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CLASSICAL DREAM INTERPRETATION
Early peoples believed that dreams were glimpses of the divine world and were sometimes messages from the gods or supernatural beings. We will never know for certain what prehistoric peoples thought of their dreams but some of the paintings painted in their caves are reminiscent of the strange world of dreams.
It is certain that the earliest cultures considered dreams to be of great importance and treated them with the utmost reverence. For example, the ancient Egyptians believed that the gods communicated through dreams and the ancient priests devised spells to bring them forth. Egyptian dream books have been discovered as well as spells to call upon the god Besa who would answer questions through dreams.
Ancient Dream Meanings
One of the earliest written records of dreams and their meanings is a papyrus of c.1250 BC. It records some 200 dreams and their interpretation according to the falcon-headed god Horus. A more well-known example if found in the book of Genesis, in which the Pharaoh’s precognitive dream of seven fat kine was correctly interpreted by Joseph as prophesying seven years of plenty and seven years of famine for ancient Egypt.
Similarly the ancient Greeks also believed that dreams were messages from the gods although this was disputed by Aristotle in Parva naturalia in which he argues that dreams were in fact fragments of recollections of events of the day. However, the general belief throughout the ancient world was that dreams were the god’s predictions of the future.
Early Books About Dream Interpretations
The oldest surviving comprehensive book of dreams and their meanings was compiled by Artemidorus of Ephesus in the second century. It was translated into English in the seventeenth century and reprinted 32 times before 1800. Freud used it in his researches and it has influenced many of the first dream dictionaries. This and the other dream dictionaries that followed were primarily concerned with predicting the future through dreams- an art known as Oneiromancy.
In the Mystic Meaning sections, I have included some of the traditional interpretations of dreams, many of which originate from these ancient sources. In addition, I have plundered the folklore archives of cultures from around the world and include many superstitions associated with dreams.
Whether these old superstitions really can help us see the future is questionable but there is a great deal of empirical evidence to suggest that dreams can be prophetic. Your dream diary will help you identify prophetic dreams but the most interesting glimpses of the future can come through a phenomena called Lucid Dreams.