Concerning the Art of Dreaming

Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 1

The following is based on my own understanding of the art of dream interpretation based primarily on my own experiences. Yours may be different. The symbols you see in your dreams are the primary method by which information is transmitted. That’s how you gain new information from your dreamscape; learning to interpret the symbols that arise. In the dream world, which is where all dreaming occurs, things are in a state of pure mind. Your mind populates the landscape, but sometimes your landscape will cross paths with others. When this happens, there may end up being symbols you will be unable to interpret on your own. This is why sharing your dreams with others can be useful.

However, despite what others may tell you, the desire to control your dreams is a fruitless endeavor if you’re trying to learn to interpret them. Learning to control it is such a western imperialist way of approaching dreams anyway. You don’t want your dream to become your slave. While becoming lucid is useful so you can unlearn everything you’ve learned for them to get interesting again. I made that mistake myself. Ultimately the best thing to learn is how to pay more attention in dreams so you can bring back more information into the waking world. In the dream world time moves differently than it does here. Sometimes a minute here will be hours there, sometimes vice versa, and sometimes it will just be one to one. You’ve probably noticed this already. However that relationship isn’t one that’s important. It’s the fact that in the dream world, the future and the past are both happening at the same time in the present. While this might seem counter-intuitive, in my experience this is indeed the truth. What’s more, this means you can learn to pull useful information about the future or past that can help you make better decisions or discover something you didn’t know before. The western ideas of how time works, even physicists admit isn’t correct. Time doesn’t move in a straight line from point A to point B, it can get all weird sometimes. I’ve seen it first-hand, and I think you will too once you start to pull useful information back from your dreams.

A big part of learning how to have a better conversation with your dreams is: First, keeping a dream journal every night, or as close to every night as you can. Next, learning a new library of potent symbols that your subconscious can know intuitively. To that end, learning things like the tarot, runes, magical symbols, the Kabbalah, and studying mythology can help give your mind a richer understanding of your dream symbol landscape. What’s really interesting is that because time is weird, things you will learn in the future can change your understanding of symbols retroactively in the past to fit. That is to say you’re probably dreaming symbols right now that won’t become relevant until the future when you learn them, and they probably don’t even have any relevance to you yet. Where things get really weird is when you dream about an event before it happens. It gets especially weird when it isn’t even symbolic about it. In my experience this is what leads to the feeling of Deja Vu; you dreamed this moment sometime in the past and now you’re living it. I’ve found if you have a detailed enough dream journal, you can often find when it was that you dreamed of that specific moment, and examining that which surrounded that time can lead to additional insight on what’s going on in your life, now that the dream has become reality.

In Ancient Sumer, dream interpretation was serious business. It was seen as a window into the fate that the seven gods who determine fate had decreed for you. For example, in the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” Sisig—god of dreams—sends Gilgamesh a dream, and it is then interpreted to give him useful information about what is to come. He then acts on this knowledge and lets it help guide his actions. Again, in the story “The Dream of Dummuzi,” which is a part of Inanna’s Descent cycle, Dummuzi has a dream warning him that Inanna is coming after him with the galla-demons promoting him to try to run and hide. These are but a few examples of how prominently this aspect appeared in Mesopotamian mythology. It’s clear that they considered dreams a very important way to converse with the gods who controlled fate. This also reveals another important component to bringing about a powerful dialogue with your dreams: acting on what you encounter. It can be something small like writing a song about your dream, or something big like allowing it to effect a major life decision but the important part is you need to act on it. This will start to physicalize your dreams and help bring greater interaction. Why this works, I’m not entirely sure, though it’s been suggested that it serves to let the spirits know you’re paying attention.

Additionally, as you start to pay more attention to your dreams, and begin to keep a better record of them, you may start to notice patterns in what kinds of dreams you get on di erent days. For example, I generally tend to have much more profound and lucid dreams on the night of a full moon or new moon more often than I do on other nights. I also tend to have dreams focused on my spiritual journey on Fridays. I often have dreams about shopping and commerce on Saturday, as well as dreams that play out like an epic adventure. Sundays I tend to have dreams about my family or reunions with people from my past, as well as things I’m passionate about. I also tend to wake up in the middle of the night on Sundays, thinking it’s time to leave before it actually is. Wednesdays, I often have dreams operating entirely on dream logic with things happening that couldn’t happen in real life.

