Sisters In Red Kidnapped Me: Interpreting Coronavirus Dreams
These coronavirus dreams have been shared and self-interpreted by a mooky community of dreamers experiencing quarantine dreams during lockdown.
Cause and effect: We don’t need articles to tell us that coronavirus stress is resulting in a rise in weird, macabre or heartrending quarantine dreams while in lockdown. And, with self-analysis from our community of dreamers, we can see that themes are beginning to appear. The white noise is coalescing into patterns.
What follows is a Coronavirus Dream Dictionary compiled purely from personal experience and that of other slumbering souls who have had the grace and courage to share their dreams. There’s no tidy Dewey Decimal System here; just a loosely bound scrapbook of dreams caught like leaves tossed on the wind.
Before you read on, please be aware that dreams are personal and intimate like nothing else. They’re our way of harvesting and sifting through our fields of experience. Without dreams – whatever their nature – our life’s weeds would run amok. None of us has the right to sit in judgment over another’s dreams.
Know, however, that if your dreams are becoming manifold, or strange, or easier to recall due to their intensity… you are not alone. The nightwolf is on the prowl, shreds of dreams between her teeth, and she is visiting many of us in our sleep.
Red. Costumes. Drama.
In our unquiet slumber, our minds are cauldrons bubbling with noxious stew not fit to drink. And yet its scent is familiar, like a memory you can’t shake off.
Recently I was kidnapped by three sisters dressed in red who convinced me I was a gaslighting villain. In the finale it turned out they’d played a real psychological number on me, but I would never escape their mansion…
It was quite wracking stuff. For the majority of the dream I felt so ashamed of myself. All the lies I’d ever told myself were a black mirror smashed to the floor. Definitely a mea maxima culpa guilt dream. Strong medicine… but the costume design was incredible. The sisters were bound in red chiffon that unravelled as they passed along dark oak corridors until the mansion was swathed in danger-pass-me-not ribbons of red.
I awoke prickled with sweat. It wasn’t the endless guilt that flashed me back into the material world; no, it was the red chiffon trailing through the house like a network of veins. The danger colour. The one that says STOP – DO NOT PASS. The carnation hues of life and death.
A friend, Ali, suggested I examine the visual representations of Coronavirus in the national media, and she was wise to do so. Everything was red.
My friend Teece then mentioned a dream in which she herself was costumed in dramatic red (complete with codpiece), marked with a red rash across her body as she ran around a house looking for an absent friend.
Red. Costumes. Drama.
From another friend, Tori: “Red blankets. Red trees. So very strange.”
I hesitate to bring any thoughts of fatality and pandemics to readers so early in this interpretation of Coronavirus dreams, but who here hasn’t read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death? In the marrow of our bones, when someone mentions the Red Plague, don’t we all think ‘smallpox’? And then there’s The Crimson Plague by Jack London, and the crimson weeds the Martians sent to strangle the Earth in War of the Worlds.
Red. A red that spreads.
Absent Loved Ones
The theme of absence seems prevalent in many of our collective quarantine dreams. Our souls are being drawn to the ones we cannot touch, those folk who feel somehow key to our lives. They are somehow both achingly close and distant – even if they are just a video call or message away.
The pandemic envelops us all in an invisible barrier. It’s not just the tangible effects of self-isolation and social distancing, but an additional auric emotional layer of loss and absence.
For some dreamers, it feels as though our energy can’t get through to the people in our thoughts. For others, it feels like dreams are the only way in which the energy can pass through those invisible barriers. When phones and laptops aren’t enough, souls are reaching out to each other via telepaphone… through dreams.
Quarantine Dream: The Mouse Midwife by Karlina Veras
In her dream, Karlina meets her friend Taina (who had a baby girl a week before the dream, and lives in faraway Boston). Karlina had to act as midwife to Taina in the dream, and helped her friend give birth to forty-eight tiny mice.
Karlina has her own interpretation: “Even though on the surface I am coping OK, I am anxious. I miss the personal touch of seeing my friends, of hugging, of being out in the world. Taina is one of my oldest friends and I haven’t seen her in a long time. This dream is my way of reaching to her, of telling her in the receptive world of dreams that I think of her, that I love her.”
