My last blog of the year is on flowers and their meaning in dreams.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts. There’s fennel for you, and columbines—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference—There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. “
–In Shakespeare’s Hamlet
On a walk with my wife early this summer I was admiring all the gardens along our route, not just the quality of the landscaping but the profusion of flowers as well. While bending down to take in the fragrance of a rose I recalled an earlier dream where a rose played a prominent part. This got me to thinking about flowers in general and the special place they have in all our lives and dreams.
We adorn our church sanctuaries with flowers, brides carry a bouquet of flowers as they walk down the aisle and the space is often covered in flowers. The poinsettia shows up at Christmas, the lily makes an entrance at the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Lotus is divine, symbolic of creation. Gods and goddesses sit upon the Lotus that symbolizes purity and raising them above the common, muddy existence of desire and attachment.
Flowers are at our funerals, our graves, our love affairs, our weddings, on national and regional flags, significant celebrations, and we even name our children after them is it any wonder that they also show up in our dreams?
Though today flowers tend to be just pretty emblems of occasion they once had great social and spiritual meaning.
Though Roses may mean a declaration of love today, Marigolds once held that position. Basil is pretty much an aromatic herb for many of us, but for many Indians it is the symbol for the god Vishnu and can be found in a place of honor in their family gardens. Forget-me-nots are the flower of Pisces from the Zodiac, the Yellow Wattle is symbolic of Australia, Tulips are symbolic of Sagittarius and heralds of Spring, and Daisies perfectly symbolize young innocence.
Carl Jung, the 20th century Swiss psychiatrist and guru of dreams saw the rose as representing the Mandala, a symbol of the unconscious self. He thought that dreams with roses were very spiritual in nature and that they were the equivalent of the lotus signifying transformation.
Across the millennia people have assigned mythical and religious meaning to flowers. For example, Lilies might represent the Trinity or the Virgin Mary, Easter, rebirth, or royalty (as in the fleur di lis).
The morning-glory is appropriately named, because the flower blooms in the morning and dies by the afternoon. Georgia O’Keeffe brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted the viewer to look closely at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Many of her paintings are considered by some to be spiritual in nature, though some see many of them as sexual so I’m not sure how successful she was at having people see her paintings without preconceived notions. However, the concept of “seeing” something with no preconceived notions is often the Eastern way of seeing a thing’s true nature.
For many years I’ve been fascinated by creation stories, probably because of my curiosity for how and why we got here.
It seems as though every culture, extinct or extant, has a creation story explaining how they and their world came to be. To me they all read like a dream. It’s my intention across a number of my Blog entries to touch on the dream states of cultures in some detail.
One of these cultures in particular is very much a “dream”. It’s even called the “Dreamtime” and comes to us from the Australian Aborigine. I choose this group to be first because they come from the land of my birth as well, though I am not Aborigine, but of the Europeans who invaded their land some 250 years ago.
These people have lived the vast land of the Australs* for some twenty-two thousand generations, that’s 40,000+ years. Before the arrival of the Europeans, some 200 different language groups existed. Though there are now only seventy groups remaining with each calling their land something different, they all tell a similar story of the creation of the world–the story of the Dreamtime.
From the Dreamtime, Rainbow Snake and others “Dreamed” the world into being. Areas in their world are named for the Dreaming of that part of creation that took place there. The word “Dreaming” symbolizes another aspect in that it represents the individual tribal beliefs and spiritual understandings. For example, one tribe might refer to themselves as having Kangaroo Dreaming or Honey Ant Dreaming. All that comes into the world such as a painting, or other object, or idea, is still dreamed and is claimed by the person or group that has produced it. To them everything comes from the Dreamtime. Individual lives come from those of the Dreamtime as well and return to it when the body dies. In all the people there is an eternal part borne through the mother in time from the originals of the Dreamtime.
