Nine of Swords: dreams, nightmares and ancient Egypt

I wake up. What time is it? I reach my hand out to find my phone. It’s 3am. I’m perspiring. Breathing heavily. If dreams are not ‘real’, then why do they feel that way? I get up and go to the toilet in an attempt to restore the sense of normalcy that I’ve grown accustomed to in daily life. 

The waking life and the world of dreams. These days, we largely think of the former as ‘real’ and the later as ‘make believe’. But this was not the case to ancient Egyptians. To them, the two worlds were invariably intertwined.

When I get back to my futon – haphazard non-real non-linear images come back to me. It was just a nightmare. I should shake it off. But it lingers on me. I just wanted a good night’s sleep. The last thing I want after a looong day of work are nightmares that come to haunt me when I’m trying to get some rest. I barely get enough sleep as it is. Why, oh why is this happening?

According to WebMD, nightmares are often spontaneous and occur during REM sleep. They are caused by a variety of different factors – alcohol, drugs and even late night snacks. Fair enough… No more wine and cheese for me at midnight. Not that I indulge in such vices… 

ANYWAYS, Kasia Szpakowska, an Egyptologist at Swansea University writes, ‘rather than being associated with internal psychological phenomena, they (nightmares) were envisaged as hostile invaders coming over from the “other world” to assault vulnerable sleepers’.

In the Goddess Tarot Deck, the Suit of Swords corresponds to the path of Isis: symbolising the ability to transform painful situations into personal growth. In the Nine of Swords, we see Isis, clutching her arms and staring into space. There are nine swords in the background, but they do not pierce her body. The sword cycle is in her mind – keeping her up at night. She is not welcome in the world of dreams. Nightmares will haunt her till she clears out the darkness that exists in her day to day life. 

In ancient cultures, dreams and their interpretations were not relegated to the musings of the irrational mind as they are today. In the book of Genesis, Joseph’s dreams and his ability to interpret them played a significant role in his life and the lives of Egyptians. During his time, dreaming was very much considered a mode of supernatural communication whose message could be interpreted by people with the gift to do so. 

Nightmares aren’t all doom and gloom. They’re often cathartic. They send warnings, messages and portents. Dreams have a way of clearing out the subconscious mind and bringing to the forefront things that we do not have the courage or ability to face in waking life. They force us to face our fears, confront our worries and see things that we often dare not. 

I close my eyes. It is time to get some much needed rest. With a prayer on my lips, I breathe in and out. May silent slumber find its much needed way to me.