Book Review: Pagan Dreaming by Nimue Brown

Pagan Dreaming:  The Magic of Altered Consciousness

Full Title  Pagan Dreaming: The Magic of Altered Consciousness

Author:  Nimue Brown

Publisher:  John Hunt Publishing

Pages:  220

Release Date:  August 28th, 2015

Please note:  This is NOT a sponsored post.  I receive no compensation for my book reviews other than a courtesy advanced copy from the publisher, to whom I make no promises regarding the ultimate inclination of my summary.  The freedom to hand-select books and discuss them honestly without feeling pressure to “color it rosy” is considerably more valuable to me—-and hopefully, to you.

What makes this book interesting:

Pagan Dreaming fills a conspicuous void in pagan-specific literature for a new, interesting book about dreaming that addresses spiritual matters in a way many modern practitioners will find uniquely relatable.

It’s hard to fill a book about dream interpretation with things that haven’t already been said by a hundred other authors.

But Brown freshens a tired subject with inspired insight.

The author successfully breaks away from the well-worshiped Freudian model of universal one-size-fits-all dictionary-style dream interpretation, inviting the reader to instead examine dreams on his or her own terms from a personal, spiritual and necessarily subjective perspective.

Rather than identifying specific symbols in dreams, Brown categorizes dreams broadly in ways most of us can readily apply to our own dream experiences.  “Anxiety Dreams,” “Death Dreams,” and “Desire [Lust] Dreams” are all accessible dream archetypes we can immediately relate to, almost without further explanation.  Brown argues that this broader approach is both more meaningful and more useful than trying to dissect exactly why you might have dreamed there was a lizard in your bathroom sink last night—-and I agree.

The author’s most luminous passages by far are in the last half of the book, particularly the chapters titled “Developing Dreamwork” and “Dreams and Magic.”  It is on these subjects that Brown shines most brightly, especially in discussing her personal experiences with dreams, and the spiritual nature of them as she sees it.

Overall, her insight into the relationship between dreams and the modern pagan experience are enlightening, honest and refreshing.

Where the book falls short:

The author readily admits she has no relevant credentials in dream study or applied psychology.  Her lack of clinical experience does not bother me at all.  Clinicians often make very boring authors, and not necessarily insightful ones.  But I think it would have been better for her to stick to a purely spiritual perspective.  Pagan Dreaming seemed to have something of an identity crisis:

Is this a book about the spiritual nature of dreams, or the psychological one?  The integration of these two perspectives wasn’t quite seamless.

On the subject of lucid dreaming, the author seems surprisingly closed-minded.  I was somewhat disappointed to read a book about dreaming in the spiritual context that so readily dismisses the value of lucid dreaming as an exercise in egotism rather than the humbling, awe-inspiring experience so many others have found it to be.

At times, Pagan Dreaming is tedious in its repetition.  The author also reminds the reader repeatedly of obvious commonsense notions like “The dreaming mind is . . . a reflection of our waking lives” or that if you feel the urge to pee in your dream, it probably means you really need to pee.  This gives the impression of filler content devoid of any really valuable information.  Pagan Dreaming might easily have been pared to a long essay rather than a full-length book.

Final Verdict:  Worth a read, particularly for those interested in incorporating dream work into their practices.  Most of the book’s blunders are forgivable when taken in consideration with the wealth of fascinating and useful material that accompany them.

Pagan Dreaming is scheduled for release later this month.  If you’re looking for a bedtime book to snuggle up with under the covers this fall, grab this one and a read it with a cup of chamomile tea.

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