We think of the people we cannot touch. We miss them. We love them.
Quarantine Dream: There Is No Us Anymore by Elodie Rose Barnes
“Over my first coffee, I was convinced that it meant that you’d died. I didn’t cry. I just sat there, numb. Over the second coffee, I comforted myself by wondering if perhaps it meant that the person I’d known had died, changed beyond recognition in the eighteen months since we’d spoken. Over the third coffee, I wondered if it meant I should message and find out. After all, when can you say it if you can’t say it in the middle of a pandemic? (But what is the it that I’d be saying?)
Over the plum cake, made the day before with frozen plums and the last of the honey, I wondered if it meant that I shouldn’t message, that if I did I’d only be disappointed.
Outside, on the one permitted walk per day, I wondered why it is that dreams never give us a straight answer to the questions we never knew we were asking. I wondered why it is that dreams always show us whatever it is we don’t want to see.
Now, I wonder if it simply meant I miss you.”
When dreams present us with people we’ve once known, and when the pandemic clouds that absence like louched absinthe, we can find ourselves faced with an overriding question. It’s not can we physically contact that person, but should we?
It’s a tough choice, with no clear answer. Should we contact these absent but heart-close souls in a pandemic? Or should we not, and instead aim to process that absence in other ways?
“It feels like the pandemic is acting as a sieve,” says Elodie Rose. “Separating those people who are really important to us from those who aren’t necessarily, and subsequently throwing up questions. If one of those important people isn’t really in your life anymore, what feels best to do? Accept it with gratitude and leave them in the past? Let them know? At least ask if they’re doing ok? There’s definitely the potential in these circumstances to become more aware of how relationships work on a soul level. Strong ties can still be there even when people have been apart for years.”
Health and Safety
Next, meet Alice. Alice has had yet another vivid dream and it’s one that, frankly, doesn’t feel necessary. Sometimes, for those of us who are currently employed or otherwise engaged in work, nightly vivid dreams can intensify to the point where they feel like a second job. Exhausting. Exhausting for anyone, whether in work or not.
“These nightly vivid dreams can DO ONE. Woke up still tired AGAIN, this time because I was worrying about my friend the cowboy builder (?!) making his staff work on scaffolding without helmets (?!)”
We are all Alice.
We have been presented with social distancing and self-isolating guidelines that are somehow both rigid and amorphous. Both clear and confusing. In our own ways, we are trying to process what is fair activity with regards to our physical and mental health, and what is fair to people as a local and global community.
It’s hard, though. Really hard. And our dreams are sifting through our anxieties as we change our daily behaviour in ways that feel minimal to some, and vast to others, but all have life and death at their core. Every tiny decision is a huge decision. Going to the shops for food? Life. Or maybe death, for oneself or another. Ordering food online? Life. Or maybe death, for the person delivering it, if they are unlucky or those employing them have not taken sufficient care.
Cowboy builders risking the lives of others by making their staff work on scaffolding without helmets? It’s not okay. And there’s a metaphor in there that relates to Coronavirus and doesn’t need spelling out.
Our very own Magical Editor, Kate Garrett, has also been experiencing quarantine dreams related to health and safety.
“I ran into my bedroom to find my husband getting changed for bed. It was 11pm by the dream clock. He looked really sketchy and said he’d been out getting a job working for a funeral service and morgue. I was extremely upset and yelled at him that working with dead bodies during a pandemic when it wasn’t already his job was irresponsible for someone with a big family.”
This is the health and safety bit of the dream. Kate’s dream was, in fact, a health and safety sandwich, with a gruesome prologue of cats slowly torturing a frog combined with a sci-fi horror epilogue of her husband’s dream work colleague stealing a mask made out of someone’s skin at a private hospital and sneaking out wearing a dead person’s face. If, like Kate and myself, you are drawn to the details of macabre dreams, then you may be pleased to know these things.
The most seemingly mundane of Coronavirus dreams are rooted in some of our greatest fears, anxieties and questions. What even is safe? And how can we process our fears when we see others (or even ourselves) not taking the highest levels of care?
