Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Do you have dreams that stay with you after you wake? Was there something about it that you knew had meaning? Have you ever dreamt about an object or an animal that left such a strong impression on you? Have you ever had a dream that you still remember years later? Those dream messages should be explored and worked with.
Not every dream will have a deeper meaning waiting to reveal itself. Some dreams are the kind that you think are daily processing dreams, a revisiting of any day in your daily life. Even those dreams we understand as daily processing, the Ancient Egyptians understood them to be as an alternative to what happened to the Dreamer in their waking lives. Another perspective, seen by their ancestors and the Neteru and another chance to do things over again. Better yet, a chance to have a more auspicious outcome happening in their waking lives. Or if the event has yet to happen, a chance to do something by the advice of their ancestors and of the Gods. That is the power of the dream.
Nightmares affecting Dreamer's Waking Life
We know not all dreams are pleasant. Nightmares would cause great anxiety to an Ancient Egyptian because of the belief that their dreams could have messages from their dead loved ones or from the Gods. There is a multitude of autobiographical literature sources on the topic of nightmares. The Ancient Egyptian would go to the temples seeking advice from the priesthood and remedies for their nightmares. Obtaining protective amulets, jewelry, votives and statutes to even help prevent nightmares and to resolve the bad dreams that have already happened to them. Protective wands, mirrors, head rests and rearing cobras are all examples of votive items that the Dreamer would keep close by while they slept.
Instructions from a papyrus to be said over four Uraei made of pure clay with fire in their mouths. One to be placed in each corner of the room in which the man or woman sleeps. Endnote 1
Dream Interpretation and the Ancient Egyptian God BES
The Neteru BES (female BESET) and BESA in Hellenistic times was the most popular God that the people turned to for help with their dreams. His face is depicted on many dream therapy items. There were many petitions written to BES for his help. Excerpt taken from PGM VIII...
On your left hand draw BESA in the way shown below. Put around your hand a black cloth of Isis and go to sleep without giving answer to anyone. The remainder of the black cloth put around your body. Here is the text of the prayer to be said at the setting Sun. "I beg of you... Lord send me your holy servant, immediately, immediately, quickly, quickly in this night. Come to me that I may see truth..."Endnote 2
Nightmares that were Recurring Dreams
Nightmares that were recurring caused great anxiety and consultations with the priesthood were sought to resolve them. A variety of prescriptions along with instructions on dream incubation and ritual rites to be performed, along with statues, jewelry, amulets and other dream therapy items were all part of the course of treatment for nightmare resolution and mental wellness. For those Dreamers who could afford, the priesthood would pray and sleep in the inner temple sanctums to dream on the Dreamer's behalf. To petition the ancestors of the Dreamer and audience with the Neteru "in person" on the Dreamer's behalf.
If the nightmare had not resolved the Dreamer could seek further advice from the priesthood. Talking to a priestess or priest would help the Dreamer gain further insights on possible dream meanings and messages that the Dreamer might not see right away and need the priesthood's insights to deepen the dream's meaning.
Understanding Dream Imagery and Language
Dream meanings, whether you believe they come from your unconscious Self or " the collective unconscious" or whether you believe they are messages that come from a liminal realm where the Gods and the ancestors live, are valuable and are being spoken to us on a regular basis. What we need to do is to understand the language of the dream.
Dreams speak to us in metaphor, allegory, word association, symbols and sometimes exaggeration. Very rarely do dreams speak to us plainly. We, as the Dreamer, can often identify which dream elements have meaning and not all elements in the dream work with the overall dream meaning that is emerging. There are many elements that can have an interpretation rooted in Ancient Egyptian symbolism. That is a glimmer of the awakening of the KA spirit. Here are just a few...
