Symbols of Rebirth & Resurrection in Myths and Dreams
In northern California, spring has arrived. My yard is filled with flowers: purple geraniums, white azaleas, fuchsia rhododendrons, and a plethora of weeds.
It is a time of rebirth and resurrection; a theme common to dreams, especially for people in the midst of a life transformation.
But how do you know if you’re dreaming of rebirth?
And how do you know if you’re headed for a period of resurrection in which you prepare to birth a healthier you?
One way is to reflect on the following dream images. They’re archetypes, which means they’re common cross-culturally, and they appear in dreams that on some level speak to our transformational process, specifically how we are engaging our transition.
Additionally, the images are clues that can help you understand how well you are progressing on your path. They can illuminate potential life direction, or assist in accessing information you would not have otherwise.
Egg Imagery in Dreams
But did you know that “in many myths, ranging from Egypt and India to the Far East and Oceania, the initial process of creation and birth begins when a cosmic egg (sometimes fertilized by a serpent but more often laid in the primeval sea by a giant bird) gives form to chaos, and from it hatches the sun (the golden yolk), leading to the division of earth and sky, and the multiplicity of life, natural and supernatural? Symbols and Their Meaning by Jack Tresidder
Indeed, if you dream of an egg you may be revisiting the origins of the cosmos, be in the midst of some form of rebirth … or you might be receiving an invitation to eat eggs. Knowing how dreams work, it’s a good idea to consider all possibilities.
I forgot to feed the baby.
I forgot I have a baby.
I suddenly have to care for someone else’s baby.
Although each dream meaning is on some level unique to the dreamer, baby dreams are often about the resurrection of an idea that was once forgotten.
For example, this dream is a common theme for women who feel like they’ve put their lives on hold while they raise their children. Once their kids are old enough to care for themselves, moms everywhere start to have dreams of babies.
Often experienced as a reaction to empty-nest-syndrome in which the mother longs to care for new babies, these dreams are more likely about the dreamer’s deep seated need to re-engage her lifework or creativity that is unrelated to that of raising her children.
The baby dream, in this case, is a wake-up call to remember the infantile stage of an idea once loved . It is an invitation to metaphorically feed the dream.
The Belly of the Beast
Of course, before the dreamer can be reborn into his or her newer form, s/he must gestate in the metaphoric womb. Sometimes this happens in the belly of the beast, other times in a cave or deep chamber under the earth’s surface.
In terms of cycles of transformation, of which rebirth and resurrection is a final stage, entering the metaphoric womb can produce powerful feelings. Anxiety, mostly.
In order to be reborn, one must first die.
Whale as Womb of Regeneration
In the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, the belly of the whale signifies the final separation from the old self and old ways of being in the world. Once the initiate enters this phase of the journey, there is no turning back. S/he cannot return to the life s/he once had. Instead, the only way to move forward is to face death and confront the shadow or unconscious.
Example from mythology: Jonah and the whale, Geppetto from Pinocchio
Snake and Lizard-Man as Devourer of Initiate
Similarly, a common shamanic initiation dream is to be swallowed by an animal, often a snake or lizard-like man. The act of being devoured, or of being torn to pieces, is the death that precedes rebirth. Initiates either stay dead or are pieced back together and return to life, whole and fully shaman.
Example from a dream: Animal Initiation Dreams. Meeting the Mo’o
The Phoenix and the Flame
Originating from the Egyptian Bennu, a heron like bird, the myth of the Phoenix was initially a reflection of the cyclical appearance and disappearance of the sun. Symbols and Their Meaning by Jack Tresidder
Gods & Goddesses who Die and are Resurrected
When you review mythology and fairy tales, you find countless examples of rebirth and resurrection.
Persephone and the Seasons
Some are allegorical accounts of the seasons, like the story of how Persephone is swept away from the earth’s surface and taken to the shadows of the underworld. On one level, it is a tale meant to explain the sun’s presence and absence throughout the year.
Inanna Faces the Shadow, Dies and is Reborn (2500 -3500 bce)
Other myths illustrate the courage required to face death in order to be reborn a wiser version of one’s self. Inanna’s descent into the underworld is the perfect example of this.
In the story, Inanna prepares to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, who is queen of the underworld. In the process, Inanna faces her shadow side, represented by her sister, and eventually is killed by Ereshkigal.
For three days, Inanna hangs as a piece of rotting flesh until her father, Enki, sends two creatures to help resurrect Inanna. She is reborn and returns to the earth’s surface, a wiser woman.
Other Resurrection Myths
The resurrection story most modern Westerners are familiar with, whether they are Christian or not, belongs to Jesus. But 3000 years before Christ died and was resurrected, Osiris also experienced this transformation.
The two stories differ in that Christ resurrects with the help of God the father, while Osiris is resurrected with the help of his wife, Isis, the Divine Mother.
Christ is forever afterward associated with heaven, while Osiris is god of the underworld.
Ritual & Ceremony: Sundancers, Living Sacrifice for Rebirth
But symbols and acts of rebirth do not occur only in dreams. A living dream takes place annually during the Sundance ceremony, a traditional Lakota ceremony that represents life and rebirth. You can read more about the Sundance here.
Working with imagery of rebirth and resurrection
If your dreams contain rebirth and resurrection themes, consider what aspect of your life wants to die, or has already died, and what wants to be created or revisited.
Pay attention to your dream feelings. They may indicate your reaction to the process of transformation.
Nightmares may arise if you avoid dealing with the information the dream presents. So if you feel anxiety in the dream, contemplate how you might you alleviate the anxiety in waking life. The answer is almost always to confront your fears head on. Ignoring them or hoping they’ll go away will only strengthen your dream anxiety until it turns into a nightmare.
Get creative to help you birth whatever wants to be born. Paint. Sing. Enact. Make a mask.
Most importantly, have fun.
Have you had any rebirth or resurrection dreams? Share them in the comment section below