Tag Archives: dreams

The Legend of Vilnius

“This is a legend about the creation of Vilnius, and everybody who lives in Vilnius knows it. I think we even studied it at school. So the story goes that the grand duke, Duke Gediminas, who lived in the beginning of the fourteenth century, was hunting. At that time, the capital of Lithuania was in a city called Trakai, which is not far from Vilnius, it’s still there. So, the capital was there, and in the place where Vilnius stands was wilderness, and he was hunting there. And the hunt ran late, so he fell asleep. And when he slept, he had a dream. In this dream, he saw a wolf; he hunted wolves, so it’s natural that he would dream about wolves. The wolf was out of iron, and the wolf was howling. An iron wolf howled in his dream. When he woke up, he asked the main priest, ‘What does it mean?’  And the priest said, ‘If you will build a city on this hill, the city will be very strong and unconquerable.’ And that’s how he decided to build a new capital called Vilnius in these hills. And his castle was built on this hill, and when I was growing up in Vilnius in the 1960s and 70s, there were ruins, and there was only one guard tower left untouched. The rest of it was ruins, and there was a museum there. And that’s what you see usually in pictures of Vilnius, this tower.

“Gediminas builds his city, and in 1325, he sent a letter to the main cities in Western Europe, like Germany. This letter said, ‘I built a new city and I invite city-folk, artisans in particular, to come and live there.’ That’s because Lithuania is a small nation, and most of them were either peasants or they were in the army. So he didn’t have much of city population. So, he invited people from Western Europe, or Eastern Europe, to come and live in his new city, and that letter is preserved, and that’s how we know, and 1325 is considered to be the birthday of Vilnius.”

Q. Did he write down his dream?

A. I don’t think so. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know how we know about his dream. I presume that, perhaps, somebody wrote it, but I don’t know. But everybody who is educated and grows up there knows this legend. And I have no idea, maybe he didn’t have a dream, maybe the legend appeared later to give Vilnius more significance, I simply do not know, it’s a legend.

Q. Is Gediminas considered to be one of the most important people in Lithuanian history?

A. Gediminas is definitely considered the most important Grand Duke of Lithuania, and he was killed in battle, by Germans, because German crusaders tried to conquer Lithuania. They didn’t succeed, but lots of Lithuanian grand dukes died in battles with Germans, and he was one of them.

Q. Is this legend meaningful or powerful for you personally?

A. Yes. It makes me feel proud that I am from Vilnius and there is a story associated, it makes me feel extremely good. It’s like part of my identity; I came from a place which is important, which has history. And we all know that it’s like in Rome—remember Rome, also, is associated with a wolf. And I think it’s important because Lithuanians are a small nation and they always were trapped between large nations. You have Russians from the east, you have Poles and you have Germans in the west, and so, I think they always tried to keep their identity.

Q. Do you remember when you first heard this?

A. No, I just grew up with it.

Q. When would this story be told?

A. I don’t know. I just know it. I don’t remember—maybe it was told to me at school.

Q. What do you think it says about Lithuanian culture or values?

A. Lithuanians are a very proud people, and it’s very important for them to keep their heritage, so that’s why we know these stories, because it’s very important to them. It’s very important to them that Lithuania was once between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea—it’s a very tiny nation but had territory from one sea to another sea, a huge territory. They’re very, very proud of that.

Q. Did Lithuanians really resent Soviet rule?

A. They did resent Soviet rule. Before that, they were free for about twenty years—between 1920 and 1939—but before that, they were part of Tsarist Russia, as well. They had two rebellions against Tsarist Russia, which were very cruelly put down. They always were strong nationalists, very proud of their heritage, and wanting to have a separate state.

Analysis: This romantically-nationalistic legend has become a central aspect of Lithuanian identity; it unifies all Lithuanians by forming part of their common, national heritage. Interestingly, while throughout Europe, many stories that serve this same romantically-nationalistic function are the lore of peasantry, this particular legend is rooted in the story of a historical duke, who has been become a folklorized figure through the retelling of this tale.

