When we enter into a dance with the unconscious, our primal instincts awaken. In dream, these deeper aspects of our essence come to us in the form of archetypes. The archetypal energy carried by wild animals in dreams, shamanic journeys, and other forms of vision work carry specific knowledge designed to bring us back into relationship with the primalcy lost to our worldly outer life. This call of the wild speaks our longing to return to the simple truth of the soul and our wild heart selves. When we turn our attention away from the world and dance inward, we often find that we are not who we think we are, that we are not the stories we believe about ourselves.
I work with dreams. When beasts of the wild come in dream, they often come for me, not always a gentle process. These creatures open us to the visceral experience of fear, potency, passion. For instance, if you want to know your own sensuality, passion, or potency, come back into relationship with Snake, Horse, Tiger. Embrace the Wild Bull, Mother Bear, and Honey Bee. Let Snake inject its venom into you to kill that which is not your true Self. Toss the mane of your wild hearted Horse-Being. Accept the sting of the Honey Bee. Find your vision through the eyes of Hawk and Wolf. Feel the vulnerability of your tender Deer heart, your Ruby Throated Hummingbird soul. Follow the White Rabbit.
Dreams always lead us back to wholeness. I began painting as part of my work with dreams — a cathartic, exciting, and terrifying pursuit. And it brought me into the first real contemplative place in my adult life: a place where I slowed down, spent time with myself, felt the joy of creation.
Africanized Honey Bee
9 x 12 • oil on canvas board | From dream: I open a barn door and I see Africanized honey bees — also know colloquially as “killer bees” — looping around. Then I feel something tickle me under the pant leg. When I reach down, I am stung on the leg. I feel fear because I know the venom is very strong. In my work, venom from a bee acts as an alchemizing agent to “kill” something in me, which is about a dying to self around a particular issue.
8 x 10 • oil on canvas | Bear has come to me many times. In dream, she often evokes fear, a necessary agent for alchemy. For me, she carries the grounded energy of Mother Earth as she hugs me in her arms. Once I encountered a pie-bald bear who led me into the primordial forest.
16 x 20 • oil on canvas | Dream: I am with V in a field, standing under a pole structure, and an animal comes that V considers her spirit animal, the deer. I agree, but then I see the animal as a young wild bull, maybe a yearling, beautiful with short horns. Pale in color with a white coat that looks ashen, he turns and looks at me. I feel no threat, yet I feel afraid that if he comes into the small, enclosed pole structure he might hurt me.
Of course, this potency and innocent wild energy of the young bull represents something special being born in me. The fear felt in this dream suggests my fear of the young white bull in me.
The animal spirit that comes in dream often expresses something that we fear, that we believe will harm us, sometimes an unresolved trauma. For instance, letting the bull out may hurt us because at some time, perhaps, we were hurt in our potency, vulnerability, or passion.
11 x 14 • oil on canvas board | This painting arose from two dreams. One, where I run through a field with a young horse, affords a feeling of expansive joy, freedom, and energy in my body. Another, where I stand at the mouth of a cave with an Animus figure, afford fear and excitement: inside this sacred cave, an initiatory space in the form of an inipi (a Lakota sweat lodge), with no covering and a framework of young saplings, stands in an orange glow from a fire. This image inspired a series of such “cave” paintings.
Severing the Cord
16 x 20 • oil on canvas board | Another experience with Horse. This time, in dream the horse occupied a dark stall, trying to free herself by tearing at an umbilical cord. This image carried all of the energy and passion locked up in me relating to my attachments to a story about my true because of events in my past. These dreams have taught me that I am not the past — what happened to me or what I did to survive — but something more. Beyond voices that want us to keep our passion hidden in a stall calls a truer voice, that of the soul that longs to be set free.
18 x 24 • oil on canvas | An early painting of Snake energy rising. Snake has come to me many times in dream. This ancient symbol, one of the most primal creatures, carries meaning in most cultures. Notwithstanding recent demonization of Snake in Judeo-Christian mythologies (as in the story of Eden), Snake connotes transformation and change. Snake coiled at the base of the spine and awakening to rise through the chakras, opening them as it passes through, represents the rise of kundalini energy. For instance, while Snake often evokes fear it yet holds a place deep in the collective human psyche as the purveyor of awareness and knowledge, as well as of sensuality and feeling.
