There are a variety of tools on the market that you can use to reveal the
hidden side of things, but the ones I've found most useful for dream inquiry
are I Ching, the Rider-Waite Tarot and Star+Gate.
The best beginner's tool is the Star+Gate card deck, by Richard H. Geer
(Orinda, CA: Star+Gate Enterprises, 1984). The images are simple and easy to
comprehend, plus there are helpful hints for interpretation on the reverse
of each card. For instance, a picture of "The Stone" is backed by the words
"Steadfastness" and "Integrity."
Even though they are more popular, I don't recommend Tarot cards for the
first time explorer. The images are so complex, that when you begin to work
with them, you must lean heavily upon someone else to interpret the cards
for you. To read the Rider-Waite deck, I use A Feminist Tarot by Sally
Gearhart and Susan Rennie (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1981). It's a
well-worn book that I've supplemented with plenty of my own notation so that
I never depend on it entirely. I treat it as a source of inspiration, not a
There's also plenty of room to write notes in R. L. Wing's The I Ching
Workbook (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979). In fact, Wing encourages it.
The more you work with each tool, and compare written notes accumulated over
time, the more you come to understand your own unique dream language.
"What did soaring mean in my dream?" I wondered, throwing 3 pennies and
recording whether they fell as heads or tails. I was consulting the I Ching
to ask about my first high flying dream. The results formed the hexagram
"Repair." Following the instructions, I changed the hexagram to "Potential
My dream had been a joyful flight, with the colors of the blue sky, green
fields and pink buildings below bright and clear. Acting in the traditional
Super Hero role, I had flown a young boy to a hospital. As a high flyer, I
was an agent of change and repair. According to the I Ching, the emphasis
was on the potential energy of flying being rising from a healing pursuit.
High flying is healthy, it seemed to say.
"Why couldn't I attain greater height?" I asked the workbook a year later,
about a dream in which I was slow and low to the ground.
The I Ching advised, "It is best now to develop a continuous caution and
inner strength...Through intense awareness you gain in security and need not
fear difficulties." I read this as a call to develop lucid dreaming in order
to overcome the drag in dream flight. I heeded that advice.
I switched to Star+Gate when I had a dream about a group of people in a
stadium. I had the feeling that I had to support them; they couldn't fly on
their own. I grabbed a couple of men by the buttocks and flew them over to
the stands where the audience burst into applause. Evidently the dream was a
pun. The Star+Gate cards said the issue for me was the "condition of resting
on one's laurels; being afraid to go forward." The resolution or new focus
was being "courageous and adventurous."
I don't limit my inquires to regular picture dreams. Once I asked about a
phrase that I'd heard a voice say in the hypnogogic state. The Star+Gate
suggested that my new focus was "redirecting energy to bring change" and
"the challenge of decision making." The energy of change, I'd known from
previous dreams, but the emphasis on decision making was new.
Later that year, I had a dream in which I climbed a wire mesh fence, but in
such an agile manner that I actually levitated a couple of inches above each
foothold. As I laid out the Star+Gate cards in the manner that had been
recommended, I wrote down each of their meanings. Finally, I found myself
writing "Reach a conclusion, then follow it until you form a new conclusion.
Follow the trail. Trust your instinct as to which path to choose." Then I
sketched this "trail" of suggestions. The path on the paper looked just like
a decision matrix! So I figured the dream was saying, that reaching
decisions helps me climb the path to greater and greater heights, whereas
letting go of worries and concerns means I can levitate. Note that the path
of decision making is the path of free will choices, not a fated card
Because I wrote down my responses and put them in a binder, I could discover
such recurring themes. Change and decision making, skill building and repair
were common associations with the symbol of flight.
Getting airborne is never guaranteed, no matter how long I've been flying in
my dreams. Try as I might, there are times when I experience lulls and lack
of lift. I want to know why: to find out what's deterring me and seek
suggestions for release.
For this inquiry, I selected 4 Tarot cards to represent reasons why I
couldn't fly. Then I selected 4 more cards to resolve the issues at hand.
Symbolically, the number "4" refers to the 4 elements or 4 directions.
Practically speaking, I wanted a balance view of the situation. For me,
flying is about keeping the balance between seeming polarities. It's a sort
of mental discipline, a kind of "dream air-obics."