Having the Sight: Being Born with a Veil

Now this story is about people who are born with Sight: the ability to see things and perceive things. And it’s called being born with a veil or being born with, what you call it…a cowl. A cowl is a piece of skin, a piece of membrane in the birthing process that is sometimes covering the face of the baby. And it’s called a veil. Anyway, your grandmother, my mom, was born with one. My mom was born with a veil. At some points she said she could see different things…but after a while she lost it. Her last recollection of something happening was…she was in her house and she had a dream, it was more like a premonition. It was a dream about smoke and it was – she was dreaming it was at my sister’s house, right. So she woke up out the dream and immediately called my sister, you know. And what happened at that time was that my sister had fallen asleep and she had something on the fire and it was burning. There was smoke in her house, but my mom woke her up and she able to – it wasn’t a fire yet, but it was smoking, you know. So then she was able to turn it off and she said, “thank god,” because if my mom didn’t call her, the house would have really burned down. Actually, it was an apartment they were living in at the time. So that was the last incident she had recounted to me.

This is a folk belief held by my informant and many of my relatives on her side of the family. Honestly, I believe that people can have predictions and premonitions in dreams; I have heard of other people having them and I have had them myself. After telling me about the story of my grandmother having the premonition about smoke, my mother said that abilities like these are often passed down through families. She doesn’t have it and never did, but implied that it might skip generations. She views Sight as a gift, especially since it was able to save her sister by showing what could/would happen in the future instead of showing the tragedy at the time it was happening. She didn’t discuss why she thought my grandmother received and then lost the ability, but perhaps that is simply the nature of what we would call a supernatural gift.

Dream Premonitions or Deja Vu?

The source believes it is possible to see into the future in dreams. We discussed the sensation of Deja Vu, when the brain stores short term memories as long term memories, giving you the sensation that you’ve seen something before. But in this case, the source had an experience when she had a dream, told somebody about it, and then experience the events of her dream with that person.

“I don’t have any ghost stories, but I have had like, premonitions. Once I had this dream I was in a church. It wasn’t in the chapel, it was in a room that I like knew was inside of a church. There were lots of brown stained glass windows. And, I was sitting at a table and this girl pulls out a bright pamphlet, with the McDonald’s sign on it. And its like an anti- you know, she, it was an anti-McDonald’s thing. And I woke up and I was like, this is a really weird dream. So I told my friend about it, and then like six months later, in fact my friend and I, the same girl, we were at a cooking camp, and the cooking camp was at a church. And, um, but it wasn’t in the chapel, and we’d always eat lunch in this room that had a lot of brown stained glass. And one day one of the girls we made friends with, um, she, we’d like somehow got on the topic of fast food, and she pulls out this pamphlet and it has a McDonald’s sign on it, it was like this anti-McDonalds thing that she and her friends had made, and she was like, handing it out. And this was like six months after I had this dream. So it was like really fucking weird.”

 

This is a strange case. I certainly have had, and many people probably have had experiences like this that were deja vu, but in this case, the source (allegedly) has proof that she had the dream before the event actually happened, because the same friend that she told about the dream, experienced the real event with her. It is impossible to really prove that the source has dream premonitions, but it is also impossible to disprove it. I think that’s why an educated person would believe it were possible to see into the future, even though most would say premonitions are science fiction.

Seeing a deceased family member in your dreams will bring you an untimely death.

In your dreams when you see a deceased family member and follow them, you will soon die and meet them in the afterlife.

My informant was told about this specific superstition when she was in high school. She states that a widow whom she knew saw her husband in her dream and soon passed away from an accident. She believes that this is due to how strong family bonds are in Korea; widows and family members are known to mourn their lost ones heavily in Korea, just like anywhere else. Thus she believes that family members usually follow their loved ones to the afterlife as they want to be with them. She also states that she tells this to her friends and family so that they do not have a similar fate.

I have a different take; I believe that this story is a way of moving on from your deceased family members per say. This story discourages people from sulking or being depressed about their family members for too long. It encourages people to live with the living and not think about the deceased. What is interesting about this myth is that it stays alive due to the connections that are made with people passing away after seeing their loved ones in their dreams. The only explanation for this is the fact that it has to be a strange coincidence.

Lebanese Dream Superstition

According to Lebanese folklore, my informant said, bad dreams should be interpreted as signs of good fortune.  (This would be reassuring to me, as I have had my share of them!).  The superstition says that once a scenario is played out in a dream, it will not be repeated in reality.  Thus, it is also reflexive: a pleasant dream should not be received as a sign of good fortune to come.
My informant was not aware of the origin of this sign-superstition.  He learned it from his family, none of whom he says actually believe it.  I would most likely postulate monogenesis as a model for the origin of this superstition, as it is unique and counterintuitive.
This is indeed a unique perspective on dreams, one I have never encountered before hearing the superstition from my informant.  As with many superstitions, odds are that there is some element of belief somewhere back in my informant’s family.  Otherwise, it would be unlikely that the superstition would have been passed down and remembered by succeeding generations.