In this strange stay-home-and-stay-isolated world right now, many people are reporting changes in their dreaming patterns. More dreams, odd dreams, dreams that are not like their normal dreaming life. Are you dreaming more, dreaming weird? I know I am.
Our Lady is a Goddess of Dreams. People slept in Her temples, hoping for dreams of healing or divination. Interestingly, the most common Egyptian term for dream was rsw.t, from a root meaning “to awaken.” So in dream, we awaken in our sleep…
Does Isis communicate with you in your dreams?
In Egypt, as in most of the ancient world, people definitely paid attention to their dreams. Kings and commoners alike regularly acted on messages received in dream. Sometimes the dreams were clear, the message needing no interpretation. Or a dream might be prophetic, providing information or warnings about the future. Some dreams instructed the dreamer to carry out certain actions; the temples were full of dedicatory plaques to the Deities stating that some action was taken “in accordance with a dream.” Yet these types of dreams were rare—as they are today. Most often, people dreamed in symbols and images that had to be interpreted in order to understand the meaning. For this, one needed a dream interpreter.
(The artwork above was inspired by a dream the artist had of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii. See what her dream was and more of her work here.)
The dream interpreter might be a village wise woman like the one of whom we have evidence from Deir el-Medina. Dream interpreters would set up shop outside the temples—especially during festival days. But most often the dream interpreter would have been one of the priests or priestesses of the Houses of Life at the great temples. Dream Books cataloged dream symbols and their meanings and may have served as resources for the temple interpreters. We have several surviving examples of these dream books.
In addition to bringing one’s dream to the temples for interpretation, one might also seek a special dream by sleeping in the temple. This sacred sleep is known to scholars using the Latin term incubatio (Greek enkoimesis) and was particularly associated with healing temples and healing Deities, such as Isis, Hathor, and Asclepius. It was a frequent practice in temples of Isis. In fact, the temples of Isis at Memphis and Canopus were quite famous for incubation. The Goddess was known to provide accurate diagnoses and effective prescriptions to those who appealed to Her. Diodorus Siculus records that She
gives assistance in their sleep to those seeking it, visibly revealing her very own presence and her beneficence towards those in need. As proof of these claims they say that they themselves offer not myths akin to those of the Greeks, but visible results: for nearly all of the inhabited world serves as witness for them, seeking to add to her honors because of her manifestation through healings. For appearing in their sleep she gives aid to the sick against their diseases, and those who heed her regain their health contrary to all expectation.
An example of an Isis incubation dream survives from a Greek orator named Aristides. Aristides spent a great deal of time visiting healing shrines due to his chronic illness. (Some have even called him a hypochondriac.) In one of his books, he describes a number of synchronicities surrounding a sacrifice of geese to Isis that was surely part of his pre-incubation rite. Then he gives a hint about his dream, writing that a light came from Isis relating to his salvation.
Another interesting example of incubation in an Isis temple comes from a letter written from Aspasia (470-410 BCE), the hetaira who was so beloved by the Athenian statesman Pericles, to Pericles telling him of her journey to several temples of healing to seek relief for (perhaps) a skin irritation of some kind. On the advice of her physician, she first visited the temple of Isis in Memphis. She writes, “I beheld the statue of Isis and her son Orus, seated on a throne supported by two lions” and says that sebestus (a species of Egyptian date) grew about Her shrine and describes the burning of incense in the morning, myrrh during the day, and cyplis [kyphi?] in the evening.”
Aspasia slept in the temple, but says she found no relief. The problem, according to the temple attendants, was Aspasia’s “incredulity.”
Next she went to the temple of Hygieia at Patras where the Goddess “appeared to me in the form of a mysterious pentagon.” Finally it was Aphrodite Who, in in the form of a dove, cured Aspasia.
I include this interesting anecdote for several reasons: first, to demonstrate that then, as now, the hoped for dream communication may not always come to us; second, that “mysterious pentagon” form in which Hygieia appeared to Aspasia. It is likely that the “mysterious pentagon” was the Pythagorean pentagram associated with Hygieia and used as a symbol of recognition among the Pythagoreans. As an educated woman, Aspasia conversed with philosophers, was a philosopher herself, even being described as “a female Socrates” by one ancient writer. And finally, Who better than Aphrodite to heal a hetaira? For me, Aspasia’s experiences ring true and reflect some of the many and varied ways the Deities can interact—or not—with us.
