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  • We dream, then wake up and usually forget our dreams quickly or cannot remember them at all.

    For the Mayans, however, dreaming is another way of experiencing life. Dreams are taken very seriously. They are believed to guide one along life’s path. Through dreams God speaks to us. The voice of your heart can be heard in dreams. Sometimes Mayans even dream collectively, as when a village wants to divine a new design for the women’s blouses. Many women of the same village will see the identical new style in their dreams. Then they make the dream reality. Weavers dream their patterns. I remember a teenage Tzeltal Mayan boy who told me he had dreamt he should be a traditional healer. In his dreams plants instructed him of their healing powers.

    Once I visited a woman in a Mayan community who had been a midwife most of her life; she began at age thirteen. She was bedridden with a fever when her older sister went into labor. The village’s midwife was collecting firewood far away in the mountains and could not be fetched. The girl’s mother cried desperately, repeatedly wailing, “The midwife cannot come. They cannot find her to help my daughter in her difficult hours. My daughter will die!”
    The sick younger sister heard her mother’s wailing and dreamt of everything that was needed to attend to her older sibling during her difficult hours. She told me when she got up from her bed, her fever was suddenly gone. She calmed her mother. “Mother, I will attend to my sister. She and the baby will be fine. I just dreamt what I have to do. Stop crying! Help me!” Soon after the baby was born without any problems and her sister held it happily in her arms. I Dreamt How To Be A Midwife

    One day I was with a friend, a Jesuit priest working in a Tzeltal Mayan community, when a campesino he knew approached him. A long conversation between the two in Tzeltal followed. Later my friend explained that the man had wanted help deciphering the message of a recurring dream. The man was sure he had received a message from God and trusted the priest’s opinion.

    Most Mayans do not share their dreams with a kashlan (non-Indian). But my priest friend had excellent relations with tribal members. The next day he introduced me to an elderly Tzeltal Mayan nun. I wished to interview her about her life. She did not speak Spanish and a young Tzeltal novice translated for us.
    I asked the elderly woman about her childhood and how she had decided to become a nun. She spoke of her family’s poverty and her mother’s hard life and continued, “When I was about eight, I had a dream. In the dream my younger sister and I were tending our sheep in the mountains. Suddenly the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to me. There she stood, huge, in all her splendor against the deep blue sky. I was awestruck. In that very moment, a huge boulder loosened from the mountainside. I realized to my dismay that it was falling exactly to where my sister was standing. I screamed an alarm but the rock had already hit her and she lay dead on the ground. Now I was desperate and in deep pain. I cried out to the Virgin. She looked at me with her lovely smile and said with a warm, melodious voice, ‘This tragedy is to show you that life is short. It may end at any moment. That is why you have to choose wisely what you want to do with your life.’”
    The nun kept having this recurring dream, finally understanding that the Virgin was calling her to use her earthly life to serve her. This woman has spent her life organizing weavers’ cooperatives and training health workers among the poorest of the poor in Chiapas. The manner in which she spoke, her many smiles and the laugh wrinkles around her eyes told me that it had been a good and deeply fulfilling life.
    We said good-bye. Our young translator accompanied me to my car and explained, “I have just entered the order recently. I too have a recurring dream of our Mother, the Virgin of Guadalupe.” I Dreamt Of Virgin Mary

    The Mayan belief that dreams are another reality and can lead the dreamer to a better life during the waking hours has seeped into the larger Mexican culture. The woman who for decades baked the cakes for our restaurant once sat down and told me her heartbreaking story. Her oldest son had left home when he was sixteen never to be seen or heard of again and for many years she could not give up on him. The pain of his disappearance was unbearable. One morning seven years after she had last seen him, she had a dream. “This dream was so vivid, it was so real, that I knew it was something true,” she told me. “My son came into the house. I greeted him. ‘How wonderful, son, that you finally returned home!’ He answered, ‘I was not allowed to come sooner, Mother. I have done bad things. I am coming to you today to tell you that I am dead and to ask you for forgiveness.’” She took my hands and concluded, “Since that dream I have accepted that my son is dead and, strangely, I am at peace with that. But shortly after the dream, my second son committed suicide. I am still so mad at him. I just cannot forgive him. His untimely death was six years ago and I am still waiting for when he will come to me in a dream. Maybe I have to wait until the seventh year again. I am desperate for that dream.”
    Shortly after sharing her story, the baker retired. I have not seen her since. The seventh year has come and gone. I hope that she has received the healing dream. My Sons´Suicides

    Some time ago I awoke with a dream: My grandfather had appeared in a room full of people. My grandpa is the only person so far that I have accompanied in the moment of death. That was more than 30 years ago. I have never dreamt of him since. I see him sitting on a sofa in front of me, recognizing every wrinkle in his weather beaten face. Very relaxed he seems, otherwordly, smiling at me. I notice that among all the people in the room I am the only one, who can see him and I get very scared: that has to mean something! I go and kneel in front of him and ask," Am I going to die now, Opa?"
    He strikes my hair and nods and says," Yes, you are going to die!"
    When I wake up in a panic and tell my husband, he says, " Oh, Kiki, it is just a dream!"
    The vividness of the scene stays with me for many days. I expect to drop down dead any moment. The fear recedes: if that really is my destiny, there is absolutely nothing I can do about this. I give up and in, let go and let God....
    That was about 8 months ago. It is still a prophetic dream: one day I definitely will die.

    Art by Kiki

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