Dreams in Egypt
The Egyptians absorbed some of the Assyrian and Mesopotamian dream practices into their own culture. They considered dreams to be a “revelation of truth.” If a person was given instructions in a dream, he had to follow them or else he would suffer misfortune. If dreams were not interpreted properly, the gods would be angry.
In Egypt the guardians of dream interpretation were called lector priests, or “Masters of the Secret Things” and “Scribes of the Double House of Life.” The priests were learned men who kept the sacred books containing the religious lore and laws and magical rights. They worked in libraries that were part of many temples throughout the land. People consulted them for dream interpretation and spells to solve problems. The temple books of dreams and magic were carefully guarded in order to protect the status of the priests. The lector priests were forerunners of today’s psychotherapists. They consulted with people about the meanings of their dreams and offered other advice.
In interpreting dreams the Egyptians also relied heavily upon contraries, or meanings that were the opposite of the contents of a dream. They also relied upon puns and plays on words, which are techniques that still work today.
Dreams were an important part of magical practices. The lector priests had many spells and rituals for “sending” messages into the dreaming sleep of another person to try to influence their thinking and actions. Even the dead could send dreams to the living.
The dead played an important role in Egyptian dream magic. Since the dead lived in another realm, they were believed to have great power, which could be controlled through magic. The dead were summoned to enforce curses and spells via dreams and also to appear in dreams in order to answer questions about the future. People who had drowned in the Nile were especially believed to have a divine gift of prophecy and were commanded to come to the dreams of a priest or magician.