The meaning of the snake

In Symbolic life by veronicaLeave a Comment

What would be the meaning of a snake in your dream, or if you surprisingly run across one in your garden?


To the primitive person, the one who lived in harmony with nature it was a completely natural occurrence. It was a great thing to dream of a snake for instance. To this the person would react with joy, because this meant that the archetype had taken control of her. Without this, the person would feel lost, with no value, unworthy – a rag or empty bowl.

CG Jung wrote: “The primitive is sad, like a lost child, till he has a dream placing him with this totem animal. Then he is a child of God, a human being, he has a distinct fate. It is always a sign in dreams that now a level is reached where something is going to happen.” (CG Jung, Dream Analysis)

snake-2But it was so on account that the feeling of identification with nature was still very much alive. The growth of consciousness that makes us modern people, has also meant that we grow for ever more distant from nature. On the one hand, we value our thoughts and ideas supremely and think of our bodies as mere vehicles of our real life which is in what we think, what goes on in our heads.

Yet in reality our snake body is very much an absolute factor of our existence that connects us to earth, to matter, to the depths of a million year old structure of images, forms that shape what we are.

There quite many curious experiments to demonstrate how so much of our reactions depend on this autonomous nervous system, the cold snake-like quality of our instincts and the precision of our biological rhythms. But is is remote to our mind, not something we can will or command.

Now let us consider then the statement above about the lack of moral value, the naturalness in archetypal images. I understand that one may feel fascinated by  snake dreams for instance, but they always bring news from that deep system so remote from us. So how are we to give a value to that?

This value will always be personal, it does not belong to the symbol which in itself has no content. It is a form – something that speaks to the purpose and meaning – but has no specific shape; what shape it takes will include the work you do consciously, so it is not fate. The following observations give a bit of perspective:

“The snake is first and foremost an anxiety symbol.” (CG Jung, Children’s dreams)

“The snake, particularly the green snake, very often means the path of life, as the river means the flow of life, or the path of fate; it has a source, it follows a potential, and it finally ends in the infinite sea.” (Visions, Vol I)

“When snake appears in a dream, we know that something is coming up from the unconscious which is not to be influenced by will-power. It is like a fate that cannot be twisted.” (Dream Analysis)