Are fish swimming around in the ocean of your subconscious mind? Do you keep waking up in the night, drenched in sweat, with thoughts of aquatic animals in your head? What does it mean? Why do the fish haunt you? What do they want with your dreams?
“In the circles I swim in (ha!), fish commonly take on a meaning of spiritual wisdom, as well as the ideas and miscellaneous things that swim around in our unconscious,” says Autumn Fourkiller, Indigenous mystic and writer behind the Dream Interpretation for Dummies newsletter, noting that this sort of dream “very rarely has to do with fish.”
A transformation in your waking life could also spark a fish dream. “When I think of fish, I think of transformative times, like when the salmon go upriver to spawn and eventually, decay. Decay here in dreamland simply means letting go of past assumptions and ideas, not like … dying,” Fourkiller explains. “Are things opening up to you? Do you feel like you’re amidst a spiritual transformation? Do you feel like part of the shadow self is awakening?”
Below, Fourkiller and more experts break down your different dreams about fish.
If you’re dreaming about a fish swimming …
The good news is that dreaming of fish is usually interpreted to be a portent of good things. “Dream of fish swimming in clear water,” wrote Russell Grant in The Illustrated Dream Dictionary, “and you will get money and power.” If the fish are swimming toward the surface of the water, the dream may mean you’re in for good things — wealth, love, satisfaction — whereas a fish swimming deep in water, or in murky water, can mean you’re in for, or currently experiencing, troubled times.
For her part, Fourkiller says, “I’ve never experienced a dream wherein fish were a portent for wealth and power, but that doesn’t mean I’m casting aside the idea entirely!” That said, she does agree with Grant in that murky water could be a sign of a murkiness in your unconscious or conscious mind. If this was the case in your dream, Fourkiller suggests doing some self-reflection. “What has been running through your mind lately?”
According to Exemplore.com, dreaming about fish swimming could also be a symbol of fertility or personal growth.
If you’re dreaming about eating a fish …
According to CheckMyDream.com, the symbolism behind a dream about eating fish depends on the style of fish. If you’re eating a large fish, it can symbolize soon-to-be-gotten profits, or the quick accumulation of material goods. A smaller fish, however, can mean you’re in for some small troubles or minor annoyances. Eating a raw fish can mean you need to spend more time considering the specifics of an upcoming plan.
If you’re dreaming about a fish eating you …
On the other hand, if your dream concerns a fish eating you — oh, no! — it might mean that you have some people around you who don’t have your best interests in mind. “It indicates there are some people around you who use their power to harm you,” according to Dreaming and Sleeping. The website advises you to be careful and try not to let yourself be affected by those people’s negative intentions.
If you’re dreaming about catching a fish …
According to The Dream Interpretation Dictionary: Symbols, Signs, and Meanings by J.M. DeBord, dreams about the successful catching of a fish can symbolize a real-life win: landing a job, getting married, getting a record deal. “Fishing is also associated with the acquisition of knowledge,” DeBord wrote, “particularly self-knowledge.”
Fourkiller agrees, noting that this dream can serve as the inverse of the one in which a fish is swimming in murky water. Instead, in this dream, Fourkiller explains you are “pulling something out from the murk and being able to identify it,” a symbol of “self-knowledge.”
Similarly, unsuccessful fishing can symbolize an unsuccessful attempt, and fishing in a too-shallow body of water can symbolize a dearth (or perceived dearth) of the kind of opportunities you desire.
If you’re dreaming about a dead fish …
Again, according to DeBord, pale or sickly fish can symbolize an uneasiness in your physical body, maybe due to a nutritional deficiency. A dead fish can symbolize someone in your life who is emotionally or sexually unresponsive, or it can be a portent of bad things to come. “It can mean ‘you’re next,’” DeBord writes, “as in the famous scene with the fish in The Godfather.”
If you’re dreaming about a fish tank …
Michael Lennox, author of Llewellyn’s Complete Dictionary of Dreams, says dreaming about a fish tank is a visual reminder of all of the ideas and emotions that float around under the surface of your subconscious. “A fish take is a symbol that puts such ideas on display,” he wrote, “like a reminder of the beautiful notions that are available to you if you look below the surface.” While Fourkiller agrees with Lennox’s interpretation, she also urges you to do some deeper digging. “Don’t just take this as a pat on the back from your unconscious.”
The takeaway: Whatever form your dream about fish takes, Fourkiller suggests unpacking it by asking yourself a series of questions: “Where are you in your spiritual life? Do you have one? Do you feel as if you are wading into deeper waters, so to speak? If you eschew the spiritual, what do you feel is lurking in your unconscious mind? Where could you plunge deeper into self-expression or self-mining?”
Oh, and, by the way, if you aren’t already jotting down your dreams, Fourkiller says it’s time to start. “Always, always keep note of the themes in your dreams.”
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