To sleep, perchance to dream

Photo of pillow and candle by Leon Calafiore
Out of the Broomcloset photo by Leon Calafiore

Out of the Broomcloset

Rumor has it that there are individuals in this world that awaken at an hour appropriate to their needs, engage in the necessities of life, and then retire to an uninterrupted, and unencumbered, slumber. The Amish may be so inclined, or Laplanders after tending their reindeer herds. Were Cole Porter still with us, a witty patter song detailing these lucky few would no doubt be forthcoming. For the majority of us, this chance is sadly lacking, our free time evaporating faster than the glaciers. We are under-slept, and so, under-dreamed.

In these unsettling times, dreams might be a source of refuge or blessed departure, a source of health, a place for unexpected encounters, answers to troubling questions, but always a possible addition to one’s repertoire of magic. These sorts of views on the subject span cultures and millennia. There may be a culture, somewhere, that doesn’t consider what happens in the dream realm important, but none comes to mind (I might be too tired to recall).

The dreamscape is all encompassing, but for this exercise, a little background of Greek mythology might be helpful here. Some of this may seem familiar, or not; just follow your guide here. Night gave birth to a whole family of beings, among them Hypnos (sleep), and his offspring, Morpheus, who brings images of humans in one’s sleep, and his siblings, the Oneiroi. They pass from their realm (and the sleepers into their realm, through two gates, one of Ivory, which leads to reveries and illusions, and one of horn, which brings prophecy. They should be fairly easy to distinguish, but as you’re asleep, it’s not so clear (and none of this lot is particularly interested in making it easy for the dreamer, like bureaucracies everywhere. It’s best to get the help of someone higher up the food chain, to steer you in the right direction.

First in line is the god Hermes; not only is he a trickster, and good for one’s business (quite literally), he also oversees where one thing ends and another begins, the edges of things (and he knows all the angles). The other is Apollo, who, besides sending plagues and encouraging the more intellectual pursuits in life, has a good handle on the prophecy business. Let’s just stick with Hermes Propylaios (of the doorway). Get on his good side, dreamland will be smooth sailing.

For any of this to work, the first thing you need to do is turn off the phone, really: shut it off, take it out of the room. Lay off the coffee or tea, and mom says new (or at least clean) sheets would be nice. Then you need Hermes himself. This is not difficult. Print out a picture, you have the internet. He can also be represented as a nice pile of stones (remember, he oversees boundaries), or just a phallus will do (and remove your mind from the gutter). Wrap them with white wool, and a nice piece of fruit wouldn’t hurt.

Then, if you don’t have an oil lamp around (who does, with all the decluttering mania these days), a new, plain white candle will do just fine. You can rub some camphor, cinnamon and/or bergamot on it, sparingly, the scent while the candle burns being an aid to sleep and focus. Some small change should be there too (which you will leave at a crossroads after you’re done with this experiment).

You also need a pillow, to put under your pillow (it can be as small as a sachet). Frankly, any little muslin bag will do. Fill it with moss, wormwood or mugwort, and yarrow. Add in a pinch of lavender, rosemary, and thyme. “You have the camphor oil from the candle; put in a drop, along with some frankincense and/or jasmine.”
Light the candle, focus on whatever image of Hermes you have, inhale deeply, and ask for safe transit. If you have a specific request, make it. Do remember to have a pad and paper handy to write down what you are told, what you see, dreams fade so quickly. And remember, vote blue, no matter what.