Nightmares and Spiritual Guidance

Dreams, whether good or bad, can have great spiritual significance, encouraging us to grow from the experience. However, there’s danger in becoming overwhelmed by nightmares. For centuries, people across the world turned to spiritual guidance to help stop unbearable bad dreams.

Nightmares are extremely common. One out of every two adults has nightmares on occasion. These dreams (though scary and confusing) can be considered gifts, a way for our God, gods, or inner spirit to give us warnings or convey important messages. By dissecting our nightmares, we can discover repressed emotions and work through complex desires. In a sense, our nightmares can give us further insight into our soul, but there comes a time when our bad dreams become too much.

Nightmares can have serious consequences in a person’s life. A study with over 600 students found that in some cases nightmares increased anxiety during their waking hours. There’s also dream anxiety disorder, or “nightmare disorder,” is which people have frequent nightmares due to extreme stress (like post-traumatic stress disorder).  It jeopardizes their life, causing insomnia and affecting their career and social life. Slumber Yard has a helpful article called How Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Affects Sleep that has some great tips .

When nightmares have become overwhelming, people have turned to spiritual guidance to rid themselves of bad dreams in this area. You can find three kinds of mindful spiritual guidance for nightmares here:

  1. Dream catchers. They originated from the Ojibwa, Chippewa, and Lakota tribes of North America. They are traditionally made from “a small circle of wood tied with sinew or thread which is then used to create a design similar to a spider web.” They also include beads, feathers, and animal tokens. These dream catchers were hung over a child’s bed and were used to catch bad dreams in the web of thread. The good dreams would pass through the hole in the middle of the dream catchers.
  2. Holey stones. Also known as Adder stones, Odin stones, or hag stones, these rocks are known for having naturally occurring holes in the middle that you can see straight through. The stories of their spiritual powers have been found in British, Scottish, Greek, and Egyptian folklore. These stones are used to prevent nightmares, by threading them with red string or ribbon and hanging them over a person’s bed.
  3. Herbal antidotes. Herbs have been used to ward off bad dreams by ancient civilizations across the world. To prevent nightmares herbs were placed under pillows or next to a person’s bed. Two examples are mugwort and chamomile. Artemisia vulgaris (also known as mugwort) is named after the Greek moon goddess Artemis. People in China and Germany used mugwort for spiritual and medical purposes. Chamomile, which is more commonly used for sleep today, was once used by Romans to help with dreams.

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