Dream Analysis: Snakes of the Mind.
Dream Analysis: Snakes of the mind
As a professor of biological sciences I take my herpetology very seriously. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles. For me it’s always been about the snakes. The point of this article is not about snakes, rather it is an exploration of why I have been dreaming about them every night and what the experts have to say about what encountering snakes in your dreams might mean. I will compare and contrast differing interpretations and evaluate them from a scientific stand point. At the end I will decide what it means for me and what it might mean for you my reader. I have published several articles and they are mostly hard science with a few reviews of my favorite books. So this article is a bit of a stretch for me as the field of dream analysis is better suited to psychologists and fortune tellers and not a matter of hard science. That being said, I want a few answers to my dream dilemma and I have decided to take my readers with me. I will share my real life snake stories with you, a few glimpses of the dreams I’m having and some dream interpretations as they seem applicable.
In my life have been around snakes a great deal and in many different places. Most people harbor, what is ultimately, an irrational fear of snakes. Countless are the stories of how the first thing people do when they see a snake is hack it to death with whatever is handy and long so they don’t have to get to close to it. Usually a rake, hoes, or even shotguns are the tools of choice for snake destruction. Certainly the rattle snake in the wood pile near where your kids play is a problem that needs handling, but to kill out of fear every snake you see is counterproductive. Snakes do not carry disease or viruses that can harm humans. They do however keep the mice and rat population to a minimum and rats and mice do carry viruses and diseases that can harm humans. How many of you have already said to yourselves, “the only good snake is a dead snake”? Just a little education goes a long way toward knowing which snakes can be harmful and which can be beneficial.
See my article on the subject - knoji.com/the-difference-between-poisonous-and-nonpoisonous-snakes/
Note: The Interpretations do not necessarily correspond to the dreams or real occurrence in my life, it just seems a good format for this endeavor.
Real Life - My mother would catch snakes for me when I was a kid and let me play with them. Before you judge understand that when I was three I was playing just a few feet from her and singing a little song. “Snake, snake, snake”, she became alarmed when she realized what I was saying and walked over to me to see what I was about. There was a large dark colored snake disappearing into the bushes. As we were in Oklahoma it could have been any number of the venomous variety so she thought I better learn about them for my own safety.
My Dream – I am standing in an old structure on the edge of a swimming pool that has no water in it but it is writhing in snakes. The room looks like an fancy but abandoned hotel with Greek columns from the deck to a domed ceiling. The light is low but there are blue reflections playing about the ceiling as if light was reflecting from the water that isn’t there. There are hundreds of snakes slithering in and out of the pool, on the deck, up and down the columns, and all over everything. There are real snakes of all types both poisonous and not. There are monstrous snakes that are far larger than what exists today. They are all moving and hissing and seem to know that I am there. I lower myself into the pool with snakes already wrapped around my legs and start catching them. I start trying to identify them and sort them. I feel exhilarated and nervous but not scared, far from it, I am having the time of my life. I have a feeling of calm mingled with joy and I know I’m in the right place. Some of the larger impossible versions start heading my way and I begin planning how I’m going to catch them when I wake up. I sit up in bed as if waking from a nightmare but I am smiling and I lay back down and close my eyes hoping I can go back to the pool in the abandoned hotel.
Interpretation #1 – From Dream Moods. Com, this is not a science web site but the following passage is the most descriptive I could find in my first search.
"To see a snake or be bitten by one in your dream signifies hidden fears and worries that are threatening you. Your dream may be alerting you to something in your waking life that you are not aware of or that has not yet surfaced. Alternatively, the snake may be seen as phallic and thus symbolize temptation, dangerous and forbidden sexuality. In particular, to see a snake on your bed, suggests that you are feeling sexually overpowered or sexually threatened. You may be inexperienced, nervous or just unable to keep up. If you are afraid of the snake, then it signifies your fears of sex, intimacy or commitment. The snake may also refer to a person around you who is callous, ruthless, and can't be trusted. As a positive symbol, snakes represent healing, transformation, knowledge and wisdom. It is indicative of self-renewal and positive change."
Translation – It would figure that the snake would represent the typical Jungian archetype and symbolize sex issues. I had hoped to leave the Freudian phallic imagery out of this discussion but the more of these I read the more they start to sound the same, so I guess I was kidding myself. “Snake, snake, snake was my little song but the dream interpretation web sites seem to be singing a different song, “Sex, sex, sex.” I couldn’t find anything about a room full of snakes and the above passage doesn’t seem very applicable, but I start to get the idea that specific interpretations are going to be few and far between. In fact most of the interpretations seemed to be vague in the extreme, for example:
" To see a rattlesnake in your dream, represents the passage of time."
I’m not sure what that means but there are a lot of Rattlesnakes in my dreams. Please feel free to add your own interpretation at the bottom of this article and reference Round #1.
Real Life - I worked at a small Zoo in Florida as a reptile keeper. We had many snakes, mostly local indigenous species, but there were some exotics as well. As a rule, zoos don’t keep many poisonous snakes and we had none. We did have a Black Rat Snake that would strike the glass even if you were just walking past. To clean his cage you just had to be alright with the fact that he was going to bite you. He would bite me several times while moving him in and out of his cage to clean it. We also had a South American Red Tailed boa named Lumpy that I was quite fond of. I would drape her over my shoulders while cleaning her enclosure and she would bring her face level with mine and flick my nose with her tongue. I took it as a sign of affection but I was probably just anthropomorphizing (for the meaning of this word see my article about it, click this link knoji.com/do-cats-and-dogs-have-emotions-anthropomorphization-and-its-meaning/). We also had a very large Asian Reticulated Python that bite me on the leg once and it hurt.
My dream – I am walking across an open field with grass and small rocks, the field looks like more of an industrial park or open lot than a meadow and its bordered in the distance by trees. A short walk away is an abandoned factory (I’m starting to see a pattern here) and there are very large snakes, the size of Redwood trees, moving around inside and on top of it. The field has small snakes moving around on its uneven surface and they are moving in and out of depressions in the earth and in and out of my site. As I walk toward the factory to get a better look at the big ones, the smaller ones seem to avoid me, kind of parting in front of me. I look behind me and they are gathering and I get the feeling that they are not going to let me go back. I am catching and releasing them as I go and just generally enjoying myself, I never quite seem to make it all the way to the factory but the snakes, mostly of the poisonous variety, cobras and rattlesnakes, seem to be following me. I feel an elation that is both peaceful and exciting.
It occurs to me that the imagery I am experiencing in these dreams is the stuff of garish nightmares for most people but I am not experiencing terror at all. Though they seem to wake me up with a startle the way a nightmare would. I am sure you are thinking at this point that I need therapy. Maybe that’s what writing this here for you to read is. The following web site also told me that if I’m distressed I should seek therapy. Alright already I hear you.
Interpretation – From dreamsnightmares . com I found the following –
“In writing about Snake Symbolism, Gillian Holloway, Ph.D. wrote, "People who are dying or who have lost a loved one often dream of snakes, at or near the time of death. For whatever reason, these dreams seem involved with the psychic awareness of the transition from this life to the next...."
Translation - I actually found this a bit compelling as I have recently had cancer and I’m now in remission. Apparently I had cancer for quite some time before being diagnosed and I have had these dreams of snakes for as long as I can remember. I don’t have any health insurance and I’m still in debt from my medical bills. I can’t afford to get the P.E.T. scans to see if the cancer has returned. Wait, wait, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, I can forget going to sleep so let’s see what the internet has to say about this Gillian Holloway, Ph.D.
Co-Creator Network . com has this to say:
“Gillian Holloway is the author of four books on dream analysis and a university instructor at Marylhurst University near Portland Oregon, where she teaches ground-breaking courses on Dream Psychology and Intuition Research.”
Ok, now it seems I’m getting somewhere. It seems she is actually the foremost authority on this dream interpretation business but isn’t it a pseudo science? Feel free to comment on this at the bottom and be sure to reference Round #2 and Doctor Holloway if you are reading this please leave me a note.
Round #3 – The final round.
Real life – I spent a year in Africa a few years ago and it was the most incredible experience of my life. That is me in the picture that accompanies this article. I caught and relocated a 14’ Rock Python. Africa is different from the states because nearly all the snakes there are deadly poisonous. Mambas and Boomslangs and all sorts of great stuff abound. The constrictors aren’t poisonous but they get big enough to eat people and are known to do it from time to time. I will let the picture speak for that story but the one I wish to relate has no picture.
I was managing a chimpanzee research project in the Semliki National park in the rift valley of Uganda. I was in the forest one afternoon having no luck finding chimps that day I was having a stroll thru the forest. I saw the back half of a large snake on the bank of a small stream and got all excited. Like an idiot I had left my camera in my pack about 50 yards away. I turned to run back for it but I heard it splash into the water. Not wanting to miss it I went back to the stream and started crossing the small log bridge I had made a couple of weeks before. I got half way across when the snake dropped into the little pool beneath the logs. I stopped to look at it as it rolled around in the water. That’s when it lifted its head slowly out of the water and looked back at me. It was holding three feet of itself out of the water and spread its hood. It was a forest cobra. Its head and hood were the size of a baseball mitt and it was sandy brown in color. It had these jet black eyes and a four inch tongue that it slowly flicked at me. It wavered back and forth and it occurred to me that it might strike but I remained fixed in place literally mesmerized by the shear magnificence of the animal. It wasn’t fear that held me in place but respect and a desire to maintain the magic of the moment as long as possible. It did not strike instead it slowly lowered itself back into the water and swam away under me and on down the stream. Simply amazing. It’s the only snake I’ve ever seen that I didn’t want to catch. It just decided that it was better not to try. I spent the rest of the afternoon soaking it in and writing about the incident and thinking how fortunate I was to have seen such an amazing animal.
My Dream – I dream of this Forest Cobra incident quite often. The details change, even the snake changes but it is always a frozen moment in time and the feeling is always the same, I should move but I don’t. The snake gets to decide whether or not to strike at me. If I move I might provoke it and if I don’t move there is a chance I could get bit. When they say a cobra’s stare can mesmerize I always thought they meant in a hypnotic sense. Having experienced this for myself I know it’s not hypnotism that keeps you in place but pragmatism. In my dream it’s always the same choice that I made in real life; stand my ground, stay really still and hope that he doesn’t bite me. This is a snake dream but it is also a dream of one of the most powerful moments in my life. I think people often have those dreams where they revisit extraordinary events in their lives, mine just happens to have a snake in it.
Interpretation – Psychologist Bridget Webber has this to say about snake dreams:
“ Sometimes we understand certain things on an unconscious level, but that information hasn't yet filtered through to our conscious mind. Dreams often present us with such information in symbolic form. This may be because when we are asleep, we use different parts of our brain to when we are awake and active at times. Our basic instincts can come to the fore, including primitive urges, and simplistic language portrayed in picture form.
Sometimes our dreams may seem far more complex than that, being confusing and hard to interpret. But that's often because we don't look at what's obviously right before us, and we seek a more challenging meaning for our dreams than is necessary.
When you dream of snakes, the right interpretation for you is within your grasp, and can only truly come from you, as it's your brain that has delivered the symbology.”
Translation – The dream symbolism of the first two rounds seems like tarot reading without the cards. I was getting worried because I was apparently very sexually repressed and getting sick again. Snakes mean this, snakes mean that. I’m might be going out on a limb here but it seems to me that dream interpretation wouldn’t hold very long under the scrutiny of the scientific method. Just like tarot cards and astrology it is not science but meant for entertainment. As I read what Doctor Webber and some of her contemporaries had to say on the subject I have come to the conclusion that, when it’s all said and done, I just really like snakes. Snakes have a been a big part of my life for a long time and there are many more stories that I haven’t related here. Though the images in my dreams would be horrifying to most people, I find rest and contentment in endless fields full of snakes.
Thank you to my readers for going on this little journey with me and please leave comments below should you care to discuss these things further. I would welcome discussion and view points on this subject.
Check out my Travel Blog:onthemove819.blogspot.com/
Creighton Smith holding a Western Coachwhip in Colorado
A dream flow chart that I found interesting:contentgladiator.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Dreams-Meaning-Infographic.jpg