Dreams of fear and joy: On the nightmare and other doubles

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Nightmares share structure and imagery with other dream–types involving states of high emotional disturbance: shamanic initiation visions, close encounters with gods or spirits, and sexual dreams. The common subjective element of emotional commotion appears to be hard–wired through the physiology of sleep and consciousness, but culture can and does provide a range of templates to configure the experience – and its corresponding emotion – in various ways.For dreamers born into supernatural belief–systems, the visual rhetoric which codes the nightmare as an encounter with a demonic Other can be rearranged – even “pre–interpreted” – and the accompanying emotional arousal perceived as positive or negative – depending on available narratives, context and expectation. While shamanic initiation visions are among the clearest examples of how mythic narratives framed and managed “nightmarish” experience, ordinary dreams involving fear or joy were also construed in this way. Indigenous traditions concerning high emotion dreams were shaped and framed also through long complex contact with Christianity.This paper draws on Inuit, Scandinavian and Northern European accounts of “affect–laden” dreams and spirit–visitors, to demonstrate how scripts and traditions are used to configure climactic dream encounters with the Other, enabling dreamers to control, express and direct accompanying emotion.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2021
EventEncountering emotions in folk narrative and folklore.: 18th Congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research - Online, Zagreb, Croatia
Duration: 5 Sep 20218 Oct 2021


ConferenceEncountering emotions in folk narrative and folklore.
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