Friday, June 12, 2009

Food in Byzantine Dream Symbology

The main primary source for Byzantine dream symbology is the Oneirokritika, a 2nd century book written by Artemidoros, but read and loved throughout the Byzantine medieval period. It covered all types of dream symbols, and I've always found the ones relating to food fantastic, so here they are:

  • Seeing oneself drink water was a sign of comfort if it was cold, but a sign of sickness if it was hot
  • If one was drinking wine, this was a very good sign for the future, providing the glass was small and one was not drunk
  • Drinking hydromel, cider or myrtle wine had two meanings depending on the class of the dreamer: if one was rich it fortold good luck. If one was poor, however, as the poor only drank these if they were ill, it fortold sickness to come
  • If one drank from a horn cup, this was a very good omen, but a glass cup (which is fragile and transparent) prophecied the undesirable revealing of secrets
  • If a sailor dreamed of a glass breaking, this foretold shipwreck. For others, however, it showed a relief from worry and sorrow, especially if the glass had a small opening.


  • Citron, a sour fruit from a thorny bush, foretold the unemployement of whomever was eating it
  • Beets, mallow, and srrel were all very good signs for debtors. These vegetables upset the intestines, and intestines symbolized creditors.
  • Carrots, which are pulled up by the roots prophecied bad times for landowners
  • Lettuce and squash were very bad omens if a sick person dreamed of eathing them, and meant surgery or amputation
  • Melons were thought to promote laziness, and for this reason were a good sign for friendship, but a bad omen for one's work or livlihood
  • Onions and garlic were a bad omen if one saw oneself eating them, but good if one was holding them. If one was crowned with a wreath of onions, this was a sign of fortune for the wearer, but bad fortune for those around them in the dream
  • Celery was the prize at ancient funerary games. If one was ill and dreamed of wearing a wreath of celery, it meant death
  • Legumes were generally an omen of misfortune. Crushed broadbeans fortold discord, lentils foretold mourning, and millet foretold poverty
  • Sesame seeds, while a good sign for doctors, was a sign of misfortune for those around them. Crushed sesame, especially in sweets, showed relief from troubles with the law
  • Grapes prophecied advantages and favors, peaches and cherries foretold pleasure, but pomegranates were a sign of injury to come
  • Eating winter apples was a sign of worry, and sour apples foretold disagreements
  • Eating white figs was an omen of good weather, just as black figs predicted bad weather
  • Almonds and walnuts were signs of rowdiness and noise
  • Eating lamb in a dream foretold a period of mourning, pork and goat were good signs if cooked, poultry showed the success in gaining a lady's' favor.
  • Whips were made of bull leather, so eating beef foretold mistreatment and torture if dreamed about by a slave, but was a sign of small jobs for the rich
  • Any raw meat was seen as bad (so eating raw poultry showed favors from an undesirable lady)
  • Any salt preserved fish or meat showed delays and postponements of family matters

A good secondary source on this, if you want more, is "Ti Etrogan I Byzantini" by Christos Motsias, Kaktos, 1998.

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