By Elizabeth Duve Dziva
Just like death and its aftermath, the question of dreams remains a mystery. It actually results in more questions than answers. All the same, the subject is unavoidable since it affects all humans across the globe, no matter our social status or race. This explains why there is vast literature on that subject. Africans call sleep death’s shadow (mumvuri worufu) or the image of death (mufananidzo worufu). There is a belief that the soul leaves the sleeping body to roam and wander hence in that case the body attains a state which is similar to death because the soul has left it.
Tackling such a subject from a totally traditional African perspective in today’s modern and extremely Christian world would draw negativity since almost everything traditional and cultural is denounced either as demonic or primitive.
Biblically, so much essence was attached to dreams as they were a way of communication between Yahweh and men as well as a prediction of the future. In Genesis 37 verse 9-10, Joseph had a dream of his family members’ sheaves and stars honouring his. This signified that he was going to be a great man and it surely came to pass. Joseph was also able to interpret a dream about a forthcoming drought resulting to his release from prison by Pharaoh.
Actually, there are uncountable cases of dreams which communicate or predicted something in the Bible. In faith-based organisations like the African Apostolic Church, there is a distinct group of anointed people called varoti. Pastors and congregants in Pentecostal churches value and believe in dreams. Hence the subject of dreams is essential to humanity despite religion.
From an African perspective, dreams are brought by ancestors and less often also by alien spirits (mashavi). Dreams are a way for the ancestors to encounter and have a direct conversation with men. When the soul roams free at night, it has a special power which no one can understand. One would regard the most high God and the ancestors as blind watchmakers that give men bad dreams. In the same sense, one would question why God created thorns, illness and all other things that cause pain.
From a scientific perspective, dreams are a reproduction of one’s experiences and thoughts. They may reflect desires or simply what’s at the back of one’s mind.
Herbert Aschwaden says in the state of being awake, the following statement applies “I know what I am, (ndinoziva zvandiri)” but at night one says, “I don’t know what I am (handizivi zvandiri)”. When asleep, the body is completely powerless but the soul has its own consciousness. From an African perspective, the ego of the night and that of the day are totally different. The difference comes in that, during the day, a person uses the heart or brain and is in control of what happens but at night, and a man puts no effort in his dreams which makes the whole idea a mystery.
The late former president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe once said “…..zviroto, zviroto” which brings about an element that dreams have nothing to do with what happens in the real world. Perspectives about dreams and their meanings vary according to a variety of aspects. From an African perspective, symbols of death in dreams include when one sees himself or with others tilling, ploughing or digging the earth. Breaking of a ceramic or clay objet represents family breakup or divorce. Dreaming of the rain, flowing water or a green field symbolizes health and long life. When one is flying or climbing a mountain, it signifies a good fortune or becoming great in life.
Conclusively, dreams are given many layered and complex meanings but the million dollar question is what really are they? The mystery surrounding dreams remains unresolved and a controversy over generation.
Elizabeth Duve Dziva is an Archaeologist and Cultural Heritage practitioner. The views in this article are solely hers and do not represent those of any organization. Email firstname.lastname@example.org