Parents, grandparents and other family members report dreams about children-to-be. Most often it is women who experience such dreams, typically occurring around the time of conception or during pregnancy. These episodes have been referred to as conceptions dreams, fertility dreams, and even announcing dreams. I consider announcing dreams to not only feature the child-to-be metaphorically (a small furry animal or a seed are examples), but to also serve as a communication between the baby and dreamer.
Taemong, or Korean birth dreams, first came to my attention from the 1989 book Oriental Birth Dreams by Fred Jeremy Seligson. Later, Associate professor, Loren Goodman, PhD, of Yonsei University expanded my view significantly. Taemong are part of a long oral history within Korean culture. They typically do not feature the child-to-be as a human baby, but instead as an animal or jewel for example. As the saying goes, “One cannot come into this world without first having been dreamt.” We can show the dreamer a lot about who we are and who we will become from such powerful dreams.
Not so long ago, Koreans, and others interested in taemong, have begun to collect and transcribe these stories. Dr. Goodman told me that taemong are not usually written down, but instead, passed on orally. He is one among many who recognize the importance of recording this extensive tradition so it does not become lost. Without doing so, it may very well likely die out as we become an evermore globalized society, abandoning traditional practices and culturally-specific ways of knowing.
Dr. Goodman expanded my view and understanding of this rich cultural tradition. He told me that many narrative elements emerge from taemong. Some of the elements stood out to me because I noticed that these elements also emerged from the announcing dream reports I have been collecting for the past decade. These ‘shared’ narrative elements are suddenness, brightness, brilliance or illumination, enormity (size) or miraculous proportions, vividness or a quality of being unforgettable, and reciprocal gaze. Consider the following dream (the full version was posted in June 2017). The dreamer saw an adult size baby boy kneeling on the floor by her bedside. The dreamer stated,
“He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at him, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared…”
This dreamer told me that the dream-baby appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, and was huge – nothing like the size of a typical baby. She said that the dream was vivid and truly unforgettable. The elements of suddenness, enormity, and quality of being unforgettable/vividness all exist here – these are common among taemong. Here, though, the baby-to-be speaks to the dreaming mother.
The following taemong was provided by Yoon Ha Park, a student of Dr. Goodman:
As I am walking alongside a lake, I see the clear sky suddenly change dark. I try to get a better look at what is happening above. From high above the sky, I spot an enormous dragon gracefully, yet powerfully, make its way towards the lake in front of me. It sinks in the lake and pulls out its head and looks at me directly in the eyes. Strangely, despite its vast size and figure, I don’t feel afraid.
The narrative elements here are suddenness, enormity, and reciprocal gaze.
The two dreams shared here (the first an announcing dream, and the second a taemong) share similar elements. This appears to be the case for many dreams that are recalled around the time of pregnancy, whether they are categorized as conception dreams, fertility dreams, announcing dreams, or Korean birth dreams. A thorough analysis to encompass all of these categories could provide an expanded understanding and further clarity. Until that happens, it is clear that these types of episodes are common and meaningful for so many families.
I wish to thank Fred Jeremy Seligson, Loren Goodman, Yoon Ha Park and the anonymous dreamer for their assistance, guidance and for sharing with me their experiences.
In the Spirit of Peace,