Mythology and Dreams

Mythology and Dreams


In the disciplines of anthropology and history of religion, mythology refers to the narrative formulation of a traditional society’s worldview and values. Myths often relate fantastic encounters with gods and spiritual powers that are visionary and “dreamlike.”

The dominant contemporary view of the connection between dreams and myths was advanced by depth psychology, particularly the school of thought initiated by Carl Jung. Jungian psychology examines mythology for the light it throws on psychological processes. Jung theorized that myths were manifestations of the collective unconscious, a part of the mind that acts as a storehouse of myths and symbols to which all human beings have access, and which Jung viewed as the ultimate source of every society’s mythology. Jung found that the dreams of his patients frequently contained images with which they were completely unfamiliar but which seemed to reflect symbols that could be found somewhere in the mythological systems of world culture. The notion of the collective unconscious was used to explain this phenomenon, and Jung called such dreams “grand dreams.”

The “mythological motifs” or archetypes that manifest in such dreams take the familiar forms of gods, goddesses, heroes, or mythological beasts or dragons. They tend to occur during periods of great transition in a dreamer’s life—during puberty, approaching middle or old age, or menopause, or frequently during periods of chaos or distress. In essence, the dreamer is embarking on a quest—seeking a peaceful resolution within her dreamscape amidst the upheaval of her waking life.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.