As one of the oldest and richest mythological symbols across cultures, snakes can represent, well, a lot. Because serpents regularly shed their skin, many traditions associate the reptiles with upward growth, such as transformation or rebirth. But in other cultures, snakes can be a more menacing symbol, representing evil or even death. So what does it mean when a snake appears in a dream? Should you start considering what intentions you want to manifest, or brace yourself for your untimely demise?
According to professional dream analyst and author Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, snakes — a common dream archetype — typically represent a person in the dreamer’s life who exhibits low, dirty, toxic, or poisonous behavior. However, they can also represent something related to health or healing. Regardless of what you imagine the snake might represent, though, if a snake appears in your dream, Loewenberg says you shouldn’t ignore it.
“Just as you would not ignore coming across a snake in real life, neither should you ignore your snake dreams,” she told the Cut. “There is either a poisonous element in your life that you need to get rid of, or there is healing you need to recognize. Either way, acting upon the message or warning is a very good thing to do.”
Autumn Fourkiller, Indigenous mystic and writer behind the Dream Interpretation for Dummies newsletter, agrees. “One should never, ever ignore a snake dream. A snake dream, in my culture, definitely functions as a warning, and is one of those things I don’t have trouble applying cross-culturally/universally. This warning generally revolves around a traitorous or treacherous person or a dangerous situation, both things that can totally wreak havoc in your life!”
Here’s what it means if you’re dreaming about snakes.
If the dream is terror-inducing …
Start with how the dream made you feel; that will tell you how urgently you want to identify the potential stressor in your life and address it. “A snake within a nightmare is a very good indication that your subconscious feels there is a toxic person in your life that is an immediate threat, meaning their toxic behavior has reached a point where your subconscious has had it and needs to slap you into attention,” Loewenberg says.
If the dream is more pleasant …
Well, then you don’t have to panic … yet. “A snake in a dream that is not terrifying will either mean the snake represents a health or healing issue or a toxic person or situation that isn’t in the red alert stage yet,” she continues.
If you dream of a boa constrictor …
According to Loewenberg, nothing in a dream is ever random, meaning that the species of snake that appears in your dream is significant. (And remember, snakes tend to represent people in your life.) Think about the snake closely — and in particular, consider the way it threatens its prey or predators. “A boa constrictor is known for squeezing its prey to death. So a boa constrictor in your dream may be connected to someone in your life who is causing you to feel crowded or constricted, or someone who may be squeezing you financially.”
If you dream of a rattlesnake …
When a predator or even unaware passerby gets close to a rattlesnake, the venomous serpent will rattle its tail to warn the perceived threat away. Therefore, if a rattlesnake appears in your dream, it may be “warning you about a toxic person in your life or telling you to start paying attention to warning signs a certain person may be displaying,” Loewenberg says.
If you dream of a harmless species, like a garter snake …
In this case, you may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. “A garter snake is harmless, so it may represent someone you were originally cautious about but are now realizing is not a threat to you,” Loewenberg says.
If multiple snakes appear in your dream …
Just like the breed of snake, the number of snakes that appear in your dream can hold meaning. “Multiple snakes can represent multiple toxic people or a toxic situation that has many facets to it,” Loewenberg says. Alternatively, “multiple snakes could represent multiple health issues or one health issue that has many elements to it.”
If you dream the snake is in your house …
If you come across a snake in your house, well, look for potentially toxic people — or stressors — under your roof. (Sorry!) Or, think of it more figuratively. Perhaps, Loewenberg suggests, the menacing individual’s “toxicity is to the point that you are bringing that negativity home with you.”
If you dream the snake is outside …
Conversely, if the snake in your dream is outside, Loewenberg says it “can be a message that it’s time to get things ‘out in the open’ with this toxic person.” She adds: “Toxic people continue to poison our lives because we don’t speak up about it.”
If the snake bites you …
In this case, the snake likely has less to do with others in your life, and more to do with you — specifically, your health. The meaning of a snake bite in a dream can be counterintuitive: “The bite is similar to a shot being administered,” Loewenberg says. “So if a snake bites you in a dream, ask yourself if there are any health issues that are beginning to get better or an emotional wound that seems to be healing.” Or, “the snake bite could signify that you are the victim of someone’s critical or ‘biting’ remarks.”
In this instance, Fourkiller adds, “You’ll have to, well, suck out the poison, figuratively speaking. Whether that means — setting a boundary, cutting a toxic person out of your life, or finding the roots to your own toxicity — do not let the wound fester. Your subconscious has warned you, given you a gift even if it doesn’t feel like it. Now take it and run.”
If the snake bites a loved one …
If a snake attacks a loved one in a dream, then that person could be the one dealing with a health or emotional issue. Or, if you don’t believe the snake has anything to do with health, Loewenberg suggests looking internally and asking yourself if you might be the snake. Ask yourself, “have you been spewing venomous words at this person?”
If the snake bites an enemy …
In this scenario, you might be the snake. “To dream someone you dislike gets bitten by snake could reflect your desire to take them down with your own ‘biting’ remarks and ‘wounding’ words,” Loewenberg says.
If a snake appears in a sensual dream …
Snakes can also symbolize male sexual energy — vis-à-vis “their shape,” Loewenberg says. So, if you find yourself sexually interested in a man, snakes may begin to appear in your dreams in a non-threatening manner.
If you’ve dreamed about snakes amid the coronavirus pandemic…
If serpents have started appear more frequently in your dreams as of late, you’re not alone. “I have found snakes, and in particular, snake bites a very common dream symbol lately,” Loewenberg told the Cut, which she believes is due to the venomous nature of snakes. “These days, it seems the collective subconscious is giving this virus the form of a snake because it literally is poisonous and we all want to avoid getting bit by it,” she continued.
The takeaway: According to Fourkiller, “Snake dreams so rarely have anything to do with actual snakes and everything to do with metaphorical ones.”
And they must be dealt with immediately. “Are you worried someone is spreading rumors or talking shit behind your back? Are you about to take a risk you otherwise wouldn’t? Do you feel targeted in some way?” Fourkiller asks. “All of these situations could breed a snake dream. And, again, this dream should not be ignored! Your subconscious is trying to tell you something. Heed the warning.”
So, uh, how does one go about heeding such a warning? Fourkiller comes bearing suggestions. First and foremost, she recommends “recording the dreams, always, even if it’s just in a voice memo to your friends. Something that my best and most beloved call ‘Autumn’s morning podcast.’”
From there, it’s time to take action. “A snake dream requires some kind of action, some kind of movement,” she says. “I’m not saying go on a full-blown witch hunt, but examine your life closely. Are there any fences that need mending? Any places you feel are dark, shadowy? What can you do, if anything, to bring light to them?”
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