Dreaming, Religion and Society in Africa, 3-6


pp. 55-70 Keith Ray : "Dreams of Grandeur". [Igbo of Biafra]

p. 56 deities

deity of __

is __

"the land or earth as a female deity"

"referred to variously as Ala, Ani, Ana, Ale, or Ane"




Amadioha {cf. [<ib.] /<AM<AD/}


Anyanwu {cf. [<ib.] /<ANAN/}

p. 56 supreme deity

"it has been suggested by some researchers that Ana may, prior to the missionary era, have occupied the central role in Igbo religious thought now claimed for Chukwu (Echeruo 1979; Nwoga 1984a:29-31)."

Echeruo 1979 = M. J. C. Echeruo : A Matter of Identity : 1979 Ahajioku Lecture. Owerri : Culture Division, Ministry of Information.

Nwoga 1984a = D. I. Nwoga : The Supreme God as Stranger in Igbo Religious Thought. Ekwereazu : Hawk Pr.

religious terms



its meaning



shrines (literally, ‘mouths’)



"personal deity"



idol (carven)







69, n. 1


staff (rod) of lineage-authority

" "


senior title staff (rod)

pp. 60, 66 tokens of authority




"obtained the skull of the immediately predeceased king and encased it within his throne"


"Major deities in Eha Arumona, in common with those of many village groups in the Nsukka plateau, have an embodiment ... This embodiment is a bundle of ritual materials known as Onumonu or Awam. While carrying it, the bearer himself "becomes" the Onumonu as well as the deity which it embodies."

pp. 61, 63, 65-6 dreams appointing dreamers to priestly authority




[for the ic^i title, requiring "elaborate facial scarifications", quoted from Thomas 1913:49] "an alose [spirit] named Ebaba was looking for him ... one prophesied ... to be the Ezenri."


[for accession to priestship in Nri, quoted from Jeffreys 1934, VII:13] "The signs were as follows :

In the night something came down from the sky, like a vulture {cf. [Kemetian] vulture-goddess}, and put something into my hands. I found ofo and alo in my hands." [p. 69, n. 1 : "Ofo : a staff of ancestral/lineage authority ... . Alo : a senior title staff."]


[quoted from Jeffreys 1934, VII:16-7] "in a dream, I was told by an unknown mmo (spirit) that I was to be the next eze."


[quoted from Thomas 1913:56] "He dreamt that the Ana came to his house and called to him ... .


He [the Ana] was like a man but shone like brass,

{cf. "Talos was the ... bull-headed bronze servant, ... a survivor of the brazen race" (GM 92.m)}


and was as big as a house."

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

Thomas 1913 = N. W. Thomas : ANTHROPOLOGICAL REPORT ON THE IBO-SPEAKING PEOPLES. Part I : Law and Custom of the Ibo of the Awka Neighborhood. London : Harrison.

Jeffreys 1934 : M. D. W. Jeffreys : The Divine Umudri. PhD thesis, U of London.


pp. 71-85 Roy M. Dilley : "Dreams, Inspiration and Craftwork among Tukolor Weavers". [in Senegal; converted to >islam, but with indigenous deities still extant under the title of "jnun"]

pp. 78, 81, 84 gandal mabube (‘lore of weavers’)




The weavers’ mythical ancestor "came upon jinn (jinneeje) weaving in the bush and after a struggle took from them parts of the loom as well as weaving lore and its associated magic." The weavers’ mythical ancestor’s "son Beram {cf. Pauran.ik hero BHERuMati?} is said to have seen one night in a dream the loom frame, which was not originally taken from the jinn by the father since he had sufficient lore (gandal) to weave magically without it. Puzzled by what he had seen in his dream, Beram asked his father for an explanation. The father then returned to the jinn to ask for the loom frame to be explained to him, and they named each part of the framework in turn. The father then returned with this knowledge and showed Beram ... how to weave on the loom. The father, himself half-man half-spirit, did not need to resort to such technical aids and continued to weave using only the power of cefi (incantations and verses)."


"A specific jinni can, however, be evoked through the power of cefi, and it might be said that one particular spirit was responsible for inspiring certain items of mabube lore."

84, n. 10

[Serer in northwestern Senegal] "Serer weaving origin myths are also focused on the acquisition (sometimes through stealth and trickery) of the craft from spirits. Again, they refer to dream ... states in which the techniques [and] lore of dreaming are passed to the ancestral weaver at night. ... Serer weaving lore ... is more closely linked with that of the Tukolor (see Dilley 1984)."

Dilley 1984 = R. M. Dilley : Weavers among the Tukolor of the Senegal River Basin. DPhil thesis, U of Oxford.

pp. 78-79 a personal experience by a weaver




"I came to a river and there saw a female jinni washing her hair. ...


