Snake Dreams & Transformation

Our dreams recover what the world forgets…The dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws, that it can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears…and see their living forms so that we respond to them with the gift of intelligence.  ~~James Hillman

Your night times dreams are a gift. Why? Because dreams generally point to our blind spot. They never tell us what we already know. The trouble with interpreting your own dreams is that you can’t see your own back.

This blog is meant to help you understand your dreams so they are relatable to every area of your waking life. And since animals commonly play a main character in our dreams, we are going to examine how they come to us as our HELPERS. They crave intimacy and offer us insight to our higher and lower selves. They call us back to the earth and to our own bodies. If you follow your dream, humbly, that is where your real life begins. And this is especially true for the most misunderstood dream animal: the snake.

Jung stated, “The commonest dream symbol of transcendence is the snake.”

However, in our culture, snake is portrayed as a slippery, slimy, poisonous creature that goes back 2000+ years to the biblical story of Adam and Eve. When we refer to someone as a “snake” we’re implying they are cold, calculating, and untrustworthy.

But in some ancient cultures the serpent is seen as the most universal and auspicious archetype, one that symbolizes rebirth and transformation. Snakes shedding their skin represents the power of birth, death and rebirth, and such transformation occurs when the snake’s eyes begin to cloud over. As a natural shapeshifter, snakes are honored for being able to both journey below the earth’s surface (a.k.a. underworld) and bathe in the sunlight of the upper world. 

Snakes Appearing in Your Dreams

Snakes are often seen as a sexual object in dream time. And if snake randomly appears in your dreams, pay attention to flirtations and sexual energy occurring between you and another. Snake sometimes means a misalignment in psyche so it may show up to warn you that the path you’re heading down with another may be dangerous.

But if snake makes continuous appearances in your dream, pay attention. This is particularly true if you are doing inner work and old trauma is beginning to surface.  

For example, when I began my doctoral program in depth psychology and somatic studies and began delving into the unconscious, all kinds of snakes began starring in my dreams, from black snakes with long red tongues to green diamond back rattlers. Somatic, or body-memories surfaced from experiences I had while growing up.  One night while sleeping in my dorm I dreamt of a snake that sunk its fangs into the top of my left hand. As I waited for its venom to kill me, I noticed that a warm, fuzzy feeling began to pulse through my body. In  Shamanic traditions venom is not seen as poison but as “medicine.” Being bitten by a snake symbolizes the initiation into transformation.

How Do You Work with Snake Dreams?  

A good way to delve into snake dreams is to use the art of Association. Association is a Jungian, straight forward approach to dream work and can be done in very little time. For example, when I first listed my associations of snake, I wrote: slither, slippery, sneaky, constricting, squeezing, poisonous, temptation, flirting, sexual play, seduction, manipulation, power, control, fear, father’s belt, physical punishment, men, unsafe.

The next round my associations went deeper and I noted: frightened, wound, intimacy, distance, guarded, protective, healing, trauma. The key is to keep going back to the original dream image and writing down your associations without pausing. Once you begin thinking about it, you’ve shifted from psyche to intellect and will lose the deeper meaning. Also, you might become inspired by associations that arise and begin associating those images, but don’t go there, doing so will cause you to lose sight of the original dream image. Start with one dream image and stick with it until an “aha” moment happens or you feel an inner click. Some associations will have an emotional charge to them and that’s where you want to focus.

The body remembers everything you have ever experienced and carries the burden of stress, disease, and trauma. Dream images, like my myriad snakes, live in the blood cells, skin, muscles, and organs of the body. By working with the images, the snakes became my personal daimon to the point that even the “poison” that flooded my body after one snake decided to sink his fangs into my left hand became a form of “medicine.”

After the initial shock wore off, I was able to tap into the venom and receive the strength that I needed to confront the past and transform some painful experiences.  This ancient, reptilian image led me to a deeper understanding about my reactions, behaviors, fears, and desire for love, and in alchemical terms, was akin to turning base metal into radiant gold. Using dream images to transform old wounds leads us to individuation, wholeness, self-love, and greater aliveness. You may be wondering, what happened to the snake dreams? Well, two weeks before finishing my final doctoral course and writing my last term paper, snake exited the realm of my dreams and hasn’t made an appearance since. 

The last snake dream I had revealed both the inner and transformation that took place over a period of three years. Internally, I felt less fear, more self-compassion, and self-love. Externally, I experienced more faith and trust in people and my terror of snakes disappeared.

I’m outdoors in a large open space and several feet in front of me is a long, green snake with black stripes. The snake has been living underneath some dense foliage, thick ivy. It has been living under there for a long time but now it’s out in the sunlight. I see it has black narrow eyes and then I notice two more round black “eyes” above the regular eyes, sitting on either side of its head. Looking more closely, I can see that they react to the light, like sensors and then it gives a very loud rattle.

Next, I see something move around the top of the snake’s head and a baby snake with tiny legs unhooks itself and crawls down its face. The baby scoots away and then a very bizarre thing happens: The snake completely transforms itself by pulling its skin forward until it covers its eyes and face. It now looks like a beautiful, large, green succulent that curves downward. I am fascinated and realize I no longer need to fear snakes.

This dream is filled with a wealth of images: Large open space, green snake with black stripes, thick ivy, eyes that are sensors, the sound of the rattle, the lizard-like baby snake with legs, transformation from snake into a large succulent.  Here is an example of my positive associations:

  • Open space: Nature = place I go for reflecting, healing, feeling open-minded, getting grounded, peaceful, favorite place to be
  • Green snake: Rattlesnake, poisonous/medicine, green is a “healing” color, primitive, reptilian, shapeshifter, kundalini energy, sheds its skin
  • Thick ivy: I love ivy, dense cover, easy to maintain, grows in my yard, resilient, protective
  • Eyes that are sensors: Insight, sensitive to light, awareness, vision
  • Rattle: Primal, rhythm, Native American, instrument, warning, ancient, felt it in my body
  • Baby snake with legs: Birth, new beginnings, circle of life, lizard-like
  • Transformation into succulent: Change, healing, shapeshifter, awakening, verdant, alive, magical

Remember, your night-time dreams are a gift. Especially those you resist for they offer the greatest growth and opportunity for transformation.

Namaste

The REAL (and ALCHEMICAL) MEANING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY

sleeping beauty imageSleeping Beautiful was my mother’s favorite fairy tale. She bought me the book when I was seven years old and inscribed it to me. It was a hard cover book and the front was laced with dreamlike hues of blues, greens and shimmering gold. Inside the book were beautiful illustrations of Sleeping Beauty, the prince and Sleeping Beauty’s court. It was the only book I remember my mother inscribing to me and she wrote: “I hope you enjoy this fairytale as much as I always have. Love, Mother.” Well, I did love that story. It was romantic, passionate and taught that all women need to awaken is a sweet and simple kiss from a man who possesses the power to save us.

What was there not to love?

Unfortunately, many women have taken Sleeping Beauty literally. I know my mother did, and, so did my older sister. My mother desperately hoped that my father would be her shining prince, awaken her and fulfill her every need. And as much as I loved my father, he was the family patriarch; religious, fundamental, and ill-tempered. Over the years, I watched as my mother’s own “sleeping beauty” fell into a deeper and deeper sleep as she medicated herself with prescription medications and alcohol. She died at age 57 and my sister died at age 54, both suffering deeply from abusive men, broken hearts and shattered dreams.

The amazing Jungian analyst, Anne Baring, excels in transformational work of the soul which entails the 4,000+ year old practice of “alchemy.” Many of us know the process of turning base metal into gold, but Baring’s teachings encompass the psychology of alchemy and the alchemical transformation we must go through in order to reach our opus and be fully awake, whole beings. In her seminar titled, “What is Soul?” Baring dives deep into the alchemical waters of the ancient fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. She reveals how Sleeping Beauty is the ultimate story for this point in history because it reflects the vital call for balance between our masculine and feminine aspects. Baring writes, “I see this magical story [Sleeping Beauty] as a metaphor for our time and the urgent need for a marriage between our head and our heart, a marriage between our solar thinking and our lunar feeling…From another perspective, I also see it as a metaphor of the reconciliation of spirit and nature or the reunion of the masculine and feminine aspects of spirit which have been progressively sundered during the last four thousand years.”

In Sleeping Beauty, the prince represents the solar principle of consciousness, searching for meaning, wanting to understand the universe but ultimately, seeking reconnection with his feminine aspect—the soul. Sleeping Beauty symbolizes the lunar principle of soul, the Alchemy image to use at beginning of talkfeeling values, Eros. Therefore, this bewitching story has nothing to do with being rescued and everything to do with the alchemical marriage of the masculine (sun) and the feminine (moon). Thus, when the prince (solar/rational mind) connects with Sleeping Beauty (lunar/heart energy), not only does she awaken, but her entire sleeping court awakens. For the past 50 years, we have been witnessing an awakening and deepening of connection to our soul and attaining balance between our head and heart. More and more women I encounter who are on the path of growth have shared the increased amount of animus dreams. Our animus shows up during dream time in male form, sometimes a familiar man and other times a stranger. These dreams present us with an immense opportunity to explore our beliefs and attitudes about our relationship with men and our relationship with ourselves. Dream work is a significant part of alchemy. May we remember the transformational power they possess and take time to attend to them.

The Greater Coniunctio: A Higher Love
When one is journeying through the alchemical process, there are several stages of transformation we must experience. The stages are: calcinatio, solutio, coagulatio, sublimatio, mortificatio and separatio. They lead to coniunctio which resides at the heart of alchemy. Coniunctio is the joining of the alchemical King and Queen, Sol and Luna. The process of transformation begins when these opposites meet, but they are not conjoined until the process is completed. We travel in and out of these stages throughout our life, depending on what is happening in our relationships, career, health and all of the life changes we encounter.
Sol and Luna Image
Viewing the tale of Sleeping Beauty from a higher and alchemical position reveals something antithetical to what we were taught as children. No one is meant to save us, particularly not a special soulmate who kisses our forehead and brings us out of our sleep. The deeper meaning of this story is the recognition and conjoining of our feminine and masculine aspects. Alchemy uses a series of unique images that illustrate this process. The King and Queen start out fully clothed (separate and concealed) then immerse themselves in an alchemical bath where the transformation begins. The lovers, who were once opposites are now connected into inseparable wholeness. Alchemical love has attained its exultant zenith. The opposite energies of the prince/Sleeping Beauty, the King/Queen, and the Solar/Lunar, become transmuted through the alchemical process which is can only be done solo and can be very painful. It’s an “undoing” of all that we have learned and at times, we may feel as though we are being turned inside out. Sometimes we pass through the alchemical stages at varying times, and, sometimes we move through two or more simultaneously.

Yet the pinnacle remains the same, to fully realize genuine love and union. Edward Edinger, who wrote Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy states, “That which goes by the name of love is fundamental to the phenomenology of the coniunctio. Love is both cause and effect…objective love, a love purged of personal desirousness, not one side of a pair of opposites, but rather beyond the opposites”. Sleeping Beauty is a mythical story of a higher love. It encompasses self-less love and the feeling of oneness that we each desire on the deepest level. It cannot be attained by wanting to be rescued, saved, or kissed, but only as we awaken to the strength, courage, and love that resides deep within.

I believe if my mother were still alive and read this very different interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, she would not be disappointed, she would be relieved.

Namaste,

Laurasig

Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Butterfly emerging from the planetThe New Year has long been associated with renewal and rebirth. In a number of North American Indian languages, the term “world” means “cosmos” and is also used to describe a new year. The Yokuts (native to Central California) might say that “the world has passed,” meaning “a year has gone by.” The cosmos is seen as a living entity that is born, evolves, then dies on the last day of the year, only to be reborn on New Year’s Day.

This time of the year has always been very special for me since my birthday falls at the beginning of the year.  As December unfolds, I harness my strongest manifesting skills by paying particularly close attention to my night-time dreams. Working with my dreams creates a powerful space for change and transformation to occur in the New Year.   

This winter I am working with a dream that has been most compelling. It is a snake-dream. The same snake has appeared in three different dreams the past few months.  Because I’ve always been afraid of snakes, the first one was troubling and frightening, and this makes sense considering that through the ages, “snake” has received a very bad rap. In fact, the snake is one of the least understood Biblical symbols.  Snake has frequently been depicted as evil and the cause for our human desires and temptations. For heaven’s sake, the snake was even blamed for tempting Eve which led to the downfall of paradise! Unfortunately, the shadow aspects of sexual repression, temptation and sexual guilt have tainted the deeper meaning of this amazing creature.

Because my Dream Tending™ teacher, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, Co-Founder and Chancellor of Pacifica Graduate Institute, taught me to always ask the dream image: “Who is visiting now?” I felt drawn to inquire the snake about its presence. This charged question implies a familiarity with the dream image, as though it has appeared myriad times, dressed in different forms, with a similar assignment: Something very important is about to happen—or—is happening so WAKE UP!

Taking this urgency to heart, I journaled about the snake, my snake, which wasn’t just some boring brown common snake, but the green diamond back rattle snake. I thought to myself: Good grief, are you “visiting” me because of repressed sexual desires or fears, some generational sexual wounds that several women in my family have suffered from, or, are you here to reveal the plight of the unresolved sexual issues of the collective unconscious? Isn’t everyone in our culture suffering from some form of Puritanical sexual guilt?

As my confusion escalated, I recalled that some ancient cultures frequently refer to the serpent as being the most universal and auspicious archetype, one that symbolizes rebirth and transformation. I found solace in reading Mary Ellen O’Hare-Lavin’s review of The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine, where she discusses the healing, light-filled image of the snake: asclepius-god-of-medicine-thiras-art

The chthonic serpent image is an ancient one, utilized even earlier than Asklepius. Our healing ancestors were less interested in a “Higher Power.” The serpent image was used to represent a connection with both the upper world and the underworld. The serpent is a shape shifter and it journeys below the earth’s surface (a.k.a. underworld) as well as bathes in the sunlight of the upper world. In the Asklepian tradition it represented the healing and shedding of old skins for new ones. 

As I continue to delve into the snake dream image via journaling, drawing the image, and through a process called Embodied Dream Tending™, my snake dreams are evolving. The snake has shape-shifted itself from scarily circulating itself around my shoulders (Dream number 1), to sliding up next to me and laying still as I rest my hand against its head (Dream number 2), to transforming itself into a beautiful, verdant plant (Dream number 3).

Just as we are familiar with the serpent wrapped around the staff carried by the ancient Greek healer, Asklepius, snake now appears in my dreams symbolizing light and dark, spirit and soul, rebirth and transformation. Gone is the old fear based on some much distorted Biblical and societal perceptions. 

In fact, Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archeologist, excavated hundreds of figurines from around the world and discovered a snake goddess figurine from the Palm of Knossos, Crete that dates back to 1,500 B.C.E.  This powerful female figure holds a snake in each hand demonstrating healing traits: fertility, rebirth and 010transformation.  Such a positive perspective can be seen throughout the ancient Greek’s view of how they regarded snakes as sacred. Instead of fearing them, they were used in restorative rituals and even the venom was used for healing. Not to mention the way snake represents Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning “coiling like a snake.”  Kundalini or “serpent power” can rise during deep meditation, up through the chakras, bringing a devotee to full spiritual awakening.

It’s not surprising that the snake has been visiting me lately during dream-time. I started a doctoral program in the field of Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies a few months ago and to say it’s been life-changing is putting it mildly. It’s been forcing me to face all aspects of myself, especially my shadow-side.  And like the snake, I see how all images—like all people—possess both dark and light. Dream images are gifts that our psyche is offering us.  Marion Woodman, a mytho-poetic author, women’s movement figure and Jungian analyst reminds us that honoring our dreams and their images creates a life-changing relationship with the unconscious and our psyches.

Dream images have the capacity to pave the way to your transformation. As you create a vision for the New Year, your dreams can reveal beliefs and perceptions that are limiting you. These may appear as “shadow” dream images, yet they are meant to help you, not frighten you. The snarling dog or fanged snake is calling for your attention. In fact, the more disturbing the dream images may appear, the more powerful they are. James Hillman, in his book Dream Animals once wrote:

Our dreams recover what the world forgets…The dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws, that it can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears…and see their living forms so that we respond to them with the gift of intelligence.

Further, not only do dream images possess the power to help us grow and transform, they have the ability to be our “daimon,” an ancient Greek word for “protective spirit.” In his book The Dream and the Underworld, Hillman states: “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.”

As I continue to connect with the snake during dream-time, my fear is transforming into trust and faith.  The snake who now visits has shifted from something disturbing and scary, to being my daimon, a protective escort who is more than happy to guide me on my journey. This hasn’t happened easily nor has it happened over night. It has taken months of committed effort to embrace the snake and open myself to its deeper meaning. True growth and transformation requires persistence and patience and dream work entails the same stamina. But it’s worth it, it’s worth every bit.

What might your night-time dreams be telling you? Are there any specific images that call to you? Dreams unfold in what is called the “imaginal” realm. The Sufis speak of the imaginal realm as alam al-mithal. In Hebrew, it is called the olam hamashal. It is the realm of imagination, archetypes and dreams.

May you find soulful guidance from your dreams as you journey through the New Year. In Numerology, the year 2014 reduces to “7” which represents spirituality, science and solitude. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on what matters the most to your soul, psyche and spirit. It’s also the perfect time to set your intention to remember your dreams, to write them down and allow them to reveal their gifts of wisdom.