The Power of Puns: Dream Interpretation in the Ancient Near East
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Opening ParagraphThe prognostic dream that features in Tablet I of The Epic of Gilgamesh sets the scene for an example of dream-interpretive practices in the ancient Near East. Upon waking from his dream, Gilgamesh consults his mother, asking her to interpret the meaning of his dreams. He relates his dreams in full, yet she focuses upon only a few select elements. She reveals to him that the meteors he saw represent the strength of the man he will soon meet, and the axe he saw represents the competition he will have with another man1. This scene plays a critical role in the epic’s plot, since the interpretation of these dreams helps introduce one of the main characters, Enkidu. The interaction between mother and son in this tale is an example of one of many ways dream interpretation played a role in life for those in the ancient Near East.