The First Egyptian Dream Guide
The Chester Beatty papyrus was written in scriptural language, in red and black ink and was discovered 1935 in Egypt. The beginning and the end of the book are lost but it is still considered to be the oldest guide book that has ever been discovered.
In this book we can come across the theory of opposite meanings but also the theory of synonyms. The first theory is trying to verify the idea of opposite symbols. For example when we dream of death, it means that we will live a long prosperous life. We can later on find influences of this idea into Freud’s concept about dreams. Also symbolic images were associated with the etymology of synonymous words. For instance if someone dreamed of a donkey it would be associated with the word ‘big’ that was the synonym of ‘donkey’ in ancient Egyptian and that would be interpreted as good luck in the years to come.
The book was written as a table of contents divided into good and bad interpretations of dreams. We can find the auspicious translations first in order, where the ominous dreams are written in red ink as a symbol of danger or threat. Here we can see some examples:
According to the knowledge that we have so far of ancient Greek and Egyptian aspect on dreams, which are the observations that we can make on this table of dream interpretations?
Firstly we can detect through these translations which values were most significant in the older times. Broader meanings such as happiness, enemies, pain or even the dead make these prophecies vague with a sense of generalization. This makes it more challenging to us to perceive the qualities we can collect in order to analyze the world of dreams unambiguously. Secondly we can see how important every day practicalities such the harvest of a field or prayer could affect the dreamer. Every day concerns and incidents played an important role in the dream world, which bring us to the theory of Aristotle about sensory effects that a person experiences during the day that are still active when they sleep. We also notice the association of Plato’s theory on dreams of desire with the interpretations of the Egyptians. When we see the dreamer experiencing pleasure or satisfaction either by eating or drinking their dream has a bad meaning. And lastly we can distinguish the theory of opposites where all good symbols are interpreted badly or the opposite