Dreams about Snakes: Meaning, Analysis, Interpretation
The interpretation of dreams about snakes depends primarily on the associations of the dreamer and how snakes are used in the dream-story. The meaning varies.
To one person, snakes are feared and loathed. Just the thought of a snake makes their skin crawl. To another person, snakes are symbols of temptation and evil. But snakes are also commonly associated with good health, virility, transformation, and the presence or blessing of God.
Of course, a lot depends on what type of snake, right? How a snake is presented in your dream and how you react to it tells you what it symbolizes. Is the snake dangerous, or just chillin’? Do you run in terror at the sight of it, stare in fascination or even play with it? What role does the snake have in the dream-story, and what actions, if any, does it take? Where is the snake encountered and who, if anyone, is with you? What does it all symbolize, and how does it fit together as a story about you?
This is how you figure out the meaning of a snake in a dream, the same general process that you use with any dream symbol. The snake is an enigmatic dream symbol that can’t be interpreted using pat definitions. Instead, dig into the story and analyze the dream. I’ll show you how.
Snake Symbolism: Venom
Let’s begin with a common use of snake symbolism. Snakes are known for being venomous. That idea can be stretched to speak to a way that something poisons your thoughts and feelings or harms body, your heart, your spirit. Venomous can mean “bad influence.” It works into you and influences you in a bad way. The influence could be from a person, but consider also everything that you could take into yourself in the figurative sense.
Now stretch the idea. Someone who is mean as a snake is a bad influence. Just being around such a person is hazardous to your health! Their influence is like venom. Everyday comparisons between people and venomous snakes are common so it’s an easy connection to make. They wound. They strike. They stalk.
That use of the symbolism will stand out in the dream-story. The snake will be venomous. It will bite, or you will fear it biting you or someone with you in the dream. It’s danger and fear personified in the form of a snake.
If the snake is not venomous, does not bite and inject venom, or does not provoke fear, it’s probably not related to the symbolism of venom. A dream could even turn this idea on its ear by showing you wanting the venom of the snake because you know subconsciously it could be helpful. For example, chemotherapy is a sort of venom or poison used to treat cancer.
Venomous thoughts and feelings
The symbolism of a snake as something venomous doesn’t end with how it can describe certain people. Situations and thought processes can be venomous, too. “Venomous” and “poisonous” are used to describe situations that slowly kill you, that are chronically stressful or hurtful and bring out the worst in people. A negative ideology, belief, feeling or thought that works into your system is venomous.
“Venomous” can describe thought processes and the way you talk to yourself. Thoughts like “I’m good for nothing” and “I can’t do anything right” are venom in the psyche. They poison you from within, as do feelings such as shame and self-loathing.
Venom can be used to describe anything that attacks the body and mind from within, such as certain substances: sodas, alcohol, drugs, heavily processed foods. Remember that the symbolism is based on your perceptions and how your body and mind react to the intake of something. Some people can eat Twinkies all day long and are fine. For other people it’s slow death. Some people can drink alcohol and it doesn’t bother them. Others can’t. It’s venom.
Just this one use of snake symbolism has many variations. The other uses of the symbolism we’ll cover also have many variations. The goal here is to show you ways that dreams use associations with snakes to create symbolism, and how the meaning of a snake in a dream is shown in the story.
Snake Symbolism: Fear
Dreams make comparisons based on your associations, and fear is a common association with snakes. They can symbolize anything that you fear: people, places, situations, or just the idea of something such as speaking in public or health problems. If you fear it, a dangerous snake can symbolize it. The idea can be stretched from here to the moon. For example, fear of getting into trouble, failing a test, or losing something you love can be symbolized as fear of a snake.
But if you don’t fear snakes, they’re not as likely to be used in your dreams to symbolize fear. Or if the snake in your dream is not a potentially harmful variety, you have nothing to fear. Of course, some people fear any snake, so again, it depends on you and how you react to snakes in general and specifically to the snakes in your dreams.
Dreaming about overcoming fear of a snake is a strong indicator of overcoming a fear in your waking life, too.
Snake Symbolism: Constriction
Constricting situations are comparable to the killing method of Boa Constrictors, Pythons and Anacondas. For example demands, obligations, and responsibilities can feel constricting. Bad situations can feel like a noose around the neck. Relationships can be constricting. People can become “ensnared” in all sorts of ways.
What better way of symbolizing something that constricts than with a snake? Keep in mind, the constriction is not necessarily “bad.” I know a mother and daughter who both dreamed about letting a python out of their family home where they live together with an elderly relative. The Python symbolizes the constriction on their lives caused by caring for that relative, and allowing it to leave the home shows their willingness to “let go” of their relative so she can die in peace. They don’t want her to die — it’s not a malicious or selfish desire. It’s just an acknowledgement of how they feel and the reality of the situation.
Now make the next leap and imagine how constriction by a snake in a dream can symbolize loss of circulation to a limb while sleeping, or a blocked airway. A blocked airway is constricted. Make another leap to consider that the real story is told in the dream symbolism of the body part affected. Dreaming about a snake wrapped around your neck, for example, could be a sign of a constricted airway, aka “sleep apnea.”
Dreams react to external and internal stimuli and turn it into symbolic imagery. If you have sleep apnea or another condition that restricts the airway during sleep, dreams are likely to visualize it somehow.
Snake Symbolism: Sneak Attack and Engulf
Snakes are known for attacking out of the blue. They can lie still and hidden for hours waiting for lunch to wander near. This characteristic of snakes can describe people and situations, too. Some people lie in wait for an opportunity to attack. Situations can be fraught with potential for danger summed up in the image of a snake waiting to attack.
Picture how a snake eats. It engulfs. It opens its mouth and swallows whole. Imagine the possibilities for how that can be used as symbolism and to describe how you feel, or an addiction, or an all-consuming desire. It “engulfs” a person.
Snake Dreams: Temptation
In the story of the Garden of Eden, a snake tempts Eve to eat the apple. It symbolizes humans’ separation from nature and natural instincts, and has evolved as a general symbol of temptation. This use of the symbolism is more likely to show up in the dreams of people who strongly believe in the story of the Garden of Eden and in the snake as a symbol of the Devil.
But Wait: Snakes Aren’t All Bad!
The possibilities covered so far are all negative, but snakes are marvelous works of evolution that have many positive associations ripe for use as dream symbolism.
One time, when giving a public lecture about dream symbolism and discussing snakes, I covered many of the “bad” associations. A Native American woman in the back shot up her hand. “In my culture, snakes are positive,” she said, objecting to my portrayal of snakes. “My people view them in relation to spirit and Mother Nature, and dreaming about them is a good sign.”
She gave me the perfect opportunity to discuss the many good associations with snakes. They live in the ground and that closeness to Mother Earth creates a strong association with nature. Nature is associated with wisdom, fertility, and instincts. Snakes are used in rituals to bless crops for a good harvest and bless people to have abundant children and health. Cultural associations play a strong role in dream symbolism, especially with snakes because of the broad spectrum of perceptions and associations from culture to culture.
Snakes are used on the Rod of Asclepius, which is the basis of the Caduceus, and both symbols are associated with medicine. Associations with good health stem from a snake’s ability to renew itself by shedding its skin and hibernate for long periods. This idea has strong connections also with personal development and the psyche, because “shedding your skin” means letting go of the old to become something new. A period of personal hibernation can precede a period of transformation. Hibernation is also the best cure for some ailments of the body.
Green snakes in dreams are particularly fortuitous because green is associated with nature and growth. Again, though, judge by how the snake is used in the dream-story. Check out the comments section at the bottom of this post to see a number of examples of green snakes.
Carl Jung’s View of Snakes in Dreams
A snake bite, especially a bite on the wrist or hand, is known in certain dream interpretation circles to be associated with a call from inside a person to “shed their skin” and transform. Carl Jung wrote about it in his book, “Dreams” and he identified snakes as the most common symbol of transcendence, meaning “rising above” the ordinary life and becoming a complete person. They are creatures of the underworld, and in the dreams the underworld means the unconscious mind, where the desire and energy for personal transformation arises.
I encountered the association in the dreams of a friend. In order to succeed she drove herself with feelings of anxiety and fear of failure. She had several dreams of being pursued by snakes, culminating with a dream about being bitten on the wrist. Oddly, she started encountering snakes in her waking life, too, and she lived in an urban environment where snakes are rarely encountered. I felt that the dreams were telling her to find a new way of motivating herself, which would require a personal transformation. The wrist is the connector of the arm and the hand, and it creates compound symbolism combining the symbolism of the arm, a symbol of strength and preparation, with the hand, a symbol of taking action or connecting. In this sense, a snake bite on the wrist is a call to action to bring out your inner strength.
Snake Symbolism: Mother Nature’s Natural Healer
The snake is connected with nature, which goes through cycles, and with instincts which we all have for renewal and health. Sometimes the best medicine is to listen closely and give your body what it needs. Snakes are highly sensitive to their environment and sense the slightest vibrations. Associate with those ideas and you can see possibilities for how snakes in dreams can symbolize personal sensitivity to the subtle signs from your body and your environment.
Another very positive association exists between snakes and kundalini. Kundalini is an energy that rises out of the hips, travels up the spine, and emerges out of the forehead or crown of the head to connect with the “upper realm.” It’s visualized as two snakes intertwined and rising up the spine. A snake emerging from the head is a symbol of deep insight and enlightenment.
Snake as Phallic Symbol and Symbol of Masculinity
Snakes’ long, cylindrical shape is associated with the penis, making them a phallic symbol. The association is easily stretched to include males in general. “All men are snakes,” a frustrated woman says.
Taken further, snakes are associated with everything about men and masculinity, positive and negative. A snake can symbolize a particular man or just men in general. It can symbolize masculine energy, the yang of Taoist thought, or the energy of a particular man or group of men. I find this use of the symbolism mostly in females’ dreams.
As with all symbolism, look at the action to determine the meaning. If the snake is trying to crawl up your leg under your pants, it might be a phallic symbol. But if the snake is on a rock sunning itself, it might symbolize something “warming up,” as in “warming up to the idea.”
For example, a woman who is thinking about getting back into the dating scene is “warming up” to the idea.
Snakes in Dreams: Examples for Analysis
Next is a dream that uses an association with snakes as meaning something dangerous or invasive, titled “Killed a snake with a knife in a dream:”
There is a large snake in my garden hiding under the shed. I try to take pictures of it but keep failing. Eventually it begins to become aggressive toward me, so I retreat into my house via patio doors. Somehow the snake gets its tail stuck in the door. It manages to wriggle through the door and under the carpet. I get a kitchen knife and stab it several times through the carpet.
I joked with this dreamer that all he needed was Adam and Eve and an apple tree to complete the picture of a snake in a garden. Judging by the fact that the dreamer tries to take pictures of the snake — symbolism for gathering evidence or “getting the picture” — my guess is he has encountered something in his life that’s akin to the phrase “snake in the grass” and is trying to protect himself from it, or to gain concrete proof for himself that something isn’t quite right.
“Snake in the grass” describes a person who is untrustworthy, who hides their true nature until it is too late for their victims to get away. ‘Under a shed’ can mean the snake is related to something at or about work, since a shed is where work tools and supplies are kept. A garden is a way of describing something that is planted, tended or grown. For example, a garden might describe an idea that’s planted like a seed and grows in the mind or in your life. A garden is also a place for peace and contemplation, and if a snake is in your “inner garden” it means something has invaded your peace of mind.
The snake in the dream gets into his house, the dream’s way of saying that the situation is “close to home.” A house in a dream can be a way of describing the life you have built for yourself, or life in the body or mind. Being outside of the house symbolizes outside of personal boundaries. This snake is trying to slither inside, meaning get passed the dreamer’s guard and hide “below the surface,” symbolized in the dream as under the carpet. However, he recognizes the danger and takes steps to eliminate it.
Keep in mind that this dream can just as easily describe some kind of influence on the dreamer, not necessarily a person or situation in his life. For example, maybe the dreamer’s attitude toward something is negative, or something in his thoughts or feelings is “poisonous.” It could symbolize a bad habit, a vice. But because I don’t see any sign of what it could symbolize, I think the dream is more likely to connect with something threatening his boundaries.
Dream: Snakes get into my house
Terms such as “trouser snake” use the comparison of a snake to a penis. It’s not the most common association, but snakes as phallic symbols do pop up in dreams, like the next dream, titled “Snakes in my house.”
I was in my living room and a large snake was there, not aggressive but trying to get my attention. I decided it wanted out but was afraid to pick it up, so I had it follow me through the kitchen to the back door where it and four other large snakes exited my house. But one tiny snake refused to go because it was too cold outside. I let him stay. Relevant info: I am a girl and had been at a bar that night with about 40 guys I used to work with.
Picture the scene with this attractive girl in a bar surrounded by 40 guys she knows. How many of them do you think hit on her? Do you see a comparison with the snake in her living room trying to get her attention, same as the guys the night before tried to get her attention? Male sexual interest doesn’t bother her — she’s not afraid of the snakes in her dream, and that reaction is a huge clue to the symbolism. But she doesn’t want them in her house, either, meaning she is not interested in a relationship or sex with any of them. Or maybe none of the guys interest her enough to invite them home.
The way she leads the snakes out of her home in the dream shows she is comfortable with sexual attention and adroit at handling it. If she savagely hacked at the snakes with a machete, I might wonder if she felt similarly about guys hitting on her or the thought of sex with a man. Leaving the small snake inside says to me that she wants some male energy in her personal life, just not a lot of it.
If you read the original post, you’ll see that I joked about how trouser snakes — penises — shrink back from the cold, too, like the little snake that didn’t want to go outside! Another way of looking at it is the cold can symbolize being viewed as “frigid” if she handled male energy less tactfully, but I don’t think it applies to this dream.
The little snake can also describe males who don’t display machismo, or who might be overlooked because they don’t draw attention to themselves. I can’t say for sure that I’m correct; I use this dream to illustrate possible interpretations and show how the association process works.
As you can see, the interpretation of a dream about snakes has many possibilities. Whether a dream of snakes is symbolic of something venomous, constricting, untrustworthy, enlightening, blessing, healing, transcending, or transforming depends on the dreamer. Associations are key. If an association doesn’t feel right to describe the snake in your dream, it doesn’t fit.
I encourage you to think broadly, but most importantly, think for yourself. Whatever a snake means to you in your dream is based on your personal experience. Only you know what it really means.
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