The Dreaming Body


(Offering to Avanyu)


Recently, I had a dream that informed me that I needed to peck an image of Avanyu into a canyon wall. I took this to mean that I needed to visit a snake. Avanyu is an ancient Tewa Pueblo Serpent who is pecked into the walls of canyons or overlooks the rivers from high on the mesas. These petroglyphs usually have at least one horned serpent and are accompanied by smaller snakes without a headdress. Some of the images on the mesas show Avanyu spiraling skyward while some that I have seen in the canyons run parallel with the arroyos that are flooded with water during storms. Avanyu is the embodiment of Spirit of the River, the one who brings life – bringing water to the desert.

I “read” these petrogylphs as Avanyu having access to the spirit world, as well as being a manifestation of the body of earth and water, at least for the Tewa Pueblo people. For me every time a snake appears in my dreams something important is trying to be conveyed through my body. After the dream I decided that I needed to make a pilgrimage into an arroyo to visit Avanyu in hopes of having another dream to help me clarify what his presence might mean.

The air was still as I walked deep into the canyon. The sweet pungent scent of sage wafted my way in the early spring sun. Briefly, I noted the large distinctive prints of a puma and the hooves of mule deer. As I made my way through the stony arroyo the light was in my eyes making it difficult to see pictures on canyon walls.

At one point, I entered a little cleft in the canyon, and just below a pinion pine l discovered a pile of bluebird feathers. The sun made the feathers shimmer with an unearthly blue light. I gasped in wonder at this sight. Examining the feathers carefully as I collected them, I concluded that this was not a pinion but a Stellar blue jay because there were black feathers mixed in with the others. And the cobalt blue was almost unbearably intense.

It was starting to get warm and I decided that Avanyu had chosen not to make himself visible to me for whatever reason, although I felt gifted by those feathers, so I began to retrace my steps. And that’s when I saw him pecked into the canyon wall. The petroglyph had been flooded many times and I knew that I was in the presence of an image that was in the process of disappearing into deep time, though I firmly believed that because Nature has memory, the power of his presence would remain. I felt a rush of gratitude. Taking one of the best feathers I had gathered I placed it in a niche in the canyon wall offering Avanyu a gift.

Last night I had a strange dream about a television breaking down. The sound was blocked and I felt enormous frustration. Since I don’t own a television this mechanical device was blocking communication by using silence as a kind of weapon, an emotionally abusive blocking tactic I was familiar with because it’s part of my family history. I think Avanyu was warning me that I needed to let go of trying to understand someone else’s craziness – something that never belonged to me in the first place. Thank you Avanyu.


Working notes:

Not surprisingly, up until the advent of Christianity serpents were always associated with the Life Force and with the body.

In Greece women priestesses dedicated themselves to Artemis and watched over temples where people came to bathe in warm springs to have healing dreams.

In Neolithic Old Europe serpents were always associated with the Great Goddess who also had a bird aspect. Rarely was this Goddess associated with “mother.” In ancient times The Great Goddess of Nature had both a bodily (serpent) and spiritual (bird) aspect because She was One Unto Herself.

I see Avanyu, as a manifestation of both the Spirit of the waters and as the Body of the Earth, both images of undivided Nature.

Avanyu, Spirit of the Rivers


Author looking at a petroglyph site near the river. Avanyu is represented with and without horns in between images of the Cloud people.


I dreamed about you last night:

An antidote for metal spikes

rising out of unhallowed ground,

bloody wooden spears that impale,

leaving lifeless bodies

in their wake.


I need you.


Gift me with the knowledge

I need to deal with

Double moons,

Reversing, dirty rivers

(behind my back)

spiked metals

and baby blue.


I need you.


Spears of hatred

wound and fester

create illness,


disharmony in

spirit, soul, and body.


I need you.


Black Serpent

you are the manifestation of

the Spirit of Life

your belly blesses the Earth as

you slither on hallowed ground.


Our desert needs you.


Mother of the Flowing Waters,

You are the Source of Life,

Under your care

seeds swell and burst

red willows are tinted green

Cactus sprout buds in winter –


Our desert needs you.


Your image is pecked in stone

on all the surrounding mesas.

Horned, you spiral skyward

calling the Cloud People

To gift our Earth with rain…

Won’t you sing to them again?


Our desert needs you.


Red Willow River is under siege

from drought

Her stones are no longer hidden

under sea green water.

The desert floors cracks

beneath my feet.


Our desert needs you.


Come to us,

Spirit of the Living Waters

Mother of the Fertile Earth

Come to us

so that we may be healed

of wounds brought on

by those who have forgotten

that You are the Source of Life.


Working Notes:


Avanyu is an ancient Pueblo Tewa deity who is the Guardian of the Waters. He is usually represented as a horned or plumed serpent with curves that suggest flowing water or sometimes as the zig zag of summer lightening. Avanyu appears on the walls of canyons and in caves high above the rivers of New Mexico.


Avanyu is probably related to the Feathered Serpent of Meso America.


I also believe that the Amazonian River Serpent, Yakumama is another manifestation of this most powerful deity. Yakumama according to Amazonian Indigenous mythology brought the people down to earth from the Milky Way leaving them with food, plant medicine, and a way to contact her through visioning so that the People might thrive. Sachamama is the corresponding Serpent Guardian of the Amazonian Forest, the sister of Yakumama.


I personally believe that Avanyu has a serpent counterpart. Last spring I was struck by the number of snakes (both poisonous and non- poisonous) that I encountered in the spring. Those snakes carried a “charge” (energy spike) for me that indicated that the Water Serpent has a desert counterpart.


In most cultures the Serpent represents the Life Force.


In this time of Earth destruction and political insanity we would do well to honor the Spirit of Life while we still can.