Traveling the King’s Road and the Psychology of Puerto Rican Dreams

Dreams could serve as a window into your brain-your thoughts, your fears and your hopes.  Or they could serve you up a prophecy of what is to come.  Dreams can guide you, motivate you or perhaps just bore you.  In many ancient societies, such as those of Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be understood by people with certain powers. Sigmund Freud revolutionized the study of dreams with his work The Interpretation Of Dreams. He analyzed dreams in order to understand aspects of personality as they related to pathology; every action and thought is motivated by your unconscious at some level.  Freud’s insight was that the dream allowed access to the unconscious; he called it the via regia, or the king’s road, to the unconscious desires and memories of people.  Recently, researchers have postulated that dreams have a biological function, where the content requires no analysis or interpretation, in that it provides an automatic stimulation of the body’s physiological functions underpinning the human instinctive behavior. Dreams can then serve an evolutionary purpose in that they are part of the human, and animal, survival and development strategy. Thus, dream theories tend to fall into two categories: the mystical and the biological and both seem to have utility.

Whether you take a sub-consciousness or evolutionary posture, dreams seem to serve some type of purpose. But if you are an avid Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show fan, you know that dreams act like prophecies and can serve as warnings. Buffy’s dreams foretold her death at the hand of the Master and connected her to the first Slayer that tried to guide her actions going forward to defeat the latest villain. In the episode “Surprise” Buffy has a vivid dream  in which Drusilla stakes Angel alerting Buffy to the fact that Drusilla is alive.  Thereafter at the episode’s end Angel reverts to his evil self and Drusilla is indeed alive. In the episode titled “Nightmares” deep in the hell-mouth, the Master explains to his protégé that fear rules people better then love or hate. He subsequently utilizes the dreams of a comatose kid (Billy Palmer) to make every student of Sunnydale High’s terrifying nightmares come true, ranging from Xander appearing in class wearing only boxer-shorts to being chased by murderers or poisonous spiders coming out of one’s schoolbooks.  They were all living out their worst nightmares.  They could be manipulated by the dreams of a child. Episode after episode of this show, dreams just as important as the cast of characters.

Why do I bring up Buffy?   My mom, my Puerto Rican mom, felt Buffy the Vampire Slayer was right on point. She believed dreams were prophecies and that we had to regard them with great concern and deliberation.  From a very early age, I was taught to interpret dreams. My childhood was, in a way, an apprenticeship in dream analysis. No wonder I went on to become a psychologist when I grew up. There were dream interpretation books throughout the house. There was a notepad and pen on the nightstand so that dreams could be written out as quickly as possible upon waking up.  My mom used to play the Pick 3 lotto games and was quite successful winning $500 here and there. The numbers she picked: they were oftentimes picked based on dreams. Dreams, if you sift through them carefully enough, contained numbers of great importance that one had to heed.

Here are some dream interpretations and actions to support the occurrence of the right type of dreams per my Puerto Rican upbringing.


  1. Sharing one’s dreams with others is a bonding experience.  When you get up in the morning, write you dream out in a journal and share it with your family.  The whole family can help in interpreting the dream.  However,
  2. You are not to recount a bad dream on a cloudy day or at night.  If you had a nightmare, a dream in which something bad happened to you or a loved one- do not under any circumstance tell others unless the sun is out.  Sharing a bad dream when it is cloudy or during the night will cause the dream to come true.  One such dream to only share in the sunlight is the following…
  3. Dreaming of teeth signals an upcoming death.  Have you ever had a dream where your teeth were falling out, grinding down, getting pulverized? That is classified as a bad dream for it can be prophetic of an upcoming death.
  4. If someone is calling your name in the dream behind you, do not look back. I was warned repeatedly by my mother, you never look back in a dream. You hear someone calling your name, keep walking forward and do not look back. By turning around you can be grabbed and pulled into the netherworld.
  5. If you are falling in your sleep, wake yourself up or steer yourself away from the ground. If you hit the ground, you will die.  That seems to be a common dream interpretation across many cultures.
  6. Do not sweep at night.  Before going to sleep you are not to sweep the floor. Sweeping will drive away the good protective forces and leave you vulnerable to the evil spirits taking hold of you while you sleep.
  7. Do not hang your arms or legs over the bed.  When you are sleeping make sure to not let your arms or your legs droop over the bed. If you do so, you are vulnerable to being pulled under the bed by the monsters that lurk there.
  8. Do not wear hairpins or barrettes to sleep.  The pins can be used by supernatural forces to pierce your brain, heart and overall body.
  9. Dog howling at night means death will come to the neighborhood.  It was very scary to go to sleep after hearing a howling dog; for the fear was that one would dream of the person that was to die.  I would this try to tune out the neighborhood noise.
  10. Kiss your bread before throwing it out.  Anytime during the day, if you are getting rid of old bread or if it fell, kiss the bread for you are paying respect to the body of God. If you do not kiss the bread before you throw it out, you will invoke the wrath (or at least non good will) of god. Be careful then of what you dream of.

While I do not necessarily believe in these interpretations and suggested actions, they do make me pause before I share one of my dreams.  Dream interpretation, is obviously based on local folklore, context, and necessities.   A dog howling in the South Bronx could actual be a signal of something nefarious going on and would serve one right to pay attention to that. Considering the critters that roamed apartment buildings in puerto rico (lizards) and the south bronx (rats) it probably makes sense to not let your extremeties hang over the bed.  Thus, these supertsitions do have a utilitarian function. Function informs form of dream interpretation?

Any of these resonate with you?

Happy dreaming tonight!

2 replies »

  1. I kid you not…a few nights ago, I had a dream that I was on Night Court. That show from the 70s. In the dream, I even heard the theme song from the show. I figured I had the dream because I was recently called in for jury duty, and that is had seeped into my subconscious in this odd form. I even kept thinking about the song. It kept playing over and over in my head for the last few days.
    This morning, I woke up and heard on NPR that Harry Anderson died. The judge from Night Court.

    RIP Judge Harry.


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