Dream Symbol: The King

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Did you ever dream about a king or other powerful leader and wonder why? Throughout history kings and queens in the outer world have represented the mysterious force that creates and sustains life. This force has two basic drives: self-preservation (masculine) and species preservation (feminine).
The drive for self-preservation compels us to promote our individuality, protect our physical lives, and guarantee the prosperity of the “tribe” on which we depend for survival.  The King archetype is a symbol of this drive. In terms of our inner growth, Jung saw the King as a symbol of individuation, or becoming differentiated from our social groups.  Together, the King and Queen represent the masculine and feminine authorities of the psyche.
We enhance our chances for survival when everyone agrees to certain guidelines and standards that encourage orderly, responsible behavior. To that end we look to leaders with strong King archetypes to devise, enact, and enforce rules. Healthy King energy uses clear and logical  thinking to create fair and just rules in systems of hierarchical authority. Unhealthy King energy is either too obsessive or passive to truly care about others and therefore wreaks havoc in families, schools, businesses, churches, and nations.
Examples of men upon whom we project the King archetype include leaders at the top of social hierarchies such as fathers, school principals, CEO’s, generals, presidents, ministers, priests, and popes; historical kings such as Caesar, Louis XIV, and Henry VIII; mythical god-images associated with kingly authority like Zeus, Thor, Hades, and King Neptune; and kings in stories and legends like King Midas, King Arthur, The Fisher King, The Lion King and his negative counterpart Scar.
Women with well-developed King energy include Maat, Egypt’s goddess of justice, truth, and law; Themis, the Greek goddess of equity, law, and peace; the Cherokee’s Grandmother Spider; Japan’s Sun Goddess Amaterasu; and human women like Cleopatra, Catherine de’ Medici, Catherine the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton, Judge Judy, and decisive, authoritarian, rule-oriented mothers.
Dream themes associated with our King address rules, crimes, morality, authority, order, leadership, and individuation. Two King dreams are especially auspicious.  An old King dying to make way for a new one says we’ve outgrown our childish dependence on outer authorities and are assuming our personal authority.  A wedding between a King and Queen suggests the conscious integration of our inner opposites.
Dream symbols that refer to our King include all the examples above plus other powerful authorities like dictators, governors, prison guards, police men and women, judges, lions (the king of beasts) and stallions. We learn more about the strength and health of our King energy by noticing the way these dream figures treat us and others, and by how our dream ego feels and behaves when we are in their presence or in positions of leadership ourselves.
In waking life, the problems we experience as leaders and the way we feel about and respond to those with authority over us can be traced directly to the maturity of our personal King and Queen. It is important to integrate both forms of energy into our awareness so we can choose the best possible leaders,and so we ourselves can live, speak and lead with wisdom and benevolence.
Has a King ever showed up in your dreams?  I’d love to hear about it.

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10 Responses

  1. I had a dream where the king was my favorite writer G.K. Chesterton and the queen was Mary the Mother of God the were both crowned and sitting on thrones side by side eachother. I then walked up the stairs to their thrones, and jenuflected before them. At the end of the dream some of my friends asked where I was; a girl then told then that I had been adopted by the king and queen.

    1. Hi Nick,
      Thanks for sharing your dream. If it were mine, I’d feel pretty good about it. I’d think that the fact that you adimire and respect these people suggests that the King and Queen archetypes are well developed in you and that you have a healthy relationship to issues about authority, leadership, and morality in your inner and outer world. I love it that they adopted you. I would think that the qualities you associate with Chesterton and Mary would be well developed in you; otherwise, why would those two specific people showup in your dream? It all sounds very positive.
      Sweet dreams,
      Jeanie

  2. Does this in some way explain the malaise in our society right now? Do we need a strong leader to feel good about ourselves?
    It seems to me that Democrats are disappointed that the President has not been out in front seeming to make things happen—though many things have been happening behind the scenes.
    Republicans, on the other hand, cannot seem to find a consensus around a leader for their party.

    1. Dear Skip,
      This is a great insight, and a perfect explanation for the discontent experienced by many of us in today’s political climate. The King and Queen archetypes are about the need every individual, family, group, tribe, city, and country has for guidance and help in satisfying our basic need for nurturance. We all need food, clothing, shelter, safety, societal order and meaningful work that will help us acquire these things. It is very difficult to do it alone, so we expect our leaders to help us. This is why we choose them. When they cannot, we all suffer, not only as individuals, but as societies.
      Perhaps this problem, painful and difficult as it is, has an up side, however. In the face of a legislative system that is being rendered ineffective by polarized opinions and an inability to dialogue and compromise, perhaps we will be forced to become psychologically mature enough to activate our own inner Kings and Queens, thus assuming more personal responsibility for not only our own welfare, but for everyone in our groups. What we most need to remember at this crucial time is that we not only belong to family groups and political parties, but also national, international and planetary groups.
      My desire to do my bit to contribute to this outcome is why I write this blog. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
      My best,
      Jeanie

    1. Hi Sierra, I have no way of knowing what this means to you personally, but on an archetypal level, the death of the old king in mythology means that an old form of masculine authority has died to make way for a new, healthier, more youthful form of masculinity. This could be a metaphor for something happening in your inner life, like a new attitude toward masculinity, or something in your outer life, like no longer being subjected to a masculine authority that once thought it was in charge of you in some way. The number two suggests conflict: two tombstones two dead kings, the death of some kind of conflict between opposing attitudes toward masculinity? Only you can know what this might mean to you on a personal level. I hope this helps. A man in a woman’s dream also suggests an aspect of her own masculine side, called the animus. Jeanie

  3. I guess this is an old blog but I have been thinking about this dream for some time, and I would like to hear a second perspective. I should add for context that my brother in my waking life is transgender and I, a woman who is tomboyish and has never explored what might be socially considered to be my femininity have been very anxious about my gender recently. Although I have thought very carefully about this and do not believe I secretly wish to be a man.

