We have a great guest post today by Kim Aniteau, author of Her Frozen Wild!
Dreams Are Made of This
I have a very vivid dream life. I have since I was a child. From the ages of five until I was twenty-five, I dreamed several times a week that someone was trying to kill me. I spent many nights in my dreams running, running, running from some unknown assailant. Fortunately those nightmares have taken a backseat in my dream life for many years now and only pop up now and again. But I still have some amazing dreams.
Because I have such vivid dreams and I often talk about them, my friends have often asked if my dreams inspire my stories. I didn’t think so until I began to dream about bears.
Several years ago I started dreaming about bears several times a week. During one year, it seemed as though I was having bear dreams nightly. I dreamed of grizzly bears and black bears. In the dreams, the bears were often chasing my husband Mario. I was often trying to protect him from the bear.
In one dream I climbed a tree to escape a bear. Then I looked down at my own hands and saw they were claws: I had become a grizzly bear. In another dream, a bear was on a rampage in my neighborhood. Terrified, I confronted him. I told him I would become his bear-wife if he would stop his violence. He agreed to my bargain.
During this time of the bear dreams, I researched bears, bear mythology, and bear folk tales. I discovered that many indigenous people believed humans were related to bears. Bears were often totem or spirit animals for healers. If someone dreamed of a bear, then she was probably a healer. Many cultures believed bears could become human and humans could shape-shift into bears.
The Siberians had elaborate rituals and ceremonies for hunting the bear, as did many Native American tribes. They believed the bear offered itself up to the hunters as a sacrifice. The hunters had to be respectful and follow the rituals carefully so that they didn’t dishonor the bear or its spirit when they killed the animal.
Around the time of my bear dreams, I went to a workshop at Breitenbush Hotsprings in Oregon. Breitenbush is deep in the forest near Mount Hood, away from any town or city. We were surrounded by the wild. While I was there, I read an article about the Scythian mummies unearthed in Siberia. One of the mummies, the so-called “Ice Maiden,” had tattoos on her body, and she’d been buried with a conical hat and other accoutrements that indicated to the archaeologists that she might have been some kind of priestess or shaman.
As I read the article, I got chills. I knew I had to write about her. I devoured any information I could find out about her, the Scythians, and the nomadic cultures of the Altai Plateau in Siberia.
The story for Her Frozen Wild began to unfold as I did research during the day and dreamed of bears during the night. It became a story about the ancient shapeshifting People, the ascendants of the Scythians of the Altai Plateau. Tattoos and cave art became an important part of the story, too, acting as a kind of pathway to enable time-travel and shapeshifting.
Although the “plot” of my bear dreams never became part of the story of Her Frozen Wild, the dream where I placated the rampaging bear by becoming his bear-wife was at the heart of the novel. In my dream, I essentially agreed to become part of the bear clan. In the novel, the main character, Ursula, comes to terms with her own family history: Her grandmother had become a bear-wife decades earlier. More importantly, Ursula embraces her own true wild self.
Dreams can be potent symbols for our lives and creativity. I often put my own dreams in my novels as a character’s dream. Dreams have their own logic, and I’m hesitant to make them up out of whole cloth, so when one of mine will work, I’ll use it.
In the case of Her Frozen Wild, I’m not sure the novel would exist today if I hadn’t had so many dreams of bears. I always understood the visceral fear of bears human have, but because of my dreams, I also came to understand their raw power, mystery, and sacredness.
After I finished writing Her Frozen Wild, my frequent intense bear dreams stopped. Every once in a while, I will dream of a bear. I’m always glad for the dream. I feel as though I’ve been visited by a relative. Nowadays I’m always on the lookout for some wild or strange creature who might start frequenting my dreams. Who knows? They might just inspire my next novel.
copyright © 2012 by Kim Antieau. All rights reserved.
Kim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.
Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.
Learn more about Kim and her writing at www.kimantieau.com.
About Her Frozen Wild
Scientists in the Altai in Siberia uncover the 2,500 year old frozen mummy of a tattooed priestess or shaman. This mummy has the same mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) as American archaeologist Ursula Smith whose mother disappeared in Siberia 30 years earlier. Ursula travels from the U.S. to Siberia to unravel the mystery of the “lady” and meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who graciously invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers he has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. A shaman takes Ursula to one of the sacred timeless caves where Ursula’s mother supposedly disappeared. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she must unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei—even if it costs her her life.