The visions of the early Aborigine and to some extent today do not differentiate between men or their surroundings. They experience an undifferentiated state of mind that makes separation much less common among them than with modern man. I believe the western mans general lack of caring for the world and each other comes from this separation. In the Aborigine there was no separation between their daily living, eating, working, sexual, and religious lives. All were either dreams or waking visions. And all come from the “all-at-once time”** and are born into a “life in time.” In a way the Aborigine lives in a dream within a dream.
Through the waking dream (awake state) and the sleeping dream and various altered states, the Aborigine interacts with his reality–indeed with his soul. To him everything is connected.
*Variously known as Australische by the Dutch and Terra Australis Incognita (The Southern Unknown Land) and Colloquially since the early 20th century as Oz.
**Known in quantum physics as the super temporal or in metaphysics as time transcendence.
As a boy I was fascinated by the tales of Middle Earth as told by J.R.R. Tolkien. I also knew that if one fought bravely enough that good could eventually triumph over evil.
As I grew older I became aware of the Northern Norse mythology that Tolkien used as the foundational source material for his work. But unlike his stories I learned that the most striking feature of this mythology was that all was hopeless, that the apocalyptic battle at Rognarök was humanity’s doom, and that no matter how bravely the hero fought the monsters and giants would defeat humanity and the gods of Asgard.
But I also learned that for the gods and heroes and heroines of the North loss in battle gave meaning and mettle to the warrior who courageously stood their ground and fought on regardless of the fact that all was hopeless.
What’s this? I was dismayed that these epic battles would ultimately end with evil triumphing over good. How could this be? The purity of courage be damned I thought, it needed to be rewarded and besides winning and defeating was the goal of all good and evil confrontations or so I thought. Oh yes and by winning of course was meant that “good” would always prevail.
It wasn’t until years later that I achieved some insight into these wonderful tales from the North.
From the writings of Carl Jung I was introduced to the concept of the Conflict of Opposites and the effect of either ignoring or battling the shadow i.e. evil aspects of our personal or collective nature. In this context. either ignoring or actively suppressing the shadow one gives it power, diminishes their own power, and leads to their being overwhelmed by it.
I surmised that if Jung were right, then the hopelessness and defeat so often celebrated in the Northern myths becomes an allegorical warning to mankind regarding its relationship with the shadow aspects of its personality. Is it possible that when one resists or denies the shadow either in themselves or the society in which they live that its power over us becomes paramount in that our violent response only adds to the violence of the shadow and increases its power and makes impossible to overcome? Oh I won’t deny that some battles can be won but ultimately the shadow keeps returning ever more powerfully. Will we never defeat it and have a permanent peace?
We are both good and evil. So what does this say about a God in whose image we are created? If then God is also both, to resist this would seem futile and self-defeating.
I remember that in a long ago Judo class the teacher talked about not meeting force with force to overcome ones opponent but by using the opponent’s own energy to defeat them. To me now this simple strategy seems a useful metaphor for dealing with the shadow forces of our nature. If we allow ourselves to become the shadow by denying it we will be defeated no matter how glorious or courageous our actions but if we learn to accept this darker aspect as part of ourselves and turn its energy toward good it can add to our own best intentions and we can prevail.
A while back my wife and I had been traveling along the coast of and in the waters of the Adriatic, Ionian, and Aegean Seas, the places where Homer penned his stories of the ultimate heroes of the Archaic to Classical eras of ancient Greece and Rome.
While traveling along the Dalmatian Coast one cannot help but to step into the ancient worlds full of myth and fantasy. Myth is the secret opening to the psyche through which the universe pours its wonder and wisdom. Myths are the productions of the psyche.
This psyche of which I speak represents the totality of the human mind, both the conscious and the vast unconscious. In classical mythology it is the personification of the soul, or inner animating spirit and in science the psychological structure of a human being, the center of thought, motivation, and feeling. But in myth, Psyche was a beautiful girl loved by Cupid (Roman) or Eros (Greek) and made immortal by Jupiter (Roman), Zeus (Greek), the King of the gods.
