As the Year of the Dragon made its dramatic entrance into the lunar New Year, we at the DreamTribe thought it would be interesting to explore how and why dragons appear in dreams.
Afterall, some dragons guard the gate to the underworld where hidden treasures await us. Other dragons guard the gate to the heavens, the place that holds insight and inspiration. And still others are the monsters we fight in order to prove our power (mostly to ourselves) so we can evolve as beings.
Indeed, dragons are multi-faceted creatures who often symbolize benevelonce in the East and malevolence in the West, and when you dream of dragons it’s probably a good idea to know which one you are confronting.
Why we dream of dragons
Western dragons are large and scaly, scary and fierce. They perfectly capture the essence of what it’s like to be tormented by our fears.
What better image to represent the inner demons we must face in order to grow as people?
Conversly, Eastern dragons are often colorful and beautiful, eloquently representing the magical and supernatural qualities of life that protect us and grant us wishes. These dragons might also represent our inner power, the aspect of ourself that is calling us forth into new territory.
In dream-land, dragons may represent various aspects of our internal and external lives, the parts or our personality we fight against, the battles we win and lose with ourselves and others, as well as the struggles we overcome.
Learning how to work with dragon dreams might empower you to face your fears, recognize and claim your inner gifts so you can more easily take them into the world, and make peace with whatever frustrations plague your life.
But what if you’ve never dreamed of a dragon?
Although you may not have dreamed of an actual firebreathing dragon, chances are you’ve dreamed of an adversary or helpful guide who was dragon-like. Snakes, serpents, and sea-monsters can fall into the “dragon” category since they are the progenitors of the species.
Regardless of the type of dragon in your dreams, these impressive beings can simultaneously evoke awe and fear. The trick is to summon the necessary courage to stand your ground so you can determine how to interact with the dragon. Should you slay it or ask it for guidance? To better understand the answer it’s useful to explore the history of dragons.
Dragons In Mythology
In Eastern mythology, the dragon is a long, snakelike creature with four or five claws and is a symbol of auspicious, benevelont power. “The association between the dragon and vigilance (which it can personify in art) is evidenced by many tales in which dragons appear as guardians linked with the underworld and with oracular knowledge.” Source: page 54 Symbols and their Meanings by Jack Tresidder
There are many types of dragons in Chinese mythology. For instance, the Heavenly Dragon Tianlong (Tian – heaven, Long – dragon), is a dragon who guards the heavenly palace. The Underworld Dragon or Treasure Dragon, Fucanglong, lived in caves below the earth and protected natural and man-made treasures. Source: Encyclopedia Mythica.
In Norse mythology, for instance, “Nidhogg (“tearer of corpses”) is a monstrous serpent that gnaws almost perpetually at the deepest root of the World Tree Yggdrasil, threatening to destroy it. Nidhogg (also) lies on Nastrond in Niflheim and eats corpses to sustain itself.” Source: Encyclopedia Mythica
Dragon Slayers in Poetry and Literature
Dragon slayers are the reveared heroes who face their enemy with ferocious and cunning skills, usually saving a virgin or community from impending disaster.
In the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo it is written,
(ll. 300-310) But near by was a sweet flowing spring, and there with his strong bow the lord, the son of Zeus, killed the bloated, great she-dragon, a fierce monster wont to do great mischief to men upon earth, to men themselves and to their thin-shanked sheep; for she was a very bloody plague. … (ll. 334-362) Whosoever met the dragoness, the day of doom would sweep him away, until the lord Apollo, who deals death from afar, shot a strong arrow at her.
Another famous dragon slayer was St. George, William Shakespear refers to him in Richard III:
Advance our standards, set up on our foes
Our ancient world of courage fair St. George
Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons
Richard III, act v, sc 3
Dragons In Jungian Psychology
When the hero fights the dragon it is a battle with
the regressive forces of the unconscious which threaten to swallow the individuating ego. The forces, personified in figures like Circe, Kali, medusa, sea serpents, Minotaur, or Gorgon, represent the Terrible side of the Great Mother. The Hero may voluntarily submit to being swallowed by the monster, or to a conscious descent into Hades so as to vanquish the forces of darkness.
