“Dreams are imperfections of sleep; even so is consciousness the imperfection of waking. Dreams are impurities in the circulation of the blood; even so it's consciousness a disorder of life. Dreams are without proportion, without good sense, without truth; so also is consciousness. Awake from dream, the truth is known: awake from waking. The truth is: The Unknown”― Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies
One of the earliest recollections in my life was a dream - I was a man dressed in tuxedo tails, waiting for my wife as I finished a cigarette. I was around 4 years old when I started remembering dreams. I would recall them in the morning and tell my family about them, sometimes with sideways glances or eye rolls in response. They seemed so real sometimes: I would wake up with fearful tears, mimicked injuries, found to be wandering around the house or yelling myself awake. It was around 8 or 9 years old I started having prophetic dreams though. The first one happened the night our pet hamster died: I dreamed my parents divorced and my mother married a cowboy (3 years later, she did). My dreams became increasingly more vivid, controlled and serious. As a curious teen, I started researching dreams to understand this naturally occurring phenomenon; only to find it was something not everybody was able to do. In retrospect, I can see what was really happening... I was engaged in lucid dreaming, soul flight and oneiric prophecy in the patterns of these dreams.
History is riddled with omens revealed through dreams. Some of the most famous examples include the biblical Joseph, son of Jacob, both who dreamed prophecies and interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt; King Solomon also spoke with his God through dreams (it seems dreams are the only method of divination approved by YHWH). The deaths of Julius Ceasar and Abraham Lincoln were forewarned by prophetic dreams as well. Dreams, we are told, are a series of images projected by our subconscious mind while our “waking” brain is asleep. These images flash quickly, randomly and with no real sense made until we awake, when our consciousness takes this imagery and pieces them together like a puzzle to create a chronological narrative. Often it makes no sense; all logic and reason is thrown out the door as our conscious minds try to comprehend these strange and sometimes terrible images, projected by our very minds.
Readying one's self for dream 'incubation' is a method in which to prepare for intentional dreaming. In ancient Dendera, Egyptian priests and devotees of Hathor slept in incubation areas in the temple, which often revealed answers to seekers' questions or offer healing. Germanic Volvas, oracular women, would eat the food and sleep under the roof of a clients' home in order to divine answers. Where one sleeps has a huge effect on dreams. As a way of incubating, sleeping in an unfamiliar place such as a friends' house or on the floor of my living room, gives my mind the signal 'this is not going to be an ordinary rest'. Abstaining from alcohol, drugs and sex works sometimes; it changes from season to season, from one lunar phase to another.
Seeking out answers is a bit trickier, especially if we want specifics. Just as with any other form of divination, such as tarot, there is a level of synchronistic subtleties which requires extra attention. For example: before sleeping if there is a question I want answered, I will repeat to myself over and over a simple statement or question so it is the very last thing I think of before drifting into dreamland. Once I am there, I do a 'self check' to make sure it is a dream I will be able to participate in lucidly (meaning some control), or something my subconscious is forcing me to work through (in which I enjoy the ride). A test of my natural ability: if I could put my hand in front of my face and look at it in a dream, this was a decision my conscious mind was making in a dream, something I thought I had no control over whatsoever. Everything changed! The nightmares of demons chasing me no longer had the power and control to frighten, as I found I could fly away or banish them with fire. Sure there were some strong inclinations which I had to fight and struggle with, but eventually these types of dreams came to have little meaning except as a way of dealing with stress.
Another trick to inducing prophetic or divinatory dreams is making sure to have plenty of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults between the ages of 24-65 require on average of 6-8 hours of sleep nightly. Unfortunately most people rarely get this much actual sleep; between television and traffic sounds, a snoring spouse or a bad back, there are so many things that keep people tossing and turning at night. Relaxing meditation before sleep, being mindful of its purpose and goals is also a way of getting prepared and present. Keeping the bedroom only for sleep and other nocturnal activities maintains the environment as free for exploring otherworldly realms safely and more effectively.
It takes some skill to interpret the images of dreams, but as a witch I find taking the back seat in what is happening, and allowing it to properly unfold, gives greater clarity later on. Writing a dream down really is the best practice, especially since sometimes a dream will not make sense until later reflection reveals the connection. I also find that sharing very significant dreams in a document with friends on social media or dream interpretation groups gives me an opportunity for an unbiased perspective on the imagery. Unlike other forms of induction or divination, oneiromancy cannot be learned in a book. Although it can be practiced through interaction with a patron Deity or spirit which can assist you, this is a natural gift one is either born with or develops over time. Either way, it can be effective when taken with a healthy dose of scientific analysis, another of psychoanalysis and an open honesty of your Self. Patience and serious introspection pays off.
For further reading:
“Sacred Sleep: Dreams & the Divine” by Scott Cunningham
“Oneirocritica: The Interpretation of Dreams” by Artemidorus
“Dreams” by C.G. Jung