Nightmares, Angels and Demons
When I was at boarding school, I achieved a certain notoriety for my spectacular nightmares. Apparently, as well as the classic yelling and writhing about tangled in sweaty sheets, I would sit up with my eyes open and hold complicated conversations with my dream antagonists as well as any of my dorm mates who cared to join in.
My family joke now about my nocturnal activities--‘Do you remember any of them?’ they ask, laughing. ‘You really had us going sometimes.’ Well, I’ve never let on to them, but night visitations in some form or other have never stopped, although the sitting up and talking has mostly left me.
It wasn’t until I came to Turkey that I hit a culture where my experiences were thought to be perfectly normal. There are Turkic folk stories about the ‘Night Messengers’, two riders mounted on horses called ‘Dalgin’ and ‘Kisrak’, who represent the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ dreams which we experience. The frightening thing is that when the dream starts, the sleeper never knows which horseman he or she is in pursuit of, until it gradually unfolds…
There is also a more sinister type of nightmare known as the ‘Karabasan’, or ‘Dark Oppressor’. This was an olden days fable in England also, I believe--‘The night hag’ who came to sit on people. The Karabasan is a terrible evil force that holds sleepers in its power, so that even though it seems as though they are awake, they are completely unable to speak or move a muscle. They usually have a heavy weight pressing on their chest, so that they feel suffocated--or sometimes the weight is on their feet. Modern scientists have explained this phenomenon as Sleep Paralysis or a type of cataplexy.
Fortunately, I don’t experience the Karabasan too frequently, but it happens about two or three times a year. When I started writing this blog entry, I was going to write down one of the visitations, but believe it or not, I can’t bring myself to describe everything fully. The hairs on my arms are starting to stand up when I think about it--and I am considered by most to be an extremely level-headed and dispassionate person!
I can just say that, out of nowhere, I ‘wake’ to feel an evil force creeping around the room like dirty, brown-coloured fog. I cannot even move my head, in fact it is as if I have sunk into the mattress somehow. I try really hard to flex my muscles, but there is a ton weight all over my body. If things don’t get worse than this, it’s bearable, but on some occasions there is a huge, tall figure wearing a big hat standing in the doorway, sweeping nearer and nearer. The figure is incredibly dark, the blackest black you can imagine, like velvet. I sort of lose consciousness or even slip into normal sleep after that, but sometimes the whole thing starts up again. In the morning my arms and legs actually physically pain me, like I’ve been on a long run.
A development in recent years, though, has been that I have a variation of the Karabasan when I still wake up unable to move, but it is more as though I am floating. When I feel like this, I know that I’m going to see the ‘good’ vision. The angel, or whatever it is, tells me things that have really helped me when I’m going through a rough time, but although I see the slightly glimmering blue-white shape, I’ve never been able to understand if it is a man or a woman, or been able to remember exactly what the voice is like, or indeed if they speak to me in English, French or Turkish.
I’m sure you will all think now that I’m making this up or I’ve lost my marbles, but every word I’ve written is as true as I can explain it. My rational self tells me that I experience these things when I’m under particular stress. But I’ve never been able to work out where the ‘advice’ or the occasional very accurate predictions about the future come from…
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