Last updated: April 2, 2017
You woke up this morning after another restful night of sleep. . . except for one thing, your dreams. There was a big snake in your dreams! Yikes! To make matters more confusing, this isn't the first time that you had a dream about snakes! So, what does it mean when you dream about snakes?
Dreams can have so many interpretations. Ultimately, the best interpretation is always going to be the one we feel in our gut is "the" one, the truth, the best "guesstimate" we can come up with that feels right, sounds right, and aligns with the direction we are headed in this journey called life.
It can also be useful to research the meaning of snakes in the dream state as a way to jog our memory, expand our awareness, learn about how others may interpret their snake dreams, and lead us closer to the meaning of our own dreams about snakes.
So, what does it mean when you dream about snakes? In this post, we will explore traditional and historical meanings of these dreams as a pathway to greater understanding.
Not Scary, Possibly Healing
The first misconception we often have about a dream where a snake appears is one of fear. After all, if we ran across a snake in our waking life, we would likely give it a wide berth, right?
The vast majority of people today - at least the city dwellers of westernized culture - often cannot tell the difference between a snake that is poisonous and one that is harmless. So, it is better to be safe than sorry and just stay away from them!
The truth is, snakes can actually be very beneficial members of natural society. They control prey populations, most of which we don't want hanging around our homes anyway. Often, different snakes consume different prey animals, such as rats, keeping many species' numbers manageable.
So, could it be possible the appearance of snakes in our dreams is not scary at all, but rather it is healing and positive for us and for the planet?
Interestingly, one of the best-known and most-recognized snake symbols in the world is the Asclepius caduceus, the medical rod with one snake coiled around it. Asceplius was the Greek demigod of medicine, and a number of tales exist regarding exactly how Asceplius came to have the caduceus and how it ended up having two snakes coiled around it instead of one.
Today, medical alert bracelets also contain the two snake caduceus, a modern-day reminder of the reverence with which ancient civilizations often approached snakes. The venom was thought to be beneficial, and the shed skins of molting snakes were preserved and revered as symbols of healing power.
Possible meanings: When we dream about snakes, one potential interpretation is that of healing. It may be healing for you, for someone you love, for a difficult situation or relationship, a feeling of not being able to move forward in life, or even not knowing how to do so or where to go next.
An Initiation, or Perhaps a Promotion
Another intriguing association that snakes have come by over the centuries is that of initiation. The initiation is often spiritual in nature, such as when a human being desires to know the mysteries of spirit, soul, and the afterlife while still housed in a body.
But an initiation, or a promotion if you will, can mean all kinds of things. Whether at a spiritual level or in some other context, when we are "initiated" into anything, we are essentially being promoted. We have been found worthy and are receiving an invitation as a result of the fruit of our worth.
This can have so many interesting possible connotations and interpretations on the dream plane. Here, dreams that include snakes, especially being bitten by a snake, have historically been interpreted as a type of initiation or promotion.
So, while many dreamers wake up each morning freaked out after having been bitten by a snake while dreaming and worried something is wrong, they may actually have cause to celebrate!
Possible meanings: With such a rich historical tradition bolstering the connection between dreaming of snakes and initiation, it can be worth contemplating the terms "initiation" and "promotion" to see what, if anything, comes up. Perhaps it is a calling to a new career or an invitation to follow a creative passion you have been denying yourself.
Spirit Animal or Totem
In many aboriginal, Native American, Celtic, tribal, and other cultures, one abiding belief or tradition is that each person is accompanied throughout life or visited during times of special need by a spirit animal. Some cultures call this a "totem" animal.
For those who see snakes frequently while in the dream state, this may be one possible interpretation that fits.
What is most significant to consider here is that each spirit or totem animal is said to have its own unique powers, insights, attributes, and benefits to confer upon its charges. Snakes, for example, are often thought to be centers of power, sexual and procreative energy, transformation (especially when shedding the skin), leaving the old behind, personal growth, healing, and even life itself.
Possible meanings: In many cultures today, we have lost touch with our native ancestry and early cultural and tribal traditions. Here, the appearance of snakes in dreams frequently may be a signal to retrace our historical steps. It may be possible to find a parallel between where we come from and where we are going.
Fertility, Reproduction & Replenishment
As mentioned here (see previous section), the meaning of snake dreams can also take on a distinctly sexual or phallic context. This is especially true in cultures where a couple's inability to conceive a child to carry on the family name was akin to being thought to be "cursed" by the gods.
While it can be challenging for our modern brain to accept that we often don't understand why we dream, how it happens, or how it benefits us, the dreams just keep coming. In fact, perhaps a dream really is an attempt by our subconscious to offer a message we can best receive while safely asleep and dreaming. In this altered state of consciousness, while our body rests and repairs itself, our mind and spirit have more freedom to attune to these subtle messages and ponder their meanings.
Possible meanings: Some cultures see dreams about snakes as a sign of fertility or pregnancy. A modern interpretation (especially if you have no desire to get pregnant!) could also include giving birth to a new venture, a new relationship, a new stage in life, or a new creative project, to name just a few.
Caution, Fear or Anxiety
While the majority of interpretations of dreams about snakes are positive, in some cases the appearance of a snake in a more "negative" or fearful context may be an appropriate interpretation.
When we are afraid on a conscious level, our physical body goes into "fight or flight" mode, or survival mode. In psychological circles, this is often termed "acute stress mode." We conserve our resources and pull all our energy inward. We don't take any chances, but we remain in this state of heightened awareness until we feel the threat has passed.
While this is a great way to stay alive, it is not a good way to live. Chronic anxiety, fear, or even an overly well-developed sense of caution can cause us to miss out on some of life's best opportunities and experiences.
Sometimes, a snake that appears in our dreams during a time like this can be a signal that we are letting our own anxiety, caution, or fear hold us back and rob us of the joy and potential of our own life.
And sometimes, the meaning of snake dreams in this context may be to look at your close circle of personal and professional connections to see where someone, or a particular group, may even be contributing to your caution, anxiety, or fear and holding you back.
Letting go of such "snake in the grass" type associations may be necessary to let go of the chronic caution, anxiety, or fear as well.
Possible meanings: You may have an overly protective aspect of yourself holding you back out of fear for your safety and wellbeing. You may also have one or more less-beneficial or toxic interpersonal connections that are no longer serving you well. There are many ways to look at this type of dream and what the appearance of a snake may represent for you at this time in your life.
So What Does it Mean When You Dream About Snakes, Really?
This is such a great question! However, as you can see from reading through each of these possible interpretations for dreams that include or involve snakes, there is no one-size-fits-all meaning.
There is only the meaning that fits you, now, in this unique time in your life, with the people, the projects, the potential, and the passion you currently have and feel in your life.
Analyzing dreams can often stray too far toward analysis and lead us away from the side of gut instinct or intuition. The best approach to interpreting a dream, whether it has snakes in it or not, will have equal amounts of each.
We need the analytical aspect to connect what occurs in our subconscious dreaming state with what occurs when we are conscious and awake and living our day-to-day lives.
And we need the intuitive side because, after all the analysis has been done, it is our gut and not our mind that will tell us if we are on the right track or not.
So, when asking, "What does it mean when you dream about snakes," remember that you are the ultimate dream interpreter here. We can all assist and support each other with creative ideas, historical research, and personal opinions but, underneath it all, each dream belongs to its dreamer, and only that dreamer holds the decoder key.