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Róheim, G. (1949). The Magical Function of the Dream. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 30:172-177.

(1949). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 30:172-177

The Magical Function of the Dream

Géza Róheim

In a book on magic which I have been writing for many years I emphasize certain psychological principles that characterize magic. One of these is matter of general knowledge. Rain is made by imitating rain, victory in war is brought about by staging a mock battle before going to war, and so on. Frazer calls this imitative magic. The second, viz., that magic is based on a myth, is less generally known. Something is bound to happen in the present and the future because it has happened in the past. This is the principle of the epic incantation. The third, which I have demonstrated to some extent in previous publications, is that the libido is the stuff of which magic is made. To this theory I now add: (a) that the libido is always mobilized against the super-ego; (b) that there is, in many cases, a certain amount of aggression fused with the libido.

These preliminary remarks are necessary to explain the purpose of this paper.

If the anthropologist asks his informants in the field what a dream means, they will have a dream interpretation ready-made. This interpretation invariably points to the future; the dream means that something is going to happen. Freud writes:

And what of the value of dreams in regard to our knowledge of the future? That, of course, is quite out of the question. One would like to substitute the words "in regard to our knowledge of the past". For in every sense a dream has its origin in the past. The ancient belief that dreams reveal the future is not indeed entirely devoid of truth.

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