Though myths come wearing many costumes, they represent the one true being. It is said by some researchers e.g. Joseph Campbell, that all of humankinds “religions, philosophies, arts…prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep” come from the “magic ring of myth” *.
Myths today are mostly thought to be quaint little fables that the ancients made up to explain their world and that disappeared once science took over. But in science the essence of humankind has been reduced to chemical and mechanical interactions and social conditioning and meaning is only in what can be observed and reproduced scientifically– life is only about procreation and survival whereas the ancients envisioned a much greater significance for humankind whose essence was of the universe and where meaning was to be found in every thing and act.
In today’s modern world there is an almost desperate search for meaning, i.e. something that says we are more than just our parts, our bodies, status, or our fashion statements.
We long to be the hero in our own myth, to slay dragons, earn acknowledgment and win the Golden Fleece, find the Holy Grail, be wooed by the White Knight or win the hand of the most beautiful princess of the land or be dubbed an immortal** by the god of gods.
To the ancients the myths that sustained them were a reality i.e. the gods lived amongst them and everyone accepted this. Today all we have is our unrecognized inner myth or pantheon of dreams.
“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may very well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid.”
Campbell goes on to say, “dream is personalized myth, myth is depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problem and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.”
We can learn about ourselves through an understanding of not only the ancient myths but those that we have created for ourselves both in our waking and sleeping dreams– we are already the hero of our own myth and much of the story is shared by others– we don’t have to take this journey alone.
*Campbell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Meridian Books, 1956
Not so long ago I wandered out to the front of the house one morning and looked up at the five am sky and saw the most beautiful site of the old crescent moon smiling down upon me. Standing awestruck for what seemed a very long time and moved nearly to tears I knew that I had to capture the vision in some meaningful way, so I ran back into the house and gathered my pen and journal and began to write…
Diamonds and glitter scattered across a Cheshire Cat moon in a sky not yet blue, but no longer black.
Cold and a shiver I pull up my jacket, a night I remember so many lives back.
As I lowered my gaze from the heavens to the world’s edgy line where dark silhouettes dawn,
A glow of first light urged the Nightpainter to lay down her brush toward another day drawn.
The Daypainter’s brush traced across mountain and valley and river and dale, warming all touched by this wondrous light.
Revealing a pallet of a great artist’s canvas making the night’s mare but a half recalled fright.
And out on the meadow full buttercupped and daisied, were beeflittered poppies all pretty and fine
Life shivered and shook and began to dance crazy and then greeted me for the 10 billionth time.
Life is holy, but some people out of either ignorance of that fact or as a self-serving and malevolent expression choose to not treat it as such.
We can either enhance life or diminish it, extol it or denigrate it. What enhances life is love, given freely without strings or attachments. Everything else is just a barrier to achieving and experiencing wholeness everything else is just survival, though of course one needs to maintain the latter to express the former.
But when the survival mode dominates we can only limit ourselves i.e. we take and hoard, hold onto, close up and restrict. In love we give ourselves away and in so doing save ourselves. Survival mode comes from a personal context of insufficiency (there’s not enough) and vulnerability (life is fragile). Survival with no other purpose than to continue life is a form of death. The soul is not about survival but the full expression of who and what you are_ it is about wholeness.
This is what wholeness looks like: No limits, open, truly free i.e. to be unbound by your beliefs, your prejudices, judgments and self-protections.
When we are free of the barriers we put up in order to feel secure, when we can give of our life freely we are then said to be in “possession” of it i.e. it belongs to us and not to someone else’s ideal or belief or dictate or expectation for us. When dominated by our survival mode, or even to the degree by which we have allowed ourselves to be dominated by this mode of living, everything else possesses our life and we are not free to be what we are.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
But to be what we are takes immense courage, “The courage to be” as Paul Tillich called it– it’s not about what you do or don’t do, it’s about who you are and expressing that regardless of the evaluation of others.
