If you’re looking for a simple “snake dreams symbolize XYZ” response, you won’t find it here. That’s because no dream can be boiled down to a simple, one paragraph symbol-dictionary definition. And when it comes to snake dreams, you want to explore all of the possibilities because what you may not realize is that snake dreams can be important messages about the health of your mind, body, and soul. If you read a dream dictionary definition you are likely to miss the most relevant warning or message.
So how do you know what your snake dream means?
The Key to Understanding the Complexities of Snake Dreams
Master dreamers know that dreams are linked to ancient archetypes or universal themes that predate modern man by thousands of years. As a result, the imagery in your dreams may parallel ancient dramas you may not be consciously aware of.
Yet snake dreams are also personal. Any attempt to explore their meaning must take into consideration the dreamer’s personal relationship with snakes. If you love snakes, the meaning of your dream may be entirely different than the snake dream of someone who is afraid of them.
Of course, all dreams have multiple layers of meaning, and the most obvious reaction, like fear or curiosity, is only a clue about what your snake dreams might mean.
Therefore, when you look beyond the obvious meaning and explore the mythic quality of your dream images, you connect with the unseen, deeper implications of your dreams. You can more easily access the many layers, plumbing the depths beyond the obvious layer or two you immediately grasp upon waking.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
The Healing Snake
Snakes appear throughout recorded history as a symbol of healing.
You are likely familiar with the caduceus, the medical symbol with two snakes wound around a staff.
Perhaps you also know of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing who was often depicted holding a rod with a snake wound around it. Healing temples erected in honor of Asclepius, called Asclepions, had floors covered in non-venomous snakes. These sacred centers drew crowds of people who sought to incubate dreams in order to heal.
Maybe you are even familiar with Nehushtan, the bronze snake staff Moses carried to heal Israelites of snake bites.
But did you know that the image of a snake wound around a rod first appeared circa 4000-3000 bc on a Sumerian vase dedicated to Ningishzida, the Lord of the Good Tree? Not only was Ningishzida the son of Ninazu, the Lord of Healing, Ningishzida was also depicted as a snake with a human head. He was one of two gatekeepers who protected Anu, God of Heaven, as well as a traveler through the netherworld (underworld.)1
How the healing snake relates to you
On some level, you know that snakes are related to healing. Whether you are the direct descendent of Ascelepius himself or have simply seen the modern emblem of medicine, your subconscious is aware that snakes and healing go hand-in-hand.
Considering this, ask yourself how your dream snake may be trying to help you heal.
Whether it bites you, swallows you, antagonizes you or hugs you, this snake is one part healer and it wants to help you find your way toward wholeness.
Life Calling and Initiation Dreams
Dreams of being bitten and swallowed may have the added layer of being initiation dreams. In some indigenous cultures, surviving a waking-life rattlesnake bite, for instance, is evidence that the person is called the path of healer. Similarly, dismemberment is often viewed as an initiatory aspect of becoming a shaman. Being swallowed by a snake in a dream is a form of dismemberment.
The Fertile Snake
Snakes were worshipped in every corner of the ancient world as creatures who symbolized fertility, birth, death and resurrection.
One common image is of a snake wrapped around the earth. From the Nordic Jörmungandr to the Hindu Ananta, this image portrays the snake as responsible for holding the world together.
Similarly, The Cosmic Serpent winds itself around an egg, clearly a symbol of fertility and rebirth, as well as creation of the universe.
The Snake Goddess sculpture from Knossos, the famous gowned female figure holding two snakes, may be representative of the Mother Goddess.
Of course, we must include in this section the Freudian view that snakes are sexual, phallic objects.
How the fertile snake relates to you
When you dream of snake(s), reflect on how it may be a divine messenger coming to tell you about fertile possibilities. Where might you have unrecognized potential? What creation is waiting to be born?
The other side of creation, though, is destruction. In this regard, how might your dream snake be a premonition about the need to shed an outmoded way of being or an outgrown relationship or object?
The Psychic and Spiritual Snake
One bite from a venomous snake, one entanglement with a boa constrictor, and most people die. Perhaps this is why snake is also viewed as evil in many parts of the world.
Medusa, for instance, was a Greek Gorgon, part snake, part women, whose gaze turned people to stone.2
Nidhogg, a Nordic snake, was an evil creature whose body wrapped around Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, and tried to destroy it.3
How the destroyer snake relates to you
Death in dreams is always a sign of transformation. If you feel your dream snake is attempting to destroy you, either by biting, constricting or swallowing you or any other means, consider how it might be an invitation to let go of a cherished aspect of life (e.g. belief, relationship, object) that is preventing you from living a healthier life. In other words, your dream snake may want you to relinquish something so you can receive something better.
Snakes can also foreshadow illness. If your dream snake is injured or looks unusual, it may be a sign that something is not working for you. Similarly, if the snake tries to bite you, it may be sending you a message of possible illness.
Note: only you will know what your snake dreams mean. Exploring these possible layers may reveal important information, or nothing at all. Not all dreams of being bitten foreshadow illness.
The Elemental Aspect of Snakes
The Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent lives in a waterhold and is related to fertility and life-giving powers.4
The Snake Goddess is an earth goddess associated with earthly, household goods.5
Quetzalcoatl is a Mesoamerican deity whose name means “feathered serpent.” This deity may represent fertility since wind or air was associated with fertility in this culture.6
Xiuhcoatl was a serpent associated with the Aztec fire deity, Xiuhtecuhtli.7
How the elemental snake relates to you
There are aspects of each element that are experienced universally (although some cultures experience the elements differently - trust your intuition to lead you toward a meaning that fits you).
Water, for instance, is fluid therefore often equated with emotion and intuition. Earth is solid and grows our food so it is equated with nourishment and with being grounded and present. Air is associated with the breath or “pneuma” which links it to Spirit or Soul because we cannot live without air. Fire consumes nearly everything it touches and is therefore a destroying element as well as a creative element, encapsulating passion as well as destruction.
Notice the environment of your dream snake. How might the elements surrounding it be a reference to one of these universal or archetypal themes?
Share Your Snake Dreams Below
In order to create a community inspired resource for dreams and symbols, we'd love it if you'd use the comments section below to share a brief description of your snake dreams and the meaning you've gleaned from the imagery.
Include any waking life life connections, like illness, recovery, initiation, transformation, anything you feel relates to your dream.
7 Fernández 1992, 1996, pp.107, 160.