Lesson 7) Once Upon a Dream
The students file into the Divination lounge to an unusual sight. Professor Cattercorn is at her desk, however she is laying on it. Her feet hang off one end and her head nestles at the other, her chest rising and falling with even breath. As half of the students settle in and more come through the doors, Professor Cattercorn's owl, Fuzzlette, attempts to wake her. When flying around her head and soft sounds don't work, Fuzzlette settles on Professor Cattercorn’s sleeping form and begins mercilessly nipping at her fingers. Jolted awake, Professor Cattercorn sits upright, mumbles a thanks to Fuzzlette and quickly jots something down on parchment before hopping off the desk and addressing the class.
Good morning, students! Welcome back. Today we will be continuing our discussion of dreams. Specifically, we will be looking at a few topics including various methods of analyzing and recognizing the importance of dreams, as well as how to differentiate between just your average, nocturnal reverie and an actual, true dream. While we have said that it is difficult to do the former, a few differences stick out and can be used as general guidelines. So wipe the sleep out of your eyes, it’s time to start!
Dreams have been a topic of interest throughout history and across cultures, with a few records of dream interpretation surviving to let us peer into the past. Oftentimes, when we discuss ancient cultures, whether here, in Ancient Studies, Ancient Runes, History of Magic, or even Mythology, we learn that ancient civilizations frequently practiced forms of divination with reasonable accuracy. However, in the case of dream interpretation, sometimes, what has survived seems to be a bit off the mark. I suppose they were too busy perfecting their astrology!
Wise men and women of ancient Greece were of the opinion that dreams were like puzzles with pieces that needed to be moved around, or even like puns. One example is documented in a discussion of Alexander the Great’s dream about a satyr dancing on top of his shield. After mentioning it to an advisor, the man played with the letters of the word “satyr” and tweaked them slightly to create “sa tyros”, which, when translated, indicated that the Persian city of Tyre would fall to him. Fortunately, we as modern seers are able to examine our dreams a little more closely than rearranging letters of mythological creatures!
This interpretation of the dream must have seemed a bit too convenient for some. After all, you could have manipulated multiple words in that dream. What if the word for shield had been similar to the word defeat or danger? Which were you to interpret then? The long and short of it is, it is difficult to decipher which object in the dream ought to be pulled out and examined for its letters, and it would be cumbersome and improbable to “decode” all of them. Therefore, the more popular method of the time was a practice of assigning meaning to various symbols, actions, and people within dreams. A still-famed book of five volumes called the Oneirocritica, unearthed by Muggles, contained categories and sections for things ranging from the importance of the size of the head, the meaning of each kind of animal, and could get very specific, right down to the fact that the appearance of any tool made for cutting indicated divisions, factions, or strife.
Interestingly enough, Muggles have latched onto these ancient accounts and have created an offshoot of that method. It is quite common for Muggles to also practice -- or attempt to practice -- divinatory techniques, but usually they are closer to the truth of it, despite lacking the necessary magical ability. However, in this case, “dream analysis” is quite popular among non-magical folk, and has some of its roots in the aforementioned ancient practice, though it also owes its origins to some well-respected names in psychology: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
Essentially, the core of modern dream analysis implies that every dream -- and, indeed, almost every part of a dream -- has meaning. These aspects can range from incredibly specific, to very vague. For example, dreaming of Abraham Lincoln indicates that you are a good leader and possess good character, while the appearance of water anywhere, in any form, can indicate buried emotions or be referring to the subconscious mind. As you can see, particularly with the example of Honest Abe, these interpretations usually boil down to common associations. While perhaps there is something to this line of thinking, we are more concerned with divination in this class, and not potential psychoanalysis. More, as we well know, not everyone is prophetic, and therefore these attempts to assign meaning to anyone’s dream is futile. If you do not have the gift, your dream does not foretell anything!
The Truth of True Dreams
With that brief background out of the way, it’s high time to discuss the magical approach. Fortunately, it is much simpler than memorizing a multitude of meanings to go with every possible symbol or situation that appears in dreams. Some dreams just stick out. They are different from the rest for one reason or another: they may leave you with a nagging feeling all day, or perhaps wake you out of a dead sleep (we will go into more detail on this later). Whatever the case, these “different” dreams are true dreams. This means that they convey information that you would not otherwise be able to know. To be clear these true dreams, do not tell you information about yourself, but act similarly as clairvoyance: they can communicate information and/or experiences from the past, allow you to see something happening at the same time that you would not normally have known about due to being asleep (and usually the dream content is based on something happening elsewhere), or even give you a glimpse into the future.
It would be misleading to simply leave it at that, though. You may take from this description that deciphering true dreams is simple, in comparison to using a five-volume encyclopedia to deduce your dream’s meaning, as the ancient Greeks did. While there is less need for memorization, there are still certain difficulties attached to this practice. Firstly, as we mentioned in Lesson Six last week, dreams are, inherently, not constrained by logic or the laws of the real world. In your dreams, you could watch a mountain melt in the Sun, or see fantastic or terrifying creatures the world has never known. This departure from reality -- while it is good for opening up our Inner Eye to receive messages -- means that the meaning of your dreams is often obscured. Were you to have a dream in which the rocks on the ground around you floated up into the sky, and were convinced this dream was a true one (as per one or more of the methods of identification discussed below), this would not necessarily mean that this exact sequence of events had happened in the past, was happening now, or would ever happen.