The Issues (and elements)
||Page of Wands, reversed (Air)
||Lack of verbal power. Frustration at having important ideas, but being
unable to articulate them.
||6 of Pentacles, reversed (Earth)
||Lack of cultural support, having to beg to be nurtured. No ready audience
for my verbal or written expression. Lack of encouragement from the dream
||9 of Swords (Water)
||Nightmares, fear and doubt. Recurring depression and angst clouding the fair
skies needed for clear take-off and easy navigation.
||Knight of Swords (Fire)
||Fierce heroic action without staying power. My fatigue factor: running out
of energy before the end of the day, a chronic problem.
The Resolutions (and eventual actions)
||9 of Pentacles
||Solitary creativity in a safe universe. Concentrating on personal expression
in my own backyard. (I directed focus away from presenting at conferences
and towards creating a web site for flying dreams.)
||Overthrowing false consciousness. (I've been using cognitive therapy to
change beliefs that hinder or are no longer appropriate for my current life.)
||Ace of Wands
||The beginning of adventure. Giving up the passive feminine in favor of the
active female. Treating the subject as a hero's journey. (After seeking
models in old myths, I returned to science fiction and comic books. The idea
of an active flying female is extremely rare, in historical terms. It's a
future-forward perspective of human potential.)
||7 of Wands
||Taking a stand. Victory through sustained effort. (The struggle for balance
in my dream life doesn't end, but I manage to get the upper hand by
developing better control of negative forces.)
Tarot and Star+Gate
At another time when I was feeling especially discouraged, I wondered why I
should bother expending so much effort trying to fly. What was my motivation
for continuing the struggle? I went to both the Tarot and to the Star+Gate
cards for answers.
From the Tarot deck I selected only one card. This time, it wasn't a game
of chance. I turned the cards over so I could see the pictures. Then
shuffled through them until I came upon an image that seemed to speak to the
issue. This practice shifts the focus of inquiry from happenstance to
directed will power. It's an affirmation of the opportunities for decision
Then I went to the Star+Gate to select a card for comparison.
- Creative will power. (Quite appropriate for this sort of approach.)
- A synthesis of polarities. Bringing the inside out and the outside in. (Reciprocal energy flow. I help the dream; the dream helps me.)
- The connectiveness of the 4 elements. (Achieving balance in waking and sleeping life.)
- Advocate for the future. (The real fruits may lie ahead.)
The Token (The overall issue. A repeat of the theme of reciprocity: I get a gift; I give a gift.)
Since the single Star+Gate card had brought my attention back to the 4
elements, I decided to look at the gifts of flight from all of those
perspectives. I selected 2 cards each.
||The Candle and The Butterfly. (Enlightened fascination and the birth of new
consciousness. Flying dreams are often peak experiences in and of
||The Child and The Star of Laugh. (Discovering new potentials, inner
attributes and externalizing them. Especial emphasis on humor and play.
Unlike many other dreams topics, flying dreams are usually fun and upbeat, a
decided advantage while sleeping and upon awakening.)
||The Mud and The Harp. (Creative products and ideas plus musical harmony.
Flying dreams have provided inspiration for my creative dream journals and
picture collages. I sometimes use music to incubate flying dreams and, even
if I don't fly, I might get musical dreams, which are also quite uplifting.)
||The Eye and The Star of Discovery. (Seeing and exploring, like Alice in
Wonderland. A reminder that flying dreams often lead to lucidity. But even
if they don't, my dreaming self is far more active and superheroic in her
magical world, when she knows she can fly.)
Seen together, I was reminded that flying is very beneficial, from a number
of points of view!
The Dream's Opinion of Inquiry Tools
One night, after playing with the Tarot deck, I had a dream in which I was
flying above a valley. I knew the people below could see me and thought that
they might think I was some kind of witch. Tree branches began to appear,
suspended in the sky. They were barren except for a few leaves each. I
grabbed a couple of the branches and extended both hands so it would appear
to those below that I was using the branches as wings. But I knew I could
really fly without them.
I've discovered that it's important to check your dreams to find out when to
stop using a particular method. I recognized the tree branches as the suit
of Wands: straight, staff-like branches with just a few leaves each. The
dream was telling me that, yes, I could use the Tarot deck as a technique to
interpret dreams, but I really didn't need it.
Do you know the best method to interpret your dreams? Your dreams! Who else
knows what they really mean? So I suggest that if you think you understand,
ask for another dream to comment on your waking state conclusion. You might
be surprised to know what your dreaming self has to say. Inquiry tools can
be great fun. But, in the end, the dream comes first.