Berti


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Berti

(dreams)

Unlike other African peoples, the Berti, whose original homeland is the Tagabo Hills region in Northern Darfur province of the Republic of the Sudan, consider dreaming a private affair and only rarely discuss their dreams with others. They are not encouraged to dream or to remember their dreams, and a dreamless night is generally considered normal. They treat the dreams they do remember not as individual manifestations of the dreamer’s psychology, but rather as cultural representations, in the sense that the meaning of particular dream motifs are recognized and shared by everyone in Berti society.

In Berti thought, the spirit, which all living things possess (although there is no clear agreement as to where it resides in the human body), is believed to be intangible and detachable from the body. At night during sleep, the spirit is thought to leave the body and wander in different places, or back and forth in time. Its expeditions are experienced as dreams.

According to Ladislav Holy in his 1991 study of Berti dream interpretation, the Berti regard certain dream recollections, which are distinguished by the presence of specific images, as accounts of privileged glances by the soul into the future. In Berti society, everyone is supposed to have the ability to interpret the meaning of such figures and accounts, although some are more skilled than others. Special rules are to be followed, although they are not always systematic and recourse to extra dream contexts such as the current status of the dreamer is often necessary. There are no specialized interpreters, although sometimes a kinsman, a close neighbor, or friend is consulted when a dreamer is not sure about the significance of the dream experience.

Interpretation focuses on particular signs that the dreamer considers significant for the meaning of the dream. The signs appearing in dreams have the character of symbols when they are not in direct relation to the things or events they refer to. An example of a symbol is the wind, which in a Berti dream is recognized as a sign of anything undesirable in the future. The art of interpretation among the Berti varies according to how well the interpreter knows the signs and symbols and the significance of the context of the dream.