Ancient Egyptian Symbols in Modern Dreams
Dream Interpretation about the Heart
The Heart AB, in Ancient Egyptian literature, is where memory and emotions reside. Even today the sayings we use “You make my heart race” or “She is gone and I feel like there is a hole in my heart”, rings true when we talk about our emotions emanating from our hearts. The depiction of the AB in the form of an amulet to be worn, is in the shape of a vase. Precious oils and words written on tiny papyrus scroll would be kept in the vase amulet worn by the Dreamer for nightly protection. For the heart to come up as a symbol in our modern dreams has deep meaning. The context surrounding the appearance of the heart needs to be understood.
Dream Interpretation about the ANKH as the Key of Life
The symbolism of the Ankh in Ancient Egyptian literature has always eluded Egyptologists. It has many meanings. Life eternal, water, fertility, divine energy or divine emanations from the Neteru. To see this symbol come up in our dreams what could we be looking at? Mirror with handle, a key, even a spoon that for some reason we find special meaning within the dream.
Dream Interpretation about a Girdle
The Belt of Isis is a not very well-known symbol but is very important in funerary literature and ritual. It goes with the deceased into the afterlife, both as an amulet and as cloth around the deceased. The girdle is a foundation garment worn by all walks of life and at all stages in life. When we have a dream that has significant emphasis on a belt, bra, underwear or a corset, we need to think, what are we doing with that garment? Are we being seen as vulnerable because we are in our undergarments? Are we instead being empowered?
Dream Interpretation with Birds
Ibis or Crane
If an ancient Egyptian dreamt of this bird, the priesthood might interpret that whatever is happening in the dream is a message from the Great Neteru Thoth. In our modern perspectives, to dream of a crane or ibis, might not hold the same significance but note the actions taken by the bird. If it is acting “un-bird like” then its actions are significant to the dream.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see this bird? It is the embodiment of wisdom in many ancient stories. In the modern tale of Harry Potter, this owl was a bringer of messages.
This bird is seen inside many ancient Egyptian temples, in courtyards where the people could stand to watch the temple proceedings in close proximity. It was the sign of the common devotee. A modern day interpretation of seeing this little bird in a dream can have similar meaning. Can you as the Dreamer relate to what is happening to the little bird?
BENU Bird or Phoenix
Universally understood as the All powerful being of rebirth and transformation. Since this symbol is so widely understood, specific cultural, mythological and religious meanings attributed to the bird would be especially important to the Dreamer. In Ancient Egypt, the BENU bird was the first being to rise out of the waters of creation. To dream of this bird was a good omen.
Interpreting Dreams about Bees and Honey
In Ancient Egypt, honey was more than just a sweetener, it was medicine. It was prescribed for respiratory ailments as well as dressing wounds. Honey was an offering made to the Neteru during rituals. The origins of honey and the honeybee can be found in P. Salt 825. The papyrus has written...
"Then RA wept again, when he saw that mankind ignored his laws. The tear that fell from his eye landed on the earth and transformed into a bee. As the bee was created, it began the the work of opening up all the flowers in the trees. This is how wax was created and how honey is created from his waters. "
To dream of a jar of honey, that has not been touched by another, is considered to be a gift from Ra. Endnote 3 To dream about bees or of honey is still a very positive omen, even in our modern dream narratives.
Dream Interpretation Techniques
The interpretation of dreams was regarded as scholarly work by the Ancient Egyptians. Many techniques were used depending on the nature of situation and if there were also any mental health issues. Understanding the dream was done by writing it down for it to be analyzed. The act of writing the dream narrative down revealed symbols, word associations, metaphor and similarities to events in their literature that could be referenced. If further insights are desired then ritual scribing, scrying, oracular consultation methods were performed.
They had many manuals written on papyrus scrolls for dream interpretation that described what certain actions taken in the dream meant. Ramesside Dream Book (P. Chester Beatty) was one such a manual, because the ancient Egyptian Dreamer was very preoccupied with whether their dreams were a premonition of bad luck about to happen to them the manual had dream interpretation subjects categorized as good or bad dreams.
