When I was a child my grandmother would take me to the zoo. She packed a thermos of lemonade, soft warm peanut butter sandwiches, and wet washcloths in plastic bags for cleaning the grime of the day from our hands. We fed the goats, saw the zebras and monkeys, these are happy memories. Our zoo also had a herpetarium. It was perhaps the most terrifying place on the planet for my four-year-old self. In on order to even open the doors, you had to grab the door handles, coiled metal cobras smelling of pennies, with your two tiny hands. Inside was dark and damp, with little lighting. The walls were lined with rows and rows of things that slithered and bit. Legs and feet, wide open mouths, things that live in dark and unknown places. I usually tried to avoid it.
Last night in dreamtime I went back to this place. The zoo was dark and I had the whole place to myself. There was an absence of fear. The door handles I used to fear were alive, sliding in my palms as I opened the door to go inside. The floor was a mass of writhing, wriggling serpents of all sizes. I knew I should be afraid, but there was nothing but curiosity as I plunged deeper into the darkness of the building. In the center lived a wise old Anaconda, he always felt a bit sad, as if he carried the weight and the knowledge of all the sad and heavy things in the world. Last night he opened his mouth to me and invited me inside.
You see, the shamans I work with honor the snakes. This other family lineage sees the beauty of the serpent, the way she spends her entire life with her belly plugged into the heartbeat of the earth. There is grace in how she sheds what she has outgrown. Snakes never go back and look at the mess they made when letting go of their old selves, they simply move forward in quiet confidence, only aware of what is right in front of them, completely grounded in the truth of who they are and what surrounds them.
This is what we call snake medicine. Our lives require us to let go and surrender over and over. How easily we do this is a measure of how far we’ve come from fear. In my dreamtime, I was shown how far I’ve come. I’m no longer the little girl with hands sticky from jelly and lemonade, afraid of what lies beyond the next doors. I’ve been in the belly of the whale, lived things that threatened to swallow me whole. I will live more still. There is freedom in learning to survive these things, to move beyond. There is a place beyond fear, and this is the place where God lives in our centers, sure and true, calling us to a deeper trust in the rightness of all things.
This is the beauty of our dreams, the ones we dream while sleeping and awake. They show us who we were, who we are, and perhaps even where we are going. I know now I’m being called to stillness, to the place in the deepest middle of myself, to wait and watch and see. I’m called to let go, put my belly on the ground, quietly willing to outgrow what no longer serves without fear. And so I will.
Aho and Amen,