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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, December 01, 2005

hermaphrodite dream

A night of dreams. Here is one I remember from shortly before I woke at around 4:45:

I'm with Kimmie. We're at an exhibition or a theme park. The particular locale seems to be a kind of football or soccer field. It has historical and maybe archaeological exhibits on it, like ruined portions of buildings. I see that off to one side of the field are the great stones of Stonehenge. I'm surprised to see these here, since we’re in Israel; why would Israel have the stones of Stonehenge? It might be incongruous, but I feel awe. Don't others feel how special they are?

K and I go into an annex at the side of the field, a kind of trailer for museum exhibits (more like a ferry-terminal waiting area). A few tourists are trailing out, having seen the last screening of the film they show here. It seems we're just in time to catch the next showing--something to do with the overall exhibit: the history of the area or country.

K and I take seats in a row that is getting full, hard-plastic bucket-type seats on fixed racks, as at an airport or bus depot. A group or family next to us is taking seats. One woman, a plain-looking woman in glasses and a gray sweatsuit, but energetic and lively, is dropping off her stuff, trying to get her friends and family to save her a seat while she goes to do something. For some reason she has to fetch something from or put something in a big cloth duffel-bag that her female friend has in front of her on the floor. I watch while the friend opens the bag wide, and the woman tugs down her sweats a little to produce her large, semi-erect penis with black pubic hair. She flexes her legs to point her penis into the bag, as though the bag provides cover so that only--or almost only--her friend can see her flash it. Her attitude is saucy and mischievous. Is it a joke? Is she relieving herself somehow? She covers it up and whisks away.

Now K and I arrive at the couple of little rows of seats facing the TV screen where the museum film is about to start. There are just a few tourists and bored kids here. We take our seats and the film starts: maybe previews featuring old black-and-white documentary footage.

I typed up this dream during my morning coffee session, and made some interpretive notes. The image of a museum or theme park made me think of my recent reflections on theme, in both my work and my life. Theme = meaning. So a park (it was set up on a playing field, actually) to do with the meaning of the past. My work is historical fiction, and the dead hand of the past reaches through my life as well, as through everyone's.

The park is in Israel, and my story is about the ancient monarchy of Israel: the "Holy Land". I'm treating it as a place of origin for some of the most important cultural and mythological strands in our world today.

The sight of the monuments of Stonehenge was awesome (I in fact visited Stonehenge in 1978) in the dream. They were not in their circular formation, but standing in a row discreetly at the side of the field, near bushes and trees; and they were not being paid particular attention by the rest of the visitors. I'm reading about henges (ancient circular ditches that were used for astronomical purposes) in Uriel's Machine by Lomas and Knight; there are 40,000 megalithic sites in Britain--more than there are modern settlements. The megalithic structures date back to 4000 BC and earlier. The authors are making an argument that the megalithic monuments were the products of a culture that practiced relatively advanced astronomy, and that these astronomers were the ones referred to in the Book of Enoch, a core spiritual text of a Jewish tradition that never made it into the Bible. In my dream the stones have been brought to Israel; the connection has been made, but is not being paid attention to.

As for the hermaphrodite in the annex, this was a powerful and uncanny moment in the dream. The duffel-bag made me think of the magic wallet of Perseus, in which he put the severed head of Medusa to hide it after he cut it off. The bag, like his other accoutrements, was owned by Hades, and kept by the three Stygian Nymphs--the women who shared a single eye and a single tooth, passing these between themselves. I had a unique point of view into the bag, and saw a strange sight. I was witness to a secret, a mystery.

Here's what Cirlot, in his Dictionary of Symbols, says about the hermaphrodite (compressed):

The hermaphrodite is a consequence of applying the symbolism of the number two to the human being, creating a personality which is integrated despite its duality. The hermaphrodite is, above all, a god of procreation, closely linked, and ultimately identified, with the Gemini archetype. Psychologically hermaphroditism represents a formula of "totality", of the "integration of opposites". In other words, in expresses in sexual terms the idea that all pairs of opposites are integrated into Oneness. In addition, it is a symbol of an intellectual activity not in itself connected with the problem of the sexes. Blavatsky says that all peoples regarded their first god as androgynous, because Primitive humanity knew that he had sprung from "the mind", as is shown by traditions such as that of Minerva springing from the head of Jupiter. In alchemy, the Hermaphrodite plays an important role as Mercury; he is depicted as a two-headed figure, often accompanied by the word Rebis (double thing).

If the hermaphrodite is Mercury, the transformative agency of alchemy, then the bag is the alchemical vas, the vessel in which the transformation takes place.

Things are changing within me. I already know this. But I don't know from what, or to what.


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