Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dreaming of Snakes

I don't generally remember my dreams (unless I'm trying to), so this may be the first time I have talked about a dream on this blog. And of course, I only remember a fragment of the dream.

I am with (faceless) other people and we are outside -- the atmosphere is dark, but it is not night. It feels as though we just suddenly appeared in this place, maybe from some other scene or element of the dream I do not remember. On the ground, in the trees -- everywhere -- there are snakes. Big snakes, small snakes, black snakes (a lot of big black snakes), rattlesnakes, colorful snakes -- snakes everywhere. The people with me panic and want to run, but I guide them out through the maze of snakes and no one is bitten.

The snakes seemed not to be interested in us. And I felt no fear of them.

This is all I remember of the dream, but it has been with me for several days now, and it keeps coming back to awareness.

I don't know what any of this means. However, I have been preoccupied with the awareness of ignorance of late, and snakes represent the opposite -- wisdom and knowledge. I have also been musing on the role of vocation in my life (and my ignorance of what that might be), and I think that there may be some connection here.

It was a snake that encouraged Eve to exercise free will and embrace knowledge over ignorance by eating the apple and sharing it with Adam. It is a snake that lies coiled at the base of the spine and can be raised through the chakras by means of meditation to become enlightened. Twin snakes coil around the staff of life to create the caduceus, the symbol of medicine.

Snakes are symbols of transformation, often associated with death because they live both above and below ground. But they also shed their skin, so they can also symbolize transformation and rebirth in the absence of literal death.

Other various symbolisms include pure energy (its wave-like movement), guardians of the springs or waters of spirit (a feminine energy), cycles of nature and time (the Ouroboros), and on and on. Snakes are one of the most widely found symbols among humans and cover a multiplicity of interpretations.

If I recall correctly, Jung felt that serpents in dreams represented some form of conflict between instincts and conscious attitudes or desires. Obviously, the snakes represent the instincts. But this doesn't feel correct to me -- its more than that.

If we look to James Hillman, he doesn't want to pin any specific meaning on the dream image, and in fact, in this quote, he addresses black snakes:

For instance, a black snake comes in a dream, a great big black snake, and you can spend a whole hour with this black snake talking about the devouring mother, talking about anxiety, talking about the repressed sexuality, talking about the natural mind, all those interpretive moves that people make, and what is left, what is vitally important, is what this snake is doing, this crawling huge black snake that’s walking into your life…and the moment you’ve defined the snake, you’ve interpreted it, you’ve lost the snake, you’ve stopped it…The task of analysis is to keep the snake there…

OK, then, so I have a LOT of big black snakes, among thousands of other snakes. We are outdoors, but not in nature, more like on a path or walkway. It's dark, but not night. And for some strange reason, I am the guide who gets everyone to safety.

I like Hillman's approach -- context is more important than content.

In the context of my dream, the snakes may represent instincts, fears, death, rebirth, wisdom, and/or transformation to those who are with me -- and they feel fear. I do not feel the same fear, so I am able to guide them through the situation to safety.

Now, the other people may represent other selves within me, or other people in my life, or some situation I have yet to encounter. The key is that I am (or some part of me is) a guide through the process of confronting these symbolic creatures. So, in this sense, I am viewing this as a dream of "calling," which is related to vocation.

This dream may have something to do with my decision to return to school to become a therapist-- maybe a confirmation that I am on the right path. That's how I am going to hold it for now.


Anonymous said...

I heard Hillman speak on this very topic, I had forgotten about it until I read your post. He is wonderful to hear if you ever get the chance. Ok so this dream was ages ago, but what struck me was that your emotion was different than everyone else's. And that the snakes were not aggressive. Seems you are curious and undaunted by change and challenges.

Anyhoozle, I should find my notes from that lecture. He gave an example of how he works with dreams in practice and did a demonstration with an audience member.

Anonymous said...

I had a dream of many snakes surrounding me ..none threatened me..
although I was scared.. they were not small..big and almost yellow colors..I couldn't maneuver around because I was surrounded by them..
What could this dream mean?