Your life is holy, everyone’s life is holy and the clannishness we’ve created in order to protect ourselves from seen and unseen dangers is killing us, it selfishly treats only a select few as being holy and only if those few adhere to the clan belief system. There will never be true freedom to “be” with this kind of limit on the expression of wholeness i.e. ‘holiness’.
“I am neither of the East nor of the West, no boundaries exist within my breast.”
Beliefs that teach that only certain humans behaving in certain prescribed ways are looked upon favorably by God attempt to build fences around the real God. But God cannot be fenced in and fences don’t enhance, they diminish. To denigrate the differences between us does not enhance the human spirit it is a barrier to it.
If you were to strip away the stories, the interpretive overlay, and dogma of every religion you will notice that virtually every spiritual leader, credited with starting a new way of thinking, a new way of being in relationship with each other and with the spirit that created us has done so out of knowing that the purpose of being human is to become whole and to express that wholeness freely and honestly. All have known that what we are is love and that we need to learn to express it more freely. Anything else is not love and it is not an expression of wholeness or the sacredness of each of us.
Deep within all of us is a universal thought-form that influences virtually everything we do, believe or think we know. This form, feeling, or image is expressed in a myriad of ways at our most unconscious level. These universal forms are called “archetypes” and reside in an ethereal realm called the Collective Unconscious. They are most often accessed through our dreams or other trance states such as meditation. But the images are expressed in more than just our dreams, we can see them in our myths, our fairy tales, and fictional stories and they shape the relationships that matter in our lives.
From this universal center of the human psyche comes an image of the Spirit, it is the opposite of matter and may visit the dreamer as a wise old man or woman who can guide us through the spiritual world and /or through problem issues in the waking world. Collectively these are known as Spirit Guides. In the world of the Shaman these may come as a “Spirit Spouse” who assists in the shamanic work through dreams, ritual, and/or trance.
The ancient Egyptian Magus Hermes Trismegistus believed all beings possess the potential to access the infinite wisdom of the Spirit that the individual has the ability to know the whole by becoming like the whole. One does this by aligning themselves with the divine source of their being.
The Spirit can come to us in the form of a loved one who has died, a ghost or with the impression of the infinite that is called a “numinous” feeling, with the sense of something divine, something entirely different from all that we experience in our usual waking life.
At its very root the Spirit is our connection with nature, what Carl Jung the Swiss Psychiatrist and dream analyst called, “The nourishing soil of the soul”. I believe that our dissociation with nature has left us disconnected from our experience of Spirit i.e. of the divine. Nature is part of the soul of our existence and to pollute it and destroy it to make way for more hamburgers (destruction of the rain forests so as to grow more beef), oil drilling platforms and pipelines, cars, parking lots and shopping malls is to destroy or sicken part of our own soul.
As Jung once said, “Nature is not matter only, she is also Spirit”. I think that when we make our wallets more important, when we make our material objects more important, when we make ourselves more important we rob the Earth of its Spirit and from ourselves as well.
Spirit images in our dreams also remind us of death, endings, transformation, and letting go, what needs to happen in order to grow beyond our own self-imposed limits and what is absolutely necessary to evolve sustainably.
The Spirit or soul of the Earth and of humankind is the hub of the wheel of the Four Elements that I’ve been writing about this month. It is the center from which all else radiates.
“And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheeled universe,
And any man or woman shall stand cool and supercilious before a million universes”
–Walt Whitman, leaves of grass
To me this suggests that there’s no object so insignificant that it can’t have the whole universe revolving around it. It is our very divinity that we are giving up when we focus exclusively on the material to the detriment of Spirit.
“Air moves us, fire transforms us, water shapes us, earth heals us . And the balance of the wheel goes round and round . And the balance of the wheel goes round.”
– By Cathleen Sheil, Moonsea and Prune of Reclaiming
The third in the Four Elements series deals with Air. Images of Air in dreams such as in trouble breathing, wind, airplanes and flying can be significant indicators of thought processes, attitudes, emotions and relationships– all kinds of relationships.
