Interpret your dreams a Samoan way…

One night my cousin Pua had a dream. She was sitting in the carport of our family house in Samoa, looking out over the vai (a stone pool we’d built to collect water from a stream) into the garden.

There, under a large mango tree, her older sister Teuila and their mother (my aunt) were sobbing uncontrollably as they held up a beautiful fine mat. It was as if they were presenting this ie toga to Pua the way women do at Samoan ceremonial gatherings, say for a wedding or a funeral.

Extremely disturbed by the vision, my cousin phoned her mother as soon as she woke up.

“Eh,” my aunt dismissed. “What kind of stupid dream is that?”

But Pua says she remembers the unease in her mom’s voice.

Two days later, Pua’s older brother collapsed suddenly and died, leaving behind a wife and four young adult children.

It wasn’t the first time – nor was it the last – that a dream had helped my cousin accurately predict imminent death in the family, and she’s not the only one with this ‘gift’. It’s a well-known bit of Samoan wisdom (even my own mother swears by it) that dreaming about ie toga is not a good sign.

I invited Pua and Teuila over last night to help me remember other beliefs Samoans have about dreams (and just a little bit as an excuse for us to eat lots of ice cream and reminisce).

Yin and Yang

“Dreaming the opposite” is a popular one. That is, if you dream about a wedding, it means someone in your family is going to die, and if you dream about a funeral, expect a wedding announcement very soon.

Apparently, this applies to death and birth as well, so dreaming about death means someone close to you is pregnant and seeing a baby born means you should probably start preparing for a funeral.

Meet Joe Black

Yes, death is a huge theme in Samoan folklore, and as we talked (my mom joined the conversation, too) we couldn’t help but digress – a lot! – to general superstitions about death.

Every village has its own beliefs, my mom tells us. In her village (both Pua and Teuila grew up there, too) if you hear a bird called the kuli crying as it flies away from the mountains towards the ocean, someone is going to fall seriously ill and be taken to the hospital.

If the same thing happens but the bird is flying inland instead, towards the mountains, it means someone in the village is about to leave this world. The reasoning is that flying inland is like bringing a loved one home for burial.

To catch a killer

A tradition that many Samoans seem to agree on, though, is the one with the ukufiki on the mat.

So the ukufiki is chunky, dark, hard-bodied beetle-like bug that cousin Teuila says is often found amongst coconuts. I’d say it’s about the size of a large NZ cockroach (or half the size of a large Samoan cockroach) and while it can fly for very short distances, it mostly just does this flick-y hop thing.

When the ukufiki gets into your house and drops on to the flax floor mats, you can hear it… flicking. Or tapping. Or whatever you call that clicking sound its body makes against a hard surface.

If you happen to be amongst Samoans at the time, don’t be surprised if someone jumps up and starts turning over tables, lamps and couches to hunt for this bug… because if you don’t catch it and kill it before it gets away, then its warning of death will come true.

In dreams

In an effort to steer our conversation away from death and back to the topic, I asked my mom and cousins if they knew of any Samoan interpretations for typical dream themes, like flying or falling.

Pua offered that dreaming about the ocean or another large body of water is a good thing. It means good fortune… BUT, if in that dream you see someone getting swept away by the water, then we’re back to yet another death omen.

Gosh, I said. So what do I need to dream in order to win the Lotto? And we all blinked at each other, stumped.

No wonder so many of us Samoans are broke.

We need better dreams!

What it all means

After a long night of discussion and sharing our often spooky experiences with dreams (stay tuned for my blogs-about-those), we concluded that the person most qualified to interpret your dream is yourself.

We decided that what is most important is how you felt in the dream – was it a sense of fear or sadness? Or did it feel peaceful and happy? That seemed to be a better indicator of the dream’s meaning than any of the imagery in it.

A lot of your own interpretations will come from experience, of course. For Pua, despite the ‘dreaming the opposite’ rule, she has dreamt about weddings that turned out to be weddings, and the same about funerals, so she knows that the rule doesn’t apply to her.

My aunt – Pua and Teuila’s mom – passed away a few years ago, but I remember going to her every time I had a perplexing dream, especially when it was about Samoan things. Through her depth of wisdom, I was often able to piece together interpretations that made the most sense to me, so it can still help to seek the insight of people who know you well.

My philosophy is that your own interpretation matters the most because, in the end, the message in your dream is going to be more relevant to you than anyone else.

And you?

What have we missed? What interpretations have you heard? Which do you swear by?

Please share in a comment below.


The following two tabs change content below.
Known offline as Lillian (Lils, Lei'a) Arp, Hamo Geek Girl is just learning what it means to be Samoan. When she's not here, she's over at Manaui: Savour Oceania mostly talking about her other favourite topic: Food!

15 thoughts on “Interpret your dreams a Samoan way…

  1. Hello Hamogeekgirl,
    I hope you will excuse me for writing about dreams in your article about sea worms (which do sound worth trying) but being an elder still finding my way around the internet, I can’t relocate the one about Samoan Dream Interpretation which I read several months ago.
    At the end of that blog,your conclusion struck a note with me: “What seems important are the feelings you have in the dream. They have more meaning to the person dreaming.” I could not agree more.
    In the late 60″s I knew a Polynesian woman and her son (no specific Island known), who told me how her people responded to a young persons “scary” nightmares. While listening to the story, the adult would encourage the teller to include their feelings and emotions they had during the dream. Then they would ask the dreamer where in their everyday life they had those same feelings and emotions. They would follow up by talking about ways to deal with that everyday situation.
    What a simple, straightforward and elegant method of dream interpretation! Plus it works! Not only does it help solve everyday problems but it seems to put one in contact with their sub-conscious and their creative side. It is truly a welcome alternative to Western methods involving symbolic meanings, sexual hangups and archetypal patterns that vary between cultures.
    I wonder if you know of any further evidence this method of dream interpretation was common in any Polynesian culture before European arrival ? Or where it may still exist ?
    Great Website, Thank You, Chuck Williams , chukwil at Yahoo

  2. i need help guys!!!

    today i had a dream that my partner had told me that she was pregnant but the weird thing was is that when i woke up from my dream, my partner just had walked into the room… i actually found that really weird.

    my problem is, me and my partner have had no luck with pregnancy as my partner has always miscarried 🙁

    can someone please help me out and tell me what it means please? would love to find out the meaning of my dream.

  3. I had a dream last night that both of my girl cousin got married to her fiancé an soon after that, her brother got married to his fiancé. It was a back to back wedding on the same day in the same places. What does this mean?

  4. Every time I have a dream my parents always used the Ying and yang theory. Like I had a dream that one of my brothers had a baby girl, but it turns out that it was my sister that was close to him was pregnant with a baby girl. But she had a miscarriage. And my dad he dreamt of two coffins that my nephews pushed towards him. While he was in a hospital bed. Well my brother that I dreamt about the baby was getting married. So our family base their dreams on the Ying yang theory since most of our dreams are about our family.

    1. I always thought of it as just ‘dreaming opposites’, but ‘Yin Yang’ sounds better -- and is an accurate description of how we think regarding dreams. Runa your experience with dreams is reminding me that even though we have an idea of how this stuff works, a lot of times it’s still difficult to predict the meaning of your dream…I mean, if I dreamt about my sister having a baby, how can I know who the dream is really about? lol.. Thanks so much for your insight… 🙂

  5. While I was reading along, I was thinking to myself “how come you (me) have never had any dreams that are pertainable to the stories in this article?” and with that thought I had another one come to mind: For the islanders who are no longer living on the land of their fathers fathers, do we lose that connectivity that binds the people to the land? Just like everyone else, I’ve heard stories, myths, tales, superstitions and all sorts of things about the Island and what goes on. The American-living me does not have those particular premonitions occurring firsthand. I mean, I’ve had plenty of dreams and like many, they’re forgotten within ten minutes of awakening. Yet i wonder, is there a bond between the land and the people who live on it? Ok, I know the answer is yes but now I kind of feel like I was deprivated of an opportunity of a lifetime to live in Samoa and experience that way of life. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be grateful to live in a free nation that offers an abundance of options that can benefit your pockets. However, as I get older, that “chase” for the money is seeming less and less important to me and my interests. I always picture myself living off the land and feeding my family on a daily basis and that would be the life for me. I know its wishful thinking cus the reality of everyones reality is never as good as it seems. I’ll be honest, there’s a lot of days and I mean a lottttttt of days where I’d wish my parents stayed on the homeland and never came out here. And the only reason I would think that is because I still feel out of place in my current country. I also know that if I left today, by myself, back to Samoa, I would still feel a bit out of place because I don’t speak the language, i’m literally out of place, and also the differences of upbringing and environmental surroundings. I’ve grown accustomed to big buildings, fast cars, fast food, fast money, fashion, pretty much being raised in a place where consumerism and capitalism are the bread and butter of the operation. So has all this modern-day technology-age era in my life tainted the connection i “used” to have? Are we born with this connection to the birthplace of our ancestors? I’m in awe and will continue to ponder this thought now. Sorry if I’ve trailed a bit off course. My mind likes to race, especially when I’m not ready for it. lol

    1. I love your comments TSB. Love the way you think things through 🙂 That idea of living off the land is seductive aint it. The irony is, you gotta have money first to purchase that piece of land… unless you want to go back to Samoa and submit yourself fully to the Fa’asamoa -- i.e. cultivate family / village land that will never truly belong to you, but the trade off is that the sweat of your brow will contribute to the welfare of the aiga as a whole. It’s a different kind of satisfaction and success, a world away from the so-called ‘American dream’ (acquiring a house, car, spouse, 2.5 children, etc.) that is so deeply ingrained in so many of us raised outside of Samoa.

      For sure our night time dreams will be affected by the way we think, the attitudes we have and the culture that surrounds us. The symbols and situations that my mom and older relatives see in their dreams, I rarely ever do, and even when I do they don’t ‘feel’ the same to me -- you know how dreams are powerful conjurers of emotion… But i’ve learned to interpret my own dreams based on the significance I (subconsciously or otherwise) have attached to certain symbols.

      I so hear you about feeling displaced. I was born in Samoa but I was still an infant when we moved to Hawaii. We later moved to Micronesia and then to New Zealand, and though I love and appreciate all the places I’ve lived (and I expect to live in several other places before I die lol) I have never truly felt like a belonged anywhere. I do believe that we are spiritually attached to the land of our parents and ancestors -- I feel that in my bones every time I visit Samoa -- but at the same time, I know it would take another huge adjustment if I ever decided to live there. Who knows though.. maybe over time I would begin to feel a part the earth in Samoa (i.e. that I belonged there) but I have a feeling I would still yearn for elements of my other (temporary?) homes.

      To cope with that feeling of displacement that I know so well, I decided recently that ‘home’ -- in my heart where it matters -- is just going to have to be where my closest family is… you know… if the thought of being away from a certain loved one threatens to give you a heart attack, that’s probably where you should make your home…

      I have no idea what my ramble has to do with the topic, but it was fun. Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

  6. In our family when we dream of being kissed by someone can only mean illness. If this dream comes across you more then once then it is not good for the dreamer. It can mean the illness has progressed into something more serious.

    I recall one afternoon when my mother and I were having a conversation in the kitchen. She heard a Cat crying by the back door. We don’t have any pets and it was just a stray Cat from who knows where. She stopped what she was doing looked straight at the clock and listened to how many times it cried. When it cried three times my mother would say that someone close to us will pass away. She would send me to the door and ask me which direction is the Cat facing. The position of the Cat acts as a compass for my mother. When I point in the direction she just knows which families to ring and ask if there is anyone who has fallen ill or has ended up in hospital.

    1. I was going to mention that thing about the cats crying at the door or windows -- even without the superstition that’s just creepy -- but wow. We did not have as much detail as your mom does about that.

      As for the kiss, that’s new for me, too. Nice one Smoove.. thanks for sharing.

  7. … i use to dream of using the bathroom in public o_O … i knoooooow like HOW EMBARRASSING right? … it turns out it was my FEAR of people seeing me in a most disgusting way … like i HAD to be perfect and i HAD to be the one whose “poop” did NOT stink type of person and being a perfectionist drove me to nightmares about it. It was ONLY after i surrendered my LIFE (the good, the bad, the MOST UGLY) to the Lord that i was able to STOP dreaming of such an act.

    NOW … what’s the dream about FISH … is that new birth? *shrugs* … just something i hear the oldies talk about a lot.

    1. I know that dream! I had one where the toilet was on stage in a packed out hall…. haha I must have some pretty disturbing fears …

      Oohhh fish. I need to investigate that one and let you know!


  8. awesome…ive heard some of those dream interpretations as well…
    but it’s something to keep in our knowledge..and i do believe in our faa Samoa ways of dream interpreting…

    this doesnt pertain to dreams but there’s this one thing about my mom…when her palm starts getting “mageso”(itchy), she claims she’ll be getting $$$ soon..i laughed it off once but i notice each time her hand was mageso, she indeed did get money…lol…boggles my mind sometimes..

    anyway thanks for the informative post 🙂

    1. You know, we talked about the itchy palm thing, too. My cousins said it meant someone is loving you… but loving with money is good too!

      May we all have itchy palms lol

      Thanks Aliitasi 🙂

    2. I know what your mom means. I go through the same thing when my right hand itches as that’s my money hand. If it’s my left hand it’s unpaid bills arriving in the mail. Sure enough a reminder to pay my bills before the end of the month.

Say something...