The hypogeum is an underground temple or tomb where one could be immersed in dreaming with the curative powers of the land and the numinous powers of the divine, often as part of a dream healing temple or entrance to the underworld. One of the most ancient is the Hal Saflieni hypogeum in Malta which dates to the Neolithic period, where the “Sleeping Lady” was recovered in 3200-2500 B.C. The reclining nature and sleeping position of the statue invokes a dreaming pose, and also evokes the popular dream temples that would later populate the Roman Greco world. Is the sleeping lady dreaming us, or is she seeking healing from an ancient creator Goddess? Cristina Biaggi writes the Sleeping Lady is a priestess engaged in Dream incubation or an Adept in giving oracles, interpreting dreams, or suggesting cures for illness. C. Biaggi (1986) p131-13. “The significance of the nudity, obesity and sexuality of the Maltese Goddess figures.”
The dream temples of the ancient Greco Roman world were wide spread and wildly popular. Pilgrimages to dream temples became a place to go and stay overnight as a place for healing, from which the idea for modern hospitals may stem. A symbol for western medicine is the snake wrapped staff of Asclepius. The chthonic powers of the serpent brought transformation, and changing poison into medicine. His daughters Panacea brought healing of the mind, and the powers of the mind to heal. Hygieia brings cleansing powers of healing with spiritual cleansing, mental and energetic cleansing, emotional cleansing, and physical cleansing in order to bring back health and balance. Although both of these principals are part of western medicine today, dreaming seems to be missing.
“Patriarchy associates dreaming with fiction. Dreaming can’t be quantified or measured with an apparatus. But Dream incubation was considered a cutting edge technology even well into the Roman Empire. Invalids looking for a cure, would go to sleep in the temples of Asclepius, god of healing, in order to receive curative dreams. “ – Sophie Strand, author of The Flowering Wand; Rewilding the Sacred Masculine.
The Dream Healing practices of the ancient world included making clay offerings of the body which required healing, such as an eye, a leg, or a heart, and placing them into a wall. This practice of sympathetic magic, engages the healing powers of the mind through Panacea. There was also a cleansing ritual and perhaps fasting, presided over by Hygieia, where pilgrims were disrobed and washed, and clothed in white, in preparation for entering the dream temple, where snakes were guardians of the healing temple. The word hygiene is derived from Hygieia, and her wisdom includes cleanliness, prevention, and health.
Once inside the dream temple, pilgrims would be invited to incubate their healing request into a dream, and stay overnight in the dream temple, invoking direct healing powers from the divine, or a prescription of cure for their ailments. This may include dreaming with plant wisdom, or energetic dreaming with divine intervention from the God of Healing, Asclepius. Council from Dream temple priests or priestesses would be offered upon waking to help clarify and integrate their experience.
Dream healing includes the capacity to incubate a healing dream on behalf of another. Here is a dream report from a pilgrim at the abaton. “Arata, a Spartan, suffering from dropsy. On her behalf her mother slept in the sanctuary while she stayed in Sparta. It seemed to her that the god cut off her daughter’s head and hung her body with the neck downwards. After a considerable amount of water had flowed out, he released the body and put the head back on her neck. After she saw this dream, she returned to Sparta and found that her daughter had recovered and had seen the same dream.”
The most well known dream healing sanctuary was found in Epidaurus, considered the birthplace of Asclepius, who was part mortal and part God. He was raised and taught by Chiron, the great teacher. As word of the healing powers of Asclepius spread far and wide, so did Dream Healing Temples located at places such as Corinth, Sicyon, Tegea, Megalopolis, Argos, Sparta and Messene; on the islands of Paros, Aegina and Crete (Leben); and at Alexandria (Egypt) and Cyrene (Libya).
Asclepius was such a profound healer that he was able to resurrect supplicants from death. Hades became furious because he realized such practices would decrease his powers as God of the Underworld. He demanded his brother Zeus intervene on his behalf. Zeus then struck down the God of Healing with a thunder bolt. Asclepius still resides among the stars as the constellation of the serpent bearer.