Dreams of Trees


Dreams are essentially about the soul’s journey from ignorance to enlightenment. Issues related to this process include leaving our dependence on the mother’s world; strengthening our ego; developing our individuality in the father’s world; facing our fear of the unconscious; descent into the soul’s dark night; accepting our shadow; honoring the instinctual life in our bodies; trusting and becoming grounded in the unconscious; acquiring self-knowledge and meaning; following our passion; experiencing regeneration and revitalization; uniting our inner opposites; and growing more centered and psychologically androgynous. All these themes are about establishing our ego’s connection with the Self, our central core, God-image and Beloved.
This journey is fundamental to the soul’s growth and dreams serve this growth, often with the imagery of trees. But it’s easy to misinterpret the meaning of this symbol. For example, in an early dream I passed by a tree so loosely rooted that the trunk shifted when I touched it and I was afraid it would fall over. Another dream around the same time featured a flimsy willow tree whose roots were so soggy from the nearby swamp that it, too, was in danger of falling and dying. Unaware of the psycho-spiritual meaning, I feared I was mentally unbalanced or going to die. But these dreams simply said my conscious ego (trunk) had weak connections (roots) to my unconscious (ground); and the water-swamped roots suggested nothing worse than the powerful unconscious emotions which occasionally overwhelmed me.
Years later I had an extraordinary dream in which the tree meant something very different. I offer a summary of it to you in partial explanation of who I am and what this blog is about. For the full text, consult my book Dream Theatres of the Soul.
Dream #843: “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” Someone narrates a story as I watch it unfold. A little green snake begins his life on one side of a tree, unaware of a huge old brown female snake higher up on the other side. After a long journey through the dark tree he pops out directly into the mouth of the big snake who munches down on his head. Another onlooker thinks this is the end of the little green snake, but a giant rainbow streaks across the sky from right to left and beneath it, on a stage in a vast cosmic theater, the little green snake reappears as a virile young cowboy who slaps two coins onto a saloon bar and says, “Set ‘em up, Joe.” He did not die but was transformed into a human. I think this is the best possible ending to the story.
I believe this story represented the spiritual initiation of my masculine ego and its reunion with the archetypal Great Mother. The part of the dream in which she bit down on the head of the male was especially perplexing until I read Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker writes that stories from ancient religions often featured a male snake deity who was the consort of the Great Goddess: “[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess. The image of the male deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion…that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him.”
This strange drama in the Tree of Life was an archetypal symbol of transformation and renewal whose message filled me with joy.  My spiritual practice of dreamwork was paying off and my soul was being regrounded in the Mother as a stronger, more conscious individual.
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0 Responses

  1. Jeanie,
    One of thing I admire most about your work is the discipline you have shown in recording your dreams throughout your life, plus keeping them organized, so that you have access to read explicit signs of your development always available to point the way for others. Your faith in the process is a gift from which all can benefit.
    Somewhere I read that talent is five percent inspiration and 95 percent discipline. You learned that early and how your tree has flourished.
    thank you,

  2. Hi Sally,
    Thank you for the kind words. I think that when I finally decided to work on my dreams (at the age of 45) I understood that it was more valuable and original and meaningful than any research project I had ever done in school, including my doctoral dissertation! So I suppose I approached it like that, thinking of myself as a student and researching my dreams as part of my magnum opus, which was to understand and heal myself. It was the right way for me because it was in accordance with my skills, interests and learning style.
    But I think everyone can benefit from recording, dating and numbering their dreams, and it’s never too late to start. It helps you see recurring themes and every dream provides new information to help you deal with them. So yes, I do have complete faith in the process. However, it’s not the kind of blind faith that comes from wishing something to be true or believing what outer authorities tell you; it’s a trust grounded in the constant validations of personal experience. I don’t believe; I know!
    I love Klimt too!

