Even in waking life, the alligator is a difficult creature to parse. The violent smirking maw and spiky thrashing tail and swole armored frame — a formidable predator all the way down to its … shrimpy baby arms? It feels somewhat safe to assume that alligators would, on principle, love to rip each and every one of us to shreds. Still, an alligator body is a body apparently at odds with itself, seemingly untouched by evolution. Strange, confusing beasts: What are alligators all about? How do they work? What do they mean?
Autumn Fourkiller, Indigenous mystic and writer behind the Dream Interpretation for Dummies newsletter, has mixed feelings toward the creatures. “I am both terrified and in awe of alligators. They are basically dinosaurs.” She adds that she’s not a scientist before continuing, “They are primordial and ‘violent’ and survivors. I put violent in scare quotes here because, yeah, I would be pissed if some guy was poking around my habitat, draining my food sources, and littering in my water, too.” Fair.
To my mind, alligators mean business, and danger; they are all about powerful jaws studded with knife-like teeth, which they use to destroy their prey. This is literally true in real life, and figuratively true in dreams, where alligators may have more to do with harsh communication styles. A fearsome snout is arguably an alligator’s most salient feature, professional dream analyst and author Lauri Quinn Loewenberg tells the Cut: “The mouth is almost half of the alligator. Therefore, the alligator most often … represent[s] someone who has a big mouth, and typically with that big mouth, sharp biting remarks, criticism, hurtful words, biting words.”
Here’s what it means if you’re dreaming about alligators.
If you’re dreaming about a big beefy alligator …
As is the case with tornadoes in dreams, the size and number of your dream alligators speaks to the scale and number of aggressors in your life. “The bigger something is, or the more [numerous] something is, the more space it takes up in your psyche or in your life,” Loewenberg says. Fourkiller shares the same take. “[I] totally agree that the size of the alligator can correlate to the amount or size of the thing that needs to be sorted through,” Fourkiller says, “especially in terms of how much room it is taking up in your psyche.” If the creature in your dreams resembles Chubbs the golf course gator, you know you’ve got a real monster on your hands, and it’s probably time to start managing the situation before that behemoth eats you up.
If you’re trying to run, or swim, away from an alligator …
When your dream — nightmare? — scenario has you running away from an alligator, or trying to escape alligator-infested waters, “ask yourself if there’s someone in your life who makes you feel like you’re in threat of their biting remarks or criticism,” Loewenberg recommends. If you’re trying to get away from this beast in your dream, “that’s going to be a direct reflection of how you’re reacting to this person,” she adds. “Are you avoiding them rather than facing them? Or are you in a situation that you can get out of, where you don’t have to deal with them?”
If you’re trying to rescue a loved one from an alligator …
According to Loewenberg, a very common gator dream for parents to have involves the attempted rescue of offspring from this fearsome reptile’s clutches. In these cases, she says, “The child may be dealing with a bully at school, or a sibling is mean to them, or maybe they’re not taking criticism from a teacher well.” The same applies to anyone dream-you tries to save: Are they having a hard time dealing with a harshly opinionated co-worker, friend, or boss? How is helping them manage that stress affecting you?
If you see alligators swimming below the surface of the water …
Fourkiller starts off by noting that she “loves the image of something lurking beneath the surface,” adding, “water, for me, often reads as time and emotion. To have an alligator lurking beneath the water may signal to the dreamer that there is a particularly feisty trauma or event lurking in their waters, and that they must be wary not to be bitten by it. Be careful out there.”
“Anything you see below the surface of the water that is approaching you … is connected to something in your real life that you know is on its way,” Loewenberg explains. Maybe the alligators symbolize critical feedback you expect to come up in the course of an imminent performance review; maybe they represent your own bad reaction to a situation coming down the pipe. Do you have anything coming up that makes you prickly just to think about? That apprehension may be manifesting as ominous gators inside your sleeping mind. If you find yourself watching the alligators from a boat, Loewenberg adds, that may indicate that “you’re feeling less vulnerable to the impending threat,” or “you’re feeling like you have more skills to deal with” it, whether it comes from another person or yourself.
If you’re chopping up the alligator …
This scenario, according to Loewenberg, also occurs in snake dreams, and it sounds like a good omen: “Any kind of chopping or dismemberment dream is going to be connected to you cutting something or someone out of your life,” she says. “So if you’re … chopping up the alligator, that’s a good indication that you’re successfully dismembering someone from your life” who’s been hurting your feelings with their scathing commentary. Or, she advises, “It can also mean that you need to, if you haven’t yet.”
If you’re being bitten or eaten by an alligator …
This may be your brain begging you to please free yourself from whoever is causing you distress. “If the alligator’s eating you, that’s a big warning from your subconscious that this person that the alligator represents is really beginning to consume you and eat away at you and overwhelm you,” Loewenberg notes. “In which case you really do need to take immediate action.” Chop chop!
Fourkiller agrees this sort of dream requires you to act fast. “If you’re being bitten or eaten by an alligator … oh boy, is it time to take action. Do they swallow you whole? Or is that snakes? Either way, time to start!”
If you have an alligator in a pool, aquarium, or tub …
If the dream alligator has been confined to some kind of closed environment, “that would indicate that you’ve been pretty good at containing this angry, biting, critical part of yourself, or containing the critical, biting, angry person in your life,” Loewenberg says. “That you’re not letting [the situation] get out of hand.”
Relatedly, if you have some sort of cordial rapport with this beastie, almost as if it were a pet, that also bodes well for you. “If it’s friendly, it’s an aspect of yourself that you’re okay with, that works for you,” Loewenberg explains. With respect to external jerks, a tamed gator may also indicate “that you’ve made peace” with whatever “felt like a threat in your life, or a difficult relationship,” Loewenberg advises.
The takeaway: Start with introspection when interpreting dream symbolism. “Work outwards,” Loewenberg advises. “If this alligator dream doesn’t seem to apply to you … does this alligator threat seem to resemble a relationship with a co-worker or a spouse, someone that you directly deal with?” Fourkiller suggests asking, “Do I have some kind of preexisting relationship with alligators? If not, what is lurking in the waters of my mind, my spirit, my body? Has it always been there? How can I honor my survival and honor the person I am becoming?” Once you’ve pinpointed the problem party, perhaps you can start identifying ways to minimize their emotional impact.
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