Dreams give you messages in a variety of ways, some are precognitive giving you insight into your future either near or far. Others are symbolic, some dreams help you to unlock what is buried within your subconscious so that in your waking state you can apply the learning. Whatever your dream state reveals to you, dreams can only enhance your waking life. Throughout cultures dreams have had enormous importance attached to them, dreams are mysterious and significant. Dreams serve a purpose in our lives, they can help us resolve problems or alert us to problems, dreams help us to relieve tension, give prophetic guidance, and they inspire the artist and writer. Sigmund Freud believed that dreams were an emotional safety valve as they helped the individual to resolve inner conflicts.
The ancient Egyptians practiced dream interpretation as they believed that the basis of dreams was reality and the conscious mind was the controller. The Egyptians wrote down their dreams in 2000 BC, they were documented on papyrus. There is an Egyptian papyrus dating from 1250 BC, it is the oldest written record of the meaning of dreams, the dreams are interpreted by the priests of Horus, Horus is the Egyptian god of light.
The Egyptian records reveal that there are three main types of dreams:
(1) Dreams where the gods demanded a pious act.
(2) Warning dreams such as illness or revelations.
(3) Dreams that came about through ritual.
It was believed by the Egyptians that dreams were also oracles, bringing specific messages from the gods. To induce incubate dreams they visited a shrine where they slept overnight on a ‘dream bed,’ there they waited to receive divine advice, comfort or healing from their dreams. Travellers who were sick took potions or fasted in order to induce dreams.
Distinction between good and bad dreams:
Votive inscriptions, revealing help had been given in improving health, can be found at the Shrine of Apollo at Delphi, also at the Temple Epidaurus which was dedicated to the cult of Aesculapius, Aesculapius was a highly regarded healer.
Rituals before sleeping:
The Greeks practiced pre-sleep rituals, they purified and dedicated themselves. They did this by preparing themselves for two days before entering the shrine, they abstained from sex, did not eat fish, meat or fowl and they only drank water. They made an animal sacrifice to the god they wished to invoke in their dreams. Some subjects stood before a statue of the god in order to be imbued with feelings of awe before they slept and entered a dream state. After preparations the subject would then lay down, they slept upon the skin of an animal that had been sacrificed.
Dreams that heal:
During the night, priests stood by the bedside of a sick dreamer dressed as gods, this was done to give the patient medical treatment. The following morning the subject’s dreams were interpreted by the priest, and the priest would then tell the subject the best way to care for their health.
Beings of light dream couriers:
The Greeks believed the god Hypnos brought sleep to mortals, he did this by fanning them with his wings or by touching them with his magic wand. The god of dreams Hypnos’s son and the messenger Hermes, sent his dreams to the sleepers below. Morpheus the ancient Greek god of dreams, also sent warnings and prophecies to those who slept at shrines and temples.
The dream people:
It was believed by the Greeks that the people within their dreams lived near the Underworld. Homer said that these phantoms entered the dream world by way of two gates. Those entering true dreams (dreams that came to pass), enter by the gate of Horn. Those entering false dreams, (dreams that delude), come through the Gate of Ivory.
Precognitive or Prophetic dreams:
Aristotle belief was that premonitory dreams of sickness could be caused by the dreamer’s unconsciousness recognition of the symptoms. The ancient Greek philosopher thought the dreamer acted unconsciously to bring about the dreamed event.
It was ruled by the Emperor Augustus that anyone who had a dream about the state must proclaim it in the marketplace. The Romans believed that it was imperative to find out the wishes of the gods.
Interpretation of dreams:
Artemidorus wrote down in the second century AD, all he knew of dream interpretation from the records of the Greeks, Assyrians and Egyptians, the book was called Oneirocritica (dream interpreter). The book was used as a reference by authors up to the 18th century.
The Hebrews dream beliefs:
The Hebrews believed that dreams were messages from one god alone. The Hebrews differentiated between good and bad dreams, the bad they believed were brought by evil spirits. Dreams were an integral part of the religious structure of the ancient Hebrews.
Within the temple at Shiloh the Hebrews would lay down to sleep, first they would offer a sacrifice to god. Through incubating dreams they would receive divine revelations.
Dream interpretation within different cultures:
Assyrian – If someone saw an empty pot in a dream it prophesied poverty. A goblet filled to the brim promised fame and children. If a date palm was seen being cut down, the dreamer was going to find a solution to their problems. Seizing a snake meant the dreamer was to be protected by angels. Seizing a snake in a dream was a very good sign, it meant the angels would protect the dreamer. Meeting a bird during the dream state meant that something lost would be returned.