    In the dream, I am myself but also Caesar. I sit at a table with others, but I am aware I’m about to be killed. I am not happy about this and attempt to avoid it, by surrounding myself with others. But Brutus – who in the dream is my brother – manages to stab me underneath my shoulder. I do not see or feel myself die in the dream since I think I woke up at this point.

    In a dream a few days prior to this, I was waiting in line at a cafe rest stop and the proprietor gave my family cutlery, but gave my brother a different knife – a bread knife. I was indignant that he was treated differently, and so stole him an ordinary knife which I hid in a fruit cake.

    1. Hello Felicity,

      I’m so glad you wrote, and I’m happy to give you my associations to your dream, although I don’t know how much help they’ll be to you since I don’t know what your associations to the images are. So I’ll just have to imagine that these are my dreams and tell you how I’d think about them.

      If the “Caesar” dream is my dream, I guess I’d look at it a couple of ways to see which resonated with me. My dream ego’s natural response to knowing I’m about to be killed is to try to avoid it, whether it’s the part of me that’s masculine (Caesar) or the part that identifies as feminine. Naturally, it feels like both, because I’m both. One question I have is why am I feeling anxious about my gender. Do I seem to have a preference for one or the other that feels somehow wrong? If so, why does it seem wrong? Because my soul’s preference doesn’t conform to cultural binary norms? Or because it does? If it does, maybe the source of my anxiety is that I’m thinking about moving out of comfortable familiar territory (tomboy) into exploring my femininity more and that simply scares me because it’s unfamiliar and has so far been unexplored. The only thing I can do is take a baby step in the direction that feels right to my soul, and sit with it for a while until I have a better feel for what’s working and what isn’t. I don’t need to take any drastic steps or burn any bridges. I can just listen to myself and my instincts and take the next step I’m compelled to take. The fact that my brother is transgender seems to be a big issue for me that has a lot to do with my gender anxiety too, especially since he shows up in both dreams.

      My personal associations with Caesar is that he’s a macho emperor type. I’d ask myself, what parts of me are like that, and what parts aren’t? In the second dream, what’s the source of my outrage over my brother being treated differently? Do I think it’s because of gender stereotypes and biases? The fact that I’m so angry about that for his sake suggests that this subject is the source of some very strong emotions. I’d try to figure out their source.

      Also, knives are featured in both of these dreams and knives are mythologically associated with the masculine principle, as opposed to vessels, which are traditionally associated with the feminine: i.e. Knife/Sword, Vessel/Holy Grail.

      I have a suggestion for you that might really help. I don’t know if you know this, but synchronistically, my newest book, The Soul’s Twins: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes, was just released in November and is about this exact topic!! About how everyone has four basic archetypes that are traditionally considered feminine and four that are masculine. I’ve paired them up, one masculine (solar) and one feminine (lunar) as twins at opposite ends of four poles representing four of our instincts. A ninth archetype, the Couple, represents the fifth instinct –the instinct for creativity–and is about integrating all the feminine and masculine “opposites” into a conscious, loving union and sense of wholeness, or oneness. The book is based on the psychology of Carl Jung but it’s written for the average reader with an average amount of psychological knowledge. The point of my book is to help people overcome gender stereotypes and discover what their own unique mix of these energies is. I highly recommend it to you. It has a simple self-assessment called the Partnership Profile that will help you get a better idea of your unique mix and see what’s working for you and what isn’t. There are lots of neat stories and examples throughout the book that show you how all our so-called gender related qualities are really inherent in all of us, regardless of our gender identity.

      If you’re interested in my book, here’s a link where you can find out more about it: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Benedict-Raffa/e/B005K8MFNM?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

      Wishing you good luck with you explorations into this important issue. Please come again and let me know if the book helps.

      With love,

      Jeanie

      1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! It has really helped me turn the dream around like an object and look at it from many angles. I think I’ll draw it and sit with the opposites in it to see what comes up. Your book sounds really interesting too – I will definitely read it! Even before I found Jung I have always had a sense that everyone had the masculine and feminine within them, so I will be curious to read more on this. Thank you again!

        1. Hi Felicity,

          You’ve very welcome. I’m so glad I could help you view the dream from a broader perspective. Drawing it is an excellent idea. It can also help if you have a good symbol book to look up some of the images (i.e. knife, Caesar /King, brother) and see what they have meant to cultures throughout the ages. Your dreams speak in archetypal images as well as cultural and personal ones, so viewing them from all these perspectives helps. Best of luck with your dreamwork.

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