I never remember my dreams, unless I have a few moments to think about them at that moment of pre-consciousness which, after a particularly vivid dream, can feel so much like prescience. The meaning is there, like a purpose, resistant to observation. My reasonable self, awake and curious, has thus become an inadvertent practitioner of oneiromancy.

Divination by means of dreaming has been a influential form of prophecy in the western world for over 3500 years. Practiced fanatically by civilizations such as Egypt, Assyria, and Greece, visionary dreams are also prolific in both pagan and Christian history. The bible is rife with prophetic dreams and sleep-trances granted by God upon believers and non-believers alike. Perhaps this is because the potency of oneiromancy has its roots in the ancient belief that the unconscious is the mediating field between the divine and the material world. As receptacles of God's chosen images, oneiromancers became especially cherished among the devote, or merely superstitious. Because oneiromancy as a service quickly became expensive, dream manuals gained popularity as literacy levels increased after the renaissance. The first of these manuals was the famous sixteenth century work titled La Physiognomie des songes et visions fantastiques des personnes, which offered highly efficient interpretations of a variety of dream images. For example, "To dream you are a tree means illness...To dream you eat cheese means profit." Etc.

Despite declining receptiveness to prophecy and fortune-telling, dreams were handled pretty much the same way (they remain, after all, beautifully mysterious) until the turn of the century. Sigmund Freud's publication of Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 solidified the speculation of the last couple of centuries on the (more) physical sources for dreams. Since the human psyche is as infinite and incomprensible as future, our dreams remain as tantalizingly mythic as ever.

This writeup was inspired by this morning's prophecy, and enabled by the WorldWide Pagan Network online database.

O*nei"ro*man`cy (?), n. [Gr. a dream + -mancy.]

Divination by means of dreams.

De Quincey.


© Webster 1913.

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