When we consider what the Sumerians thought about time, dreams, and the seven who decree fate, we can start painting a picture about what’s going on. There were seven gods who were associated with each of the days of the week, and who were said to rule each day. In addition, the moon, Sîn / Nanna, was said to rule the night and be in charge of dreaming, and his day was Monday. Sunday was the sun god Utu / Shamash. Tuesday was the god of plagues and intensity Nergal. Wednesday was the god of wisdom, logic and writing Nabū. Thursday was the storm god Enlil (and later, after the rise of his cult in Babylon, Marduk). Saturday was the god of law, the scribal arts, hunting, war, healing, and champion of the gods, Ninurta. Friday was the goddess of wisdom, liminality, and love Inanna / Ishtar.

Considering this, it’s hardly surprising that we would see different kinds of messages often show up on di erent days, and that on nights with a full or new moon we would see really intense symbolic dreams. Now let’s give a couple examples from my dream journal and see what all we can learn from it. l had a strange dream about Role Playing Games, Star Wars, and board games. I also had the flying car Zam Wizel had in Star Wars Episode 2 and was flying away from something, doing fancy tricks to escape. So what was this dream about? Well actually, the answer is interesting: this was a precognitive dream: The scene it describes at the end, which I thought was meant to be from Star Wars I later realized was actually the flying car chase scene from the end of Thor Ragnarok. When I later saw that film and reached that scene I got that familiar feeling of Deja Vu, so I looked back through my dream journal entries and there it was, a dream about the film before I had ever seen it. Funny enough, at the beginning of that scene before the Deja Vu kicked in I remember laughing at how much the flying car reminded me of the one from Star Wars.

Then where does the rest of the dream fall in? Before I decided to sit down and watch that film that day, I first sat down at my table and played a board game by myself. I had hand crafted my own Game of Ur board and was testing out the dice, which are made by hand out of terracotta, making sure the dice weren’t too unbalanced. Sitting next to me on the table was my stu for the roleplaying game Pathfinder and I remember thinking about how much I miss playing it while I was sitting there testing the dice.

Not all dreams are this obvious though. Sometimes the meaning doesn’t become clear until you interpret the symbols that showed up in them.

I dreamed about getting fired from my job (which was still my old one in the dream, though in a skyscraper for some reason) so I invested in a T-Shirt printer and airbrush and discovered I was really good at it and made me happy. I airbrushed a purple eye I called “eye of the dreamer” on a shirt which I was really happy with, and I also made a whole series of shirts with stick figures doing different things, including one holding a staff which looked like an inverted omega which I identified as the caduceus.

This is a dream that is a perfect example of why learning magical symbolism is so important to understanding dreams. For context, just before having this dream, I performed a lunar initiation ritual. With that context it becomes obvious that this dream will likely be full of lunar imagery. Indeed, this is the case.

The first symbol is being fired from a job leading to a rise in creativity. This can be thought of as corresponding to the new moon leading to the waxing phase of the moon. The new moon is the time when the moon is entirely covered in the Earth’s shadow, and the waxing moon is the time where the moon becomes more and more visible each night leading up to the full moon. The lunar initiation sparked a new kind of creativity in me and immediately after the initiation I drew an impressionist style ink pen drawing of Nanna, the Sumerian god of the moon, who is also the god of creativity.

The next symbol was the T-Shirt printer and airbrush. Both are tools for artistic creativity. The lunar sphere is the sphere of appearances, so it makes sense for clothing items to be the focus of the creative efforts in the dream.

The “eye of the dreamer” image has multiple levels of correspondence. First, the eye was purple which is the color of the herb lavender. Lavender is an herb with lunar correspondence and happens to be the herb I used in my lunar initiation ritual. Additionally, the eye has connections to another lunar spirit which I called upon in my initiation, that of the consort of Nanna, Ningal. In Sumerian iconography there is a motif meant as a protective charm called the “eyes of Ningal” which represent the wide-open watchful eyes of the devotee. Finally, the lunar sphere is also the sphere of dreams and dreaming so the title of the piece also has direct lunar correspondence.

The last image was the hardest to work out, but it eventually became clear after I examined the Sumerian Oracle deck cards I used in my ritual more closely. The card for Nanna specifically mentions creativity as being one of his attributes. The caduceus is, among other things, the sta of creativity. Further the inverted omega represents the two snakes from the caduceus as well as the inversion of another Sumerian symbol. One of the symbols of the goddess of Earth, Ninhursag, is the omega, and among the meanings of her card when inverted is again creativity.

As you can see, when you take the time to dissect the symbols in your dreams with an understanding of the magical, astrological, and mythological imagery that can appear, you will soon be able to piece together the full meaning the spirits are trying to convey to you.

May the seven decree a wonderful destiny for you. ~A Sumerian parting wish