We spend almost a third of our lives asleep, and while we sleep we dream. We get images of things from our waking lives, and we also see images that seem to come from somewhere else altogether. Some dreams are pleasant, restful experiences, while others are nightmares that leave us stumped as to their origin. This has been the case for humanity throughout all of recorded history. Even as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, people have recorded their dreams and tried to glean meaning from these nocturnal visions.
One of my current works in progress deals with a dream god, but I’ve had some difficulty deciding how to represent the god. While there are lots of different night deities, there are actually few that specifically represent dreams. I found this extremely odd simply because so much importance is placed on dreams and their meaning throughout history and mythology.
Most of us have heard of the Sandman. This mythological creature puts sand in the eyes, particularly of children, to help them fall asleep at night. (http://www.sleepdex.org/legends.htm). However, this benevolent creature did not begin as a benign friend of children. In the original folklore, he’s a gruesome character that will punish those who don’t fall asleep right away with nightmares and other horrid punishments. There is even one tale of him taking the eyes of naughty children to the moon to feed his own offspring. (https://vanwinkles.com/the-twisted-history-of-the-sandman).
The Sandman is said to have originated as a transmutation of the Greek god Morpheus. More than any other culture, the Greeks had dream and sleep gods, and Morpheus was the dream messenger of the gods. It was his responsibility to provide glimpses into a person’s future and to shape their dreams to reveal truths. Morpheus was chosen for this task because he was the most able to transform himself into any human and mimic their traits more exactly than the other Oneiroi. (http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/morpheus-the-god-of-dreams/)
There are many mentions of prophets and wise men interpreting dreams, and there are tons of tales of gods who created while asleep – Vishnu being one of them – but these weren’t really what I was looking for in the research. What I finally settled on for my own work was to name the dream god Yukamalu and have him as an amalgamation of other dream gods. In Grevared, the gods battled for dominance when the universe exploded, and only the strongest survived. Those who were mostly destroyed combined into single deities, so Yukamalu came into being as a deity with multiple traits. Now I just have to figure out just what those traits are and whether he’s going to be a benevolent god or a more malevolent one.