Dream-books - Books of Magic and Witchcraft

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Books of Magic and Witchcraft

Dreams are often understood to contain encoded symbolic meaning. The problem inevitably is cracking the code. Dream-books are guides that allegedly help you do just that. It is an ancient genre that retains its popularity today. The concept is found around the world.

Image The Artemidoros, a classical dream-book, was written in Greek in the second century CE and named for its author.

Image Artemidoros’ work was translated into Arabic in the ninth century and stimulated a rash of medieval Arabic dream-books, which in general are accessible only to those fluent in classical Arabic and its nuances.

Image The Arabic dream-books’ influence may be seen, however, in The Oneirocriticon of Achmet, a Byzantine work on dream interpretation, which was written in Greek in the tenth century and has greatly influenced subsequent dream-books, not only in Byzantine Greek and medieval Latin but also in modern vernacular European languages.

Dream-books aren’t psychological studies of dreams; instead they’re mainly tables of interpretations. If you dream of something, what does it really mean? They’re books of codes. For instance, if your head turns in a dream, this might indicate a change of location in your future. Eventually dream-books began to fulfill another important purpose: treasure hunting. It was believed (and still frequently is) that your dreams hold the clue to your fortune. Any dream symbol can be assigned a number; if you’ve got the right numbers, you might just win the lottery. The implication is that everyone has the right numbers although only a few can decipher them and put them to good use.

Although dream-books do not evoke the hostility of spell-books or grimoires, they were greatly discouraged by the Christian authorities during the Middle Ages. (Later on, they’d just be disparaged as foolishness and superstition.) Games of chance derive originally from sacred arts and it is a very small step from believing numbers are imbedded in your dreams to appreciating that benevolent guardian spirits placed them there. In fact, various Italian and Chinese spells invoke spirits to help provide winning numbers.

In a dream-book all components of a dream, anything envisioned or experienced, is assigned a number. For example, according to Aunt Sally’s Policy Players Dream Book and Wheel of Fortune should you encounter a woman named Clara in your dreams (or even just see or hear the name) you might want to play 13, 36 or 42. Everything may be assigned a number and the better books are quite comprehensive, inventive, and fun.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, inexpensive Hoodoo-oriented publications were marketed with romantic titles like The Mystic Oracle or The Gypsy Dream Book and Fortune-teller. Many were sold in conjunction with dream incense. The incense was burned before bedtime to stimulate clairvoyant dreams and then the book would help you figure them out. Aunt Sally’s Policy Players Dream Book, published in the 1890s and still in print, features a cover illustration of a thin gap-toothed black woman with gypsy-style earrings pointing to some lucky numbers with a knowing look. The implication is that she is a conjure woman; she wears a head wrap tied to display horns of power. Aunt Sally’s and many other modern dream-books oriented toward the hoodoo trade are believed to incorporate material from much older sources.