Electric Dreams

Dreams, Death and Diana: Lessons in Personal and Collective Healing

Maureen Roberts 

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Roberts, Maureen (1997 September). Dreams, Death and Diana: Lessons in Personal and Collective Healing. Electric Dreams 4(9). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  

Like many others, I have been drawn deeply and with powerful emotion into the tragedy of Diana's death. On the night I heard about it (Sunday), I felt an overwhelming desire to be of some help to her. The same night, I was devastated after falling asleep - I ended up spending the entire night with Diana in a long and complex dream ritual. I cannot do justice in words to the powerful feelings and images in this dream; they were complex, reassuring, and distressing, yet overall, something very positive was, I feel, achieved.

Throughout this long dreaming, I was very close to Diana and was helping wash blood off of her (into a large bath); I remember watching it swirl clockwise around and down the plug-hole while at the same time we were talking in detail about the irreversibility of what had happened, and the reality of the here and now; she found it hard to accept that she could not yet leave the place where we were, or that she was in fact dead; she was not overly distressed, more like puzzled, tired, and regretful but the main focus of the dream was on her healing (of soul and body) and on my offer (not in words, but simply as something that happened) to take on myself her woundedness. There was no particular point at which this happened, but suddenly I began to feel physically badly hurt, weak, and aching, as if I were recovering from a recent and devastatingly major operation. I looked down the front of my body, which was badly bruised from the upper chest area, and a huge, healing scar was running down my body. The scar was like a long clean scalpel cut - a thin line that was already closed up. I felt a kind of joy and wonderment at this, partly, I think, because (in a relieved fashion) I'd taken on the woundedness in a kind of recovery mode, without having endured the preliminary shock and horror of its cause. I recall that this process - helping Diana wash herself free of blood, talking through what was now real, and feeling wounded - was enacted over and again in different ways several times, until there was an acceptance by her of death, after which I was free to leave her in peace.

I can't describe the kind of closeness this all involved; it wasn't what you'd call friendship, or sisterliness, or motherliness; it was (for want of better words) an indefinable sense of oneness, sorrow, patience, and compassion. For the next couple of days, I felt continual grief and profound emotion, and could not concentrate on any work, but I also felt glad and immensely gratified (on her behalf) that I'd been able to help out. Quite frankly, I'm still somewhat awed and stunned by this dream - just as I was for weeks after I'd visited the Sun and helped heal Him. I'll also add that the place in which I spent time with her seemed like a sort of neutral ground; it was quiet and supremely functional - there were baths, pathways, and towels there, sort of like an ancient Greek garden, but with no sense of heaven; just a low-key, peaceful place for getting done what had to be done immediately there and then. It wasn't like any other place I've encountered in shamanic journeying, but featured lots of off-white stoneware and buildings, and other folk wandering about, absorbed in other business. The dream was also more feeling-dominated than visual, but the sense of personal reality was overwhelming and deeply moving."

Homage to and meditations on Diana as myth . . .
One of the phrases that has become attached to Diana is "Queen of Hearts"; it seems that folk prefer to see her now as a Queen, a mature version of the Princess who has turned her suffering into compassion for humanity. In my Arthurian Tarot pack, the Queen of Hearts is the Grail Queen, who is described as follows (this sounds exactly like Diana):

"She is intuitive and sympathetic, her compassionate nature embraces all; she imparts the gifts of love to all who encounter her; her depth of emotion marks her as the upholder of the Grail."

The image is of her standing before a rough-hewn doorway in a cliff wall, behind which can be seen the ocean. In her hands she holds a bowl out of which five streams of red wine, the colour of blood, are flowing. It would seem, on reflection, that the old Arthurian myth of the Grail King, who is wounded because of the illness of the land, is being superseded by a Grail Queen myth, personified as Diana. For whereas the Grail King retreats to his Castle in his wounded state, the Grail Queen does not, but instead transforms her pain into the healing of others.

