An Ancestor DreamBy Rachael T. Wolfe
I was twenty-four when the dream came. It caught me off-guard, because I had such a firm grip on my identity. I was born to a Scandinavian mother and an English father, (although his black hair and facial appearance was quite similar to that of actor, Anthony Quinn). Yet, this was who I was…very Caucasian, a mixture of old world, and European cultures, third generation American on my mother's side, and about eighth generation on my father's side…or so I thought.
The dream occurred for three nights in a row, and it was always exactly the same: I was walking behind an Indian girl of about eighteen years of age. She had a feed-sack skirt that scratched her thighs. Her bare feet could feel the warm, dusty ground of what looked like Arizona or New Mexico. She was walking toward a trading post on her left, and straight ahead, in the distance was a big mountain-like structure with a flat, plateau on top. Her long, straight black hair was whipping in the wind. Walking about ten paces behind her, I watched her hair dance about and wanted to reach forward and touch it…but I didn't. I had to keep my distance. I could feel the scratchy material of her skirt, as if I were wearing it. I somehow knew that she was worrying about her people, as if she were responsible for them in some way. What if something happened to her?…What if she couldn't get back to them? Suddenly, a huge, black cloud would begin to sweep over the plateau. A great storm was coming. Her fear mounted, because she wasn't sure she could make it to the trading post in time. Soon the blackness filled the sky, and her terror was so great that I couldn't bear it in my dream; I would awake from the terror, my heart pounding and sweat dripping off my forehead.
After the third night of this awful awakening, I asked God to help me. I was afraid to go to sleep on the fourth night, because I knew the dream would come. A mental voice told me not to be afraid, but go to sleep as before. Only this time, before sleeping, tell myself that when the dream came, to make myself walk ahead of the Indian girl and see who she was…face her and see what she wanted. And so I did. The dream came, and as I watched her hair whip in the wind, and before the black cloud appeared, I forced myself to quickly catch up to her, go in front of her and face her. It was my own face I saw on the Indian girl. I awoke instantly.
The dream never came back. Over the next weeks, I tried to decipher its meaning. Was someone trying to tell me I had been an Indian girl once? That was difficult for me to accept, because I wasn't sure reincarnation was a real experience for anyone. It was an interesting theory, but proof was difficult because our memories seem to be wiped clean at physical birth.
My next idea was that, somehow, I was tapping into an ancestral memory. I could believe there might be a Native American in my family tree somewhere. I'd had many, almost bizarre clues: At three or four years of age, I heard the song "Red Wing" about an Indian girl whose lover died on the battlefield. I cried for a long time, and when it no longer made me cry, (and my parents thought I was over whatever it was) my dad would sing that song to me at night to put me to sleep. Even today, when hearing that song, an odd, momentary sense of grief occurs in me, like I'm standing in her shoes.
At the age of ten, I went to a girl-scout camp. Although I'd never held a bow in my hand, I won an archery contest. Because I was small at ten, they gave me a light, child's bow. I set it down and went to a thirty-pound bow and can still remember the feel of it. I even showed the others how to wet the finger, feel the wind direction, twisting the arm to compensate, and then aim about two inches above the target. It was 1953 (no TV yet) so I didn't know how I knew about archery. By twelve, I found I was also good at throwing knives.
My Indian-like behavior came out in other ways…I liked to climb the bluffs alone near our home and sit on the ground, mentally connecting to everything. (Today, I blame this for the way cats and dogs always want to climb all over me and sleep in my lap. I think maybe I connected too much with everything, back then.) Clues began to mount: the knife I always carried in my purse…the way I picked colors to wear, based upon the way I felt that day…(now I know that dark red is a power color to the Indian. This color I usually pick when feeling confident and healthy). Also, at age twenty-four, my night vision was very acute. I could see in the total darkness almost as well as in the daytime. Other clues: I've never liked being confined inside buildings too long. I like lots of windows in my house, with a visual connection to the outdoors. I love to stand in a high wind and talk to God. It's like I think the wind will carry my words somehow. Silly, I know, because God is everywhere. But these clues had been with me my whole life.
