The Highly Misunderstood Snake
The National Geographic Channel as well as Animal Planet have a few shows featuring a wonderful adventurer photographer (what a great job) named Austin Stevens. He had a whole series of shows on tracking down and photographing the 10 most deadly snakes in the world and then reframing the experience for us so that we would come to love the snakes and hence, protect them. In one episode he was bitten by a deadly snake, applied his anti-venom, went to the hospital for more treatment, and then returned to the same place to continue photographing.
Most people in the world have a completely different view of snakes largely because of the tales of death and destruction that they cause in an attempt to protect themselves. So when most people dream about snakes, they feel very frightened on a visceral level. The fear is uncontrollable. In much of Asia, Naga, characterized as a 7 headed cobra, is a symbol of prosperity and is said to be the protector of the rivers, lakes, and other water sources that is the source of their economy. When Naga is mistreated, such as with greediness, then He brings floods and disasters.
When I started dealing with snakes in dreams a number of years ago, I took a very NLP/Anisa like approach to the meaning of snakes. I just simply began to analyze what the distinguishing characteristics of a snake were. The beauty of this approach is that it pulls me out of feeling the fear that I would have otherwise felt about snakes, but it takes the qualities of self discipline and detachment to work like this. Most people just want to give into the fear and run away from the snake.
1. The first thing about a snake that is pretty unique is that it is always shedding its skin. Symbolically this is akin to letting go of your past hurts and feelings of being victimized. When we take in criticism and bad treatment, we say that we let them come in under our skin. A snake allows itself to let go of the old skin, the points at which all of the rough treatment and hurt come in. The reason a snake needs to this is because it has the great bounty of being able to move its entire body across the earth. Of all of the animals in the animal kingdom, it is the one that seems to feel the most of whatever environment it moves in. If it is on a tree, it feels the whole tree because its entire body is wrapped around it. If it is in the water, it is submerged in water. Wherever it goes, it feels everything all the time. So it has be able to let go of the treatment that it skins gets in its journeys over the land.
So, one of the positive elements of being a snake is that it is capable of feeling everything and at the same time shedding its old skin. In human terms in a dream, it means that the dream is calling you to feel your present situation more fully so that you can learn and experience it, and also to let go of any past hurts that you may have. If you are playing a game of soccer, for instance, you can be fully present into the joy and experience of the game, but at some point you are going to get kicked in the shins or stepped on or tripped. If you hold onto the hurt, you won’t get back on the playing field. Likewise, if you are in a relationship where someone has hurt you, being like a snake allows you to forget the hurt and keep experience all of the positives that relationships have to offer.
2. Because a snake has such a flexible body, it can take the shape of whatever it is passing over and hence experience and learn all about it. This represents the quality of humility. In cultural terms, humility is often seen as a sign of weakness, but in spiritual terms it means that you are willing to put yourself into the lowest position so that you can learn fully from whatever you are experiencing. A snake symbolizes that there is always something to learn if you are willing to lower yourself. In almost every religion, prayers are written in this manner. God is exalted above all else, and we are the lowest in relation to Him. This gives us the ability to learn and change. Humility is the first condition of being able to change oneself, of transformation.
So, what do you do when a snake comes in your dream? The first thing that I think about when I have a snake in my dreams is transformation. If a snake crosses my path on a run or a hike, I take it as a communication that I can change something important in my life today. Most dreams about snakes tend to be negative because most people are fearful of snakes. Psychologically speaking it means that most people are fearful of changing, fearful of transformation.
Animal dreams, generally speaking, have two sides to them, a positive true self one and a negative ego one. So if you get a big poisonous snake in your dream ready to inflict harm on you, then it means that you have a huge fear of changing that needs to be transformed into excitement and joy about the new change coming into your life.
When an extremely poisonous snake is about to get you in your dreams, the question you can ask yourself is, “What is the poison happening in my life right now?” The worst type of poison in the human world is malicious backbiting and gossip along with destructive criticism. When a leader wants to control everyone under them, they almost always allow un-investigated criticism in to their organization as if it is the truth. This gives them reasons to get rid of people who threaten their complete grasp of power. Parents all over the world use criticism over encouragement because they want their children to conform to the way the world is now so that they will have a place in it. They find the mistakes that a child is making on his math scores and then get tutoring to better the marks. Even when a child scores in the 90s, most parents have a hard time acknowledging the 90%. They focus on the 10% because this keeps them out of Harvard. People are fearful of snakes in their dreams and in real life because when they were on the verge of great change, their lives were poisoned in some way and taken away from them. Almost universally, instead of going after really positive changes that can bring new energy into our lives, we opt for conforming and protecting because we are fearful of the poison reentering.
If we act like a snake in a positive sense, we will simply shrug off the criticism and firings and the exclusions as if it were just old skin. We won’t let the negative things under our skin. We will simply let go of them and then feel the positives all around us so that we can learn the new qualities coming into our lives.
A constrictor like a python is different than a cobra or a rattlesnake because it is more about what is constricting your life rather than what is poisoning your life. Most people have poisonous snake dreams over constrictors because criticism and backbiting are more likely to give people problems.
For a lot of people in the West, born into Judeo-Christian culture, a snake is seen as evil because of the story of the Garden of Eden. I just so think it is so important to look at the snake as a symbol rather then literal so that we won’t kill this precious animal in nature. In my own mind I am absolutely certain that if Jesus or Muhammad or Moses were alive today, that they would love nature and love snakes because they are part of the miraculous story of what the Creator has created. We simply need to practice self discipline and detachment when working with symbolic content, and not give into our fears. It aint easy. In the last book of the Bible, it has this story about a serpent with many heads coming out to the sea and causing a lot of destruction. If you travel around SE Asia, you see this figure everywhere, Naga, who seems to me to be the solution to John’s revelation because it is transformative figure.
In summary, when you dream of snakes, realize that change is coming so get busy.