At the level of the physical world the air that we breathe is made up primarily of Nitrogen (about 78%), 21% oxygen, 1% argon and .038% CO2. Depending on where you live there are also trace elements of various pollutants that will significantly negatively affect an individual’s health and well-being.
At the level of the metaphorical world where dreams, myth, the mystical, and spiritual Air has a long list of meanings i.e. many of the world religious cosmologies have creation myths that involve the breathing of life into the world and its people.
In dreams Air often symbolizes creativity, intelligence and thought. If the air in a dream is foggy or heavily polluted then it could suggest that the dreamer’s thought processes are cloudy, imprecise or even being poisoned through some negative self-talk or the negative talk of someone else.
Air conditioners might represent the need to “clear the air” i.e. to clean up some interpersonal issues. Cold air can reflect ones relations with another person or persons (domestic, business or social) whereas ‘hot air’ can be about undo influence, nonsense talk, or even evil talk.
To walk on air is to be feeling upbeat or the desire to feel this way. It can also refer to self-confidence i.e. to have the sense of mastery over ones circumstances (note that to walk on water is to have the same meaning over ones feelings).
Dreams of Flying through the air can be exhilarating and liberating.
Often dreams of flying reflect ones sense of freedom and independence or the desire for the same. I recall that during my tenure in one job a number of years ago I would occasionally have dreams of flying, only the flying was a struggle often ending with a crash back to Earth. As the waking world struggle increased and I tried to remain optimistic, it required that I wear a mask of being upbeat, my dream-self would hide the fact from others in the dream that I could fly. When I finally quit that job my flying dreams reflected free flight across beautiful terrain and I didn’t try to hide the fact that I could fly from anyone.
My flying dreams showed an interesting progression that reflected accurately my waking world emotional state and ability to control my personal sense of power and control over my circumstances.
Breathing has a number symbolic meanings i.e. if you’re breathing rapidly in the dream perhaps you are experiencing some anxiety or tension in your life. Breathing underwater can suggest a desire to return to the comfort and safety of the womb though in some cases this can also suggest that you are submerged in your own emotions. Not being able to breathe could indicate exhaustion (note that some people with asthma may have dreams of breathing troubles).
Someone breathing into the dreamers mouth might suggest that there is some aspect of the other person that the dreamer may want to take into themselves or it can suggest if the person blowing into the dreamer’s mouth is dead that this person still lives within in them. Images like this can also suggest the need to have more life “breathed” into ones experiences or ones activities. “A breath of fresh air” is a phrase often used to signify new and positive change.
Wind is a powerful image and can reflect changes in circumstance or emotions e.g. there can be “ill winds”, “warm winds”, “cold winds”, turbulent winds of turmoil and light breezes of harmony and tranquility. Wind in general represents a ‘life force’, energy, and a feeling of vigor or aliveness. Some Native American Shaman see the wind as a ‘living’ being or spirit that can be engaged and worked with for good or evil. In Peru I met a shaman who performed a cleansing and healing and as part of that blew three short breaths toward the Andes mountains.
Finally, airplanes can be about overcoming obstacles and rising to success, new-found freedom and increased awareness. If the dreamer is flying the airplane it may reflect either the need to take control or that they are under control of their life. To crash in an airplane my suggest that ones goals are too unrealistic and that because of this one might fail i.e. it could all come ‘crashing down’– this may also reflect the dreamer’s lack of confidence and self-criticism that may be self-defeating. Missing one’s flight can be about feeling helpless, left behind, or trapped by some circumstance that is preventing the attainment of some goal.
Dragons turn up in dreams from time to time but what is he or she trying to tell us?
They have a long history in both Europe and in the far-east. In Europe they often lay waste to villages, turn brave knights into ash and steal fair maidens for feasting.
