Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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If You Kill Someone in a Dream, Does That Make You a Murderer?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

If you break a taboo in a dream, does it count?

What the dream itself was about, I don't even remember. What I do recall is that as I turned to leave, and was going out through the door, I stepped directly onto the threshold.

Thresholds, like hearths, are loci of sanctity. The threshold of every building is inherently sacred, even the thresholds of non-sacred buildings like stores. In the old days, they would bury the foundation offerings beneath them, and in traditional cultures they continue to be places of sacrifice. A threshold is a god's place. They say that the Horned, god of the In-Between, sits on every threshold; it is his sacred place in every building, large or small, sacred or secular. Whenever you enter or leave a building, it's an encounter with a god. Welcome to the pagan universe.

So it's bad to step on a threshold. (One steps over a threshold, not on it.) Not bad as in murdering someone, but bad as in pissing toward the Sun; it's rude, a ritual violation that puts you out of synch with the Powers. It's important to be in synch with the Powers; our people have always felt so.

Ritual transgression, ritual response. When in life I do inadvertently tread on a threshold, I make an extra pouring that day: a minor recompense for a minor offense.


So, if you break a ritual taboo in a dream, do you get clean of it by making a real-life offering?

I remember a court case in ancient Athens. A man was charged with revealing the Mysteries to a non-initiate. The man was able to prove that he had never been initiated into the Mysteries; what he revealed was something he had seen in a dream. The court's verdict was: a dream initiation counts as a valid initiation. Guilty as charged.

In the divine economy, treading on a threshold is a minor infraction, more bad manners than sacrilege. Whether or not reparations in the form of real-life action are called for in the case of dream infractions, I don't know.

But the other thing that I remember about the dream is that, as I was stepping on the dream-threshold, I realized what I was doing and thought: Oops; well, I'll make a pouring later.

So I'll make the extra offering today, because whatever the nature of the relation between dream and waking life, this much I'm sure of: vows made in dreams still count as valid vows.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 15 February 2015

    I sometimes get the clear impression that a dream infraction is a suppressed guilt from another life, or from an earlier time in this life; the act might be literal or symbolic of something else. In any case, these serve as valuable warnings to keep a weather eye and be careful NOT to make the same mistake again in THIS time period; because the opportunity to do so may be coming up!

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