11 x 14 • oil on canvas | In dream, I hold the tether to this Bull who, even though he is powerful and enormous, can’t pull me off my feet. The bull represents libido, passion, potency, which energy I keep tethered, afraid of what might happen when it’s let loose. This fear relates to — is tethered to — old trauma. During this same period, I dreamt myself as a young boy who had been sodomized. The link between the two dreams shows how, through trauma, I had learned to keep my wild bull self tethered, which control brought me much pleasure. A huge part of any inner journey entails discovering and bringing to light all of the causes and conditions that block us from our higher Self. If I let go of the tether, the fight for control ends and the bull can step toward me. Thus, I can become relational with the bull and accept its energy. Our wild bull self never wants to be tethered.
16 x 20 • oil on canvas | Moose has also come to me several times in dream. Once, a Mother Moose came to my window with her two twin nursing calves. Another time, Father Moose came to the door of a log cabin I sat within — he dropped his head and chuffed at me in a demonstration of his power, and of his awareness of me.
Rising from the Depths
11 x 14 • oil on canvas | In dream, I flew through the air and landed in the ocean, where I slowly sank beneath the waves in the skydiving position, then suddenly became aware of a creature rising up towards my solar plexus. I felt terrified.
Girl with Whale
18 x 24 • oil on canvas | Another dream of being in the ocean and feeling a creature rise up from beneath me to bump me. The leviathans of the deep represent the ancient consciousness that exists in the vastness of the unconscious and rises from the depths to breech the surface into our waking life so the song of the whale might live in us again.
11 x 14 • oil on canvas | Black wolf, long and lean, came to me in the snow fields of a dream where I was driving in my car through a mountain pass. He leapt at my windshield, and stalked along side my car, with others of his pack. In dream, my car often represents my independence, and my need for control. Wolf wants me to get out of my safe zone and run with the pack.
Woman with Butterflies
16 x 20 • oil on canvas | In dream, standing on the shore of an ocean, I see a small swarm of butterflies flitting over the water, their movements erratic yet synchronized like a flock of small birds. Then they fly right at me, and move all around me and in me. Caught in their vortex, I feel buffeted as if by a wind, my arms flung outward. Two of the butterflies enter my mouth and dissolve there. Then I think they’re really not butterflies but flies, and I become frightened and, expect them to taste bitter, want them out of my mouth. Yet, already dissolved, they don’t taste bad at all but actually sweet like nectar.
We must give ourselves over to the sweet nectar of the gods. Chaos rests within order, and order moves within chaos. Our dreams lift us off balance, and we must surrender.
Laura M. Smith • Biography
ARTIST’S STATEMENT | I began painting in 2011 as part of an on-going dialogue with my dreams, and with the support of a dreamwork practitioner helping me move through some intense trauma work. Prior to this, I had no experience with this type of creativity. Dream has become my muse, carrying the full breadth of my felt experience: pain, love, grief, joy, anger, and fear. I work mainly with oil paints, often completing each piece in one sitting. The images are specific and representational of a moment from dream. Through this active and colorful exploration of dream, I seek to express my deepest Self, and to engage the felt experience of viewers and bring them into dream with me.
Laura is an Archetypal Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients nationally and internationally. She lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with her partner of 17 years raising heritage breed livestock on their 78-acre farm. When she’s not wrangling sheep, you can find her painting or writing in her studio, connecting to the healing energy of the earth, or engaged in laughter and general mayhem with her friends and family on various parts of the globe. Her artwork has been featured at venues in the Burlington, VT, area and has been published in deLuge (2011, 2012), in Collective Magazine (2014), in Still Point Arts Quarterly (2014), and in ARAS, The Poetry Portal (2014). Visit her website to find out more about working with your dreams at www.archetypaldreamworks.com. Attend to your dreams; consort with them!