Dreams can help in coming to terms with major events and intaking difficult decisions in life. This is what Dutch-sponsoredresearcher Elizabeth Mohkamsing-den Boer concluded after her researchinto the function of dreams in indigenous Surinamese and Australiantribes.
'Dreams prepare your emotions', is a comment thatMohkamsing-den Boer frequently heard during her research. Thisstatement reaches to the heart of her study, namely the function ofdreams during important changes in the lives of indigenous tribes inSuriname and Australia.
The researchercarried out literature studies and fieldwork to determine the functionof dreams. Mohkamsing talked to men and women about their dreams andpresents various case studies in her thesis.
One case studyconcerns a woman who struggles with the question as to whether sheshould allow herself to be initiated as a piyai, a religiousspecialist. One day an aunt gave her a few cuttings from some medicinalherbs. She planted these in her garden but failed to look after them.She later experienced nightmares. The spirits from the plants visitedher in her dream. In the end she spoke to the plants as follows: 'Ithink you are beautiful but I cannot use you yet.' And the nightmaresstopped. In the other dreams she recognised, for example, her deceasedgrandfather, who was once a powerful piyai.
According to theindigenous Surinamese tribes, dreams allow you to see the consequencesof ignoring the spirit world, but they can also provide help when adifficult decision needs to be taken. Other case studies concern comingto terms with the approaching death of a family member. Examples aredreams that predict the future death of elderly parents. These dreamsare experienced as comforting. Or to use the words of the dreamers:'Dreams prepare your emotions'.
Mohkamsingconcludes that dreams have a facilitating and supportive role duringimportant transitions in the course of life. She terms these'transitional dreams' rêves de passage.
Yet dreams are not onlyimportant for the individual. Dreams also say something about therelationships within the community and the role that religion plays inthis. 'Freud calls dreams the royal road to the subconsciousness, butthis study is the royal road to understanding the lifestyle andcosmology of indigenous, tradition-oriented Surinamese and Australiantribes' says Mohkamsing-den Boer.
Elizabeth Mohkamsing-den Boer's research was funded by WOTRO.
Cite This Page: