I know what you desire and I am with you everywhere.
Hold in your mind all that you wish to know, and
I will teach you.
~Poimandres, in Corpus Hermeticum
As a kid, I often studied a painting hung on my parent’s bedroom wall near pictures of the five of us as babies, all of us old enough to sit up and smile cute, with pudgy little toddler fingers, somewhere close to our first year.
In it, an angel hovers just above a young boy and girl playing near the edge on a cliff of rocks, a serene smile, arms and wings open in a protective gesture – a guardian angel.
Creation myths in many cultures have us attached to a divine being from birth, our spiritual other half – a twin, who in Sufism is called ‘An Angel of One’s Being.’ The Greeks named it their ‘genius’, and the Romans called their helpful spirit a ‘daemon’. In alchemy and shamanism, one’s healing spirit is referred to as the ‘ally’. Carl Jung lived in connection with his ally, whose name was Philemon.
By any name in any tradition, the ally offers spiritual partnership, guidance, growth, and transformation, and wishes to know us as we wish to know it.
Some of us as children, with our natural connection to spirit and dreams, may have had a childhood encounter with this being, but we often forget or are talked out of it. Some may have experienced it as an intuition during a time of stress when clear, split second advice was needed. Or, we might know this guidance as inspiration – a feeling that comes over us when we’re creating, helping us make our music, write our words.
Even now as I’m writing about it more than experiencing connection to it, I can remember times I’ve felt the ally as a real thing: a personal yoga teacher, helping me as I practice alone in my room, reminding me to breathe, telling me to balance the weight in my feet; a companion on the hill I hike near my home, speaking with me, providing insights along the way when it can get a word in and I am able to listen.
Many first meet their ally in a dream.
How to differentiate your ally
There are many helpful figures in the psyche and in dreams. So what marks an ally encounter in a dream or elsewhere?
People will say they notice a difference in the way the figure ‘feels’ in the dream. You may feel that you’re in a holy place, and may have a sense of being recognized. You sense the other has a deep knowing of you, and it feels like sheer relief and love. It is powerful, and its presence in your dream might scare you. I’ve heard of people having to fight or wrestle with this being over the course of several dreams before being able to interact in a relational way.
And don’t use me as a model for what to do, but years ago when I sensed my ally’s presence at the doorway of my bedroom at the end of a particularly distressing dream, I put the covers over my head, shook my head ‘no’ and told it to go away. It did not. Instead, it came to my bedside. When I touched its head it felt every bit as solid and real as if I were touching my dog’s head – another hallmark of an ally encounter…real and solid.
Pay special attention when you dream of an animal. The literature (Native American and Shamanism) is full of accounts of one’s spirit guide appearing as animal. Large snakes are common, as are big cats (lions, jaguars, panthers, etc.), mythological figures (some sort of winged-thing, like a dragon, or a flying horse), or strange combinations of species which don’t exist as far as you know. A student wondered about an odd-looking bat/raccoon type of animal which kept appearing in his dreams, handing him unique and unusual tools to help him craft in his blacksmith-like workshop.
I’ve also heard of people’s ally being the sun, or a mountain.
How to connect
In order to receive guidance and counsel from our ally, we have to create relationship – connect with it, attend to it.
Treat your relationship to the ally like a new friendship. Ask him/her/it to come into your dreams, writing, meditations, vision quests, or yoga retreats. Do some ritual (light a candle, give thanks) beforehand to remind you of the sacredness of what you are attempting to do. Practice sincerely with the intention to meet (and if you do, I’d love to hear about your experience). Engage in some dialogue in your head or on paper (preferably on paper as these interactions are as easy to forget as dreams): What would you say to someone you’re first meeting? – ‘hello,’ is always a good start.
Introduce yourself, ‘I’m Linda. Nice to meet you.’
Yes you will feel foolish doing this; I realize this technically constitutes psychosis, but you may or may not hear back something like, ‘Nice to meet you too,’ only it’s likely this voice (if you hear the response as a voice) will sound lower, slower, calmer than your own. Deep, strong, grounded.
The common thought that you’re making it all up will likely be dispelled by looking back on your ‘talks.’ You will notice an ‘otherness’ to the voice, tone, vocabulary that is not yours.
Or you may receive a response from any of the senses: you might see images, feel sensations in your body. Consider anything that happens after you ask a question a response to it.
Manners are important. Don’t start demanding that your ally do all kinds of magic things for you, fix all the areas of your life. Your ally will not take away hardships or challenges, but will offer you assistance on how to deal with those hardships. In the ally, you can find a constant friend and partner.
For the benefit of all…
*anything I know about the ally I credit to my teacher, and my ally