The wilderness in dreams may be a forest, a desert, or even rocky mountains, but it always lies away from the civilisation and domesticity of day to day life. What does this kind of wild place mean when it appears in dreams?
To begin exploring what the meaning of wilderness in dreams is, we can start by looking how we approach being in the wilderness itself. “Going into the wilderness” can be as a retreat, as if to take a break from the pressures of work and day to day life. It can be a escape, or it can be to embrace a different way of being. But most journeys into the wilderness involve turning our backs on the known, the safe and the comfortable, and stepping into the unknown.
If we dream of wilderness, it can come as a kind of calling. To the religious or spiritual, this may be a sign to turn away from the material and other superficial distractions, and to spend time alone in prayer or contemplation to reconnect with the divine. Mohammed, Moses and Jesus and Buddha all spent time in the wilderness before receiving a holy message.
But these great teachers also warn that going into the wilderness is not for the faint of heart, or the half-hearted. To dream of wilderness can mean that a testing time is coming soon, or has already started. To go away from all the things that make life easy and comfortable can be daunting, so a dream of this nature may be a reminder to gather our resources, to prepare emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. Get your affairs in order – pay your bills, donate all those extra things you no longer need to charity, have that medical check up and sort out your filing. For a time is not far away when you will no linger wish, or be able to worry about such things. When dreams of wilderness come, be prepared for a challenge, for facing up to things you may have ignored or suppressed for many years, for letting go of that which no longer serves you.
Wilderness in dreams is less likely to represent a place, and more likely to be symbolic of a journey or a process. When dreaming of wild places, there may be a life transition occurring, a shifting of perspective, a personal evolution.
To dream of the wilderness can also indicate a return to our wild natures, a remembering of our primal souls, or true nature. Wilderness dreams ask us to shed the superficial and to embrace our free and wild sides, to reconsider who it is we really are behind the roles we play in life as worker, parents, sons and daughters, friends and lovers. Wilderness dreams can cleanse and purify us, as much as they force us to confront all that is basic an animal like in our natures. Wilderness dreams can indicate challenges and testing times, but they can also indicate profound healing and even personal transformation. Few who ever venture into the wilderness return unchanged.
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Image Credit: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, oil painting by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods