The Nightmare Encyclopedia - Your Darkest Dreams Interpreted by Jeff Belanger
“Dreams are the language of our souls. The sights, sounds, and sensations we experience in our dreams speak directly to us, and for us, while we’re unconscious. While it is mysterious, and sometimes even frightening, this intensely personal, private, and intimate dream world ultimately provides a way for us to make sense of our conscious, waking lives.” – From the book

Nightmares often occur on the heels of traumatic or stressful events, robbing individuals of the precious necessity of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause further physical, mental, and emotional stress, creating a troubling cycle. In serious cases, such as post traumatic stress disorder after catastrophes or war, therapy can be helpful in dealing with the painful emotions brought on by these events.

However, it’s possible to be inspired and encouraged by nightmares, such as deciding to stop smoking or choosing to make better decisions for health and well-being. In The Nightmare Encyclopedia: Your Darkest Dreams Interpreted, author Jeff Belange, creator of, has created a repository of dream symbols, articles, interviews and entries dedicated to sleep and dreaming. Especially of interest are universal elements found in nightmares, as well as psychological, metaphysical, and spiritual aspects to dreams.

The author has arranged the entries alphabetically in this 357-page paperback volume, and some of the territory covered includes:

Mythology, fairytales, and beliefs from around the world
Psychological theories and therapies
Famous dream psychologists such as Freud and Jung
Spiritual and metaphysical explanations of dreaming and nightmares
Actual dreams and analysis
Nightmare symbolism
Artists and their paintings, especially in terms of nightmarish imagery
Philosophers, spiritual leaders, and literary figures and what they have to say about dreaming and nightmares

Some parts of The Nightmare Encyclopedia make for engaging reading, e.g. the section on urban legends (“some people do not dream” and “it’s dangerous to awaken a sleepwalker”, both which are not true). However, other parts are very general (“this dreams means that the individual is under stress and fears the future”) and yet others are downright inaccurate. For example, in the entry Tarot, it says, “For tarot readers, the Star signified abandonment and loss.”

I’m a professional tarot reader with over 50 tarot books on my shelf and I have never encountered an interpretation like this! In fact, The Star is considered one of the most positive in the entire deck, signifying hope, serenity, “calm after the storm”, inspiration and clarity. How such a gross inaccuracy made it into this book is beyond me.

I rarely have nightmares; yet, when I do have disturbing dreams, the effect quickly wears off. However, I had some weird elements come up in several dreams last night, and tried to look up the symbols in The Nightmare Encyclopedia. Some of the elements weren’t in the book, others were entirely irrelevant given the context of my dream, and the rest was general and quite vague.

If you’re interested in nightmares and nightmarish imagery, including mythology, psychological theory, and cultural references to dreams and nightmares, this may be a good book for general reading. However, if you want to understand and interpret your dreams—and you’d like a decent dream symbol dictionary—A Stream of Dreams: the Ultimate Dream Decoder for the 21st Century by Leon Nacson is about as good as they come. Of course, you are ultimately the best decoder of your own dreams, considering symbolism is often personal and contextual. Nevertheless, if you want a little help from a straightforward, engaging book that includes modern symbols (like cell phones and computers), try Stream of Dreams by Nacson.

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