The Benefits of Recognizing Ancestral Dreams


Dreams can provide a quick path to connecting with our direct ancestors. They are waiting to remembered. The road has simply been covered by a few inches of cultural plastic debris whose gods are industry and ecological warfare. But the older path is still laid, hidden in the dreams, folklore, and sayings of our families of origin.Exploring ancestral elements in dreams helped me move beyond gross stereotypes of my Irish, Scottish and German heritages, into a deeper connection with my past. They also, in general, keep me grounded. Thinking about ancestry, after all, has some clinically noted benefits, including boosting intelligence, confidence and self-esteem.1 This is the Ancestor Effect.


When I began exploring the ancestral connection to dreaming, it was a box of Lucky Charms that presented itself first. I had to laugh; could there be a more stereotypical image of Irish culture than a befreckled leprechaun hawking marshmallows at the end of the rainbow?

Ancestral dreams come when we lay out a strong intention for them, but they also can come when we need them. Sometimes ancestral dreams simply help with reframing a situation with a deeper significance.

Other times, they may lead to unconsciously held information that is embedded in your own dream mythology and has been passed down for generations.

The trick is recognizing them, and then honoring them in waking life.

Remembering the Bigger Picture

My wife and I recently had our son baptized. Even though I am comfortable with Baptism on an intellectual level, I had some trepidation about the ceremony, simply because I come from a different background (I was raised Unitarian and chiefly as a humanist).

My wife’s uncle officiated the ceremony, adding another layer of inclusion and also (well-meaning) social pressure.

The night before the baptism I had the following dream:

My wife’s uncle is preparing a mine cart ride in the front yard of his home. I walk with him to make sure the path of the cart is clear. As we walk along, I am surprised to see there are no rails, but rather a stone path barely visible beneath the grass. Some large clear quartz crystal boulders line the path as well. We kick debris such as sticks from the path and I see how the stones making up the path look very old, consisting of interlocking carved stones with intricate designs all over them. The patterns include spirals, concentric rings and other sacred geometric patterns. In the dream, I wonder if they are Celtic in origin, or if they are Native (American). They seem to be both. (12/8/12)

As I fried up the bacon and eggs the next morning, I reflected on how the dream revealed some of the designs that one often sees in the architecture of the church (the amazing Bryn Athyn Cathedral)  where the ceremony was to be held. I puzzled over how it was a different uncle in the dream than who was presiding over the ceremony later that morning.

I then had an “A-HA” moment when I remembered another significance: I also have my own family roots in this area of Pennsylvania.

In fact, I’m a direct descendent of an Irish pastor who, in the 1680s, baptized members of his congregation on the banks of the Pennypack Creek, which happens to flow less than a quarter mile from the cathedral.

Bringing the dream back into waking life

Remembering my own family legacy on this land, and its association with the rites of Baptism, allowed me to relax completely about the ceremony.

All day long, as I walked along the grounds, I imagined those intricately patterned stones at my feet, connecting me to my own ancestry as I prepared the way for my son’s spiritual “path-clearing.” (As it turns out, the iron spiral bannister pictured above from the Bryn Athyn Cathedral also throws spiral shadows onto the stones, much like the dream, as can be seen here).

And after the ceremony, I spoke to both of my wife’s uncles about my ancestry and the dream. This was a move I made spontaneously, while most everyone else was eating coffee cake. I felt very vulnerable as I told the dream, but it opened up new dialogue and connection with both men that had not been previously possible.

book 2 master flattenedAnnouncement! This article is adapted from my new, upcoming ebook Dream Like a Boss: Book 2: Big Dreams, Lucid Dreams and Borderlands of Consciousness

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First Image: Stairway by la fattina CC 2008


1 Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C., and Weisweiler, S. (2010). The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. European Journal of Social Psychology. 41 (1), 11-16.

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  1. Susan Lindwall says

    I love how you were able to pull the meaning from the dream, and allow yourself to relax and be with the sacredness of the experience.

    • Ryan Hurd says

      thanks Susan. that’s the dream, right? I wish I was always so on it… I usually have to be hit over the head with repetitive, escalating dreams

  2. says

    Funny timing on this article. It was in my email, 1st thing this morn, after a night of very vivid dreaming. So vivid that for the 1st time in months I felt compelled to write dream down B4 going back to sleep.
    In the dream, which, upon reflection, I felt was a partial answer to an on-going incubation attempt of mine, a character pointed asks me what I am doing for work lately. To which, after casting about in my head for a reply, I say “Genealogy.”
    In the dream, which takes place in the old neighborhood of mother’s family, a D.C. from the
    “old country” recites off his extended name. There are 22 of them, including Rodriques and Goncalves.
    When I awoke, I had the idea that this might have been a young version of my Grandfather, who in WL was very secretive about his past and origins.
    In fact, I had hit a dead end in my ancestry studies and thus, that’s why I had turned to dream incubation as a way around the roadblock.
    Well, I could go on and on but the significant thing to me is the timing…Reading your piece, strengthened my belief that my dream was about my family and reconnecting with my past.


    • Ryan Hurd says

      I’m very happy to hear this piece touched you, at the right time too. good luck on your new round of research!

  3. says

    This is a wonderful story, thank you. Especially the part about sharing the dream – it seems dream sharing is a whole other kind of connection and communion between people, almost lost.

    Congratulations on the birth of your book, by the way :)

  4. says

    Great article on connection to ancestral energy. Today after waking from a dream,I started to meditate and my eye focused on a Tibetan box I had. I suddenly noticed that on one side there was a golden spiral I was prompted to send my consciousness awareness to move down the spiral and as I did so I could feel myself changing the state of my awareness to my essential self which encompasses my dreaming self. lucid dreaming while awake !