Good Dreams from Ramesside Dream Interpretation Manual
If a man sees himself looking through a window…
If a man sees himself in a dream with his mouth broken open…
If a man sees nomads in his dream…
Bad Dreams from Ramesside Dream Interpretation Manual
If a man sees himself in a dream sailing downstream…
If a man sees himself in a dream being bitten by a dog…
If a man sees himself in a dream being pricked by a thorn…
Modern Dreams and their key Symbols - links to blogs?
Ghosts at a Wedding – key symbol ghosts – go to dream interpretation post here
Tree with eaten apples – key symbol eaten apples – go to dream interpretation post here
Tunnel with Waterfall – Part 1 – key symbol tunnel – go to dream interpretation post here
Tunnel with Waterfall – Part 2 – key symbol child – go to dream interpretation post here
Endless Starry Skies – key symbols stars, ocean – go to dream interpretation post here
Cougar and the church man – Part 1 – key symbol cougar – go to dream interpretation post here
Cougar and the church man – Part 2 – key symbols home, religious figure Jesus - go to post here
Here is a dream shared by a Dreamer that has a hidden meaning in Ancient Egyptian Symbolism
“I had a dream about black salamanders coming out of a flower vase. I washed them down the kitchen sink. I felt like something was bad.”
Key symbol or action taken – black salamanders
The key symbol in this dream is the black salamanders. It symbolizes a being is who is perfectly adapted to living its life in water. It is a creature who has amazing regenerative and healing abilities. To see multiples of them denotes generous/ample ability to heal or rejuvenate oneself. The colour of the salamander in your dream is also very positive. Black is the colour of good rich soil and silt, of great potential lying dormant, needing a catalyst to manifest. Seeing a black salamander is definitely a good omen. Multiples of them means abundance of the same good omen. Water is the element of life and emotions.
Dream Interpretation - Tier 2 – Ancient Egyptian Symbolism
Key symbol or action – black salamanders, pouring water from a vase
If the Dreamer has recently taken a turn of bad health, this dream speaks of an abundance of health and rejuvenation to return to the Dreamer through an association with waters and good emotions. As there are multiple salamanders in the dream it would mean an even faster compounding effect in the returning of good health. Mental or physical.
“I don’t really identify with the illness part, thankfully I am not sick. I feel my dream speaks more of emotional as it is a creature of the water and why also might I feel bad at the end?”
Further Dream Interpretation
Water represents any and all emotions. Emotions ebb and flow through us like the waters meandering through a stream bed or waters washing on a shoreline. Water in Ancient Egyptian mythology has many important roles. The waters of the Nile, personified as the God of Abundance Hapi, has also an aspect of being the gateway to the Underworld, the Am Duat. Those submerged in the Nile had immediate access to the liminal realm where divinity and ancestors could speak and give messages to the Dreamer. Water is also personified in the sky Goddess Nut. When you look up at the night sky and see the milky way, you are looking at the belly of Goddess. Her limbs outstretched from one horizon to the other. Embracing all of earths creations. There is also a lesser known but just as important God named Tefnut. She is the goddess of moisture and rain, depicted as a lioness who is kind but also can be fierce.
For the Dreamer to be pouring water and black salamanders from a vase in the shape of a heart is definitely a good omen. The act of washing implies cleanliness, purity and acts of kindness. To feel bad as you are washing/rinsing away the salamanders maybe is the unconscious realizing that the creatures in the water are good beings and not wanting them to depart. The act of pouring out water in Ancient Egyptian rituals is one of the fundamental steps to purification in preparation for actions about to be taken of great importance and can manifest great things.
If you have had a dream that you know has some deeper meaning and would like it interpreted, please inquire. Initial interpretations of key symbols or actions are $15 with further consultations starting at $45.
1. K. Szpakowska, Behind Closed Eyes, CPW Studies in Egyptology, 2003 pg. 170
2. H. Dieter Betz, Greek Magical Papyrus in translation, 1992 pg. 147
3. K. Szpakowska, ibid. pg. 129