While traveling the world as a journalist, Roc Morin spends his down time “collecting dreams” for the World Dream Atlas, an index that aims to compile dreams from every country on Earth. Over the past ten months, he has managed to gather dreams from hundreds of people across 17 countries. Writing for The Atlantic, he notes some of the general patterns he has observed:
Violent nightmares are common in the gang-ridden border towns of Mexico and the war zone of eastern Ukraine. Scenes of nuclear war still haunt the “duck-and-cover” generation in both the East and the West. Blessings by gods and goddesses are frequently reported in heavily religious India, whereas in more secular Western populations, those same functions are often performed by celebrities. I’m not the first to document the link between culture and dream content. In one study, the dreams of Palestinian children in violent areas were found to feature more aggression and persecution than those of Palestinian children living in peaceful areas; in another, African-American women were shown to have more dreams in which they are victims of circumstance or fate than Mexican-American or Anglo-American women.
Given that the overwhelming majority of brain activity is subconscious, and that humans are almost entirely subconscious beings (e.g. we do not remotely know the vast inner workings of our brains), dreams represents a rare window into our most intimate and mysterious mental depths.
I recommend visiting the project page or reading the original article to get the full picture of the unusual dreams Morin has recorded. The following sampling encompasses everything from the tragically raw, to the quirkily bizarre.
“I’ve always wanted to go to America. Recently, I dreamed that I went there with my two sisters. We were having so much fun, but then we started fighting each other with pistols. There were many, many guns there, and a lot of blood. America is a very beautiful country, but too many bomb blasts.” – Devpur, India
“My nightmares began in November [of 2013]. Nobody was thinking about war then. In my dreams though, I saw it. I was hiding from gunfire with my husband in the ruins of our home. I never believed in dreams before this.” – Semenivka, Ukraine
“My sister has always been ill. She has a genetic disease that kept her in the hospital for much of her life. My mom and my dad were told that if they had another baby, the baby would have a 90-percent chance of getting this disease. When my mom recognized that she was pregnant with me, they were scared that I would get this disease, and they were thinking maybe not to have me. Then my mom had a dream that a priest came up to her. The priest said, ‘You will have a completely healthy girl.’ When my mom woke up, she told my dad, ‘We will have this baby. She will be fine.’ And I am fine. I’m perfectly healthy.” – Berlin, Germany
“I was staying in a room with no windows. It was pitch black inside. The darkness was so heavy, I could not breathe—like being in a coffin. Suddenly, I saw this small light [come] out of the door and [start] to float around. It came very close to me. Inside of this light was a tiny, tiny person. I was watching this light until I fell asleep.” – Reykjavik, Iceland
“I dreamed that I went to Switzerland and visited the graves of Charlie Chaplin and his wife, Oona. Charlie and Oona rose out of their graves. ‘Ashok,’ they said, ‘You’re doing good in this world.’ Then they embraced me, and I wept.” – Adipur, India
“I am 103 years old, so I don’t sleep well. But when I do, I see the dead—dead bodies, known and unknown.” – Rajuri, India
“When I killed my first person, I couldn’t sleep for three days. He wasn’t very close. He was 40 meters away from me, but I saw how he died. In my dreams, I always see the fighting. My wife Oksana is a sniper. She also sees such dreams. Oksana wraps her arms around herself and curls up. She pushes into me, trying to get as close as she can. We both dream of our friends who were killed. In our dreams, they are still fighting alongside of us.” – Horlivka, Ukraine/Donetsk People’s Republic
The intimate connection that comes with sharing one’s dream is as substantive as their content.