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The Number Three in Dreams

September 17, 2008

By Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Copyright Visionary Living, Inc.

The number three plays a prominent role in myth, mysticism, folklore, alchemy, and the dynamics of spiritual growth and change. In my dream research over the years, I have noticed that three occurs more frequently than other numbers, as a digit, a quantity, a series of actions, events, themes or patterns, or even a series of repetitive dreams.

In the mystery traditions, numbers are not quantities. They are ideas or forms which constitute the building blocks of all things in the universe. Each number has it own vibration, character and attributes, which in turn influence the physical world by attracting certain energies.

Three is the number of creation and ascent, and opens the gateways to the higher planes. Dreams themselves are the gatekeepers and thus vibrate to the number three. The role of the dream is to open us to new and higher awareness and expand our consciousness so that we live life more fully and express our highest potential.

The Greek philosopher Anatolius observed that three, “the first odd number, is called perfect by some, because it is the first number to signify the totality — beginning, middle and end.” Thus, we find in mythology, folklore and fairy tales the recurrent motif of the triad: three wishes, three sisters, three brothers, three chances, blessings done in threes, and spells and charms done in threes (“thrice times the charm”). Three is also the number of wisdom and knowledge in its association with the Three Fates and the past, present and future, and the ancient sciences of music, geometry and arithmetic. In religions, holy trinities express the Godhead, the All That Is.

When events or synchronicity happen in threes, it is time to pay attention, for this is how the world of spirit, intuition and the Higher Self knock upon the door of waking consciousness. Thus, when three shows up in a dream, it is a signal to take special notice of what the dream is telling us.

Dreamwork about a thrice-knocking turtle inspired Christian scholar Morton Kelsey to study mythology, which had a profound impact upon his work:

I stood at the ocean and a great big, very old turtle came out of the water. It said something very important to me, but as I awoke, I forgot what was said. So I reconstructed the dream in my imagination and began to fantasize. (It is most interesting to note that one can return to the dream world almost as if it were real.) I asked the turtle what it had said, but it did not answer; rather, it climbed out of the water. It went to a rock wall and knocked on it three times with its beak. A door opened and I went inside. Two years and 80,000 words later I came out; in this time I had lived through many of the myths of humankind with my weekly ventures into this fantasy-land. Before this I had never studied ancient mythology, but now I myself had looked into this world and its images.

The turtle’s three knocks are the magical charm for Kelsey to gain access to a hidden inner realm and a new direction in his work.

In the following dream, the number three represents the angelic kingdom, based on the account in Genesis of three angels disguised as men who visit Abraham. The dream also involves archetypal symbols of the tree, the house and an earthquake, as well as direct audition (disembodied voice). There is an element of prophecy, which can be associated with the Three Fates of time. The dreamer is Robert Wise, an Episcopal clergyman, who was entering a period he described as “considerable personal loss and trial” and “overwhelming turmoil.”

In the dream I was asleep in my own bedroom on the second floor….Three men awoke me and pointed out of the window. One man said, “Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.” I was aware the statement was like a biblical passage and the three men were holy. I remembered the three men who visited Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. Even though I wasn’t sure of the meaning of the moment, I knew I was being given a very special message.

Suddenly the house began to quiver. As I looked out the window, the land began to move up and down in waving motions, like carpet being shaken. Trees started flying out of the ground, and I knew I was in the middle of a terrible earthquake. The entire house began to sway violently. My large waterbed lifted off the floor, and I was so terrified I began to scream at the top of my lungs. Even though I was still asleep, I could feel my heart pounding. The three men disappeared, and I remember thinking, “I will not survive the ordeal.” From somewhere a voice answered, “Oh, but you will. You are coming to the greatest time in your life.” The house turned on its axis and faced a new direction.

The tremor subsided and the house settled on a new foundation. I looked out the windows at the fields beyond the edge of my property and was amazed that the terrain had completely been rearranged. Trees, lakes, and roads were totally different. Everything was peaceful and well ordered.

The literal shake-up in Wise’s life is forecast by the three angels, whose presence also is a reassuring connection with God. The direct audition of the disembodied voice can be interpreted as the Higher Self and the “voice of God.” The dream shows that the eventual outcome of the upheaval will be good. According to Wise, events occurred just as the dream predicted. The dream was a source of “profound inner knowing” that God was directing his life and leading him to a place that he had never before been. It also was a great source of assurance that the ultimate outcome would be for the better.

In a magical sense, “three” dreams are concerned with destiny. As in Kelsey’s dreamwork, an action taken or performed three times calls attention to something that must be examined, pursued or accomplished. As in Wise’s dream, a triad of three persons (or animals) are special message-bearers about a turning-point in life, or an important realization. If three objects appear significant in a dream, look for ways they are related, especially in terms of something that makes a whole or forms a complete picture. In making associations, look for the magical, the mystical and the spiritual. Let three open the door to discovery.