15 July 2013

Of Councils And Unicorns

Snow Skadi, Gold Unicorn
“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

When I was a child, I was obsessed with unicorns. By “child,” what I really mean is “from toddler years up through time now,” and by “obsessed,” well, I mean that unicorns have remained an ongoing fascination with greater and lesser periods of intensity. Watching Rainbow Brite was my introduction to magical, horned horses, and my fascination culminated with a compilation of literary works devoted to the unicorn for a middle school literature class. I remember being about 12 or 13 and traipsing around the woods behind my house with my best friend Amphitrite, searching for traces of them. We followed hoof prints that likely belonged to deer, and we collected twisted pieces of wood that we called shards of alicorn. We glimpsed shadows in the distance and raced after them, wandering and wondering in equal parts. We’d stay out until the darkness finally chased us home, where we would drink tea and giggle over our secret adventures in the forest. We never found any unicorns, but the magic was there. The magic is always there in childhood escapades.

Then came high school, and my priorities shifted: cross country, homework, papers and projects, boys, college. I still secretly read stories about unicorns and wrote them as characters into my own, and I still would go for hikes whenever the notion struck me, but I was not searching for unicorns anymore. I was searching for something equally elusive and magical: myself. Then came college, and after that work, and now I am left wondering what my original point was.

Ah, yes. Unicorns. Recently I dreamt a dream about a unicorn and the consequences of its presence. It was the first dream in quite some time that I remembered upon waking, so I spent several weeks chewing on its potential meaning. The dream and its interpretation follow below:

I was in a rich, dense forest wearing its late-summer emerald green. I was standing with a group of faceless friends about 100m from a mist-enshrouded lake. There was a wide, pine-needle coated path leading down to the lake’s edge, where an old, crumbling dock extended over the water. Suddenly I saw movement, and my friends urged me to go down to the water to see what it was. I approached slowly, and out of the mist stepped a tall, slender horse with a honey-brown coat and a golden mane and tail. A pale, latticed and spiraled bone horn protruded from its forehead, and I recognized it as a unicorn. I felt my breath catch in my throat, and I was afraid to go any closer lest I scare it away.

The unicorn looked directly at me, lowering its head, and so I called out softly, “Hello?” Then it nodded to me, and I returned to my slow, cautious approach, holding my empty hands out in front of me. As I got closer, I could hear the unicorn’s voice in my head, greeting me, although I did not see his mouth move. Eventually I was close enough to put my hand on his neck, which I did. He was warm and smelled like earth and lake. He told me his name, and I told him mine, and we talked quietly for what felt like hours in dream-time. Then I asked him if I could take a picture with him to show my mom, and he said yes, so I pulled out my phone and took a selfie with a unicorn (probably one of the more random details, but hey, even in my dreams apparently I wield a smart phone). Then he told me that he had to go, and he turned and faded back into the mist on the lake.

The next thing I remember, I was in a coffee shop, and a faceless man in a suit and tie approached me. He told me that I was summoned to testify and present evidence at a military council concerning the existence of unicorns. I asked him why, and he said the government found out about my photo, and that I had no choice but to give it up to the Army. He left, and I immediately tried to call my mom and Amphitrite, but in my dream neither answered their phones.

Then I was waiting in a paneled room, sitting alone on a wooden bench. I was wearing my military dress uniform, and I waited for what felt like forever, feeling very anxious. Eventually a door opened, and an older man with a kindly face entered. He was also wearing a dress uniform, and I saw that he was a Lieutenant Colonel. He stopped in front of me and told me it was time, so I stood and followed him through the door into a much larger, open chamber spread out like a giant courtroom with benches and pews and a council of gray-haired, uniformed men at the very front. The officer walked me to the front of the room, which was filled with military personnel and government officials. I was terrified, but I was determined not to let my nervousness show. I also remember being painfully aware of the fact that not only was I the lowest-ranking person in the room, but that I was also the only female.

Then, before I ever reached the podium, I woke up. That was it. No conclusion, no resolution, just me walking through a room full of critical eyes, unsure if I was going to prove that unicorns existed or protect their existence by saying nothing. My feeling, upon waking, can only be described as unsettled.

I have talked to several people about this dream, to include my fiancé Orion, my mother, my brother, and of course Amphitrite (who remains one of the best dream-interpreters I know). If you try to look up unicorn appearance in dream interpretation resources, you’re going to find a different meaning in every single source. In Chinese folklore dreaming about a unicorn was a mixed symbol, representing the imminent arrival or death of a loved one (or, in some cases, an important political figure). While remembering this tidbit of information from one of my research-heavy periods of fascination, I was particularly nervous about my fiance’s deployment; however, the unicorn from my dream was decidedly Western in appearance (despite being brown and gold instead of the more stereotypical white), as opposed to the Asian styled dragon-deer-horse-ox creature combo. Thus, that fear was at least temporarily quieted. In Western folklore the unicorn is far more often a symbol of purity and magic and innocence, not a harbinger of death.

Dreams are tricksy creatures. They come into our brains at night, amusing and scaring and confusing us while we sleep; but the tricksiest dreams are the ones that linger, that paw at the edges of our waking psyche, wanting to be revisited and reborn. This was the first time I have ever, in my many years of persistent fascination, actually dreamt of a unicorn. My dreams frequently take me into summer woods and post-apocalyptic cities; I’ve walked through the mouth of a sun-god; I’ve been a superhero, fought demons with magic and zombies with swords, and chased giant spotted ants through a fire. But prior to that night several weeks ago, I have never dreamt of a unicorn. So I’m wondering why. Why now, why after 24+ years, after a lull of not thinking about unicorns at all, do I finally see one in my dreams?

I think I saw one because I needed to. Magic and mystery were missing from my life—I have been as remiss in my magical practice as I have been in my blogging—with all my energy being channeled into work, which in the case of the dream was represented by the government wanting to take the one magical thing left in my life (the photograph of myself and the unicorn) and turn it to their own benefit. I didn’t want to share the photograph; I wanted to keep it to myself, to hold onto the memory of the magic.

So that’s what I’m trying to do, remember the magic.

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