Someone has hit the jackpot in the lottery. Reporters swarm around the lucky winner and inevitably, the question is asked: “What dream did you have?” Dream. No, it does not mean the hopes and aspirations of the winner, but literally the moving images that run through in one’s mind when in a state of slumber – that dream. The reporters are asking what the winner dreamed of before buying that ticket of good fortune, some even asking more specifically: “Did you have a pig dream?”
Pig dreams are lucky. In Korean folklore, pig dreams have always been lucky. Pigs represent wealth and well-being, so to dream of a pig means that good fortune, usually a big monetary windfall, is heading your way. Most dreams of pigs are deemed luckier when there is actual interaction with it, such as it running into your house or arms, or even though gruesome, when the slaughtering of the pig is involved.
For Koreans, dreams almost always mean something. They have significance, certain meaning. Symbolism is strongly noted in dreams, with animals, plants, occasions, and objects being interpreted according to deeply rooted traditional beliefs. It’s a sort of superstition that has seeped into the social psyche so naturally that it doesn’t even feel like superstition but rather fact. Even those who don’t “believe” that dreaming of a pig means hitting it rich would nevertheless toy with the idea of buying a lottery ticket, at least once.
Not only pigs, but dragon dreams are deemed extremely lucky. (Not surprising if you think of its significance in Korean culture.) Tigers, bears, carp, and swallows are also considered as good omens. Snakes, on certain occasions, can be interpreted in a good light as well.
Dogs and cats, although popular as pets, are not particularly significant. Although the term “dog dream” (개꿈) is frequently used, this does not refer to actually dreaming about dogs, but to dreams that are so scattered and without sequence that they have no special meaning whatsoever, i.e. a meaningless dream. It can contain all the elements of a good dream but without a coherent thread.
Not all good dreams require animals. Natural phenomena have their own implications as well. A raging fire that sweeps into your house while you look on helplessly? Well, all your worries and troubles are destroyed – a good dream. Water that rushes in the whole neighborhood and swallows it up whole? Good fortune pouring in – another good dream.
However, looking at the remaining ashes of a fire and not the flames itself is thought to be bad luck – a load of problems are dead at your feet – while putting out a fire is even worse: you’re killing off your good luck yourself. Watching water rush out and leaving a waterbed dry is also a bad sign, and while flooding is good, if the water is muddy and murky it isn’t good at all; the water has to be crystal clear to be of good fortune.
As for flying? It lifts you up, so naturally, it can mean nothing else but good: rise in status, the smooth “flying” of work and things to be done, good development for a meaningful relationship. And as for falling? The opposite. What’s interesting is, though, Korean grownups would always say to kids that dreams of falling meant you were “growing taller”. Maybe it’s because kids and teens go through a lot of growing pains with that anxiousness manifesting itself in dreams as falling; grownups decided to give kids a light comment instead of making it a big deal. (I do wonder who thought of saying this first, though.)
Other good dreams oddly include dreams about blood, urinating, defecating, and excrement (the more the better), which all involve, quite litearally, expulsing things out of your being to be cleansed. Farming the land, climbing mountains, meeting dead people (especially ancestors), swimming in the ocean are all good dreams, too.
Another thing to remember about good dreams: they are something you need to possess, so to retain the best luck possible; they should be kept secret. Even though you might ache to tell someone, the dream would lose its “effectiveness” when voiced to the world. Sometimes you might have an exceptionally lucky dream but you don’t particularly need good luck, while someone close to you does. In that case, you can “sell” the dream to that person while receiving anything in return as a token. It can be money (no matter how little an amount) or an item that means something to the buyer. Of course, you usually don’t tell the contents of the dream to the buyer until the transaction is over, so it really is based on trust.
On the flip side, if you’re in need of luck and someone who is close to you has had a good dream, you can always offer to buy the dream as well. There is a famous legend about the Lady Munhee of the Silla Dynasty who bought a lucky dream from her sister and later became King Muyeol’s Queen.
Okay, so what are the not-so-good dreams, the bad ones? We’re not talking about nightmares (although those are really, really bad dreams), but dreams that foreshadow dark things that lurk in the near future. The most common bad dream is: losing teeth.
