The Ancient Egyptians believed that dreams were magical and often the result of direct communications with the deities. The images of gods and the scenes in dreams seemed to prove the existence of another world, a world similar to this one. It was thought that glimpses of the future could be revealed to a person in dreams. The priests and magicians skilled with gifts of facilitating a dream state and interpreting dreams were greatly honored in Egypt.
One significant dream was recorded on the “Dream Stele” by Pharaoh Thutmose IV (BCE 1450). It is written on the stele that a prince was out hunting one day near the Sphinx, the symbol of Ra-Harmachis (Horus in the horizon) and he sat down to rest under its shadow. Soon the prince fell asleep and dreamed the god Ra appeared to him and told him that he was Harmachis-Khepera-Ra-Temu (Ra in the form of Khepri the god of the rising sun). Ra promised the prince that if he would clear away the drifting sand that was burying the Sphinx he would make him the ruler of the lands of the South, the North, and all of Egypt.
Subsequently the prince became the king of Egypt, Thutmose IV, and the “Dream Stele,” placed directly in front the Sphinx and dated the 19th day of the month Hathor of the first year of Thothmes IV, proves that the royal dreamer carried out the wishes of the god.
The Egyptian magicians knew how visions of the future might be revealed while one was sleeping, so they came up with various ways of facilitating the dream state. They might draw magical pictures or come up with magical spells for their clients. The following are examples from the British Museum Papyrus, No. 122, of spells for dreaming and obtaining visions:
“To obtain a vision from the god Bes. Make a drawing of Bes, as shown below, on your left hand, and envelope your hand in a strip of black cloth that has been consecrated to Isis and lie down to sleep without speaking a word, even in answer to a question. Wind the remainder of the cloth round your neck. The ink with which you write must be composed of the blood of a cow, the blood of a white dove, fresh frankincense, myrrh, black writing-ink, cinnabar, mulberry juice, rain-water, and the juice of wormwood and vetch. With this write your petition before the setting sun, [saying], Send the truthful seer out of the holy shrine, I beseech thee, Lampsuer, Sumarta, Baribas, Dardalam, Iorlex: O Lord send the sacred deity Anuth, Anuth, Salbana, Chambré, Breïth, now, now, quickly, quickly. Come in this very night.'”
“To procure dreams: Take a clean linen bag and write upon it the names given below. Fold it up and make it into a lamp-wick, and set it alight, pouring pure oil over it. The word to be written is this: ‘Armiuth, Lailamchoüch, Arsenophrephren, Phtha, Archentechtha.’ Then in the evening, when you are going to bed, which you must do without touching food and be pure from all defilement, do thus. Approach the lamp and repeat seven times the formula given below: then extinguish it and lie down to sleep. The formula is this: ‘Sachmu . . . epaëma Ligotereënch: the Aeon, the Thunderer, Thou that hast swallowed the snake and dost exhaust the moon, and dost raise up the orb of the sun in his season, Chthetho is thy name; I require, O lords of the gods, Seth, Chreps, give me the information that I desire.'”
Budge, EA Wallis. Egyptian Magic. 1901