The Tribe That Dream

Museum of Anthropology, UBC
Image by Artcatcher via Flickr

American and British anthropologist, Kilton Steward and Herbert Noone spent many years in with the Malaysian Senoi tribe before World War II, studying how Senoi people idealize dream, put it at the centre of their lives and hence lived a peaceful, harmonious life.

Senoi people by nature are harmonious, peaceful, loving, cooperating people. They believed the dream world is connected to the world of the spirit. Every dream is a message that enables the dreamer to go a step forward in conquering evil. They believed that the most important battle against evil took place in the dream. They fought until the enemy was dead. Positive and negative emotions are very important to Senoi. They learned to express emotion in dreams. If one had a dream in which a member of the tribe had aggravated him, he’d go to the member and tell him not only about the dream but also ask him to resolve the situation.

The other member, respecting the dream as an integral part of life would take it seriously and promise to mend his ways. Every member of the tribe was supported by all the others and this support would enable him to face his fears.

Every morning the family members would gather for breakfast, then the most important question would be asked, what did you dream last night? Children would begin by telling their dreams. Everyone listened attentively and their child was praised for the dream. If he hurt somebody in the dream, he had to apologize to him and give him a gift.

The adults would also share their dreams with the tribe’s council and after discussing it, the dreamer would finally lead the group in a tribal dance.

Herbert Noone had published these finding in a book entitled In Search of the Dream. This book makes a very important contribution to the study of dreams.

Happy Dreaming.

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