In the English story of St. George and the Dragon the knight does battle with the Dragon that has stolen the King’s daughter. He eventually slays him but is that all there is to it? Is it all just a fairy story, probably not because every story is symbolic of the psyche of humankind? And the story of Saint George is no different. Psychologists suggest that the story may be archetypal in that it represents the battle between good and evil I all of us. This shows the selfless courage of the hero and is an attempt by the psyche to integrate the opposites and that Saint George’s conquest represents when someone has successfully done so. But all dragons are not always demonic aspects of the self.
The Dragon is actually the major symbol of good fortune in Chinese Astrology. The Dragon constellation, for example, is accorded the honor of being the guardian of the Eastern sky. Traditionally the Dragon brings in the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity.
Of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac the Dragon is the most special, as it is a mystical being rather than an earthly animal. According to Chinese astrology it’s a karmic sign and we can expect grand things from this year.
Chinese mythology sees the dragon as a symbol of wisdom.
Interestingly enough the root word for Dragon in ancient Greek was Drakon that means “to see clearly” or “that which sees.” This might be interpreted as wisdom.
Confucious (a famous Chinese philosopher) compared Lao Tzu (the writer of the Tao Te Ching) to a Dragon.
A good luck and wisdom symbol. Many pictures show the dragon handing the “Pearl of Wisdom”, or the “Pearl of Potentiality”to a shaman. Good, life-giving energy (chi) is channeled along “Dragon-lines” that in China were said to follow underground water or magnetic fields.To dream of a dragon is considered by some Chinese to be very auspicious.
The Lung dragon was the most powerful of the three species of Chinese Dragon and was considered a divine animal. The Cha-yü dragon only showed up when a ruling sovereign showed a lack of virtue. This dragon was known for eating men (symbolic of an leader who consumed the virtue and life force of others).
In Chinese mythology the Dragon of Hidden Treasures is a symbol of vigilance and the guardian of their fortune.
The Chinese New Years Dragon represents benevolence, but also power, representing the forces of nature. It is a rain bringer and dragon of fertility that brings only benefit to the people.
The Chinese frequently paired the dragon with the image of a phoenix bird (Fenghuang, or the August Rooster). Since Neolithic China these two were considered two of the four Supernatural Spirits symbolizing both the four directions and the four seasons (which seem to have been added to over the millennia e.g. The dragon, phoenix (or the Feng bird for short), unicorn (or deer), tortoise and tiger). They were often thought of as the “Gentleman and the Sage” and given that the Emperors of China often thought of themselves as descended from the Dragon, the Phoenix was often seen as his mate. Thus this pairing has been likened to the union of the Yin and Yang. An old saying in China goes, “When the Dragon soars and the Phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years…”
For the ancient Chinese culture dragon were primarily symbolic, but the idea of the actual existence of Dragons surfaced Millennia ago as the philosopher Chang Qu found gigantic bones of a dinosaur and mistook them for that of a dragon.
In Chinese myth, dragons originated as rain deities. Folk legends say that the dragon lives under water half of the year, rising into the sky during the spring when the constellation of Draco, the dragon, is at its highest. In China, dragons are symbols of authority, fertility, goodness and strength, and the benevolent giver of wealth and good fortune.
They were generally portrayed as protectors, guarding treasure, temples, or even Heaven itself, keeping watch over sky and waterways. This image of beneficent power was appreciated by China’s rulers, who used the dragon as an imperial symbol. The emperor occupied the Dragon Throne, wore dragon robes and even slept in the dragon bed. Chinese people sometimes referred to themselves as children of the dragon.
In Chinese culture, the season of the Dragon is mid-spring, its direction is east by southeast, and its fixed element is wood.
Symbolic meaning of the Dragon in dreams:
The dragon and the snake have a rich symbolic history in the mythology of mankind. In general, animals were seen to have certain attributes that were often observed in their natural behaviors. It was these attributes that people wanted to take on for themselves and it was thought that aligning ones self, or by extension, ones nation, or tribe with the animal it would assist in this process. This practice still exist to some extent in military banners and national emblems, note the Eagle in the Marine Corps banner as well as that of the national emblem, or the double headed eagle of Greece or the eagle in the Egyptian flag, or the dragon in the flag of Wales.
