The meaning of the dream symbol: Paper

In the dream sense, Paper symbolizes the physical communication of our modem world. Consequently, huge piles of paper may represent our anxiety about the ‘red tape’ of everyday life. The complexity of maintaining records for a huge society requires mountains of documents, which is why the ‘computer’ age is accompanied by the ‘printer’ age. Our dream therefore, may be expressing a return to a smaller, simpler and more naturalistic way of life. On the other hand, if we lack paper in a dream, we may be illustrating an insufficient vehicle, or social blessing, to fully express our creative potential.

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Currently the symbolism of paper is linked either to the writing on it or to its fragile texture.

In Shinto worship, an important symbolic part is played by strips of folded paper known as gohei. This is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese ideogram and mitegura is the strictly Japanese word denoting the ritual and perhaps magical folding of the paper. There are a score of different ways of folding it and each has a different meaning, being at one and the same time an offering and a sign of the ‘real presence’ of the kami in the temple. Gohei are used in spiritual exercises. Mountains of these strips of folded paper are to be seen outside temples, reminding us of the candles lit at Christian shrines.

Folded pieces of paper very similar to the gohei symbolize the four mitama, the four traditional aspects of the soul and of the timeless part of the individual.

Mention should also be made of the harai-gushi, an instrument of ritual purification comprising a staff round which strips of white paper have been wound. The tamagudhi, which is an offering but which probably symbolizes a link between the soul and the kami, is a sakadi-branch bearing strips of folded paper. The notion of purity and, it would seem, of ‘subtlety’ is constant throughout.

Paper, the image-bearer, is a fragile substitute for reality - a paper tiger.