Vintage Advice: Dream Analysis!

ta-da! 10,000 Dreams Interpreted
ecstatically Gustavus Hindman Miller
short 1931, Hubbard Press

Today in Vintage Advice…what your dreams mean…or not!

Here’s a quick recap of the 40-page (!) introduction:

There are three pure types of dreams: subjective, physical, and spiritual…The latter is always deeply prophetic, especially when it leaves a vivid impression on the conscious mind. The former, too, possesses an element of warning and prophecy though the true hidden meaning is hidden in symbols or allegory….Physical dreams are more or less unimportant. The rest of the book is essentially a catalog of entries on particular topics and what they mean.

I had a vivid dream about gnocchi last night, and wondered what my man Gustavus had to say on the subject. I found no entry for gnocchi. No entry for pasta, though there is one for pasteboard. (I was also bemused to find four pages of horse imagery.) There was no entry for food, though there is a banal one about Cooking: Some pleasant duty will devolve on you. Many friends will visit you in the near future. If there is discord or lack of cheerfulness you may expect harassing and disappointing events to happen. So GHM is saying if you dream about preparing food, you are going to have guests. Duh!

It is funny how some entries are so obvious while others are oddly specific. For example, Crust: To dream of a crust of bread denotes incompetency and threatened misery though carelessness in appointed duties.

Do people really dream about bread crusts? I guess a gnocchi dreamer shouldn’t cast aspersions. I’d wager that the implication of incompetency mostly reflects that era’s culinary fondness for dainty finger sandwiches.

Other entries are simply bizarre: Freckles: For a woman to dream that her face is freckled denotes that many displeasing incidents will insinuate themselves into her happiness. If she sees them in a mirror, she will be in danger of losing her lover to a rival.

I think freckles are adorable, although I realize pale complexions were prized at the time of this book’s publication. But Gustavus takes a flying leap off the crazy cliff when he connects seeing freckles in a mirror with losing one’s lover. What do freckles have to do with relationships? If we consider freckles metaphorical “stains,” why would losing one’s lover reflect badly on the woman rather than on the cad?! Maybe GHM just thinks that being “rejected” is the most significant unhappiness a woman could experience? This interpretation reminds me of college. I went to a women’s school and some male visitors assumed our parties were meat markets. When rejected,certain men concluded we were lesbians…that if we weren’t attracted to them, no man would do. Egomania at its best!

There are many different birds cataloged in these interpretations. Once again, GHM goes a little too far. Crow: To dream of seeing a crow betokens misfortune and grief. To hear crows cawing, you will be influenced by others to make a bad disposal of property. To a young man, it is indicative of his succumbing to the wiles of designing women. I am starting get the idea that Gustavus has a poor opinion of women, what about you?


I decided to take a look at Dancing, (surely a gateway drug for sin, right?) and was pleasantly surprised to find that entry was quite positive. But then I read further and the following entry, Dancing Master, is equally negative. Click on the pic in the gallery below to compare them.

Total tangent: the discussion of dancing reminded me of something I found this week while cleaning my office: a tiny Arthur Murray rumba flip book. Love it!

Back to the book. I googled Mr. Miller, picturing a somewhat sheltered, European scholarly type with bushy hair and bottle-cap glasses. According to Wikipedia, I am way off the mark.

Fiction writers sometimes chafe at the suggestion that their writing reflects their experiences, values, etc. Not me. It is the personal filters that people use in their storytelling that make stories interesting (or not) to me. It’s certainly possible to assume someone else’s perspective while developing a character/narrative, but I’d still argue that the details authors choose are not meaningless. Even when we try to disguise our point of view, it can leak through. Of course, what the details mean is always open to interpretation.

My take: GMH’s interpretations reflect the social norms of his time as well as his own biases, and probably also represent a bit of creative license. I agree that images can have strong cultural connotations, but sometimes a bird is just a bird. Other times it might just be a vehicle to deliver a secret message written on tiny paper so our imaginary story makes sense. I believe dreams are a combination of our hopes and fears, plus random sensory impressions that get “misfiled” in our brains and show up unpredictably, plus our unconscious mind’s attempt to solve problems.

So what about my gnocchi? I was hungry. And I am expecting guests. Also, I had seen a snippet of a reality show in which an Indian father-in-law complained about an Italian restaurant not offering lasagna or chicken parmigiana. Why did my dream feature gnocchi, since that wasn’t mentioned? I suspect it has something to do with fun word itself. Say it with me…gnocchi, gnocchi, gnocchi!

PS: If you have dream imagery you would like to run by GHM, post it in the comments. I’d love to look it up! (Do so on behalf of a friend if it’s embarrassing…)

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