Like any animal dream, the meaning of snakes in a dream can have a variety of interpretations. But snakes are found the world over, in many cultures and religions in myths and legends, which imbues them with quite a special significance symbolically. When snakes are used to indicate a symbolic meaning, rather than simply being referenced as a biological animal, they are often referred to as “serpents.”
Freud would have us believe that snakes are a symbol of sex, and little more. And while the meaning of snakes in a dream might indicate a sexual energy, especially if they slide into bed with you or the dream is in some other way erotically charged, snakes are more likely to appear in dreams for several other profound reasons. Even such energy may relate to a sensuous nature, a vital life force, and other potent concepts beyond simple sexuality alone.
In ancient times, harmless snakes would be left in temples where people seeking cures to an illness would go to dream. The dreams people had in these temples amongst the snakes would then be interpreted by the holy people there, who would reveal the cure the dream was showing. The Ancient Greek Hippocrates (he of the medical profession’s “Hippocratic Oath” and a powerful ancient healer) had as his symbol the snake. Modern medicine still uses the symbol of two snakes entwined around a staff as its symbol (caduceus). These medical associations mean that snakes can be a symbol of healing in dreams, either physically or emotionally.
Another significant attribute of snakes is that they shed their skin. This has historically been associated with the ability to regenerate, change and grow. The meaning of snakes in a dream can indicate a period of significant personal transformation. This dream may suggest you look at what old patterns of behaviour or beliefs you are outgrowing, and what new thought processes or new stage in life you are preparing to step into. Such transformative power is especially strong if in your dream you look the snake in the eye, connect with it in some way, or it bites you and you recover or don’t die. When combined with the healing elements that snakes can indicate, this may imply a significant transformation through healing, almost like an initiation. These snake dreams, though they may seem initially scary, can provide an important opportunity to leave behind something that hurt and restricted you, moving forward into a new way of being.
Sometimes snakes dreams can be profoundly unsettling, and leave you with a sense of being deceived. This is especially true if you dream of being in a pit of vipers or if you are surrounded by many snakes that you can’t escape from. This kind of symbolic meaning may arise from recalling the snake that spoke in the garden of Eden lied to Eve. Others feel that the forked tongues of snakes, indicates that they can speak multiple stories, oh which at least one must be a lie, as there is only one truth. Snakes are also hard to see, and can be stumbled upon by surprise, which can associate them with secrets. The phrase “snake in the grass” refers to this sense of someone who cannot be trusted, who may lie or deceive. The meaning of snakes in a dream that create feeling, may be a warning. There may truth you know but are deceiving yourself about, denying what you know to be true. Or you may be best to be on your guard around someone you feel is untrustworthy. Given the multi-layered aspect of dreams, it may be that when this truth is finally revealed (whatever that truth may be) that this will lead to healing and transformation, the gifts of the snake.
Dreaming a snake that is coiling around you like a python and squeezing tight may be an indication that you feel restricted somewhere in life. This may be by your own self-limiting beliefs, refusal to admit what you know you must do, or it can be an indicator of external inhibiting factors, such as a job, lack of experience or education for something you wish to achieve. A dominating and controlling relationship may also influence this kind of dream. If the snake in the dream is so constricting you can’t get enough air, this may mean it is time to make some changes, to stand up and act, to create some breathing space in your life.
Essentially snakes in dreams can be potent symbols that we often fear because of the change they bring and the energy they contain. A snake rising up, coming awake after hibernation, or uncoiling and springing to life can indicate your own energy flowing freely again, your passion, motivation and love for life. Some eastern cultures refer to this as the awakening “Kundalini,” an energy that coils up from the base of the spine to the crown of our head and then beyond, a process of spiritual growth. The dream snake’s poison is far more likely to transform us than it is to destroy. It is up to us how we choose to either fight, run from, or embrace the transition.