The First Interpretations

By: Victoria Owens

For centuries, dreams have been the subject of interest in many cultures; dating farther back than 2500 B.C.E., dream interpretation has been used in order to predict upcoming events, get more in touch with the self, and even prove oneself as a ruler (Hoffman, 2004). Their are a number of scholarly libraries that carry ancient dream-texts and books on the interpretation of dreams; these instructional books provide the interpreter with a key to understanding different symbols within a dream.

Including the earliest recorded dream in history, many dream analyses in ancient civilizations were performed by a woman close to the dreamer. Dating farther back than 2500 B.C.E., before the Epic of Gilgamesh, Demuzis’s dream was recorded and analyzed by the monarch’s sister. Even the interpretations of dreams within the Epic of Gilgamesh were performed by a female (Hoffman, 2004). The ancient civilizations that valued the meaning of dreams often put stock into those who could accurately use dream-books and make difficult associations within a dream in order to explain its full meaning (Hoffman, 2004; Stewart, 2004).

The ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Egyptians were some of the earliest and most prominent civilizations that made use of dream interpretation.  It is important to note, however, that the majority of dream accounts in these ancient societies came from prominent figures within the civilization; specifically, monarchs and men of the temple (Hoffman, 2004; Shushan, 2006). In fact, some ancient rulers used dream interpretation in order to promote an air of safety and comfort amongst their people. The wiles of the monarch’s subconscious mind during sleep were considered to be on the same level as premonitions (Hoffman, 2004). Interestingly, much of the the ancient  Mesopotamian, Greek, and Egyptians’ dream accounts involve divinities of some sort. Whether the dreamer is actively interacting with the gods or simply looking upon them in their dream, there are numerous references to the contemporary gods. Divine figures within the dream records of ancient civilizations prove the importance of such heavenly messages within the cultures of the time (Hall, 1992).

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