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Mōʻike: Dream Interpretation

The dream realm is as mysterious as it gets and is not fully understood. Perhaps dreams predate human existence, since it is suggested that animals also dream. Where do they come from and what do they mean? We may never have precise answers to these questions but we can speculate from the place of mōʻike "dream interpretation".

Dreams consist of a series of pictorial images and ideas that eventually elude us upon waking, yet they can impress long lasting feelings, emotions, and sensations. Many schools of thought from scientific, religious, philosophical, and indigenous belief have come to define dreams in their own way. Indigenous cultures across the globe have given profound meaning to dreams and it has been expressed in myths, legends, and lore for thousands of years. We're going to take a look at the meaning of dreams in native Hawaiian context.

The dream state represents a potent space of learning and receiving messages from the spirit world. In Hawaiian culture, it is believed that ʻaumākua or ancestral guardian spirits, are able to communicate with humans through dreams. It is a means for them to send guidance, warnings, and chastise if necessary. Revealing concerns and affairs that are applicable to the dreamer and their ʻohana (family). ʻAumākua use symbolism to relay their message and may appear in their physical manifestation, taking on the kinolau (many bodies) of an animal, plant, pōhaku (minerals), or other natural phenomena such as an ānueanue (rainbow). Typically each ʻohana had a specific ʻaumākua such as the pueo (owl), manō (shark), ʻio (hawk), moʻo (lizard) and so forth.

If a dream was very puzzling then one would visit the wehewehe moe ʻuhane or dream interpreter to help them understand and decipher the meaning of the dream. The wehewehe moe ʻuhane was skilled and taught from a very young age the meanings behind symbolism. The symbolism was consistent across the culture and many cultures for that matter. Below we'll take a look at the different types of dreams that one may have.

Types of Moe ʻUhane (dreams) in Hawaiian Culture:

Moe piʻi pololei

Prophetic type of dream

Hōʻike na ka pā

Revelatory dream


Dream or vision that occurs in the "in between" state of sleep and being awake.

Moe ʻuhane

Meaning "spirit sleep". It was thought that our spirit leaves our body while we sleep and visits other places and spirits, creating what we remember as a dream.

Moe weke pahulu

Nightmares caused by what one eats. Hawaiians believed that certain foods can cause nightmares. There is also scientific evidence that suggests this to be true. The belief says that these types of dreams do not come from the spirit world but from the body.

Pili mai ka pō mai:

A spirit relationship, where an ʻaumakua might inform a dreamer that they are related to someone in particular.

Kupu Wale:

Spontaneous dreams that may come from previous thoughts.

These are only a handful of dreams that one may have. If you're interested in reading more please visit Nānā i ke kumu: Vol. II Chap. 4 for an in-depth look at the context of dreams in Hawaiian culture.

This fascinating subject is yet to be unraveled. Each dreamer has their own unique experience with dreams, and although perspectives can help shed light on hidden meanings, I ultimately believe that the dreamer holds the key to their own truth. What do you think about dreams? If there's anything you'd like to share about dreaming please drop a comment.


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