Dream symbols and explanations         

Dream History
Ancient Egyptian Theories

Ancient Egyptians were probably the first people who dealt with dream interpretation, as recorded in a book they wrote about dream symbols. They considered dreams to be messages from Gods, foreseeing either disasters or good fortune. In fact, the term "dream incubation" first appeared in Egypt. Apparently, when people wanted information from their dreams they would go to a "dream temple" where they would sleep and the next morning a temple priest would try to interpret their dreams.

Greek Philosophy on Dreaming

Dreams as signs from God first appeared in Greece in Homer's Iliad, where Agamemnon receives instructions from Zeus in one of his dreams. Greeks were also consulted by priests in order to interpret their dreams. They too would sleep in temples even for weeks sometimes, until they had the dream with the information they needed. The most famous for dream pilgrimage was the Aesculapius at Epidaurus.

It is uncertain who the first dreams interpreters were. Pliny the Elder claims Deukalion, the son of Prometheus was the first dream interpreter. Yet the famous historian Herodotus claimed that the people of Telmessus, a village in southwest Asia Minor, were known as dream interpreters and even King Croesus had asked for their consult.

In the 5th century BC, Greek philosopher Heraclitus suggested that a person's dream world was something created in their own mind. Most Greek philosophers in that time period pondered dreams and what they might mean. As told in Phaedo, Plato realized how much dreaming could affect a person when he found out that Socrates studied music and the arts because he was instructed to do so in a dream.

Aristotle began to study dreams and the dreaming process and was the first to put an end to the idea that dreams were divine messages. In his De Divinatione Per Somnum, he states, "most so-called prophetic dreams are to be classed as mere coincidences, especially all such as are extravagant," and that "the most skillful interpreter of dreams is he who has the faculty of absorbing resemblances. I mean that dream presentations are analogous to the forms reflected in water."

Roman Ideas

Romans had recorded their ideas about dreams in a five-volume work named the Oneirocriticon or The Interpretation of Dreams by the Roman Artemidorus (c. AD 150). This is the first comprehensive book on the interpretation of dreams, were Artemidorus brought out the idea that dreams are unique to the dreamer and are connected to the person's occupation, health and status.

Biblical Visions

The revived idea that dreams were of the supernatural element appears in the history of Christianity. One of the most famous dreams was Jacob's dream of a ladder from Earth to Heaven. St. Augustine and St. Jerome, claimed that their lives were dramatically affected by dreams that they had. Other religions reportedly believed in the significance dreams had in our lives. For example, Mohammed "received" much of the text of the Koran from a dream he had, as well as interpreting the dreams of his disciples.

Middle Eastern Dreamers

Dreams also concerned people from the Middle East. An anonymous Persian writer claimed that to truly interpret a dream it must be done during the day of incident. A religious group called the Zoroastrians followed this theory, which set rules for each day of the month. One of the most well-known Arabian dream interpreters was Gabdorrhachamn who believed that dreams could only be interpreted by a person with "a clean spirit, chaste morals, and the Word of Truth". But his dreaming aphorisms are thought to have been based on his own feelings rather than a true understanding of dream symbols.

Modern Philosophies

Probably the most famous dream philosopher was Sigmund Freud. According to Freud's theory dreams are in fact reflecting our deepest desires and our repressed urges and needs. Carl Jung disagreed with Freud on some points and believed that dreams reminded us of our wishes in order to realize what we subconsciously want and to help us fulfill our true desires. As Jung said, dreams were messages from ourselves alerting us to pay attention to them for our own benefit. Jung's theories are accepted by most psychologists nowadays and, unlike Freud, Jung claims that the dreamer is capable of interpreting his/her own dreams after carefully studying oneself.


DreamSymbols.net 2007



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