Because of the limitations of the physical world that do not apply to the Inner Eye, this true dream could be symbolic of many things. It could potentially indicate the escape of something, or perhaps freedom or departure. What is important to take away from this discussion is that what exactly this dream could mean is not known for sure. As seers, we do not assign meanings to each symbol in our dreams, as these symbols are not universal. They are messages from our Inner Eye, which is unique to all of us. Therefore, it is only possible to give you the tools and knowledge of the basics to decipher them yourself. No one will know better than you what your dreams mean… except, potentially, if someone were to make a connection after the dream had already come true -- to be able to “connect the dots”, so to speak. It is for this reason, among many others, that I encourage you to record your dreams, particularly those that you feel to be true ones. This practice of recording and re-living them helps you reflect on the dreams’ meaning and may help you uncover any message contained within. As a last piece of advice when trying to decipher a true dream, some seers find that talking it over with another person (usually also another blessed with the gift of sight) helps them sort out what the dream means, even if the person offers no suggestions.
A Brief Discussion of Terms
Now students, let us take a brief interlude from the complexities of true dreams and look at the term itself for a moment. While I’m sure you have all been following along well, I would like to clear up any lingering confusion as to my word choice. You will have noticed that I call dreams that contain manifestations of your Inner Eye “true dreams”. This is, of course, not the only term for this phenomenon, either currently or historically. Other terms you may run into are “divinatory dreams,” “prophetic dreams,” “precognitive dreams,” or the older term “veridical dreams”. However, some confusion arises with the use of the two words "prophetic" and "precognitive", as not all true dreams contain messages about the future. However, it is useful to note that they are often used synonymously in various works of literature or in personal journals despite the fact that “prophetic” clearly calls to mind specific visions of the future, rather than glimpses into the past.
One last note before we move onto differentiating between true dreams and their more mundane counterparts is not to confuse true dreaming with dream analysis. One, the former, is a divinatory practice while the latter is simply a method of breaking down your dreams into smaller parts based on various assigned meanings, in the same way (or at least similar to) the ancient Greek practice and the modern Muggle practice. While (as I have noted earlier) I am not saying whether there is anything to be learned about yourself this way or not, the fact remains that this is not a divinatory practice and you should not rely on them to discover the true divinatory meaning of your dreams.
Now, for the topic you will likely all have been waiting for: how to actually tell when you have experienced a true dream. As I have repeatedly said, true dreams can be quite difficult to differentiate, similar to how episodes of clairvoyance can often be disregarded as just another daydream. However, there are some things that stand out that we can pick up on. Firstly, you are much more likely to remember your true dreams (thankfully). While this is not a hard-and-fast rule, the more a dream “sticks with you”, the more likely it is that your intuition is trying to tell you something. Along that same line of thought, true dreams are more likely to be linked with strong emotions -- though, irritatingly, they can also be experienced with no emotion at all, as if you are watching a movie you are not particularly invested in. But if you do experience strong emotions, these emotions will stay with you as you wake up, as though they actually occurred. To clarify, I do not mean that every nightmare you wake from that leaves you startled is a true dream. Instead, I am referring to the kinds of emotions that linger throughout the day instead: the kind of feeling that you can’t shake, despite telling yourself that it was a dream.
Additionally, if you are an experienced enough seer, or have cultivated heightened self-awareness, you will likely be able to recognize that something is amiss. This is the greatest indicator that a dream is more than it appears. Therefore, the best advice to give you when attempting to sort out your dreams is to trust that intuition we talked about all the way back in your Second Year. Coupled with daily documentation, you will soon begin to notice patterns in your dreaming, and catch on more quickly as to whether a dream was prophetic or mundane. For example, when I experience true dreams, the dream world that I am in goes a bit hazy, whereas a friend of mine finds that her true dreams are almost always colorless, as if they were pictures printed in the Daily Prophet. Of course, not all seers have dream indicators like this, nor are all dream indicators this obvious, but it is a useful phenomena to be aware of if it applies to you!
Finally, we must also touch on recurring dreams. There is no real link between recurring dreams and divinatory ability, but there are some curiosities that bear mentioning. The majority of seers point out that, because of the infrequency and difficulty of true dreams, the likelihood of a divinatory dream being repeated is very small, and instead point to the possibility that this dream contains something your subconscious is trying to tell you, or simply that you have accidentally or purposefully begun to obsess over it, inviting more instances of the dream. However, a small group still maintains that if a dream appears over and over again, it is a sure sign that your Inner Eye is trying to tell you something, though it may not be what you think it is.
Now that we have those tell-tale signs out in the open, I think you will have a far easier time beginning to identify your different types of dreams, which will come in handy for those dream journals you should all be working on! Next week, we will be covering various methods to help you remember your dreams or remember dreams in more detail, as well as how to encourage more frequent true dreams rather than our mundane nocturnal activities.
In the spirit of our discussion, I would like to wrap up with a quote from the late headmaster Albus Dumbledore: "For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud."