What do snakes mean in dreams?

Yesterday, I blogged about what spiders mean in dreams.  I was inspired by my appearance on a radio show where the theme of the conversation was focused on scary dream images and their meaning.  As is often the case, I found myself explaining that when we project our fears about an image onto the meaning we make of it, we are missing the value of what our unconscious is trying to tell us.  By “removing the yuck,” as it was so charmingly put on the air, and examining the essence of the symbol in question, a more satisfying interpretation emerges.

I use the image of snakes in dreams frequently to illustrate this point very clearly.  So once again, borrowing from the pages of Dream Sight (coming from Llewellyn Press in February 2011) I include the following selections.  The first is from the first half of the book from a section where I explain this very concept using snakes as an example, followed by the actual dictionary term of Snake as it appears within the pages of my book.  I hope it is of value.

To illustrate this principle more clearly, let us use another example utilizing two people having essentially the same dream.  The primary image is that of a snake.  Dreamer number one is terrified of snakes, while Dreamer number two finds them interesting and even a bit erotic.  While hiking down a path alone somewhere in nature, each dreamer comes upon a large snake in the middle of the path.  Encountering the snake stops their respective hikes and each dreamer regards the snake from a safe distance before waking up.

The fact that snakes shed their skins–which is symbolic for discarding the old to make room for the new in one fell swoop–makes change and transformation the Universal Landscape for snake.  In addition, many varieties of snakes are capable of killing and death is always symbolically linked with rebirth, which is the ultimate of transformations.  Even the fact that their long, straight shape can be formed into a circle is symbolically suggestive of the cycles of change that are so much a part of life.

The Dreaming Lens in this dream is the same for both dreamers–the presence of the snake in the middle of their path has halted their progress.  Now the meaning of the dream is expanded:  this is a dream about some path in life that each dreamer is on.  Since they are alone, we can assume the dream is reflecting their own private journey as opposed to their public life.  Some element of change or transformation is occurring in their lives as represented by the snake appearing on their respective paths.  This apparent obstacle is causing them to stop and consider what direction to take and what to do next.

Now we come to the Personal Focus, which is going to be very different for our dreamers, therefore resulting in a different final interpretation for each.  Dreamer number one is afraid of snakes and therefore whatever change in life this dream is expressing is bringing up some level of fear.  Dreamer number two is also facing a shift in life, but one that is intriguing and inviting by virtue of having a Personal Focus of snakes as an object of fascination.  Without using the process of Dream Sight, both dreamers would be stuck and confused with having the dream mean something about how they feel about snakes rather than coming to a full understanding of the dream representing a change or transformation that their unconscious minds are asking them to explore.

Universal Landscape:  Change or transition; healing; death and rebirth.

Dreaming Lens:  What kind of snake is appearing in your dream?  Is it poisonous, dangerous or innocuous?  What was your fear level or lack thereof?  Did the snake have human qualities or abilities?  Does it have a message?
Personal Focus:  Snakes can inspire great and varied personal emotions, and therefore can ultimately connect to very different shades of meaning based on your Personal Focus.  Because of this continuum of response from fear and loathing to fascination and sensual stirrings, they need to be considered carefully when they appear in a dream.

First and foremost, snakes represent change and transformation.  This connects to the fact that they shed their skins in their growth process and that many of them are capable of causing fatality to their predators, implying the symbolic rebirth that follows any death experience.  There is a healing element of this, as many snake venoms can also be used as curatives.  This may connect to the two snakes that appear on the physician’s caduceus, representing the challenge to life and the response of the healer to match it.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the snake bears the responsibility for tempting Adam and Eve.  As such, a snake can represent a confrontation with a change in your value system.  It is important to remember that their yielding introduced the human race to the knowledge of mortality and the birth of consciousness.  A serpent in your dream may actually represent a major shift in your awareness that may bring about the death of an old paradigm that brings you into a whole new world.

In Eastern cultures, the awakening of spiritual power is often referred to as a snake.  Known as the Kundalini, it is experienced as an incredible energy which undulates up the spine.  Stimulating this can induce a tremendous healing force which contains the ability to purify the nervous and glandular systems.  The practice of yoga is designed to awaken the snake that lives dormant at the base of the spine.  As a dream symbol, a snake could represent the potential for power and energy if properly channeled.

If a snake appears on a particular part of your body (such as choking you) you might want to make an association between that body part/energy and what in your life needs to be transformed.  How you feel about the presence of actions of the snake reveal your deeper emotional responses to the change that is occurring.