Friday, December 31, 2010

Dreaming in History

"Please excuse Theresa from class!  She has been ill."
~Queen Isabella

My prolonged absence from writing wasn't planned.  Illness struck our household.  First my son and then me.  I will spare you the details of our sickness and I hope my blogger friends are feeling well.  Now that I'm confident that everyone is on the mend, it is time to write. 

While I was ill, I had some interesting dreams.  I would blame the medicine I was taking , but I doubt antibiotics give you odd dreams.  The real culprit was a book.  Darn things...if you read to much, you are bound to have vivid dreams.  At least that is my experience.

This particular dream was inspired by the book, The Great Arab Conquest by Hugh Kennedy.  As the title suggests, the book chronicles the Arab conquest of the Middle East and North Africa during the 7th and 8th centuries.   Before I began producing phlegm at a rate no human should, I read the chapter on the conquest of Egypt.

Before the Arab conquest, Egypt had been ruled by first the Greeks under the Ptolemies and then incorporated into the Roman Empire.  By the time the Arabs invaded, Egypt was part of the Eastern Roman Empire, know as the Byzantine Empire.  Like many areas of the Middle East and North Africa at the time, Egypt was heavily Christian and still has a sizable Christian minority to this day.
A Coptic church in Egypt

The Christians in Egypt, however, weren't considered Orthodox by the Patriarch of Constantinople.  The Coptic (Egyptian) Christians and the Greek Christians differed on their views regarding Jesus.  At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, the bishops decided that Jesus had to distinct natures.  He was both fully divine and fully human without the pesky sin thing getting in the way.  The Coptic church, agreeing that Jesus was fully divine and human, however, believed that Jesus had only one nature.

For the modern reader, this difference doesn't seem big, but for the Patriarch of Constantinople, this was enough to label them heretics.  Persecution of the Coptic Christians began.  When the Arab armies swept through Egypt promising religious toleration to everyone who paid a special tax, the Coptic Christians jumped on the band wagon.  Religious freedom is what they wanted and that's what they got for a century or two.

Whether my subconscious had formed an odd attachment to the Coptic Christians or my brain was drowning in mucus is hard to tell, but I dreamt that I was a monk at a Coptic monastery shortly before the Arab conquest.  The odd thing about this dream was that while I was a monk, I was still a woman.  Apparently this didn't bother anyone in my dream as we piously sang our morning vespers.  Suddenly, we heard pots clanging, the earth rattling and a giant dust cloud closing in fast on our monastery.

 "It's the Saracens," screamed the Abbott, "run."  Yes, I admit the dialogue is a little stiff in my dreams.  Maybe the Abbott should have said something like, "Hell's gates have opened and the Saracen is upon us.  Run or Satan's serpent will snatch you."  Seriously though, who would say that when their life was in danger?

The dream progresses as a run through the monastery searching for a way out. Screams and shrills follow me everywhere, but then I hear a distinct, "Mommy, Mommy."  Thinking that I mothered an Arab child, I wake suddenly and hesitantly open my eyes.  "Mommy, Mommy," said the voice innocently.  I opened my eyes and instead of seeing an invader, I see my son.  Not only was I glad that my son was feeling better, but that I wasn't around for the Arab conquest.  Invading armies don't make good bed time stories.


  1. Funny dream! I've had some crazy ones, too, after reading history...

    Best wishes for 2011!

  2. Glad to know I'm not the only one. Best wishes.


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