Isis is also known to call to Her initiates and devotees in dream. In Apuleius’ tale that culminates with his protagonist’s initiation into the Mysteries of Isis, we learn that Lucius must remain in the temple of the Goddess—waiting patiently—until he receives a summons from Isis Herself. Only then, when he knew for certain that Isis had invited him, could he undergo the ceremony of his initiation and further cultivate his relationship with the Goddess.
Dream invitation is part of modern devotion to Isis as well. Many are the modern priestesses and priests of Isis who were called to Her service in dream or in vision, which we may think of as a waking dream.
Yet, as always, there are cautions that go along with all this dreaming and visioning. We cannot forget that any information that comes from Her comes through us. The dream or vision-seed of information may come from Isis, but it passes through our human minds and souls, as well as our physical brains and bodies. It’s easy for that seed to be affected by what’s going on with us, in our daily lives and in our spiritual lives. There’s no way to avoid this. The best we can do is to try to develop wisdom and self-knowledge so that we don’t fool ourselves into thinking Isis told us something when we were really just hearing our internal echo chamber. Yet, as long as we can recognize it as our own stuff, this too can be a valuable learning experience.
If we can be honest with ourselves, then when we do have an important dream or vision, we will more easily be able to recognize it. The dream or vision will be more vivid—in our minds, hearts, and memories. We will have a sense of its importance and, at least for us, truth. (Never, ever rely on memory alone; write it down, please. I speak from experience.)
Once Isis has made Herself known to us in our dreams or visions, then it is up to us to take Her up on Her invitation or take up any tasks She may have given us.
In October 1996, a lovely grey-eyed woman appeared to me in a dream. We talked, it seemed, for hours. She informed me that She was Athena, but She was more; that She had come to me as Athena because I knew Her best that way. This was very much true; I was fairly literate in Greek myth, but knew almost nothing of Egypt, and I’d always felt something special about Athena (especially love Her ‘encounter’ with Ares in the Iliad!). The dream content was most significant, but what I remember so clearly is that I asked Her if I could see Her again, and She replied that She would like that very much. In the dream, I left where we had been (a hospital, interestingly enough), and just as I reached my car, I realized I had not gotten Her number. She certainly had mine, though 🙂
My relationship with Her continued, developed, grew . . . I had visionary experiences with Her, but most important, I experienced HER love, love WITH, FROM, TO . . . well, HER love, and the closeness grew and grew. Years passed, literally. Then, no doubt like many another, in my effort to educate myself better in the literature of Classical Antiquity, I happened upon Apuleius. Yes, you can predict the outcome, I’m sure. It wasn’t long before She revealed to me what the “Athena, but more” meant. The name/phrase “Cecropian Minerva” that Lucius used in his prayer of desperation simply leapt off the page at me, and I “got it.”
My focus instantly changed to Egypt, needless to say . . . I “discovered” Isiopolis not too long afterward, and purchased ISIS MAGIC later in the summer, so I was off to the best possible start! I experience Her more in a “waking dream state” than in a “sleep awakening,” though both occur. I’m not certain if there is much difference, for me, in a visionary state and a waking dream state. I’m a “solitary,” which is unfortunate in some ways, but I do all I can to stay as connected as possible with others who love Her–another reason I am a true hard-core fan of Isiopolis 🙂
Thank you for sharing that wonderful experience. Love it! I do most of my visionary work in a waking state as well…it’s way easier for me to a.) remember it and b.) get anything significant written down. I just never was able to keep a dream journal. Too busy sleeping 🙂
Nice post. Isis connects a lot with me during meditation. I speak more about her and the Egyptian psychic experience in my recent post The Keys of Egypt: https://satsumadiaries.com/2020/05/17/the-keys-of-egypt/ Thanks for sharing.
I had a dream of Isis the other day. (Thursday?).
I was walking into a bookstore, and I saw a woman in a robe, with the eyes of the Afghan woman from National geographic. She was a real woman, but she also looked like a painting. She had a caption “Who’s the normal one now?”. She had a hummingbird on her hand, that was a brilliant purple and green.
I continued into the bookstore, and saw Volume 17 of Isis Journey by Joseph (possibly Randolph, possibly Joseph Randolph) Carter. Isidora owned the set, but was missing this volume. It had a blue cloth cover with a gold inset Isis. Nearby, there was a glowing golden outline of Isis with no book and no interior, like the gilding on a statue with no form. A very numinous, glowy dream.