Losing teeth (or a tooth) in a dream usually refers to a loss. It also concerns those within your entourage, family and friends. It can signify an illness or bad fortune, and worst case scenario – death. Some say the upper teeth symbolizes an elder (someone older or of a higher rank), whereas the lower teeth, a junior.
A tooth that has been ailing and then falls out is said to mean an ill acquaintance dying, and the loss of multiple teeth means there are difficulties looming ahead, while the loss of all teeth mean plans go completely awry and everything has to be done over. (I admit I have dreamt many, many dreams where all my teeth fall out and all I’m left with are gums. And yes, I do have these dreams when things aren’t going smoothly. At all. It’s not difficult to see why this dream is a bad one. It feels as horrible in the dream as it would in real life!)
Another obvious bringer of gloom and doom is the “Jeoseung Saja” (저승사자), the “Envoys of the Other World”; i.e. the Angels of Death, the Grim Reapers. (There is more than one.) Meeting him/them in your dreams is like receiving your death warrant or that of someone dear and near. They’ve basically come to take you away to the afterlife so dreaming of them would qualify as a full-fledged nightmare and not just an ordinary bad dream.
And although seeing dead people is good, seeing someone dying or hearing of someone’s death is another thing altogether. Not so good. Foresee bumps in the road ahead.
Dreaming of dolls – inanimate replicas of humans – is not good, either. If they’re animated in your dreams, that’s even worse. It’s downright creepy. (I’m a doll geek and even I think it’s creepy.) It’s like a horror movie theme. Dispute, conflict, disappointment, and anger are circling around to pounce when you dream of dolls. Unless you’re playing with a lifeless, properly doll-like marionette, pulling its strings. That means you’re in total charge of your life and surroundings.
Running away, being in a building with multiple doors that will not open, trying to fly but failing, falling endlessly are quite simply, familiar nightmares. Receiving a mirror as a gift will force stress-inducing self reflection, breaking objects means breaking relationships, throwing a party means you are welcoming many problems into your life, and the list goes on.
In my opinion, bad dreams are best when quickly forgotten, without thinking too deeply of them.
Besides good dreams (길몽), bad dreams (흉몽), and nightmares (악몽), there is the famous “birth dream”, or to be more accurate, “conception dream” (태몽). It’s the dream a woman (or another woman very close to her, like her mother) has when she gets pregnant.
The dreams are mostly good dreams (of course) with tigers, carp, dragons, or snakes; or an array of flowers and fruit. They say most animal dreams relate to boys, while flowers and fruit relate to girls, but that isn’t always the case. Mothers-to-be find animals jumping into their laps or picking fruit off trees to eat them, or falling upon an endless field of beautiful flowers in bloom.
Sports star Park Jisung’s famous birth dream was that of a dragon; his mother proclaims she always knew her son would become someone big. Korean mothers remember the birth dreams of their children quite devotedly and will relay the story to their children in hope to instill their dreams for them.
Not that birth dreams are supposed to be an accurate assessment of the child’s future. A friend’s birth dream consisted of her mother being surrounded by hundreds of beautiful golden carp, making her mother believe her daughter would be surrounded by hundreds of admirers, but in reality, as my friend says, “I spend a lot of money eating fish and that’s it!”
Anyhow, all that being said, let’s go back to the lottery winner. To the question of what kind of dream he had? It seems like most of the past winners had dreams about their ancestors (Korea truly is a Confucian society); some dreamt of actual riches and money; others had, indeed, the famous pig dream; dreams of water and fire followed behind.
The next time you have a dream of a pig, or a dragon, or a fire that rampages through your house: wake up in the morning, remember the dream, don’t tell anyone, head to the nearest lottery ticket seller or confess your endless love to your crush or go for a spontaneous interview with a potential employer or work on that paper you thought you’d never complete. You’ve got nothing to lose and there’s no harm in thinking Lady Luck is on your side, is there? Besides, you might discover on the way that you really didn’t need that luck, after all.
Wish you all the sweetest of piggy dreams!