The Temple of Asclepius
“Dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.” ~X-Files
The Ancient Practice of Dream Incubation:
In ancient Greece, the Dream was honored as a resource and physician’s guide for healing all manner of illness, both physical and spiritual. The Greek god of medicine and healing, Asclepius, would oft-times give a “prescription” for his patients to go to sleep in the sacred dream temples in order to have a healing dream. When they got there, the patients would ritually cleanse and purify themselves, set a healing intention about which they would like to receive the dream wisdom, and then sleep the night there, often in the company of many others who were also seeking a healing. Then at night, the temple priest or priestess would set loose small non-venomous snakes among the supplicants, which then would slither about and were thought to whisper the healing dreams into the ear of the sleepers. In the morning, if the supplicant had a dream, the priestess would help the to interpret it.
Nowadays, snakes are generally no longer part of the prescription (lucky for us!). But the rest of the ritual can be easily adapted in the privacy of your own bedroom. The core of the practice is to spend a few quiet moments before going to sleep to write down the question, the dilemma, or the issue that you would like some guidance on. You can have your own personal “Q and A” with your dream guides. Spend a few minutes, or more; but try to end with as specific a question as possible. The more specific your question, the easier it will be to see how it is answered in the dream. If you want, you can also spend a little time cleansing yourself or your room to prepare a sacred space. A salt water bath, or lighting a candle or incense can help to clear the psychic space for answers to come through. If all goes as planned, you get free dream therapy every night! You can get your dreams to work for you with these simple steps. Then, when you awake, write down the dream on the same page as your question, so even if it is not clear to you right away how your question is answered in the dream, you can easily go back and remember what you were asking.
My most powerful experience with incubating a dream was when we were getting ready to adopt our daughter from China. When we originally got the referral (that’s adoption language for “your baby is waiting”) she was about nine months old. We had thought that the baby would be somewhat younger. The head of the agency said to us “If this isn’t the right baby for you, we can give you a different referral.” What a decision to have to make! After looking at my husband, I said “Can I go home and dream on it?” The director agreed, and that night I went home and wrote in my dream journal that I needed an answer to come through clearly and unambiguously, and right now! (You know how dreams can be– I didn’t want to have to decode too much symbolism to figure this one out.) I was very bossy with my dream guide, since there was so much at stake. I woke once or twice in the night– no dream yet. But in the morning I had my answer.
So – before sharing the dream I received, here is the background material the dream is referencing that you need to know in order to “get” what I immediately knew on waking. For our anniversary that year my mother-in-law had given us a garden shed to store our tools in, and the labor of the guy to build it. The spot for it was under our deck (our house is on a hill, so the yard slopes and our deck is high up.) As he began to put it in, he discovered that it wouldn’t fit under the deck. But he told us “No problem, I can dig down, and put a foundation in and it will fit just fine”, which is what happened.
OK—So here is the dream I received:
We were putting in a tool shed, and it was bigger than we expected, but it was just right and fit just fine.
Couldn’t get clearer than that! Our “just a little bigger than expected” baby is now almost 15 years old. We dug down and put in a great foundation.
Let me know your experiences with incubating dreams.