Dream interpretations date back to 3000-4000 BC. Back then dreams were documented in clay tablets. It is said that people in primal societies were unable to distinguish between the dream world and reality. They not only saw the dream world as an extension of reality, but the dream realm was a more powerful world for them.
Back in the Greek and Roman era, dream interpreters accompanied military leaders into battle. Dreams were extremely significant and often seen as messages from the Gods. They were viewed in a religious context and in Egypt, priests also acted as dream interpreters. The Egyptians recorded their dreams in hieroglyphics. People with particular vivid and significant dreams were believed to be blessed and were considered special. People who had the power to interpret dreams were revered and seen as divinely gifted. In the bible, there are over 700 mentions of dreams. Starting from these ancient cultures, people had always had an inclination to interpret dreams.
Dreams were also seen as prophetic. People often referred to their dreams for signs of warning and advice. It was an oracle or omen from outside spirits, or a message from a deity, the dead or sometimes even the works of a demon. Dreams often dictated the actions of political and military leaders and aided in diagnosis for the medicine men. Dreams were a vital clue for healers in what was wrong with the dreamer and used them to make a diagnosis. People in ancient Greece and ancient China referred to their dreams for their next course of action.
The Chinese believe that the soul leaves the body to go into the other world. And,
if they should be suddenly awakened, their soul may fail to return to the body.
For this reason, some Chinese even today, are wary of alarm clocks.
Some Native American tribes and Mexican civilisations share this same notion of a distinct dream dimension. They believe that their ancestors lived in their dreams and take on non-human forms like plants. They see dreams as a way of visiting and contacting their ancestors. Dreams also helped point out their mission or role in life.
In the early 19th century, dreams were dismissed as stemming from anxiety, a household noise or even indigestion. Hence, there was really no meaning to it. Later on, Sigmund Freud revived the importance of dreams and its significance and need for interpretation. It was he who revolutionised the study of dreams.
Compiled by Sujeena Shakya, Little Angels’ School, Class X