As fate would have it, at the time of the dream, I had an aunt, my father's sister, who taught school and was involved in genealogy studies in order to get into the DAR. I called her about two months after the dream. To my surprise, her research had uncovered something significant: she'd discovered that the family's English ancestor, who had sailed to American in the 1800s, had lost his English wife at sea. This caused him to stay on board ship, sail around the southern tip of South America, and land in southern California, about two years later. From there, (my aunt said) he went into Arizona and married a Chiricahua Apache woman, who was the daughter of a chief. For that reason, the woman had to stay with the tribe when they divorced, and our English ancestor left with two of their five children, a boy and a girl. These three later arrived in San Francisco, and my own dad and aunt, through their father, were direct descendents of that half-Apache boy who ended up in San Francisco (I can't find him anywhere yet). In addition, my aunt also discovered that her mother, my grandmother on my dad's side, was part Cherokee. None of this was known in the family at the time.
After my aunt's revelations, my whole life made more sense. But the real revelation came many years later when I was a teacher at a grade school.
Two Native Americans from the Sioux tribe came to the school and presented a program for the children. They played real chants, recorded from the different tribes, and said that, what often happened with these recordings was that children with Native American blood might have visions while listening. The children didn't, but I did…it scared me, because I was standing at the time, and a smoky scene, almost in black and white, formed in front of me. I saw many men moving inward and outward from a large fire…not going around the fire like the movies show us, but rather stomping the ground moving straight in toward the fire, and then backing out again. It was a Cheyenne war chant that was playing at the time. The vision lasted only about thirty seconds, but it was the second Native American vision I had experienced. I became shaky on my feet, and luckily, the bell rang for the children to leave for the day.
I asked the two men to come back to my classroom, and I explained the dream I'd had at 24, and another vision I'd had about that same, earlier time. They told me, in agreement with each other, that my ancestor dream was more significant than just telling me I had Indian blood. They said that many Native Americans believe that we are always one or more of our own ancestors. They also told me that, if the apache woman was really a daughter of a chief, there was one way to know if that had been me at an earlier time: among the Apaches, it was often the daughter or wife of a chief that became the medicine woman or spiritual leader of the tribe. If I had really been that woman from the 1800s, and been the spiritual leader and healer, I would have taken my spiritual level with me into my next human life experience. I would have gravitated to a spiritual, healing religion in this life.
The men didn't know, that day, that I had left my Lutheran roots for a spiritual, healing religion by age twenty-seven; nor did they know that my first article on spiritual healing was being published (under another name) even as we were speaking. But I let them know that what they described was accurate. And from that day on, I've opened my mind to the possibility of reincarnation, and what it means in the greater continuum of our being.
I mentioned having had another earlier vision. This had occurred at age 25, as my husband and I were driving toward Abilene, Texas, from Dallas/Ft. Worth. I suddenly had a sense of déjà vu, although I'd never been in Texas before. I gripped my husband's arm and told him to turn right on a road off the highway. He thought something was wrong so he did so, but then I told him to drive about a half-mile down the road, and turn left. He did so and the road was there. Then I said, "there's a well on the top of a hill, about a quarter mile down this road." We drove there, and there was the old well (whatever homestead had been there was long gone). I got out of the car and ran to the well. Suddenly, a vision came from my right, wiping out my physical vision. I saw a cloud of dust, as a group of about twenty riders came toward the well. I couldn't see their faces. I did see a woman with a plain, tan serape and long, black hair. These words came out of my mouth to my husband, "We used to come here to water our horses." As I spoke these words, the vision disappeared, and I suddenly didn't know where I was anymore.
What I've learned from these unusual experiences suggests to me that there might be some truth in reincarnation, or at least a memory continuum which we experience from our ancestors. The woman in the Apache tribe was actually one of my great, great, great grandmothers. Or, if the Sioux men were right, I had been one of my own great, great, great grandmothers. When I asked the men why we dream of one ancestor only, they said that one ancestor is always dominant in us…for me it had been the Indian woman of my dream, maybe dominant because this ancestor was still me…the me I had lost in memory.
I share this experience of my ancestor dream in case others have had similar occurrences. Recovering some of the memory through my dream and visions, and knowing my Apache connection, helps me to understand much of my behavior and why I love so many Native American things around me. But largely it reveals to me that our soul is on a journey of spiritual awakening, moving through our linear perspectives of time, carrying our own, individual spiritual growth and knowledge forward, even through the experience of human death.
Perhaps human identities are like the parts an actor plays in his lifetime. The nationality, skin color, even human personalities really aren't of lasting importance. I believe, that in the final awakening, however long that takes, we'll find that we've always had only one, real identity--our spiritual identity--the immortal and incorruptible one, who may have played many human parts along the way, loved them all, but when fully awake, lays them down for the eternal Self.