Sweet dreams ― and sour onesSuppose you’ve just won 10 billion won in the Lotto, Korea’s state lottery. Before claiming the money at the bank, you would have to fill out a questionnaire.
Among the questions is this:
“What dreams did you have before you bought the lottery ticket?”
The survey is not asking about your ambitions, or your fantasies. It is asking about the kind of dreams you have in your sleep ― a key, many Koreans believe, to hitting the jackpot.
So far, many Lotto winners have reported dreaming about pigs or waterfalls ― both good signs, according to Korean dream reading.
A thirty-something housewife who won 8.3 billion won ($7 million) late last month was no exception. The day before drawing the lucky numbers, she said, she dreamed that her late mother was harvesting crops in golden rice paddies with two cows. Dreaming about deceased ancestors and dreaming about gathering crops are both said to be good omens.
Lee Hyuk-seung, 25, a graduate student, is a believer. The day before taking the College Scholastic Ability Test, he dreamed about a tiger, a sign that is said to mean passing an exam. Mr. Lee was accepted to a school, Korea University, whose symbol is, perhaps coincidentally, a tiger.
Dreams have long been an object of research in both the East and the West ― but from different angles. The Korean, and Asian, practices of dream reading have little in common with Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.” While Freudians see dreams as a means of understanding the human unconscious, Korean dream readers believe they can foretell the future.
Hong Soon-lae, an affluent dream reader, does not hesitate to say that dreams come true. Also a teacher of Korean at Hongcheon High School in Gangwon province, Mr. Hong runs a fee-based dream reading Web site where he lists various good-luck dreams.
He breaks them down into such specific categories as dreams that mean you should buy a lottery ticket, or dreams that mean you should sign a contract with a realtor.
His customers can also contact him to get a personal reading. He says his patrons include a practicing shaman.
But Mr. Hong seems startled at the suggestion that dream reading is comparable to fortune-telling. To him, it’s a field of empirical science.
“Everything in your dreams is a code of signs that stand for something else,” Mr. Hong says.
He says his approach is scientific because he accumulates information about as many dreams as possible, and about what happened to the dreamers later, in order to determine trends and patterns.
“I’m pretty sure I’m the one who has the most data on signs in dreams,” Mr. Hong says confidently.
As a field of science, Mr. Hong says, dream reading can be applied not just to Koreans but to any individual. But he says a dream reader needs good intuition, not just raw data.
“As we don’t know of the existence of air until a wind blows, we are not aware of our own intuitive power before we dream,” Mr. Hong says, “and that is what makes man the lord of all creatures.”
In Mr. Hong’s system, a pig is a lucky sign; it stands for productivity and profit, and is a familiar animal that’s beneficial to people.
To see excrement in dreams is also a good omen, Mr. Hong says; because it’s used as fertilizer, it can be interpreted as a sign of improving fortunes.
When a decayed tooth is pulled out in your dreams, he says, it means that something that has been bothering you will be settled. But the loss of a healthy tooth symbolizes the loss of beloved ones, most likely in your family.
Reminded that not everyone dreams in such handy symbols, Mr. Hong says curtly, “It just depends on the individual’s ability to dream.”
Park Sang, a fortune-teller who specializes in dream reading, says there are three stages of dreams. The first is the kind you have right after you fall asleep, which hold little significance.
The second stage, REM sleep, is generally when most people remember the images that they saw in their dreams. The third stage, delta sleep, is a heavy, sound sleep in which, according to Mr. Park, people get the most lucid images.
Mr. Park believes that most dreams that foretell the future take place during delta sleep, but fewer people are able to remember delta sleep dreams.
Another fortune-teller, Lee Soo, has a different approach to dream reading. Mr. Lee sees dreams that depict the harmony of yin and yang as lucky. Yin is symbolized by things that are dark, inactive or female, while yang is bright, active and male.
“For example, still water, which stands for yin, is a bad omen,” Mr. Lee says. “But once the water flows, it has the yang character of activity. Thus, to see a waterfall in your dreams is a good sign.”
Mr. Lee says he once dreamed about taking a shower, and the next day a longstanding problem was resolved.
One thing Mr. Lee emphasizes in dream reading is the feeling the person has after the dream. Even if the dream image is one that most people are repulsed by, such as a snake, if the dreamer feels that it’s beautiful, then it’s a good sign.
Another important clue in dream reading is whether the person catches or loses something, Mr. Lee says. If a person catches a pig, it’s a good sign; if he loses it, it forebodes a loss of fortune.
But not every dream is meant to be read, according to Mr. Lee. He says that what he calls “miscellaneous dreams,” which come from a dissatisfaction with reality, are more like a sign of bad health than an omen of the future.
Dreams with clear images are the ones that can be decoded through dream reading theory, he says. “The more clear the better,” Mr. Lee adds.
Dream reading is the most trustworthy aspect of fortune-telling, according to Mr. Lee. “In general, only six out 10 fortune-tellings can be firmly believed, but dream reading almost always comes true,” Mr. Lee says.
Some people, of course, are skeptical about all of this. “It’s their choice to believe in dream reading or not, but that cannot change the fact that dream reading is based upon an Oriental philosophy which has existed for the last several thousand years,” Mr. Lee says.
But the same image can mean one thing to one dream reader and another one to the next.
Asked how they would interpret a dream about blood, for instance, Mr. Hong, Mr. Park and Mr. Lee all had different answers.
Mr. Hong sees blood as a bad omen, as it often is in the real world. Mr. Park interprets it as a sign that you’ll have more money coming in.
Mr. Lee splits the difference. If the blood flows out of somewhere, then it’s good, he says; but if the blood is stagnant, it’s a couldn’t-be-worse sign.
Asked about these discrepancies, Mr. Lee says: “The most important thing is how the person reacts to the dreams. It’s up to the person whether a dream can be a good driving force or not.”
So what it all seems to boil down to is: Dream a sweet dream tonight.
by Chun Su-jin