Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams
Who was Morpheus?
Morpheus was one of the primeval gods, descended from Nyx, the dark goddess of night who was the mother of everything mysterious and anything that was inexplicable, such as death, disease, dreams, ghosts, dreams, witchcraft and enchantments. The drug Morphine which, as a side effect can cause hallucinations, was named after Morpheus. Morpheus was the eldest son of Hypnos the God of sleep and the leader of the Oneroi. The brothers were triplets and all gods of dreams. Morpheus and the Oneroi are always depicted with wings that conveyed they were gifted with magic and the power of flight. Each of the Oneiroi had a specific area of responsibility in relation to dreams and dreaming:
Morpheus had the ability to take on the appearance of a mortal in dreams. He was the god who relayed messages from the gods and prophecies of the future. He took particular care with the dreams of kings and heroes
Phantasos had the ability to appear in dreams in the form of inanimate objects such as rocks, water, trees. He specialized in strange phenomenon and fantasy
Phobetor (known as Icelus to the gods) was the god to be feared who specialized in bringing nightmares and had the ability to appear in the guise of animals and monsters
Picture of Morpheus, god of dreams
Morpheus and the Gates of Horn and Ivory
The Oneroi resided in the 'land of dreams' that was located in the Underworld. Morpheus and his brothers shared the cavernous palace of Hypnos from which they emerged each night like a flock of bats. The nightly route of Morpheus and his brothers passed through one of two gates. One of the gates was made from horn, the second gate was made from ivory. Morpheus would pass through the gates of horn carrying prophetic or true god-sent dreams. Phantasos and Phobetor (Icelus) passed through the gates of ivory carrying false dreams, without true meaning. The Greek word for "ivory" is similar to that for "deceive". In the Odyssey, Homer writes:
"Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them is brought to pass for
mankind. For fleeting dreams have two gates: one is fashioned of horn and one of
ivory. Those which pass through the one of sawn ivory are deceptive, bringing
tidings which come to nought, but those which issue from the one of
polished horn bring true results when a mortal sees them."
Symbols of Morpheus
The symbols of Morpheus were wings and poppies and these are often featured in depictions of the god of dreams. According to Greek mythology there was a garden of poppies at the entrance of his palace in the Underworld. Poppies symbolized death, eternal sleep and oblivion. The hypnotic properties of the poppy has long been used to treat insomnia allowing sleep to people who have trouble sleeping.