Lucid dreamwork: Healing the Snake Axis
This is the last article in a series about snake dreams. By now, the DreamTribe has explored the meaning of snake dreams from many perspectives: historical, archetypal, snakes as initiation, snakes as earth wisdom, and even how to cultivate your own snakey powers through flower essences.
Today I want to continue the theme of cultivating snakey wisdom through the lens of lucid dreamwork, a method of exploring themes of power and choice in lucid dreams for personal development.
Like most people, my snake dreams have mostly been marked by fear, recoil, and panic. Snakes hold an alien kind of presence—their very existence brings uncertainty and threatens our mortality.
I hold that snake energy is autonomous: it’s not a part of “me.” Rather, snake energy is real, vital, and has its own agenda when it comes in relationship with the dream ego. That is the depth perspective, and it comes with millennia of traditions for snake symbolism as the giver of life and death, and as the ultimate transformer.
But while there are many connections to be made with snake power, the most visible connections to my life have been to creativity, authenticity, and connection to the primal life force.
In my repetitive snake dreams, a large snake is discovered (sometimes red and yellow banded, sometimes green, sometimes black), and invariably turns towards me to attack. What follows is the predictable dream drama of scrambling for higher ground, and lashing out with whatever defenses I can muster. I usually awaken panicked and with a sour feel in my belly.
As a lucid dreamer, I began to encounter the snake in my self-aware dreams too. Having conscious choice in these dreams has been transformative of my relationship with snake, although it’s been an ongoing process of many years, not something that happened overnight. And it’s far from over! Like Carl Jung suggested years ago1, repetitive dream series are really more enlightening to work with than solitary dreams, as each dream in the series adds new dimensions to a theme that stretches across the lifespan.
In a memorable and powerful dream encounter eight years ago, I mustered up the courage to stand still and a huge snake crawled up my leg, and wrapped itself around my neck and chest. I held still in its strong embrace and the scene dissolved without further incident. This dream actually stopped my occassional scary snake dreams for quite some time, leading me to believe I had “accepted” my snake power. Not exactly! Like all worthy adversaries, it came back and presented more difficult challenges.
Two years later, I was invited deeper.
Spiral Snake Staircase
I enter a spiral stairwell and walk down the steps. I am aware I’m dreaming, nervous and excited. The banister is also a snake, winding its way down. I feel a sudden surge of humility as I walk down, knowing I am close to a source of power. The staircase becomes a round tunnel and I slide down quickly, enclosed but not restricted, emerging on a platform.
I look down and am horrified to see that I am bleeding profusely from my chest and abdomen. Blood splatters the floor and I am simultaneously holding a box in front of me that is also bleeding. I feel I am close to something powerful. I hurriedly make one more downward turn, where the axis of the staircase winds tightly into a standing column of blood and light. It is alive, transparent, and pulsing with energy.
I hold up my box and it fits into the column at about chest level. Suddenly, I feel relieved, and am no longer bleeding. Still lucid, but unsure how to proceed, I am struck with a pang of humility again. I fall to my hands and knees, prostrating myself in front of “the source.” I thank it for this opportunity and feel very emotional, both ecstatic and sorrowful. I feel a compassion for myself (in my own thoughts) and I know that I am safe. (recorded in 20062)
I’ve been working with this powerful dream for six years now, and there’s a lot I could say beyond the scope of the conversation today. The dream came at the beginning of a creative surge in my writing career, as I was writing a MA thesis on lucid dreams and becoming more comfortable with my ability to dance with the strong energies from doing intensive dreamwork. That’s the dayworld parallel to this dream.
But for now, I want to draw attention to how the snake in this dream takes on the form of a banister, an architectural feature that literally provides guidance and support for moving deeper to lower levels.
This snake-banister then spirals into a raw energetic source: alive and bristling with power, yet needing something from me –my own contribution. My action completed the circuit, relieving pressure and stopping the leak of life force (blood) from my dreambody. By healing the snake-energy column, my own dreambody is healed.
Towards a Lucid Dreamwork
Lucid dreamwork, as I practice it today, is not only about exploring dream images and symbols, but also the choices we make in our dreams3. Our choices are often hidden in waking life, but in dreams the decision point behind what happens to us (and what we allow not to happen) is easier to spot, as well as the consequences to our thoughts, beliefs and actions. In this dream, I made the choice to follow the staircase down in spite of my fear: that is lucidity at its best, going against the grain. Conscious action to complete the snake column was also integral to the dream, as was the spontaneous decision to enact a posture of surrender.
When do we know we have made good choices?
It’s always debatable, of course, but if you awaken from a dream with increased vitality or energy, that’s a good first sign. Waking up with a feeling of dread, or a sick feeling in the stomach, on the other hand, is a sign that we have worked against ourselves in some way, or that we may have bitten off more than we can chew. Over days and weeks, a transformative snake dream will continue to reverberate, and affect waking life attitudes and choices.
I’m always careful to not use lucid dreamwork to chide myself for not acting this way or that way in the dream– that’s key. It’s not about blame, but about noticing our patterns, and knowing there will be another opportunity to make a different choice the next time we lay down to sleep. In this way, repetitive dreams serve as a living record of how we are balancing our mortal, daily lives with the inner path of soul that slowly unfolds in the dreamworld.
1 The best introduction to Carl Jung’s work with dreams is his autobiography Memories, dreams and reflections.
2 This dream was first publicly shared in Ancestral knowledge in lucid dreams, Electric Dreams, 13(4), with an emphasis on Celtic ancestry and the theme of reverence.
3 My own evolving practice of lucid dreamwork is heavily influenced by the continuity theory of dreaming, and also the clinical work of G. Scott Sparrow.
First Image: Pachacuteq Monument staircase by mcgmatt (CC)