The Dragon is often the protector of treasure with the TREASURE representing YOU. (which was the point of the book The Dragon’s Treasure. It can represent fears that have to be overcome before recognizing the true self. Often it can be the guardian of the spirit. For some it is their ‘Spirit Guide.’
The fearsomeness of the Dragon could represent the fear felt regarding the unconscious.
Dragons and snakes are interchangeable in many cultures. Giant snakes like the Naga can be found in many cultures, Hindu, Buddhist to name two of the most well known. They often represent rebirth and death. The Minoan Snake Goddess of early Greece represented wisdom and the snake of the Asclepion was a healing snake that we still see emblazoned within modern medicine. All can be considered symbols for meaning in the dream world.
• Dragon totems in some Native American traditions represent messengers of balance. They are also seen as the masters of all the elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. They are seen as powerful guardians and guides and embody the primordial power.
“A Dragon totem is one of the most powerful totems, representing a huge range of qualities, emotions, and traits. When Dragons come to us, it could mean many things.
The most common message a Dragon totem [may] carry to us is a need for strength, courage, and fortitude. Dragons are also messengers of balance, and magic – encouraging us to tap into our psychic nature and see the world through the eyes of mystery and wonder.
More specifically, Dragons are the embodiment of primordial power – the ultimate ruler of all the elements. This is because the Dragon is the master of all the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind.
As a totem, the Dragon serves as a powerful guardian and guide. Encourage communication with your Dragon, and acknowledge your Dragon’s presence as often as possible.”*
With the Native Americans of the North and Southwest there were a number of Dragon and serpent legends. Most of these Dragons and serpents stole children and were associated with water. Some stories may have been used to scare children away from water and thus the serpent became a type of bogey.
Examples: Amhuluk (Oregon); Ancient Serpent (Piute); Angont (Huron); Kolowisi (Zuni); Msi-Kinepeikwa (Shawnee); Palulukon (Hopi weather Dragon-similar to Chinese version); Stvkwvnaya (Seminole Dragon with a magic horn on its head).
The Australian Aborigine speaks of the Dreaming where two Serpents Yingara and Ngalyod (mother and father deities) are revered as the Rainbow Serpent creators of the world.
From the Wiccan perspective it represents a person of power and if in the dream you are riding on it, then it may be about spiritual insight.
A winged Dragon may also mean some kind of transcendence, a passing from a “lower” to “higher” level of maturity.
A Hydra is a many-headed dragon. Legend has it that Hercules kept cutting off the heads, but they grew back. To dream of a hydra might suggest that you are having a recurring issue in your life i.e. something that keeps coming back and never seems to get handled. Some sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snap-dragon_%28game%29) suggest that after Hercules killed the dragon he made of it a flaming meat and named it “Snapdragon.” A game of this name was played by children in some English speaking countries from the 16th through the late 19th centuries on both Christmas eve and All Hallows eve. In a bowl of blue flaming brandy were placed raisins that the children would try to pluck out without getting burned and then eat, all the while chanting,
“With his blue and lapping tongue,
many of you will be stung
Snip, snap, dragon.”
The symbolism of conquering danger in both the legend of Hercules and the dragon and in the playing of the game, “Snapdragon” is inescapable. We humans are always telling the story of conquering evil, of being the heroes of our own personal myth. Thus continues the ongoing reconciliation between the opposites good and evil.
As with some other animal symbols the Dragon and/or snake may also represent your sexuality, especially if your sexuality scares you. Does it threaten to rule your life?
Myth, or the study of them, mythology, is frequently what the other guy believes in. All too often it is denigrated, put-down, and demeaned. “Oh, that’s just a myth!” is often heard as a means of dismissing something that one doesn’t believe in, or disagrees with. We are taught very early to discriminate between what is real, fact, and what is not real, myth or fiction.
