Of tattoos and tribes: Dreaming of Snake
The lore of the snake. What is it about this creature that’s both attractive and yet so terrifying? And, even more importantly, why do we dream of snake?
Our relationship to snakes is as old as we are and just as rich and complex as the myths that revere them. But those myths have long disappeared and lay dormant in our daily subconsciousness.
Yet snake uncoils when we least expect it, coming out to play in our nightly adventures.
Perhaps the answer lies somewhere buried in what Jung calls our collective unconscious.
That Snake is calling her tribe!
Are you from my tribe?
In June, I gave a talk on dreams of the bereaved at the annual IASD conference in Berkeley. Little did I realize Snake would be joining me there. The conference started with a reunion with JFKU dream students gathering together. I greeted one woman and fellow DTer Judith McEnroe who had a most fascinating tattoo on her wrist…it was a snake.
I was dumbstruck because only a week before I had dreamed of snakes, and Judith’s snake tattoo and my dream snakes had the exact intricate pattern!
I begged her to share the meaning of her tattoo which I later learned came from a dream.
This was Judith’s dream:
I was sitting across the table from an elderly Native American man. A fairly large snake was curled up on my lap. As I pushed away from the table to give the snake more room it began to slowly unfold and wrap itself around my body. Is it dangerous?, I ask the man. No, he says and tells me to raise my left arm above my head.
The snake coils itself around my arm and rests it’s head on the back of my hand. It has a wide red band around its neck that is at the level of my wrist. The snake has wide black and yellow bands on the rest of its body. I wake up hearing a voice (my own voice) telling me that I must get a tattoo of the snake so that my tribe will recognize me. ….I now have a tattoo of snake around my wrist.
I smiled, shook her hand and said. “I believe I am member of your tribe.”
Snake is awakening
Dreaming of snakes is a regular occurrence, but what made this encounter special was not only the shared dream with Judith but the continued snake encounters throughout the conference of people who were also asking…why am I dreaming of Snake?
It seemed my shared dream with Judith was shedding light on the mystery of these encounters.
I am walking in a forest and come across a natural enclosure. I suddenly see one very long snake resting in a tree, at first camouflaged. I see the body, the markings and head-it rises up becoming “awake.”
Then all the tree branches come alive with snakes, awakening! It’s like now that I “see” one, I can see them all. It’s also understood that the seasons were turning (weather warming) so the snakes were more animated, more visible.
I am then startled by a giant snakeskin dropped at my feet from a high branch. I look up and notice a Leopard in the trees. We lock eyes. I realize she has dropped it there and is a mother with two cubs. In the dream, I am telling this story to someone—it is liked I’ve walked this path many times-now the animals have awakened…were always here but now were becoming visible.
Like the snakes in my dreams, I was beginning to find others who were ‘snake people,’ too, at least drawn to its essence.
The snakes were becoming more visible. It was like finding my tribe.
Snake as Divine Feminine
During my presentation titled “When Orpheus Looked Back: Dreams of the Bereaved” I used the myth of Orpheus as a template for the stages of initiation for those who experience the death of a loved one. Orpheus who mourned the death of Eurydice, (who was bitten by a snake!) grieved her so profoundly that he followed her into the Underworld to get her back.
Because of his music and clear dedication to Eurydice, he was able to tame the three headed Cerberus and melt the heart of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Orpheus’ only task was to lead Eurydice out of the Underworld and not look back.
But Orpheus looked back.
One woman in the audience asked “Why isn’t there much information on Eurydice? And why was she bitten by a snake?”
Talking with Jungian oriented psychoanalyst and professor, Lynne Ehlers after the presentation (who also happened to give her presentation on the archetype of Snake!), we both agreed that Snake’s connection to the Divine Feminine (Eurydice bitten by a snake) ‘went underground’ or “into the Underworld” as more patriarchal religions and politics took over and Snake has lay dormant ever since…until now.
I see the snake as very ancient and wise with its power held closely to the Great Mother. Perhaps the reemergence of Snake in our dreams is this energy awakening within us and leaving her mark so we may recognize our tribe.
The mark of Snake
In one dream I was sitting with a mysterious elder woman who was tattooing a Giant Snake that wrapped around my entire body. The intention of this ceremony was for my initiation and a healing for a woman who was raped. After the ritual, I looked at my reflection and was both terrified and in awe…I had completely transformed and somehow knew there was no turning back to ‘the old ways.’
I explored this dream over the years and found snake symbols associated with ancient mystery cults like the Orphic Egg and the Mithraic figure: That of a half human half lion with a snake wrapped around its body.
And Like Judith, other DT’ers in the article “Snake Dreams and Initiation” have shared similar snake dreams of being marked in some way that felt both initiatory and healing.
What might Snake mean as dream medicine?
- Snakes and healing have been considered synonymous since ancient times, especially in exploring the caduceus, Pythian priestesses of Delphi and its connection to Aesculapian temples. Perhaps those who are drawn to Snake are natural healers.
- Another characteristic is intuition. Many snake people sense things that others might not. They are literally tuned into the subtle worlds and energies around them.
- Snake may be calling those who are drawn to the mysteries and secret knowledge as illustrated in many esoteric teachings and symbolism. Repelled by the injustices and inconsistencies in the world and being drawn to inner wisdom that can be found in dreams.
- I also see Snake as consciousness and mindfulness of the Now. The snake’s steady gaze reminds me of being fully in the present moment and grounded in the earth. This awareness means carrying incredible focus and passion and when the moment is right, you strike!
What can Snake tell us of our true Natures?
Is she something to fear like we learned from western biblical teachings or should we look deeper beyond our limited view of what she represents for us?
Considering the history of the many deaths and persecutions of those who are on the Snake path, it is understanding that there is fear tied to these practices. From witch burnings to ethnic cleansing of indigenous cultures to our own politics today that control certain populations, namely women’s bodies: Snake has a lot to be afraid of.
But paradoxically, those who try to control or repress Snake are the ones who are truly afraid.
Snake is not only divine she is the divine power in us all. This is what is feared the most. Snake is the gateway to healing and awakening ourselves to possibilities if we can face it with courage.
Let’s continue sharing Snake together, let’s find our tribe!