  3. Hi Jean,
    I’ve been recording my dreams since 1987 and have, more often than not, felt I was in the dark as far as understanding their messages was concerned!
    I came across your blog ‘accidentally’ a few weeks ago and am finding your thoughts and expertise quite helpful. I’ve passed you on to the three other members of my dream group!
    In looking back on my bear dreams-after discovering ‘the bear’ in your archives a few days ago – I feel I understand all six of them better.
    My question today is about trees. I too have had tree dreams but the reference that perplexes me is my 1988 first bear dream in which I am on a dirt road in the mountains with very tall trees.
    What could this generalized tree reference refer to– the unconscious, the unknown, or even my unconscious attitudes at that time of my life? Any insight would be helpful!
    Thank you so much for your insights…bett

    1. Hi Bett,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. You said this was your first 1988 “bear” dream, but don’t mention a bear in the dream. Did you mean your first “tree” dream? Also, did you record what you were feeling or thinking in the dream? Your dream ego’s thoughts and emotions when you found yourself in that setting would help you understand its message better. Your associations to mountains would also help.
      It’s very hard for me to say without any other information. But if it were my dream and that was all I could remember about it I would think it had something to do with my psycho-spiritual journey, since both mountains and trees are symbols of the Self. And, of course, the taller the trees, the closer they are to heaven! And I would see the fact that I’m on a dirt road to be suggesting that my “journey” of self-exploration is proceeding in a very natural, instinctual, down-to-earth way: my feet are on the ground, there’s nothing of man-made technology around, etc. All in all it would feel to me like a positive comment about my inner search.
      Good for you for being in a dream group!! That can be enormously helpful and rewarding. By the way, were you aware that you can subscribe to my blog for free (nobody will ever see your e-mail address) so that you get every new post via e-mail? Just click on the words “e-mail subscription” on the right side of this page!
      Blessings to you in this most important work,

      1. Jean, thanks for your reply. The dream was a bear dream, but I didn’t want to bother you with the whole dream! The next part is “James was driving and as I looked back I saw this large bear standing on his hind legs. I was quite apprehensive…”
        I had this dream at the beginning of my long and difficult inner journey. some twenty odd years later I can understand my feelings of fear/apprehension!
        I was curious about my dream image of trees when most references in dream books refer to tree in the singular. Your suggestion fits though as I was/am on a spiritual journey and felt an affinity with my dream setting.
        I am a subscriber to your blog, as of a few weeks ago! Once again, thank you for assisting us seekers who do not have a Jungian foundation! Bett

        1. Hi Bett, I’m so glad you filled in the missing spaces. As you can see, there’s no one easy answer to any dream symbol. It totally depends on the dreamer’s waking life situation, his/her associations to the dream images, and the dream ego’s emotional response to them in the dream. Here’s another association I have with bears in dreams, especially ones that are intimidating. Jung says, and I quote from Aion, Vol. 9.II, “Psychologically…the union of consciousness (Sol) with its feminine counterpart the unconscious (Luna) has undesirable results to begin with: it produces poisonous animals such as the dragon, serpent, scorpion, basilisk, and toad; then the lion, bear, wolf, dog, and finally the eagle and the raven.” What he’s saying is that when you begin inner work you’re naturally afraid of the unconscious because your conscious attitude is at odds with your true nature. So your dreams will naturally assume an unpleasant and threatening form. But the form changes as you move forward and acquire more confidence and self-knowledge. The bear, lion, wolf, dog, etc. appear after you’ve gotten over your initial trepidation. You’ll naturally still be afraid because these animals can still be very dangerous, but the animal you’re afraid of is less cold-blooded than the ones you encountered earlier on. This may simply be the Self’s way of letting you know where you are on the journey. You’ve made some progress, and he further you go, the less intimidated you will be by these particular animals as well. I’m not sure what to make of a group of trees vs. one tree, although I’ve always had very positive associations with groves and forests, finding them very sheltering and comforting. Sounds as if you do too, as you felt an affinity with this setting. Just another hint about your overall comfort with the journey…. Hope this helps. Blessings, Jeanie

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