.

When I awoke, the dream stayed.  But as often happens, hilarious rationale poured in—”that’s so normal”, I thought, that those beasts were there.  How, “of-course”, that the Naguals came to me and said, “there’s no problem”.  Once a few seconds of denial had played with me, my better sense jumped out and said, “Hey!  Pay attention!  That wasn’t just kinda’ interesting, those animals, those shamans, they’re talking to you.”

So I heeded, and the dream got written down, right here, in a future blog to you, and was then promptly forgotten…until today.

What gave me occasion to have another look at it, is that just this morning, I finally met two real-life Naguals—a woman and a man.  They would actually not call themselves Naguals, but Shamans.  They said something similar to me that I dreamed two years ago: That my question is easy to heal.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve received many encouraging predictions about my circumstances throughout my life, and many of them have turned out less favourably than predicted.  Maybe you know that familiar arc of enthusiasm, right after visiting a “se-er” or having the big dream, that can feed into your optimism, and for a time, alleviate the stresses of living with unknowns and the frustrations of unmet longings?  That enthusiasm can then crash into a kind of spiritual bewilderment after the allotted time for expected outcomes has passed and there’s no tangible evidence that the ritual or ceremony or healing has taken.

As I catch myself in that familiar first blush of optimism, I wonder, is the work of deep dreaming or of working with shamans meant to alleviate any of what we suffer with?  Or better put, is the suffering that’s potentially alleviated maybe a secondary benefit to a much bigger point to the exercise, which is to have strengthened our working relationship with the forces unseen?  Because really, I had that dream two years ago and remember thinking at that time that, “Oh—excellent! This particular challenge I’m experiencing is going to heal right away!”  I remember now that it didn’t.

So could the merciful rise of enthusiasm that lifts our spirits and says, “everything’s going to be okay”, actually be just the perfectly shaped dangling carrot to get us in the game?  That game being the one of thinking with a mind and heart that can conceive of a world where there are bigger forces co-running the show?  The forces that have consistently and methodically been worked out of our language and daily practices for the past several centuries, if not millennia?  I’m speaking of a daily or seasonal practice that includes thanking the things that give us a life, and not just a single “God”, but the many living beings, all who without, we would not live.  Perhaps this is what the Shaman or the shamanic dream is somewhat there to remind us of or continually reacquaint us with?

I know, not every one of you has been so thoroughly stripped of your good cultural sense that knows to honour your ancestors or to give thanks to the sun and moon and stars, and the other living beings around you.  So why do so many of us wake up from our dreams only to talk ourselves out of the big conversations we’ve just had with those characters?  Why do we seek to finalize our healing so to never have to dip back into the black morass of feeling our way in the dark as though no other well-intending human has ever grovelled the same humbling path before us?

What if the whole routine of forgetting and remembering is exactly one of the aspects of being human?  I know I’ve kind of grown fond of the whole thing, and if I ever did finally nail it, I’d probably actually miss the whole rise and fall of half-baked, at-times-overwhelming, elating, and frustratingly humble path of learning that having questions and needing healing provides.