Home Arts and Leisure Rainbows, Rats, Leprosy and Lice – Dreams That Mean Wealth in Colonial Times

Rainbows, Rats, Leprosy and Lice – Dreams That Mean Wealth in Colonial Times

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Dreams that mean wealth were a good omen in colonial New England. Whether a dream consisted of a clear story or just a “confused medley of disjointed visions,” in the New England colonies everyone from ministers and merchants to Native American Indians and political leaders gave at least some thought to the meaning of their dreams.

Thomas Tryon, an English author of popular self-help books, first published his analysis of dreams in 1689. Republished in London in 1705 with the title Nocturnal Revels or Universal Interpreter of Dreams and Visions, the book remained in print in America for more than 100 years. It probably ranked as the most popular guide of the day for analyzing dreams in England and the American colonies.

Here are seven dreams that mean wealth in colonial New England:


Lice might not seem to portend good news, but their related dream interpretations could be surprisingly upbeat:

For a man to dream he is lousy and is much troubled with killing and destroying them it is a sign of getting much money and great riches


To dream the body is full of lice and the flesh corroded by their eating into it it signifies hereafter dreamer will get both gold and silver.


To dream you see or have many shegoats, sheep, cows and horses signifies wealth and plenty.

Burial Alive

In the colonial era, with medicine being a far-from-exact science, a reasonable person might worry that someone might bury you alive. Even today it might make a nightmare worthy of a horror movie. But surprisingly, colonial Americans put a happier spin on the topic:

For a man to dream that he is buried signifies he shall have much wealth.


Dreams of rainbows represented similar fortunes as they might today, and they were generally a good sign for either sick or poor people, though they could also suggest tragedy depending upon where they appeared, Tryon reported.

To dream you see a rainbow in the sky betokens the changing of your present estate and manner of life.

To dream you see a rainbow in the east is a good omen to the poor and sick for the former will get an estate and the latter their health.

And if you dream you see it in the west to the rich it is good to the poor a bad sign.

To dream you see the rainbow directly over your head or near you signifies a change of fortune and most commonly the death of the dreamer and ruin of his family. Note also that in your dreams the rainbow on the right hand is good on the left ill.


Rats, on the other hand, had complex meanings in the 1600s and 1700s.

To dream that a woman is delivered of a rat instead of a child is of bad consequence to the dreamer. And yet if it be a woman that has such a dream she shall have good success and comfort and shall be rich generally beloved and prosper in all her undertakings.


A dream about leprosy held mixed connotations for men and women.

If anyone dreams he has the leprosy and is measles or full of the pox it denotes profit and wealth with infamy.

If it be a woman that hath this dream it signifies she will be acquainted with some great lord or at least with some generous person who will bestow a great estate upon her.

Black Hair

Hair could be another indicator of one’s fortunes, with white hair, thinning hair, woolly hair or red hair all having special meaning. When it came to wealth, black hair ruled:

If a man dreams his hair seems longer and blacker than ordinary his wealth and honor will increase.

 With thanks to Nocturnal Revels or Universal Interpreter of Dreams and Visions

Image: The Knight’s Dream, 1655, by Antonio de Pereda

This story updated in 2022.

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