Friday, July 16, 2010

My Cat, My Familiar: Manifesting Totems

In dreams begin responsibility, said a poet. In dreams, in imagination, we begin to be one another. I am thou. The barriers go down.--Ursula K. Le Guin, the wave in the mind

Iowa City. Summer in the heartland, years before manifesting the husband and the family. As I scanned my intuitions, consulting oracles to join a divided self--one lover states away and another before me in my room--I placed a tarot card (Crowley’s two of disks) on the floor on a silk cloth. The card depicted a crowned snake, in the position of a figure eight, its tail held in its own jaws.

I’d been working with a counselor who taught me to turn and confront the rapist in the series of chased-by-a-rapist dreams I was having. Astonishing things happened then in the dreams: the rapist morphed into a boat with wings, a butterfly. I could fly higher and faster. The ticker tape of past lives, that ran like wine at Blacks’ Gaslight village (where I woke often like a child with a dress on inside out), slowed some and I slept occasionally without the exhaustion of dreams dumping out their vessels into my memory.

Several days later my silver tabby, through the window, dragged in the snake he’d hunted, and laid it directly across the tarot card I’d left out. I wondered if I’d reversed my days and dreams. By the time I reached the snake, it was dead. I rinsed the blood off the card, gathered up the snake and found ground soft enough to dig apart, shooed aside my cat, buried the snake.

Mythical characters appealed during that time with their black and white pasts, their traumas clearly delineated. Take Batman: his parents were shot down on the street in front of him. A clear wound, a clear obstacle to heal. Much less murky than being taken advantage of when you’re drunk as a kid. I mean, did Batman, when working through his “issues” years later, trouble his psyche with questions of blame? Ever once think, my parents were shot because I wore such-n-such outfit? Or because I had that drink?

That summer in a movie theater, I watched Val Kilmer, blonde, adept, muscular; listened to singer Seal’s gravelly voice singing Kissed by a Rose. Nicole Kidman, red swath of cloth circling our from her shoulders in desire for what she couldn’t have (Batman) and elsewhere couldn’t recognize at home (lowly reporter), reminded me simply of how split we are in our attractions and desires. How we fail to recognize the depth of beauty in who or what we have right before us in present time.

I woke in the morning, opening my eyes to a dark shape inches from my head: a tiny bat my silver king had snagged, killed, and delivered to my pillow. Not batman, I took it he was saying to me. You don’t need batman the savior, but here, look at the real thing.

So I gathered the warm, still, creature into the palm of my hand, mind flipping from last night’s Hollywood image of Batman to this delicate mouse of an animal with webbed wings that Batman stood for. Thought about what bats do…how they send out a signal that bounces back when it comes up against something either to eat or to navigate away from, and saw the metaphor: my own radar disabled as a kid.

But on the mend, and not without kinship, my animal familiar, listening ever so carefully to the past I brooded on in my thoughts so loud he couldn’t help but hear it, offering what evidence he could that I was in fact, stepping carefully towards wholeness.

Once, before the birth of my first child, I saw my cat in a lucid dream, his own silver cord extending for miles below, flying beside me, my own cord beside his, proving irreconcilably what I already knew: he accompanied me even into sleep, as I struggled to face the night’s marauder-filled dreams.


Rachel Federman said...


Oriri said...

Beautiful, insightful... and an amazing walk through signs that could have been ignored, if not for the willingness and wisdom to look. Thank you for writing this!

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


thanks for the encouragement.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


Thanks for your comment...I think being a writer probably brings signs to the fore a little more than usual, do you think? for the best, I hope.