The dreams were waking me up at night. Black widows inside my home. Black widows all over the ceiling. Black widows building webs closer and closer to me. No way out. I am not particularly afraid of spiders, although I am cautious of black widows, having grown up in an old 1930s home. I tried to reason out why I was having these nightmares. I read about black widow symbolism. I questioned my relationship to spider, web and venom. For two weeks my nights were filled with the dark ladies. Then, one morning, after other terrifying infestation dream, I opened my eyes and said aloud “It’s my bees. There is a black widow inside my hive.”
It was my first year keeping bees, and at the time I did not know how common it was to find black widows and other eight-legged in or near a hive. It makes sense: honeybees must be a real juicy meal. I told the bees I’m coming, and dawned my gloves and veil. Sure enough, she had taken residence in the back of the hive, fat and deadly. The bees couldn’t expand their nest, and they were living with a predator. The bees had let me know what was going on, and I finally got the message. I was dreaming with bees.
This was my first experience of consciously experiencing communication from the natural world through dreams. In an age where talk therapy is our chief modality for addressing emotional and mental states of unrest, dreams become entirely self-centered. We defer to the modern day agreement, that dreams are our subconscious at best and the detritus of our day at worst. Don’t get me wrong, I love and have benefited from talk therapy and the psychoanalysis of dreams. I think both have a very useful and important place. I would agree that many dreams are the product of our subconscious knocking about. But what if it’s not always our subconscious claiming a seat at the table? What if Fox is knocking at the door with a wink and a swish of his tail? What if Raven is keeping a steady eye on your dreamscape, daring you to ask her a question? What if your ancestors, in their moon-white bones, are clattering around the house rearranging the furniture? To get to the point, what if we are not just dreaming “of”, but dreaming “with”?
I have dreamt with my bees since this first visit. Sometimes they heal me. Sometimes they cover me with honey. Sometimes with sting. Sometimes they share things that are about me, and sometimes they are about the bees. I had a hive visit my dreams and inform me of it’s passing shortly before it died. I had another black widow dream and once again, went looking and found the same. Even disregarding my personal relationship to bees, is it so much to imagine that the wild might be reaching in to touch us? From a shamanic perspective, dreams are a way to work directly with the spirit world. What would the spirit world be without the language of the wild? Nature is our interface with Spirit. It is the color palate and Spirit is the hand the moves the brush.
When we invite the pad-footed spirit of the wild into our dreams we are asking to be worked. As mythologist Martin Shaw says, we are being dreamt. In my Dreaming with Bees course, I make it clear that we are not seeking to dream of bees. I am asking students to invite the bees into their dreams. To dream with the bees. Whether you dream of bees or not is a mute point. It is about the courtship with a nature ally, with a spirit and with a fellow living creature. The living earth is dreaming her way into being, and we are dreaming with her. If only we could break free of the ecological nightmare we’ve created and remember our body is her body.
People ask me all the time, what does dreaming have to do with beekeeping? Why do you teach beekeeping and dreaming classes? The answer is this: whether we know it or not, when we set up a hive in our garden, become a player in it’s story, and share in it’s vital resources, we are seeking kinship. Some conscious or not-so-conscious part of us is reaching out to a species that has been an enigmatic friend to mankind since prehistoric times. A species that has never and will never be fully tamed. A guardian at the gate to the wild. An emissary between the worlds. To know this creature, we have to do everything we can to break away from conventional beekeeping practices and the man-conquers-nature/woman mindset. To do this, we must find the crooked, forgotten paths deep in the woods. The ones that twist out of sight and have no guaranteed destination. These are the paths of our animal memory. Our ancestral memory. Our indigenous selves. The observer. The shaman. The Seer. The Dreamer. The Wise Woman. The other ways of knowing. The ways that speak in pine groves, antlered visitors, ocher and sun on bare skin. We dream with bees, because we are dreaming ourselves back home.
Dreaming with Bees Summer Session Tele-conference course begins Monday August 7, from 5-7pm PST