It is quite likely that dreams have existed for as long as their have been humans to dream them. Dreams are an integral part of the human experience, and every person dreams at least four times, and as many as seven times, each and every night for their entire lives. It is even thought that unborn babies dream while they are still in the womb.
With such an important place in human history, it is no wonder that dream interpretation has such a long and storied history. Everyone wants to know what his or her dreams mean, and dream interpretation and analysis is likely as old as dreams themselves.
The interpretation and analysis of dreams is known to go back at least as far as 3000-4000 B.C., since a number of stone tablets containing dream interpretations have been discovered by archeologists.
People in primitive societies were often thought to make no distinction between the world of dreams and the waking world. Indeed, many people thought of the dream world as more real than the physical one, and thought that the world encountered in dreams was merely an extension of the physical world.
Many ancient peoples thought of the dream world as the time when the soul left the body to commune with the world of the spirits. It was thought that the soul departed the body each night, and visited the world of the ancestors. During this time the dreamer’s soul was gathering knowledge and wisdom from departed ancestors, both recent and ancient.
In other societies, those who could interpret and analyze dreams were held in very high regard, and given a special place in their societies. The Romans and Greeks in particular paid much attention to the analysis of dreams, and they used the analysis of dreams to determine the best course of action in matters ranging from politics to warfare.
The ancient Egyptians as well saw knowledge, power and spirituality in dreams, and gave those who could analyze and interpret them an honored place in the world. The ancient Egyptians often saw dreams as a way for the gods to communicate with the mortal world, and those dream messages were taken very seriously.
Many societies placed special emphasis on dreams that were seen to be prophecies. The dreams of generals on the eve of battle were given special analysis, and those interpretations often figured into the decisions made on the battlefield.
The ancient and modern world are both full of dreams seen to be prophetic. The Bible in particular is a rich source of information on all kinds of dreams and prophecies, and there are many dreams and interpretations of dreams contained within the pages of the Bible. The prophets of the Old Testament often consulted with dream interpreters for advice on politics, warfare and other relationships.
During the early part of the 19th century, the interpretation of dreams fell out of favor, and dreams were given little significance during that time. During this period of time, dreams were thought to be the result of bad food, indigestion, anxiety or even noises in the night.
Later in the 19th century, however, Sigmund Freud would start his psychiatric practice and revolutionize the interpretation of dreams. Freud’s work on dreams is still considered a seminal work even today, and many of Freud’s theories of dream interpretation are still studied and followed over a century later.