That’s well enough, but many of the things we believe are real can turn out to be myth. At one time the whole world believed that the Sun orbited the Earth, most believed there were many gods and that women were property. “God created the world in six days!” Is this a myth or fact, or maybe a myth that points at a fact? After all, it is a fact that the universe was created. It’s the how, when, or why that stumps us and so we make up stories of explanation and adhere stubbornly to them until something better comes along.
And that is the purpose of myth–it’s a means of pointing to what is often the ineffable i.e. what we have trouble putting words to. Our myths point to a reality that is hard to express, or visualize. They also point to human or environmental behavior that is difficult to explain otherwise. It’s not that these behaviors don’t exist, but that we are trying to fathom the world, its people, and ourselves through the power of allegory and myth. We project onto our gods, our heroes and on to other people our own myth. When we learn to read it, the reality of the real world will begin to reveal itself.
Even though myths are often used as the end point of explanation, they can also be the first step in dealing with reality in that they identify what needs explanation e.g. what is it we are seeing? Essentially myths may serve as allegory or symbol of what is real. This is also what our dreams do, they point to the reality we may not see.
For example, when we say that we are a writer, a biker, and a lover of chocolate we then want to explain why that is so. For example we might say, “I am the way I am because my Dad was a biker, my Mom a reader, and chocolate’s an addiction, or surrogate for the love I never got because my Dad was off riding and mother too buried in her books. Or here’s a more ancient explanation for the unknown, “the sky is dark and thundering so there must be an angry god” or perhaps a vengeful sorcerer, demon, or witch.
We develop a lot of myths about ourselves e.g. any time we say, “I am the way I am because…” we are creating our personal myth, our personal explanation for reality–the story, or narrative, that we live by and through. Of course most of these behavioral explanations require some form of blaming someone, or something, other than our selves. And for many of us the whole of life is a myth. Does that mean that your life isn’t real, or true? Not necessarily, for in each personal myth is the seed of truth if we had the eye to see it. Mostly we are so busy making up stories about who we are that we can’t see the reality beneath the stories.
Why do we seem to give such power to our myths? What we seem to do more often than not is to confuse the pointing finger with what the finger is pointing to.
Myths can also be used to hide the assumed reality of ourselves so as to protect us from what we fear the world is, or what we fear we are. There is of course nothing wrong with a personal myth and it’ll do until something better comes along. But you might take the first step in your own growth, and in deciphering your own metaphors for understanding life, your life. As Jean Houston, a human potentials movement leader, said “myth does serve as a manner of explanation, but it is also a mode of discovery…it is the stuff of the evolving self that awakens consciousness…”
You might ask yourself what is your personal myth i.e. who and what do you think you are and are not and why? Jot down a list of adjectives along with their explanations and then scan them and look for themes. What reality does all this seem to point to? For example, if you are someone who meets criticism with hostility and are quick to defend your position, what is it you fear you are that you then feel so compelled to defend against it? What are you protecting?
The myth you have created can inform you as to the fact of you, the reality of you. The informants are all around you and every judgment you have of another person is part of your personal myth and can tell you more about you than it can about them.
Every point-of-view, every criticism, every acknowledgment, and every belief contains valuable information about you and collectively this information can paint a picture of the ‘you’ who exists in the world. And I believe that the more you understand what you’ve created the more you can discriminate between that and who you really are.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung
Let’s use the biker, reader, chocolate example again, if you believe that chocolate should be one of the main food groups because it is such a good pick me up when you’re feeling down, or you get upset anytime someone ignores you, and your explanation includes what your parents did when you were a kid you might look for a theme in that. Is there “hurt” in that, or “abandonment”? Is there fear, or anxiety? Do you feel compelled to defend your position? From what and why? The story will reveal parts of yourself that you may have hidden long ago. Where else in your life do these feelings and reactions come up? Do they arrive in your dreams, work, school, or on a date? What might they be telling you about yourself?