A Brief History of Dream Interpretation

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Good Morning Dreamers!

Do you have any dreams to share?

As I’ve focused on the world of dreams and dream interpretation this week I’ve wondered how long we humans have been examining the wanderings of our sleeping brains. A simple Internet search of the reveals we’ve been at it for quite some time, dating back to 3000-4000 B.C. when dreams were set down on clay tablets.

I imagine that our preoccupation with dreams goes back even further and that from the time we were able to communicate which each other, in however rudimentary a form, human beings have been enchanted with the dream world and have strived to understand them.

While some primal societies could not distinguish between the everyday and the dream world, for some ancient societies the dream world, was seen as not only an extension of the waking world, but as being a more powerful realm.


The ancient Greeks and Romans believed dreams were direct messages from the dead, the ancestors, or the gods. Dreams were interpreted as predictions and forewarnings of the future. Temples and shrines were built where people could sleep in order to receive dream messages.

So strong was their belief in the power of dreams that the actions of rulers and military leaders were often dictated by them. Dream interpreters accompanied generals into the battle fields in order to help advise on strategy. That is not a job I’d recommend to anyone.


In ancient Egypt, priests acted as revered dream interpreters; they were looked up to as divinely gifted. They too advised rulers and military leaders. Dreams were documented in hieroglyphics. Those people who had extremely vivid dreams were believed to be blessed by the gods.


Some cultures, such as the Chinese, believe that the dream world is an actual place that our spirit or soul visits nightly. As the soul leaves the body for this nightly journey it is believed that one should not be suddenly awakened because the soul may fail to return on such short notice.

Some African, Aboriginal, Native American, and Mexican societies held the belief of the dream world as another dimension, separate from the waking world and inhabited by dead ancestors who could provide dreaming visitors with messages, guidance, and information about one’s path or purpose in life.


Many in of these societies also believed that the spirits of the ancestors could inhabit plants, animals, water, and living humans in order to deliver their gifts, warnings, curses, or information. Many continue to hold these beliefs today.

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the history of belief in dream interpretation, but even briefly tracing back into history reveals a long-standing pull to glean information and guidance from our dreams. For instance the Bible and Koran are full of dream references; both religious texts include the story of Joseph and his role as an interpreter of dreams.

How do you approach the interpretation of your dreams? Through meditation? Consulting a dream dictionary? Do you regularly share and discuss your dreams with others?


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