As I noted to jung-psyc, reflecting on my dream of Sunday, I am moved by two key images: the blood spiraling clockwise into the bath, and my own woundedness. The first image resonates with the alchemical bath of transformation and with a Medieval alchemy picture I have of Christ sitting in the round bath of life, flanked on either side by the alchemical King and Queen, and the Sun and Moon, and pierced through the side with a spear. --- From the wound, blood pours into the bath, while from the upper right corner, from a wine press, wine flows into the bath. I am reminded here of Jung's comments late in life about death, when he suggested that it was a mysterium con iunctionis, a marriage, or union through which the soul finally regains its lost wholeness. The alchemical union of red and white (King and Queen) and the circulatio appear in the dream in the guise of the spiraling blood in the white bath. As for the myth that is emerging, my feeling is that it's too early to fully appreciate that yet, but this tragedy has touched many on the level which only an archetypal drama can, and a myth of simultaneous wounding and healing will assuredly emerge. Perhaps it is not King Arthur who will return, but more that the Grail Queen will heal the wounded land. But for that to happen, we must still answer the question, "Whom does the Grail serve"?"

"I guess the point is that we must all answer this question in our own way, and from our hearts rather than from our heads, since the Grail suite (e.g. in the Arthurian deck) is the one most attuned to the heart's pain and wisdom. As Yeats said, "No symbol tells all its meaning to any generation," hence the meaning of the Grail is inexhaustible; but in each age, its message is one of wounding and healing, and union with the divine. The Grail has before now served the Wounded King - and now it serves the wounded Queen of Hearts, inasmuch as she is also each of us."

"I feel this dream was collective as well as personal; we have all felt wounded in our Eros side (the heart region) by Diana's death, so the wound I received was both mediatory (myself as Wounded Healer) and representative of what we're all feeling. (I am a practicing shaman and in the dream was, from this perspective, being called upon, as shamans often are, to help a suffering and bewildered soul come to terms with death). Certainly we need to keep talking about this shattering event if we are to avoid letting it subside, unresolved, back into the unconscious. If we do the latter, someone else may be fated to live the same destiny as Diana, until we understand that we all can and must become "com-passionate" wounded healers. The myth must now be made the conscious responsibility of each of us toward a suffering world."

"I think one of the key statements in Earl Spencer's address was that there's no need for us to canonize Diana, because she stands tall enough as a human being. If we make a saint of her, then we are admitting our inability to embody what she did: simple compassion for suffering humanity. Elizabeth, because she symbolizes the opposing cold detachment of patriarchy and the inflexibility of the senex archetype, is not someone we can readily share our frail humanity and deepest feelings with, whereas Diana felt like a friend and mutually fragile human to us all. (Interestingly, the patriarchy of the Royals is dominated by the Capricornian senex archetype; its opposite pole, the Puer, is characterized by its childlike vulnerability and idealism. The opposite to Capricorn /Saturn/senex is also Cancer, sign of the Mother. Needless to say - oh, how the myths multiply! - Diana was a Cancer Sun, hence extremely maternal). Like Diana, the Queen, too, is playing an inescapable archetypal role (the stern senex), but what our age needs now is its opposite, the Eros of Puer vulnerability, and the horizontal axis of soul and 'Soul-making'."

"I think Diana started out as a fairytale Princess - the frail Maiden who idealistically captures the Prince. But once this innocence and ideal was shattered, she became a tragically mythic figure and mature woman. Her triumph is that she turned her vulnerability, as victim, into strength and compassion, as heroine. (Marilyn M, for whom Elton's song was originally written, never got past this victim/anima projection/tragic Venus stage). Diana, on the other hand, rescued herself from her pain and transcended it through serving humanity; so can we."

"Shamans are often called upon to lead or escort the dead, or to help them cross over to the afterlife. This is a great responsibility and privilege, and it can cost dearly. A few nights after the Grail Queen dream, I had a quite wonderful dream of Diana in which she was taking on a new role - teaching dancing. It was as if she'd at last found the chance to do what she'd always wanted to and she was trying out some new steps and showing them to me. We were in a kind of low-key holiday resort, something like a place in New Zealand, along with some other folk, and it was she who was offering to teach me."

Maureen Roberts, PhD
(Jungian Therapist & Shaman)

Editor's Note:. It is interesting that Actaeon is one of the Diana cycle myths. Here is a guy who went off the path, experienced something special and was torn to shreds by his own dogs, unrecognized by his own friends. I keep thinking about how Diana the princess saw or was so special, went off the Royal path, was no longer recognized (as a commoner, nor as unapproachable royalty) by her "dogs" or common companions and eventually torn to shreds by them. - Richard