IT MAY BE PARADISE,
IT MAY BE THE POLICE

Selected translations from Ta’tir al-anam fi tafsir al-ahlam
or Perfuming Humanity by Interpreting Dreams
a dictionary by Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi (1641-1731)
Damascene jurist, traveller, poet, smoker
Sufi saint and Enlightenment thinker

 

COLD

If you dream of the cold, it may be poverty. If you dream of moving from shade into the sun, your poverty will leave you, and if you move from the heat of the sun into the shade, you will be lifted out of sorrow. If the dream occurs in summer, the cold may signify blessings and wealth. If you dream of being cold, battered by wind, you will go from poor to poorer. Some say that to dream of the cold in its season signifies nothing.

 

BROAD BEANS

If they are fresh, they signify distress. If they are dry: money, pleasure, fertility. If you dream that your hair has changed to broad beans, you lack money.

 

RUINS

They may signify the number of days or years since you left your country.

 

NOSE

If in a dream you see a face with many noses, it may be comfort. If the dreamer is a merchant, and he dreams that his nose has become gold or silver, it is a sign of the abundance of his profits. The nose may signify news brought by a messenger, or a spy delivering a secret message. It may signify the vulva or the back passage because of what comes out of them. If in a dream you see your nose bleed, and the blood touches your garment, it is money unlawfully gained, and if the blood is thick, it is a child. If in a dream you have two noses, you will bear two children, or your testimony will revoke the testimony of two men, or you will quarrel with your family.

 

FATHER

If you see your father in a dream, and you were needy, you will find wealth in an unexpected place.

 

NEEDLE

If you eat a needle in a dream, you have revealed your secret to one who will hurt you.

 

DAMAGE

If on your path there are thorns or stones, or anything that causes damage, this may signify obscene language, or damage to the tongue or to the hand, or that you will soon become a bandit.

 

ADAM

If you become Adam in a dream and are qualified to rule, you will rule, and if you are a scholar, people will benefit from your knowledge.

 

OVERHEARING

If you hear something and pretend you have not heard it, you have got used to lying.

 

INTESTINE

The gut is money.

 

STAG

If you dream that your head has changed to the head of a stag, you will find yourself in charge of a province.

 

SHRINKING

Shrinking in a dream may signify the confiscation of your property. It may signify the consequences of your sins in waking life.

 

SINK

If you dream that your sink is clogged, your doctrines have grown narrow.

 

CARPET

The carpet is the life of its owner. If you see a carpet creased, your life is ending. If the carpet is new and wide and well made, your life will be rich and long. If a strange carpet is spread for you in a strange place among strange people, you have made a life far from home. If the carpet is thin or worn, you have only a little to live. If you dream of a carpet folded on itself, your situation will be upturned, your property will go, your world will change. A threadbare rug is trouble.

 

SALIVA

If you see your mouth foaming and frothing, it means false words have been uttered; it means lying. If you see yourself spitting on a wall, you will spend your money on holy struggle or on trade, and if you spit on the ground, you will buy land. If you spit on a tree you have broken an oath, and if you spit on a person it is slander. Warm saliva means long life; cold spit is death. A dry mouth is poverty. Saliva may signify the virtues of speech, learning, wealth. It may signify sickness or health. If you find your saliva changed, your mood is bad. Saliva in a dream may signify the end of ease and pleasure and the loss of children.

 

ONION

Green onions are profit and effort. If you dream of peeling an onion, that is flattery. Onions are money. To the traveller they signify the journey will be safe.

 

MULES

If you dream that you are changed into a mule, you will derive your fortune and your livelihood from travel. The mule may signify status. If you fall from a mule, you may find yourself reduced in rank, and if you drink milk from a mule, you will encounter shock and difficulty in proportion to the milk you drink.

 

WELL

A water well may be a woman who laughs easily. If a woman dreams of a well, it may be a man with good manners. A well may be money or knowledge, or a large man, or prison. It may signify constraint or cunning. If you dream of a well overflowing, its water entering a house, you will come into money and waste it. Some say that those who dream of wells on their land will have ease after hardship. The well may be the father, the child, the scholar, the grave, craft, need, travel, scarcity, largesse.

 

PLEIADES

They signify good judgment in one’s affairs. If you see them fall to earth, it may signify the death of cattle or a lack of fruit that year. If you dream of these stars, and you are a worker, you have made mistakes in your craft.

 

SNOW

Abundant snow may signify widespread diseases, like smallpox and plague, or possibly war, locusts, other calamities. It may signify fertility. If you dream of snow descending from the sky and covering the earth, and it falls on crops at harvest time, it may signify light, and the blessing of the earth, and fruitfulness. The snow may signify siege.

 

ROSE

Some say the rose signifies a woman departing or dying, or trade tailing off, or joy that does not last. If on your head you see a crown of roses, and you are single, you will marry. Roses signify a treasured memory. Rose oil signifies intelligence, and clarity of mind, and closeness to people, and a soft touch. Roses are signs of joy and pleasure. Some say the rose signifies a traveller arriving, or the publication of a book, and if a rosebush is cut down there will be trouble. Picking roses means delight. The yellow rose signifies illness, the red is beauty and ornament, the white is dirhams and the red dinars.

 

 


[Yasmine Seale’s essays, poetry, visual art, and translations from Arabic and French have appeared widely — in Harper’s, Poetry Review, Apollo, and elsewhere. In 2020 she won the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for Poetry. She is currently working on a new translation of One Thousand and One Nights for W. W. Norton. Agitated Air: Poems after Ibn Arabi, a collaborative project with Robin Moger, will publish with Tenement Press in 2021. She lives in Paris.]

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