The last time I had the “Flaying Dream” was a couple of nights ago, as evidenced by my previous post. Prior to that, however, I’d had the recurring dream/nightmare only in childhood, at least twice a year since I was four years old, up until I was nine. I shall share the complete childhood version with you here.
Imagine a beautiful stranger, a young man with long blonde hair and a glowing complexion, draped in a billowy red cloak. He comes to your bedside and whispers in you ear, then he scoops you up out of bed to steal you away in the night. The stranger has somehow prevented you from screaming or crying out. All you can do is gasp for air. He takes you in his arms and folds his cloak around you, and the next thing you know, you feel a great leap into the air, and the rush of flight.
You don’t know how long you have been with this stranger, and when he lands you are grateful for the feel of earth beneath your feet. The youth then leads you to a white mansion on a hill overlooking the sea, where he escorts you inside. You pass by many empty rooms. The mansion seems abandoned, and now you feel afraid when you look into the eyes of your captor. He smiles and squeezes your hand, and continues leading you down a long spiral staircase.
At the bottom, you enter a large, circular stone room with some kind of apparatus in the middle. The youth seats you there and chains you up to a pair of metal poles. His face is stoic, but you can feel his excitement as he stares at you while backing out through another door on the opposite end of the room.
Now you are alone. Chained and alone and terrified. The youth returns, approaching you slowly with a double-edged knife. It glistens in the dim candlelight. Now, you scream. You struggle against the chains, and he watches, just smiling and coming closer.
He presses the point of the knife into your arm. You feel it pierce into you with a sting, then a slice. Your eyes well with tears at the start of it, but soon the youth cradles your face in his hand, kisses your forehead, and the pain is gone. You are completely numb now, as he leans over you, slicing and peeling.
You watch in horror as your flesh is uncovered, as you bleed all over him and all over the floor. When he is finished, he looks upon you in adoration. The chains are removed, and you are once again wrapped in his cloak. He holds you close, whispering encouragement and praise… and promises to return and to continue what was started.
Weary, you relax and close your eyes. When you reawaken, you are again in your bed, and the sun’s morning light has flooded your room. Immediately, you grasp your arms and are relieved to find your skin in tact. However, you do notice several long, thin scabs running down the length of them, which you can not explain…
I share this with you, because after experiencing the dream for the first time in adulthood only a few nights ago (and feeling much, much more of the pain than I ever had in childhood), I was shocked and confused as to why that kind of torture was even necessary at such a young age. Even though I couldn’t feel it, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t traumatized by it.
For years and years, the thought of my skin peeling off, or being peeled off, would bring me to tears. Like when you play on the monkey bars a lot and your hands get those calluses that peel? Yeah, I thought I was literally going to die the first time I noticed it. And my first sunburn was an exceptionally special treat, since it came with pain of its own.
There were also certain movies that I couldn’t watch, not because they were R-rated (my mother didn’t care if I watched R-rated stuff), but because they had characters in them who were running around skinless. Take the movies “Hellraiser” and “Return of the Living Dead”, for instance. They are stupid, totally non-scary films, but I couldn’t watch them. In fact I didn’t watch either film again until last year.
So, after mulling over all my misgivings for a while after the dream some nights ago, I asked Apollon to explain why he felt that I needed to be flayed at four-nine years old. I told him that I was only a child back then, and that I could not possibly have understood what was happening, or why. The Prince replied with this:
“Mortals are all children in the eyes of the gods. No matter how old you are, there would never be a right time. I took away the layers of emotional hurt inflicted upon you, each as it was placed, and you would not be who you are today, if I had not.”
That’s some pretty heavy stuff when I think about it. What he basically said to me, was that it didn’t matter to him that I was so young. If I had been an old woman he’d have done the same, because it was necessary. Our gods don’t always ascribe to our morals, and what may seem hurtful in one moment, may not seem so in the next.
In my case, Apollon did a lot of things to me in my younger years, either in my dreams, or in the guise of my imaginary friend. Things I doubt I would have consented to had he been a mortal, instead of a god. And now that my own daughter is having strange dreams, as well as speaking with gods (Artemis, Apollon and Hermes seem to have taken a liking to her), I have to accept that I don’t have much control over how she will experience them herself.
But, as her mother, what I can do is prepare her in whatever possible way, by encouraging her participation in household rites. Of course, there is no guarantee that she will be treated any more tenderly than I was at her age, but a familiarity with the gods of Hellas should at least be a better starting point than what I had. A mother can only hope, after all.
In closing, and to all for whom this statement applies, I would like to say that I am not interested in hate-mail regarding this most controversial post. If your first thought is to send me a nastygram, then please, make your second thought an examination of all the fucks I’m not giving. Have a blessed day. ;)