REVIEW: In the House of the Riddle Mother: The Most Common Archetypal Motifs in Women’s Dreams by Clarissa Pinkola Estés (2009)

Pinkola Estés is not only a reputed Jungian psychologist, but also a natural storyteller and a wonderful writer.

In this audiobook, she’s able to link and connect dream themes, real dreams from real people, and world legends, fairytales and myths. She also looks at dreams as part of a whole, as a world of magic that it’s intricately related to other magic worlds.

Pinkola has a very mellow soothing voice, perfect for a therapist, but her whispering is not only a sweet song to your ears, but also a deep poetic and humorous exploration of our dream world.

I Loved.

I love some of the stories Clarissa intercalates in the book.

The fact that her analysis of dream motifs is really rich and

deep. That is, it is not the usual monolithic, “This theme means this, and that theme means that.” These themes have been discussed in many dream dictionaries and dreamwork books, but Pinkola Estés’ discussion adds layers and colour that you won’t find in other books.

This is a didactic book, perfect for beginners.

Themes and Motifs.

The themes or motifs that Pinkola Estés discusses in this book are the following:

  1. Animal dreams.
  2. Flying dreams.
  3. Precognitive dreams.
  4. Snake dreams.
  5. Paralysis dreams.
  6. Incommunicado dreams.
  7. Dreams of blood.
  8. Disaster dreams.
  9. End of the world dreams.
  10. Dreams about giving birth.
  11. Finding a baby dreams.
  12. Dreams about finding of losing a treasure.
  13. Teeth dreams.
  14. Toilet dreams.
  15. Dark force dreams with a  nasty man or woman.
  16. Dreams about having an orgasm, having sex or making love.
  17. And dreams of nakedness.

Wisdom Nuggets.

The most important things that you’ll learn from this work (beyond the interpretations and meanings that Pinkola Estés attaches to the motifs she discusses) are the following:

1/ Your dreams are yours, so you must “interpret” them and relate them to who you are (your personal life, circumstances, psyche and soul). So, there is not a cookie-cutter interpretation that will fit two different persons. Symbols are universal. However, they also sit into one’s psyche in ways that change from a dreamer to another.

2/ You cannot disregard or ignore the instinctive feeling you get when you have a dream about what or whom the dream relates to. This is really true for me.

3/ Dreams relate to  themes, symbols ad stories contained in old legends and myths. That is, they are part of an interrelated magic world that is very real, a world pregnant with meaning, a whispering voice that comes from your own unconscious

4/ When your dream relates to a specific theme, and that theme makes sense to you, you will get an aha! moment. It’s like two pieces of a magnet getting together when put together.

5/ Finally, as the title of the book hints, dreams are like riddles embedded with messages from your psyche to you.

Some Downsides.

Firstly, Pinkola Estés’ is a wonderful writer, but this is an audiobook. Her voice has a flat tone that some people might find  difficult to follow, not engaging enough, or sleep inducing.

Secondly, this book is about  themes in women’s dreams, right? However, many of the themes discussed here are not specific to women, but general dream themes that apply to both men and women. It is not always clear in which way the things she says differ in men, if they actually differ. What is more, sometimes the author herself clearly states that the theme is universal.

Thirdly, the author has a tendency to talk assuming that people have a clear understanding of the connection between motifs, myths, legends and specific dreams. However, this might not be the case, because this is book might be picked up by beginners, who are the target of the book, and they might be left a bit baffled.

Finally, a question arises. If dreams are particular to each person, and myths and legends are Universal, how do universal themes relate differently to different individuals?

In Short.

This is a very enjoyable short audiobook, that you might want to listen to more than once, especially if you are starting to explore your dream world. Clarissa is a wonderful poetic storyteller that will guide you through the most common types of dreams and archetypal dreams. Don’t read it in bed, she has a great mellow voice that might take you to your dreams by oneiric motorway.

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