In my last article, I discussed dreams in art and literature. To continue the study of dreams, this article focuses on the impact of dreams on different cultures.
Dreams have been with us since the beginning of time. There's no proof of this, but I'd bet the cavemen dreamed of woolly mammoths, saber tooth tigers and dragging some pretty girl off by her hair.
The Bible is full of references to dreams and visions. There are almost a hundred such references in the Old Testament alone.
- "And Joseph Dreamed a dream, and he told his brethren: and they hated him yet the more."
NEW TESTAMENT - Matthew 1:20
- "But while he (Joseph) thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."
Nebuchadnezzar, who suffered from insomnia, had troubling dreams when he did manage to fall asleep. Daniel gained political power because of his ability to interpret dreams and that power led to the freeing of the Jewish people.
And, speaking of Judaism, within the sixty-three volumes of the Talmud (Jewish text of canon and civil law) there are 217 references to dreams.
Christianity is not the only religion to refer extensively to dreams. Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon in a vision. The Eastern religions - Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, all rely heavily on dreams and dream symbolism. Muhammad received his divine messages in dreams.
Dreams are a big part of New Age spirituality where seeing auras, being visited by animal spirits and studying the chakras rely, at least in part, on the person's ability to know and understand dreams. The Pagan or Wiccan religion6 predates Christianity. Much of the chanting and ritual used in these religions is to produce a trance like state and promote dreams.
Even the West Indian religion of voodoo relies on dreams. Here, again, the shaman (called a houngan) employs chants, the throb of the drum and dancing to induce the dream-like state. No matter where you go among the ancient cultures and the aboriginal tribes, from "A" to Zulus and Zunis, you'll find a belief in dreams. China, for instance, had Dream Temples for the incubation of dreams. After special rituals of purification, you went to sleep after requesting guidance for any problems you had.
In Ancient Egypt, the people depended on their dreams to forecast the future. A great deal of literature exists about the Dreams of the Pharaoh. The earliest dream book ever discovered was created by the Egyptians in about 2000 BC. This dream book, called the Chester Beatty papyrus, includes over 200 interpretations.
In ancient Greece, people believed that dreams were a gift from the gods. However, interpreting them could be confusing, because they also believed that dreams usually meant the exact opposite of what they seemed to mean.
Published On: July 18, 2008