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Snakes as a Healing Symbol in Dreams
by Nancy Huslage, MA
When the snake shows up in dreams, it almost always evokes a strong response. I have lead dream circles for 15 years and it is a common symbol presented early in each dream group. Since encounter with snakes in waking life are often frightening, they are usually the subject of nightmares in the dream world. While nightmares are frightening, I have found that, once the dream is “unpacked”, the message of a nightmare is usually positive and helpful to the dreamer. Let’s explore what the snake may be trying to tell us.
In Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung writes, "perhaps the commonest dream symbol of transcendence is the snake, as represented by the therapeutic symbol of the Roman god of medicine Aeseulapius, which has survived to modern times as a sign of the medical profession. This was originally a nonpoisonous tree snake; as we see it, coiled around the staff of the healing god, it seems to embody a kind of mediation between earth and heaven." Think about the caduseus as the symbol of the medical profession.
Another characteristic of the snake is its ability to shed its skin as it grows. It actually renews itself. The snake will actually shed it’s skin 4-8 times a year. So, if we combine this knowledge with Jung’s idea of the snake being “a kind of mediation between earth and heaven”, we might see snakes in our dreams in times of spiritual renewal.
In The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (1983 ), Barbara Walker points out that practically every culture has a snake in its mythology, and most often it is seen as a symbol of wisdom, healing, initiation, and secret knowledge, or it is associated with eternal life and ongoing renewal. Snake is the archetypal symbol of the Great Mother Goddess, incarnate in one of her most universal forms. This symbol of the Divine Feminine may show up as a symbol of healing from patriarchal religion, particularly, but not exclusively in the dreams of women.
The coiled snake may be indicative of the Kundalini Shakti energy. Kundalini is the is the sanskrit word for “coiled up” and is symbolic of the cosmic feminine energy that fuels spiritual awakening. In Kundalini Yoga, the snake is curled at the base of the spine and it moves up through all the chakras as one awakens spiritually. Play with the idea of the coiled snake being an indicator of moving into higher consciousness.
As you can see, the snake can be a sign of great healing, especially in the spiritual realm. In my own dreams, snakes come to let me know that I am opening to a new level of spiritual healing and awareness.
I remember one dream in which I was driving to a retreat center in the NC mountains. I had my son’s pet Burmese Python in her aquarium on the front seat next to me. As we made the journey, she began to grow and by the time we reached our destination, she filled the car.
As I processed this dream, there were several insights that the snake gave to me. First, was my connection to the Divine Feminine. I was being encouraged by the dream to embrace the Divine Feminine more completely in my spiritual life. This opened a many new avenues for healing the wounds I had felt from patriarchal religion.
The retreat center was the place where I attended dream leader training. I remember sharing this dream with one of my teachers. He saw the growing snake as my growth as a teacher of dreams and encouraged me to accept my role as a dream work professional. Up until this point, I had considered myself a facilitator of dream groups, but certainly not a teacher. This dream helped me to move forward in my career.
In this article, we have just scratched the surface of the image of snakes in dreams. The snake is ancient and archetypal. I encourage you to not fear the snake when she comes into your dreams. Explore the possibility that the snake may showing you that you are healing in some area of your life. She can be the symbol of your transformation!
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About the Author
Nancy Huslage, MA, is an Interfaith minister, spiritual teacher and dreamworker. She was trained in dream work at Haden Institute, the Chaplaincy Institute, and holds a certificate from the Marin Institute of Projective Dreamwork.
She has been leading dream groups and helping individuals work with their dreams professionally for 16 years. Jungian in her approach , Nancy uses art, dream theater, and projective techniques to help her clients uncover the meaning of their dreams.
Each year, she does extensive training with hospital chaplains and candidates for ordained ministry, teaching them to use dreamwork with their patients and and in their congregations.
As a former Hospice chaplain, she has worked with many patients as they make their final journeys. Conversations about their dreams often deepened her patient’s spiritual experience.
Currently, she is exploring the role of dreams in the grieving process.
She resides in Raleigh, NC. She can be reached at www.uncoveryourdreams.com