Mythical in a Dream
Animals Mythical and fantastical animals appear relatively frequently in people's dreams. They commonly appear in nightmares. Usually, mythical animals are relatively easy to interpret. Monsters, for instance, symbolize chaos and lack of control. Water monsters symbolize hidden depths, the subconscious, and�sometimes�divine power. Winged animals symbolize esoteric knowledge that the dreamer can discover. Many mythical animals were first described in the medieval bestiaries that were popular between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. Although bestiaries were ostensibly books about animals, they were in fact books of Christian morality that were used for religious instruction. Abstinence and chastity were popular themes. Every animal had a moral associated with it, based on the animal's behavior. These books also included stories about plants and even stones. The earliest bestiary was an anonymous Greek work called Physiologus, which dates back to the second century CE. It contains forty-eight chapters, each dealing with a specific animal, plant, or stone. Each is related to a religious text. Because of its popularity, it was translated into many languages, including Anglo-Saxon. All the later bestiaries were based on Physiologus, and the symbolism given to different animals is still part of popular folklore today. The mythical phoenix that burns itself and is born again is a story that originally appeared in Physiologus. This book also claims that stags drown their enemies, foxes pretend to be dead in order to entice birds to come near, and hedgehogs use their prickles to collect food for the winter. Gryphons, unicorns, dragons, and various sea monsters all came from bestiaries.