I was struck dumb. ... When night fell I dreamt that the jinni visited me and she gave me much weaving lore. The following morning my power of speech had returned and I found that I could weave as never before – weaving rapidly".

pp. 79-80 weavers’ dreaming




"Greater inspiration through dreams often comes in the form of verses and incantations (cefi) used for mystically improving a weaver’s ability to weave well and rapidly ... . ... It is only the mature master weaver or jarno who gains practical and mystical abilities through inspiration in dreams."


"it is the dream that is one form of mediation between man and spirit in the performance of the weaver’s craft, and through it practical and mystical teaching is passed from spirit to craftsmen. Dreams are thus a vehicle for the transmission of weaving expertise and lore from the world of spirit to the world of men."

"The type of dream inspiration they receive is either of a practical/artistic nature in that new cloth patterns or solutions to technical problems may be found, or it is of relevance to their body of weaving lore with the purpose of mystically improving a weaver’s abilities ... . In this latter category is included cefi, verses and incantations with mystical power to affect the physical world, and these verses ... employ metaphor, trope, analogy and allusion."

p. 81 dream-inspiration of poe:ts & of singers

"Dreams again form a similar medium for the poet and singer as they do for the weaver. ... Meier describes how specific Arab singers and composers received poetic inspiration through dreams, in a similar manner to mabube poets and singers, and that the source of this inspiration is the jinn. ... Meier also states that "each poet has his own demon inspirer" (ibid:425), who is responsible for the creativity in his art.

Similarly, d’Azevedo describes Gola {of Liberia} conceptions of artistry as deriving from spirit sources, whereby Gola singers, musicians, woodcarvers and some renowned weavers are referred to as dreamers. Moreover, their finest work, novel designs and exceptional abilities are attributed to spirit inspiration (1973:323, 328). ... Gola artists and craftsmen have a personal spirit inspirer (neme) who puts into the minds of the practitioner patters and pictures from which he works directly. The individual relationship between artist and tutelary is one of friendship, which models not only his work in life but also the artist’s personality and behaviour."

Meier = F. Meier : "Some aspects of demons in Islam". In :- G. E. von Grunebaum & R. Callois (edd.) : The Dream and Human Societies. Berkeley : U of CA Pr, 1966. pp. 421-9.

d’Azevedo 1973 = W. L. d’Azevedo : "Sources of Gola Artistry". In :- W. L. d’Azevedo (ed.) : The Traditional Artist in African Societies. Bloomington : IN U Pr. pp. 282-340.


pp. 86-99 Ladislav Holy : "Berti Dream Interpretation". [in Darfur]

p. 87 dreaming as wandering of the spirit

"the spirit is intangible and detachable from the body; during the night, when one sleeps, it wanders about moving freely to far-away places or back and forth in time, and its nightly expeditions are experienced as dreams. If one dreams, for example, of a relative who lives in a far-away place or of one who died a long time ago, this is because the spirit has been taken on its wanderings to these far-away places or times."

"For this reason, they avoid waking people suddenly from their sleep lest the spirit, which may be wandering outside the body, cannot return to it when the person is still asleep. The person would die when awakening."

pp. 93, 95 prognostications by dreams



its prognostic





recovery from illness



killing a snake

a praegnant woman will miscarry



plenty of rain



long life


dirty cloths



being bitten by a snake




abundance of grain






more children


a broken tooth

the death of a relative



gain in the market



strength, authority



hunger, a bad harvest


pp. 100-110 Mubuy Mubay Mpier : "Dreams among the Yansi". [in lower Kwilu & Inzia river valleys in Bandundu province of Zaire]

p. 100 importance of dreams

"That dreams occupy a prominent place in the life of the Yansi is evident from a stroll around a village in the early morning, as people are arising from sleep and recounting and discussing the dreams of the night. Before some undertaking, such as going on a hunt or going to farms in the forest, people will recall their dreams to assess their chances of success. When someone is ill their dreams, as well as those of kinsmen, are carefully examined. All of which suggests that dream experiences are for the Yansi as important as, ... even ... more important than, those of waking life."

pp. 101-4 terms [p. 110, n. 4 : "All the terms used here are from the Yansi dialect of the Kmobo chiefdom ... on the left bank of the river Inzia."]



its meaning


kingoma kimwil

"drum nobles"



free persons



daughter’s daughter






"spiritual power"


nkid (= [Ki-kongo] NKISi)



mun (= [Ki-kongo] ndoki)




dreams (collective); beard



a dream (singular); single hair of beard



dreams (plural), viz., recurrent (frequently re-occurring) dreams


apwo ndoey

to sleep a dream


a sami ndoey

to announce a dream


a swo ndoey

to reveal a dream


a taa ma-ndoey

to itemize (list) series of dreams


a bumi ndoey

to turn (interpret) a dream


a bel ndoey

to pick over (elucidate) a dream


a kori ndoey

to open a dream


a kori kengan

to open a proverb


a kori soo

to open a riddle


ndoey ndeag

important dream ("which will come true")


ndoey mutwe

"dream of the head" (= ndoey ndoey ‘a dream dream’)


mutwe ndoey

"a head of dreams" : "they can dream about what is to occur, they can also dream the solution to vexing problems"



"dream teller" : "those storytellers ... believed ... their audiences into a state of dreaming."

p. 103 "Nkidh are kept by the owner at the head of the bed so that their power may direct and shape the owner’s dreams."

p. 110, n. 3 aequivalents to [Yansi] /mun/ in other systems







p. 104 proverbs about dreams


its application

"ndoey pwo tol, "to recount a dream is to come out of sleep""

excuse by witnesses in court for not giving testimony {to say too much would be to endanger one’s self, just as one may wake up from telling too much in a dream about it}

" "ndoey lor mbua" (the dream of a dog)"

{dreams of hounds are well-known just by observing them – their growling etc. in their sleep, their bodily movements (of legs etc.) in sleep give their experience away to any avid observer – they disclose without intending to}

pp. 104-105 the explanation for ordinary dreams




"Yansi will sometimes say that a person dreams only of what they like and that what is seen in the dream is what has been preoccupying that person in the day, during waking life."


"Such a view prefigures that of Freud ... ." {Freud, however, wildly interpreted dreams to mean, arbitrarily and very fancifully, all manner of things quite different from what the dreamer was concerned with during routine waking life.} [The author is taking Freud to agree with the Yansi here, whereas actually he emphatically disagreed.]


The Yansi exclaim that "these things we call dreams" are "strangely entertaining!" {True; and quite the contrary from Freudism, which can see no entertainment-value in dreams, but instead morbid hatreds and mistrusts.}

pp. 106-109 omens (indications whether to work or not, etc.) from dreams




"dreams are sought after ... as commentaries ... before going hunting in order to find out whether it would be worth while, before making a journey and ... In order to identify the day for the ceremony the clan elders pass the night out in the open under the star. In the morning all the dreams of the night are recalled and carefully interpreted to learn how the dead are disposed towards the ceremony ... Moreover, during the ceremonies the dreams


of the elders constitute a test of success or failure. ... a hunter waits for a dream to tell him whether game has been caught in his traps ...

In practice the dreams which are given the greatest public attention are ... such as when restoring to a place of honour a fetish which has been abandoned and therefore has been provoking sickness ... the dreams of a clan chief, or fetish owners, of diviners, or guardians of clan fetishes, of twins, of pregnant women and of ill persons are considered with particular care."

p. 108 social procedure for interpreting of dreams

"The dream is not directly comprehensible. It has to be "turned the right way up", it has to be "opened up", it has to be "picked over" in or to apprehend the message, and it is through these essentially social procedures that Yansi secure the guidance which they have need of in order to give their lives direction. ...

Yansi describe the people who can who can interpret dreams as persons with intelligence, maturity, patience, experience and knowledge of tradition, and ... in practice they turn out to be the clan elders. In a village there is always a small number of old men, elders who have a reputation for knowing how to interpret dreams. ... It frequently happens that a dream is the object of discussion among several old men in order to better interpret it. ...

Mainly in order to avoid forgetting the dream, spouses will recount to each other and discuss their dreams in the morning. If one had had a dream which seems particularly significant, he or she will wake the other and recount the dream. ... Over and above this, many people recount their dreams in the morning before setting out to work. The importance of the morning interpretation of dreams lies in the fact that if someone identifies some bad augury he or she will refrain from work in the forest beyond the safety of the village. ...

On certain days, particularly Thursdays, when hard work is prohibited, people confine themselves to light work in the village such as basket weaving. They gather in the shade and chat during the work, and it is here that dreams are recounted and interpreted. ... Each time a dream is told a determination through interpretation is made first of all as to whether it is a good or bad omen."

pp. 108-109 particular interpretations of dreams



its signification


"one is mourning the death of an infant"

"one will be successful in hunting, and kill game."


"an ancestor comes and offers a goat"

"this will turn out to be in the form of fame."


"one has been arrested by soldiers"

"one has fallen into a trap set by sorcerers."


"one has been wounded by a buffalo"

"one is being attacked by a sorcerer."


STUDIES ON RELIGION IN AFRICA (SUPPLEMENTS TO THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION IN AFRICA), VII = M. C. Je,drej & Rosalind Shaw (eds.) : Dreaming, Religion and Society in Africa. E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1992.