Hebrew – Seeing a cooking pot in a dream denoted peace and domestic calm. If a palm tree appeared in a dream, the dreamer was about to be punished for past sins. If a cooking pot was seen in a dream it denoted peace and calm within the home. A snake meant a secure and profitable livelihood and a snake bite promised a double income. Birds were good omens, however owls were not, they meant bad luck.
Egyptian – To see a pot being filled in a dream meant pain. If beer was being poured from a pot it meant there was to be a robbery. Within the Egyptian culture, a dream showing the dreamer sitting in a tree meant that troubles would be overcome. Filling a pot in a dream was a bad omen promising pain. If beer was being poured from a pot there was to be a robbery. If the dreamer saw a snake in their dream a dispute would soon be settled. If a bird was caught in a dream, there was to be a loss of some sort.
Greek – Within the Greek culture if wine was being poured from pots in a dream, serenity was indicated. If a cup was drunk dry this was very lucky. Dreaming about trees for making ships was unlucky, unless the dreamer was a carpenter or a seaman. If wine was poured from pots serenity was indicated. Drinking a full cup until it was empty was very lucky. Snakes were bringers of illness and enemies. If the snake was powerful then that was even worse. Eagles signified rulers, wild pigeons signified immoral women.
Dating back from 1000 BC in ancient India dreams were greatly valued, a prophetic dream indicated that the events were to take place. If a dream takes place near dawn the event would happen sooner than one that was an early night dream.
The Japanese had shrines for incubating dreams. Japanese emperors who were searching for solutions to political problems, incubated their dreams at a Shinto temple at Usa, on the island of Kyushu. Within the emperor’s palace there was a dream-hall, it had an incubation bed that was made from polished stone.
Rituals were conducted in order to create good dreams and defend against the effects of bad ones. Later the Muslim dreams were associated with astrology.
Australian Aborigine beliefs:
Dreamtime is the basis for these beliefs. In ancient times spirits sleeping underground rose and wondered across the earth, as they walked they sang the names of everything they passed. As they walked and sang they shaped the landscape, they made humans and taught them the art of survival.
North American Indian beliefs:
Within the belief system of the North American Indians is the premise that the hidden wishes of the soul are revealed. The most vivid dreamer was chosen as a medicine man. The Iroquois tried to make desires come true by acting them out. The Huron believed the soul would be satisfied by expressing its desire in a dream.
Consciousness and Unconsciousness:
Consciousness has many layers, when we are wide awake we are not aware of all that is going on around us or of our own actions. As we sleep our brains are extremely active, and material from the unconscious surfaces in the form of dreams, in waking life unconscious thoughts can be a burst of inspiration.
During the sleep process the body repairs itself while the brain processes the days events and works to sort them out. Each night during four or five sleep cycles, we go through various stages of sleep. Within each stage there are unique characteristics, each designed to maintain health and to prepare us for our day to day lives. When we sleep the levels of consciousness are Excited – Relaxed – Drowsy – Asleep – Deep sleep – Coma. The amount of sleep an individual requires varies, a newborn spends 80% of its time sleeping, by five months they need less sleep, sleep requirement decreases through life. In middle age a person requires eight hours, in old age it is reduced to seven or less. An adult spends around one third of their sleep cycle in REM sleep, 14 – 18 year olds have the lowest proportion of REM to non REM sleep. The average person in the course of their life will spend around 20 years sleeping and experience at least 300,000 dreams. The nervous system needs to sleep and dream for health and wellbeing
People will die more quickly from lack of sleep than from lack of food. If a person is kept awake for long periods of time they will hallucinate and become disorientated, for health and vitality sleeping and dreaming is essential.
Each person has a natural rhythm of sleeping and waking, it is based on individual circadian rhythms throughout 24 hours. Sleep involves four stages that form the sleep cycle, in the first stage the individual drifts between sleeping and waking. During the second stage the body can be woken by even the slightest disturbances and the eyes roll from side to side. The body is very relaxed during stage three and only an extremely loud disturbance will awaken them. It takes twenty minutes to go through the three stages. After stage four the cycle reverses, when the person reaches stage one the body goes into REM sleep and begins to dream. From stage one to four takes between 90 and 100 minutes. This cycle repeats itself between four and five times during the course of a night’s sleep. Most dreams take place during REM sleep, at this time the major muscles of the body are paralysed.