This mortifying descent into the abyss, the sea, the dark cave, or the underworld in order to be reborn to a new identity expresses the symbolism of the night-sea journey through the uterine belly of the monster. It is a fundamental theme in mythology the world over — that of death and rebirth. All initiatory rituals involve this basic archetypal pattern through which the old order and early infantile attachments must die and a more mature and productive life be born in their place.
This dragon fight and liberation of the captive is the archetypal pattern that can guide us through those major transitional passages in our personal development where a rebirth or reorientation of consciousness is indicated. The captive represents the ‘new’ element whose liberation makes all further development possible. Source: http://www.cgjungny.org/d/d_mythpsyche.html
Draco, the Dragon Constellation
In Greek mythology, the constellation Draco, which is a constellation in the northern hemisphere, “was identified with the dragon Ladon, which had a hundred heads and was in charge of guarding the Garden of the Hesperides, the orchard of the goddess Hera where golden apples that gave immortality grew. When Hercules was given the task to steal the apples, he enchanted Ladon with music and put him to sleep before stealing the apples. Hera later placed the dragon among the stars.” source: http://www.topastronomer.com
As an aside, Draco is also the name of one of Harry Potter’s main adversaries, Draco Malfoy, who is a member of the Slytherin House whose mascot is the serpent.
How to playfully work with dragon dreams
Dragon dreams, whether they entail snakes, serpents or giant creatures, are often powerful, big dreams. Although it might be useful to explore the imagery symbolically, enacting them through dream theater might yield more profound results.
This is most easily done in a dream group setting, but if you’re all by yourself you can use props like pillows and chairs.
Start by sharing the dream. Then have the dreamer choose people to play various parts of the dream, everything from dream characters like the dragon to emotions like fear. Have someone else play the role of the dreamer, too. If you have enough participants, assign people to play significant landscape characteristics, like an erupting volcano.
Once roles are assigned, have the dreamer walk everyone through the dream scenario step-by-step. Then do it again as a seamless play. Once you’re done, have the dreamer play him or herself so s/he can experience the dream in waking life.
When you’re done, you might “dream the scene forward” by having the characters continue to act from an intuitive place, everyone imagining what happens next and acting it out.
The dreamer can ask the characters questions, like, “Dragon, why are you near this erupting volcano?”. Participants reply as though they are that character. (E.g. the person playing the dragon speaks as though she is the dragon and answers the dreamers question from the dragon’s perspective. The person playing the volcano does the same.)
Encourage everyone to trust their intuition and any insights they glean from the experience.
How to work dragon dreams symbolically
When it comes to dreams it seems fitting to reflect on the two opposing views of dragons – benevolent and malevolent. Like two sides of the same coin, one dragon is the bringer of good fortune while the other is a scary monster who must be overcome.
Since dreams often reveal the obstacles we need to metaphorically slay before we can grow as people and connect with our Greater Self, our dream dragons might represent our need to confront our internal and external enemies in order to find the gold within and without.
When a dragon or dragon-like creature appears in your dream, contemplate your reaction or interaction with it.
Did you fight it?
Ask it a question?
Receive a gift?
How you act in a dream may be an indicator of how you are acting or responding in waking life.
If your dream dragon causes you fear, ask if there is something in waking life that feels overwhelmingly frightening. It could be a person, place, thing or event. It could be a calling to a specific vocation that causes you to feel fear about the prospects of letting go of the past. It could be anything.
If your dream dragon causes you to feel joy or gives you a gift, ask if there is something in waking life that feels larger than life that needs to be approached and accepted. It could be a job offer or a new relationship. Again, it could be anything.
Your dream dragon can also represent inner struggles, like feeling fearful of moving forward or nervous about an upcoming event. It might also indicate the need to muster up the courage to stand your ground in difficulty or trying circumstances.
Have you had any dragon dreams?
If so, share your dream and what it meant to you in the comments section below.
To find source information for each photo, scroll over the photo.
P.S. Several weeks after posting this article, I saw this video on a prehistoric Dragon Shark …