The word oneiromancy comes from the Greek oneiros and manteia, meaning divination. Oneiromancy is therefore a method enabling us to read the future through the interpretation of dreams. This art of divination has been practised since antiquity among the Greeks, but also the Egyptians.
In Ancient Greece, temples had been built in homage to Asclepius, who symbolised using the interpretation of dreams to read the future. Asclepius, also known as Aesculapius, was the son of Apollo. He had one of the most important roles in the worship of the sun and was educated by the centaur, Chiron. Asclepius was represented by a serpent.
Those hoping to have prophetic dreams followed a very strict regime before going to sleep in the temple. Before the dream, there was a period of incubation. During this period, they had to follow a very strict diet, with no meat or alcohol. They also had to take a vow of abstinence. Then, the body was washed in cold water and there followed rites addressed to the divinities. The dreamers were massaged with essential oils and perfumes, and inhaled a magic herb to help them fall asleep. Pregnant women or people who were ill were forbidden to enter the temple. It had to be protected from any disruptive vibes.
Statues rose from the square in front of the temple. These were specifically dedicated to the gods of sleep and dreams. The dreamers slept in a cave, where a dormitory had been installed. They were accompanied by two yellow serpents as they slept. On waking, the sleepers had the answers to their questions.
Oneiromancy was also practised in the Middle East and principally by the Egyptians. According to Egyptian mythology, the gods invented dreams to transmit messages to mankind.
Temples were specifically intended for the art of dreams. The rituals were similar to the incubation rituals of the Greeks. Bes was the Egyptian god who was the guardian of sleep. He chased away the dreams of men of bad character. Between 4000 and 2000 BC, oneiromancy was practised regularly. In the town of Abousir to the south of Cairo, the remains of a temple previously dedicated to Imhotep, the god of healing, can be seen.
At the British Museum in London is a papyrus explaining the technique of obtaining a vision, courtesy of Bes. The magician prepared an ink specially designed for premonitions. Cow's blood was mixed with pigeon's blood and to this was added ink, incense, mulberry juice, myrrh, rainwater, wormwood juice, mercuric sulphate and vetch.
The seer armed himself with a strip of black cloth dedicated to Isis. He rolled one end around his left hand and the other around his neck. He then went away to sleep. During the night, Bes came to deliver his message. This kind of practice was found in Europe many centuries later. Oneiromancy is part of our collective history. There are times when we also, as individuals, dream about future events. Each dream has a meaning and Freud would later be able to enlighten us on the role of the subconscious here. Everything has a symbolic meaning, it all being merely a question of interpretation and intuition in particular.
Dreams are an integral part of our lives and a valuable guide. If you wish to be initiated into the interpretation of dreams, you should start when you wake up by noting the dreams you have had during the night. This is an indispensable first step. It will enable you to find out more about yourself and among these dreams, there will sometimes also be dreams about the future.