Flesh for Fantasy: Refections of Women in Two Ancient Egyptian Dream Manuals

Flesh for Fantasy: Refections of Women in Two Ancient Egyptian Dream Manuals

Kasia Szpakowska

Egyptian Stories: A British Egyptological Tribute to Alan B. Lloydon the Occasion of His Retirement, 393-404. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, (2007)


Since my arrival from the west coast of California to the shores of Swansea, Alan Lloyd has unfailingly lent me his support, friendship and advice. When the cultural and linguistic diglossia evident between the two cultures was ob- viously causing confusion, I could rely on Alan’s patience to translate both terminology and practices. His experience in navigating between cultures, of finding the threads of similarity while heeding the differences, perhaps stems from his depth of expertise in both the ancient Egyptian and the Classical worlds—a combination that is too rarely found in modern scholarship. In part I have chosen this topic as my contribution as it too provides glimpses into and brings together two disparate cultures separated by the gulf of time rather than of geography: the New Kingdom and the Graeco-Roman Period, thus spanning two areas of Alan’s interests. His presence is irreplaceable, and it is with genuine gratitude and friendship that I offer this article to honour Professor Lloyd.

The two dream manuals that will be discussed are the Ramesside dream manual (P.Chester Beatty III)2 and the Demotic dream manual (P.Carlsberg XIII- XIV). The stuff that dreams are made of arise from an individual’s experiences in daily life, heavily enhanced by an imagination which is allowed to run wild and unhampered by social restrictions during REM sleep. The characters, ob- jects, and practices that appear in dreams are often those that have been experienced or thought about within the 24-hour time period before sleep. As a modern example, a study by dream researcher Kelly Bulkeley in 2004 showed the extent to which politics had disturbed the dreams of sleepers: ‘As the US Presidential election enters its final tense weeks, liberals are becoming increasingly agitated in their dreams, with a rising number of nightmares featuring aggressive attacks by President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and hordes of zombie Republicans.’ This emphasises the critically important point that to a large extent, the visions seen as well as their interpretations, are culture spe- cific. Thus, we should not be surprised to find a popular deity such as Hathor appearing in the dreams of Theban men in the New Kingdom, as opposed to, for example, the less visible Amaunet. Hathor at this time appears as the focus of hymns that were surprisingly intimate in nature, as well as in tomb paint- ings under a number of guises—often in direct contact with the deceased.

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