Animals and Vulnerability
Animals can be our drives, or they can be elements of our own nature and situation. Or they can be actual pets that we care for and have responsibility for. We must protect the vulnerable. Including ourselves.
Quarantine dream: Being Vetted by Amy Barnes
“The doctor has bits of fur on his hands and neck, poking out around his white coat’s collar and sleeves. I wonder if he’s a werewolf but don’t dare ask.
He growls a command at me.
‘Roll up your sleeve,’ he says.”
Amy’s dream reads like a fully-formed piece of flash fiction, and it’s incredible, what dreams can dish out. Perhaps it’s because we’re waking without alarm clocks in line with natural sleep patterns. For some of us, perhaps it’s because our sleep has become erratic to the point where we wake up at crisis point and analyse our dreams as a coping mechanism. Whatever the reason, pandemic dreams seem so vivid, and more likely to retain their power than those standard dreams which can fade like a colour photograph in the sun.
In her dream, Amy Barnes finds herself somehow-almost-possibly inhabiting the body of a domestic animal going to the vets for its shots. And with good reason.
“Shortly before this dream,” says Amy, “I found out both dogs need their vaccines. Immediately. We hadn’t left the house in weeks. Our first major trip would be to get their shots. It was obviously making me very anxious.”
Animals need our love. Sometimes we feel more able to respond sensitively to their needs than our own. Earlier, Karlina dreamed of tiny mice in place of her friend’s newborn baby. And Kate dreamed of her own cats – one alive, two long since past.
Animals in (Coronavirus) dreams matter.
Disease and symptoms
To anyone who has been dreaming of disease and specifics of ill health – particularly if it relates to personal experience – my heart goes out to you.
Some of us may have already experienced loss, bereavement, and the intertwined emotions that go with that. Grief takes time to process. Any anxiety or loss felt as a direct result of the pandemic can seep into dreams and take the shape of other forms of grief or trauma faced in the past – such as ill health in family or people that have in some way shaped our lives.
Jen George has shared a very personal dream, as related here, with multiple threads of sisterly love, trauma and absence rolled into one:
“I was sitting in a crowded lecture hall at my alma mater. My sister was sitting across the room, looking much younger than she is now. My father (her stepfather) stood up, moved forward, and lined up his aim at my sister. I moved toward him, but I didn’t get there in time. He opened his mouth. A strange string of phlegm came out of his mouth, hovered in the air, and moved straight at my sister, hitting her in the head. Of course, she was startled and then moved to protect herself.”
Of this dream, Jen says: “I feel this relates to coronavirus because my sister is both vulnerable and a front-line worker. She has asthma and diabetes, and she provides direct support to individuals with disabilities in a group home. My father died 25 years ago, but he suffered from emphysema, which to my childlike mind was about the worst respiratory problem a person could have. My father wheezed and hacked and sounded like he was drowning most of the time. He physically and emotionally abused my sister, enjoying exasperating and antagonizing her. It would make sense that my father would play the part of a malicious source spreading a horrible respiratory disease to my sister. In real life, I live over a thousand miles away from my sister, and I do worry about her because I can’t be there to keep her safe.”
We are all doing what we can, in our own ways. What else can we do?
Lockdown dreams: making your own space for the nightwolf
Although there has been a rise in pieces on lockdown dreams, I have purposefully read none of them – interested though I am. If you, too, are interested in Coronavirus-related lockdown dreams, I have no wish for you to read the same things twice. This piece is not coloured by other journalists and the thoughts of experts – it is shaped purely by fellow dreamers.
And if you read something here that relates to something about lockdown dreams you read elsewhere? Why, then – use me as your control. If these words echo those words, then it indicates the pandemic has brought about a rise in gestalt dreaming. Our chests may not rise and fall in unison as we lie sleeping, but perhaps our souls do.
We are a ragged army of dreamers marching on our beds, not our stomachs. As we fall into slumber, so may we rise to a sun shining on fields of experience, all neatly shorn and ready for new days ahead.
Main image: Artwork by surrealist photographer Dora Maar