Reality in dreams:
Within dreams timing is of no account, decades can go by while you are sleeping. The dream world is fluid and can seem distorted. Things are not always as they seem as incongruous images present themselves to the dreamer. Events are exaggerated and emotions heightened, things take place in dreams that do not take place in your normal day to day life, such as flying high in the sky, or swimming under water and being able to breathe. Sometimes dreams are beautiful and placid, other times dramatic and frightening. Dreaming is necessary to our wellbeing, all dreams are not remembered, it has also been suggested that dreams help us to learn and at times find answers.
Types of dreams:
The most common dreams are those about snakes, houses, water, travel, flying, royalty, the dentist or teeth. Other dreams are of sex, aggression/anger, eating, family, friends, lovers and relatives who have passed over. Some believe that those who dream of extraterrestrials are actually tuning in to a force beyond the earth plane. People tend to have dream themes and particular people who appear in their dreams throughout their lives. The more frightening dreams/nightmares we have occur during REM sleep, women seem to have nightmares more frequently than men. Sigmund Freud believed that all dreams are sexual or aggressive in nature.
Dreams can help the individual tap and apply their creativity in any particular form. Many artists, writers, scientists, designers and musicians use their dreams as a source of inspiration. As everything in dreams is exaggerated those who are creative will often awaken feeling inspired after dreaming. Well-known composers have cited their dreams as being their greatest inspiration. Poetry and novels are written after creative dreaming, films are produced, spectacular art is created. Charles Dickens derived inspiration for many of his characters from his dreams. The fictional writer Robert Louis Stevenson created his fictional character Mr. Hyde, after he had a particularly vivid and detailed dream. The French artist Paul Gauguin was inspired to paint one of his most famous works after he awoke from a dream
These dreams help us to pay attention to issues and conflicts that are repressed at a conscious level, when we sleep our emotional barriers are down and we are more receptive.
Often things that we procrastinate about, deny or try to ignore will be presented to us again and again in our dreams, until we finally pay attention and resolve whatever it is we are meant to deal with. This type of dream is to help us recognis/e and pay attention to problems that are hidden or buried, often within the dream there is an idea for a solution.
In precognitive dreams the dreamer is given insight into their future and offered guidance, relatives who have passed over often reveal themselves in these dreams.
These dreams are often frightening in their reality, but are not necessarily actual, such as dreaming of death is usually to do with major change in our lives. It can also mean a new beginning or the start of a new cycle in life. If someone you care about has died, dreams of your own death or someone close to you often occur, this has more to do with the psychological processing of what has taken place and your adjustment to change.
During our waking hours the mind absorbs copious amounts of information and during the dream state what has been absorbed is then analysed. Health issues that are being suppressed due to fear will surface while the individual is dreaming.
Factual and problem solving dreams:
These dreams place an emphasis on actual day to day activities and events, offering guidance and at times answers to problems we are unable to resolve in our waking state. Many people think of their problems before they go to sleep and ask for guidance, often upon waking the next morning they have the answers they were looking for, or at the very least greater understanding. Thomas Edison believed that napping helped him with his inventions, he often saw images in his dreams of what he was going to create.
Lucid dreaming occurs more frequently in the early morning. You can learn how to incubate lucid dreaming:
(1) Make sure your sleeping environment is peaceful, calm and comfortable.
(2) On your bedside table have a pen/pencil and paper.
(3) Before you go to sleep think about the subject of your dream, be clear.
(4) During the day think about the theme of the dream you want to have, this prepares the mind for lucid dreaming.
(5) Describe the dream you want to have out loud, including as much detail as possible
(6) Write down the dream you want to have.
(7) Prepare your body for sleep. Make sure there are no noises, turn off the phone, television, radio. A comfortable mattress, bedding that is pleasant to the touch in a colour that appeals, an oil essence with a scent you love, or the scent of flowers, a comfortable pillow. Reduce tension, relax for several minutes before you climb into bed. Reading before you go to sleep will also relax you, poetry is especially relaxing.
(8) Read what you have written and be sure it makes sense, if not, revise.
(9) Immediately you have decided on the theme of your dream, spoken about it, thought about it and written it down, go to bed.
(10) Make sure your mind doesn’t wonder, only the source of your dream should be in your mind.
Lucid dreaming may take time to learn, but if you practice it will become second nature, lucid dreaming can help you reveal unresolved anxieties helping to create balance in your life. On the morning following your incubation dreaming, write down everything you saw felt and heard in your dream, then take your time and allow the answers to come to you.
Dreaming is a language all its own, each dream is unique to the individual, even though many people seem to have similar dreams, such as flying or falling, a dream is personal and each dream carries its individual message to the dreamer. By writing your dreams down each morning you will tune in to the language of dreams and bring more understanding into your waking life. You will be able to solve problems more easily and understand yourself in a deeper and more meaningful way.