What did man do with these odd images that appeared during their sleep? Well, they did what we do today – tried to interpret them!
Dream interpretations date back to 3000-4000 B.C. where they were documented on clay tablets. For as long as we have been able to communicate our dreams, we have been fascinated with them and strive to understand them.
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 that the dream realm was a more powerful world.
Back in the Greek and Roman era, dreams were often seen in a religious context and messages from the gods. Temples, called Asclepieions were built around the power of dreams. It was believed that sick people who slept in these temples would be sent cures through their dreams.
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 looked up to and seen as divinely gifted. In the bible, there are over seven hundred mentions of dreams. Tracing back to these ancient cultures, people had always had an inclination to interpret dreams
Dreams were also seen as prophetic and an omen from outside spirits. People often looked to their dreams for signs of warning and advice from a deity, from the dead or even the works of a demon. Sometimes they look to their dreams for what to do or what course of action to take.
Dreams often dictated the actions of political and military leaders. In fact, in the Green and Roman era, dream interpreters even accompanied military leaders into battle to help. Some interpreters aided the medicine men in a diagnosis. Dreams offered a vital clue for healers in finding what was wrong with the dreamer.
Dreaming can be seen as an actual place that your spirit and soul leaves every night to go and visit. The Chinese believed that the soul leaves the body to go into this world. However, if they should be suddenly awakened, their soul may fail to return to the body. For this reason, some Chinese today, are wary of alarm clocks.
Some Native American tribes and Mexican civilizations share this same notion of a distinct dream dimension. They believed that their ancestors lived in their dreams and take on non-human forms like plants. They see that dreams as a way of visiting and having contact with their ancestors. Dreams also helped to point their mission or role in life.
During the Middle Ages, dreams were seen as evil and its images were temptations from the devil. In the vulnerable sleep state, the devil was believed to fill the mind of humans with poisonous thoughts. He did his dirty work though dreams attempting to mislead humans down a wrong path.
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 in the 19th century, Sigmund Freud revived the importance of dreams and its significance and need for interpretation. He revolutionized the study of dreams.