Dream Archaeology is the waking-life investigation of images that surface while we sleep, or that unfold as we make our way through a dream (shamanic) journey. Dream Archaeology can help us validate our dreams and reveal the depths of our connection to Spirit, our Self, the past, and the present—and maybe even the future.
Years ago, I questioned my friend and colleague Jeremy Taylor about his commitment to recording all of his dreams. My dream life was prolific, resulting in four or five dreams a night. The amount of time required to record so many dreams was too much, I argued. Besides, I wasn’t sure that it was worth the effort.
Jeremy wisely assured me that I was being delivered bricks of gold on a nightly basis, and I was in effect saying, “No thanks!” How true this proved to be.
Recently I rediscovered the importance of my journals after returning from a workshop called “Reclaiming the Ancient Dreamways,” led by Robert Moss (author of Dreamways of the Iroquois.) While at this workshop I stumbled upon a thread of dreams and coincidences that had been leading me, over a period of 15 years, to connect with my colonial ancestors as well as with their American Indian counterparts.
During the week I did a waking dream (shamanic) journey to the land of the departed, where I was greeted by my ancestor Jonathan Padelford (1628-1669) and Meeshkawa (or Mishquois), a Mohawk or Wampanoag Indian. The two men anxiously pleaded for my assistance. They asked me to help heal their people by reclaiming the ancient ways and honoring my ancestral lineage. Their plea and desperation brought me to tears, and I vowed to do my best to honor their request.
Then I returned home from the workshop, I started to research my ancestors and their connection to the American Indians in the early 1600s. As I followed the threads of every lead I could imagine, an old dream memory surfaced. The title of the dream was “Thanksgiving Day Massacre.”
I had no recollection of when I started keeping a dream journal, so I thought perhaps the dream might have slipped into one of the years when I was not as intent on recording my dreams. The dream, as it turns out, was recorded on September 6, 1991 in my first journal devoted exclusively to dreams. This was the second dream recorded.
Thanksgiving Day Massacre
In the dream, I am on a boat with a swing stage. White men are shooting Indians who wear red face and body paint. Dead Indian bodies are lying everywhere on shore. From the boat I yell in distress, “What are you doing? Indians are people just like you!”
In the next scene it is Thanksgiving. The Indians are now dressed like the white people, but when it comes time to eat, they are sent to a basement that is dank and gloomy. I go to the basement with them. We share a meal together while the rest of the white people remain upstairs.
In the last scene, it is a year later and Thanksgiving again. The Indians are sent to the basement, but this time it is re-finished and warm with carpeting and furniture. I stay with them again and try to reassure them that it will get progressively better. “Next year we will have a table,” I say.
I have a future vision that has not come to pass. I see everyone eating together at the same table. I hold the vision and know that I am instrumental in helping it come true.
This dream entry helped anchor the “dream archaeology” I was conducting. My journals provided enough information to help me discover that, like the Indians in my dream, the Wampanoag were known to early settlers as the “red men” because they painted their faces and bodies with a red pigment. The Wampanoag lived near my colonial ancestors in Massachusetts. After conducting more research, I now know that the two communities came into contact with one another during the devastating King Philip’s war that nearly wiped out all Wampanoag Native Peoples.
The dream image of a boat with a swing stage is highly significant to me because my grandfather, a direct descendent of Jonathan Padelford, founded a paddlewheel boat business in 1969. His first boat, complete with swing stage, was named Jonathan Padelford.
A more literal interpretation of my dream tells me that the people of Jonathan Padelford were fighting with the Native Peoples who painted their bodies red, and that Thanksgiving was an integral part of the relationship between the two people. The Wampanoag are known historically, not only for their role in the King Philip’s War, but also for their generosity in helping the Pilgrims survive the harsh New England winters. Together, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag shared the harvest festival, a festival that eventually turned into the American Thanksgiving tradition.
My dream also tells me that I may have a role in acting as bridge between the two peoples and their ideologies. Coincidentally, my last name means ‘bridge-tender’.
At the time, I didn’t know what to think of my dream. Although it took me fifteen years to understand the significance, it planted a seed in me that sprouted and has been growing ever since.
Thoughts of “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” lingered in my mind. The dream images haunted me, begging for attention.
In retrospect, 1991 was a big year for me. Today, as I page through my dream journals, I realize that they are archaeological gems.