The History and Power of Dream Interpretation

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"You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one."
— John Lennon song, "Imagine" lyrics

Everybody dreams! Every night when we fall asleep, we dream. Do you dream of love, power, money, falling, or being naked at an important event? Are your dreams foretelling your future or exposing past regrets? Sometimes, only through dream interpretation can you get peace of mind and understanding.

dreams rf design Image source: RF Designs on Flickr

Since ancient times, humanity has been fascinated by what dreams mean. Magnificent art from cave walls to modern subways ponder dreams. Visions were once etched in ancient tablets and are now written in dream journals.

Even though we know now that everyone dreams, there are still unanswered questions. Why do we dream? Do dreams have divine origins? What do dreams mean? Can we stop dreaming or decide what we want to dream? What are some common dreams?

Remembered dreams were always considered significant. Nearly every religion has identified dreams as visionary or a form of prophecy. In modern times, dream interpretation has become a science that is still emerging.

Dream Interpretation History

Roman emperor Septimius Severus had a record of his dreams preserved in the records of "Historia Augusta". As a young man, he dreamed many times that he would be the emperor. After he had taken the throne of the Roman Empire, he recounted all these dreams, which in his case turned out to be prophecy.

Severus served as an interpreter for his dreams. However, it was in these Ancient Rome and Greece that men began to interpret the dreams of emperors and kings.

From ancient Greek comes the words "oneiros" (dream) and "manteia" (prophetic power). Together they form "oneiromancy" which means "dream divination". A person that could interpret or "divine" the meaning behind dreams was called an "oneiromantis". The Oneiromantis was considered a holy man or prophet.

the prophet jeremiah ian scott Image source: Ian Scott on Flickr

The great mind Cicero was a skeptic who wrote "On Divination". About 150 years later, ancient physician Galen wrote "On Diagnosis in Dreams" which linked dreams to both foretelling and healing. He believed he could diagnose his patients through dreams.

Many of the same themes we dream today appeared in ancient dreamers. The main difference is in the interpretations.

In the Hebrew Bible, dreaming divination is referred to often. In the book of Genesis, Joseph is sold to Egypt into slavery. His brothers fear Joseph's dreams that they will one day be subject to his rule. Joseph goes on to interpret dreams for other prisoners and ultimately the Pharaoh. This ability was a way out of prison that eventually led to his original dreams coming true.

In the Talmud (Jewish Bible) Tractate Berakhot of the Babylonian Talmud there is a long discourse on dream interpretation (55b-56b). This section contains the famous Rabbi Hisda's words, “A dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not read.”

"Now here I go again
I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself

It's only me who wants to
Wrap around your dreams and
Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness…"
— Stevie Nicks' song, "Dreams", lyrics

4 Facts About Dreaming

dreaming moyan brenn Image source: Moyan Brenn on Flickr

1. A Harvard Medical School study says that the act of dreaming causes the brain to integrate and understand the information you receive later. We dream on average 90 minutes a night. During that time, we are learning. The better you sleep and dream, the more you increase the brain's ability to learn.

2. There is no limit to the number of dreams you can have when you are sleeping. You may have one long dream or 12 short dreams on any given night.

3. Any dream can be interpreted.

No matter what you are dreaming, there is symbolism that can be applied. We dream so much and only remember a little of what we experience in the dream world. It helps to make a conscious attempt to remember. Keep a dream journal by your bed and write in it when you wake up.

There are metaphysical as well as psychological interpretations. Sometimes these meanings overlap. For instance, when someone dreams about a snowstorm, it means that they are lost, the truth is being hidden, and they may even feel like they are out in the cold. The same meanings and interpretations come from all perspectives.

4. 10 Most Common Dreams

  • Falling
  • Flying
  • Death
  • Being Naked in Public
  • Being Chased or Running Away
  • Babies
  • Cars, Buses or Trains
  • Animals
  • Money
  • School

These dreams have some common interpretations that are modified by the exact details. For example, if you are dreaming about cars, it may have to do with control are are trying to get from one place to another. The type of car may indicate the lifestyle you are seeking.

lexus lfa david villareal fernandez Image source: David Villarreal Fernández on Flickr

Dream about Lexuses may mean you seek riches. Dream about a station wagon may mean you want a family. If you are dreaming about a broken down car, this may indicate a lack of enthusiasm for the direction you are going in your life.

Most of these dreams are trying to tell you something. You may have waking dreams, or even reoccurring ones. Sometimes a dream is a vision of the future. Sometimes we dream to understand the past.

The truth is, the history of dream interpretation in ancient times points to humanity’s ever present link with Spirit. Every time we sleep, there is a promise that we may perceive the future. So sleep well tonight and remember all your dreams. And tomorrow, find out what your dreams mean from a really great dream interpreter.


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