Announcing and Departure Dreams

This post is about announcing and departure dreams in reincarnation cases. These topics have come up in several earlier posts, but we have not had one devoted to them specifically. There is a lot to be said about them, though.

Announcing dreams are dreams had by pregnant women or sometimes their husbands or someone else close to them in which a spirit presents itself, often declaring its intent to be reborn to them. Departure dreams are dreams that occur to a member of the previous person’s family, in which the spirit lets them know he has been reborn and may tell them where to find him.

In announcing and departure dreams, the spirit usually appears as the person he or she was in the previous life, not as a child, although the child born after the dream may bear some resemblance to that person. Sometimes the spirits bear physical marks related to the previous person which correspond to birthmarks on the baby. Almost always the sex of the person in the announcing dream is the sex of the baby, so at the very least, these dreams are successful in predicting the sex of the child to be born.

Announcing dreams are among the most common signs of reincarnation in tribal societies and sometimes past-life identifications are made on the basis of them alone. The anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor recognized the importance of announcing dreams as signs of reincarnation and in his book Primitive Culture, first published in 1871, mentioned reports of them from the Tlingit (an American Indian tribe of Alaska) and the Lapps. Ian Stevenson heard of these dreams everywhere he studied cases, but interestingly, there were cultural variations in their content, their timing, and how common they are.

Stevenson noticed that Tlingit announcing dreams tended to represent a person known to the dreamer, generally a relative, arriving at her home. In a twist on this theme, a woman who had lost her father and several other relatives dreamed that her father got off a boat carrying suitcases and visited her at a bakery she was running. In the dream, she explained to him that he was dead, but he replied that he was coming to stay with her and so were others of her deceased relatives. Shortly thereafter she gave birth to her first child, a boy, and went on to have several more children. None of these children related any past-life memories, but often in cases with announcing dreams, they do.

The statement of intention to be reborn to the dreamer is typical of announcing dreams, although in Western cases especially, a spirit may simply appear without any express intention to be reborn. It is only later, when a child starts speaking of a previous life, that the connection is made. In Burma, rather than stating his intention, the spirit usually asks permission to be reborn to a woman. That is not invariably the case, though. Several Burmese children have recalled being Japanese soldiers who were killed during the Japanese occupation of Burma during the Second World War. In one of these cases, the mother-to-be dreamed repeatedly of an army cook she had known and befriended. The cook told her that he was coming to be reborn to her, but did not ask her permission.

Intermission memories in the cases of the Japanese soldiers killed in Burma differ from the Burmese cultural norm in another respect. In Burma, announcing dreams tend to precede the pregnancy rather than coming during it, as they do among the Tlingit and in most other societies. In the Japanese-soldier cases, though, the intermission memories occurred while the pregnancy was underway. In some societies, for instance among the Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka, announcing dreams are uncommon, perhaps because of the belief that karma and not the individual determines where one is reborn. Announcing dreams are rare also among the Druze, who believe that reincarnation occurs immediately at death, the spirit moving at once into the body of a baby being born. Druze announcing dreams sometimes occur before the person to be reborn dies, the only instances of this that Stevenson encountered.

These various characteristics suggest that the spirit seen in the announcing dream is the responsible for the dreams. They are not ordinary dreams, the products of the dreamer’s imagination. Announcing dreams are one of our lines of evidence of conscious awareness and the ability to think and act during the intermission. They also show how our actions after death are shaped by the ideas we had while living.

In some places, the spirit is almost invariably someone known to the dreamer, whereas elsewhere it is not. In tribal societies like the Tlingit, the spirit is usually a relative of the dreamer. In India, also, all reported announcing dreams occur in cases of reincarnation in the same family line or, much more occasionally, among acquaintances. In most of Asia and also in Western countries, the spirit is unknown to the dreamer, however. The dreams may nevertheless convey veridical (factual) information. In one American case, a pregnant woman heard a name in a dream, and this name turned out to be the name of the girl her daughter (born of that pregnancy) later remembered having been.

Departure dreams are much less common than announcing dreams. They occur when the reincarnation is into a stranger family and a spirit wants to let his former family know he has been reborn. Typically, they also tell the family where he may be found. Jürgen Keil studied a case like this from the Turkish Alevi. The previous person’s mother dreamed that he had been reborn in a certain house. She and later two of his brothers went there, but they were not allowed to see the boy, and only confirmed his identity years later, when he began to speak about the previous life.

Announcing dreams usually but not always are had by a woman shortly before or while she is pregnant, although they may occur to her husband or a relative instead. Occasionally, they do not involve the spirit to be reborn directly, but the spirit of another deceased person or even another sort of entity. In the Italian case of Alexandrina Samona, Alexandrina’s mother dreamed that her deceased daughter would be returning to her, bringing along someone she had met in her discarnate state, and her mother gave birth to twins. In a Burmese case Stevenson studied, a man in white monk’s robes who claimed to arrange for the reincarnation appeared both in an announcing dream to the mother-to-be and in a departure dream to the previous person’s widow.

On occasion, announcing dreams occur after birth, and serve the purpose of alerting the dreamer to the past-life identity of a child. Departure dreams, on the other hand, almost always come after birth. I know of only 6 postnatal announcing dreams, out of hundreds. Of 17 departure dreams, 12 occurred postnatally and 5 antenatally.

Children occasionally remember having “sent” dreams to their mothers or others from the discarnate state. Apparitions are sometimes seen in the same roles and there may also be mediumistic communications in which the intention to be reborn to certain women is declared. These related phenomena make it even clearer that announcing and departure dreams are important features of the intermission period and we can and should consider them alongside intermission memories in trying to understand what goes on between death and rebirth.

This post appeared originally in my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook. See

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