What Do Dreams Have to Do with "Real" Life? Part I


299px-Caduceus.svg[1]If you’ve never thought of dreams as having any relevance to your waking life, I can assure you, they do. This one which came at a pivotal time in my life convinced me beyond any doubt that some unimaginable, unconscious Mystery which dwelled both within and outside me knew what was going on in my conscious life and had something to tell me about it. I’ll share the dream in this post and comment on it in the next.

Dream #843:  Two Snakes in the Tree of Life”. 

Someone is telling a story. I watch from afar as the events unfold.
“Once upon a time a little green snake started his life in one side of a tree.”  I see the snake.  He is long and thin and his underbelly is the color of the inside of an avocado.
“On the other side of the tree lay a huge, old, brown female snake, but the little green snake did not know it.  He grew and grew until one day he decided to go on his journey and he entered the hole.”  The little green snake slithers into a hole in the tree and disappears.  I look to see if his head comes out of the hole on the other side where the big old female snake is, but it does not.  Maybe the way inside the hole is long and winding.
“It took him a long time of traveling and he was enjoying his journey, but eventually he came out on the other side.”  His head peeks out of the hole.  Will he see the big snake?  No, he turns right and takes a narrow spiral path that curves around the tree to the left, to where the big snake is waiting.
“The little green snake slid along smack into the mouth of the big snake.” The green snake’s head peeks out of the side of the big snake’s mouth.  The big snake munches down on his head twice.  Chomp. Chomp.  The little green snake’s face shows no fear or distress or pain.  Maybe this does not hurt.  Maybe he has no idea what is happening to him.  I hope so.
Now the narration breaks off.  There are other onlookers here.  One says, “Oh, well.  That’s the end of the little green snake.”
Someone else says, “Well, what if he fights back?”  I wonder how he can possibly fight back with no hands or arms or legs. There seems to be no hope.
Someone else says, “Oh, no.  He shouldn’t fight back. That would be wrong.” 
The narrator says, “Oh, is fighting the wrong answer?”
Suddenly, a rainbow streaks across the sky and lands in a different place, like a lit-up stage in a vast, darkened theatre.  It is the little green snake, who has been transformed into a young, handsome cowboy.  Triumphantly he saunters across the stage to the bar, slaps down two coins, and says to the bartender, “Set ’em up, Joe.”
He survived!  He did not have to die and he turned into a human! This is the best possible ending to the story.


Little Green Snake:  An archetype that has many possible meanings.  Because the snake constantly sheds its skin, it symbolizes transformation, rebirth, and perpetual renewal. The color green, the color of the annual renewal of nature, reinforces this meaning. The Kundalini serpent of Tibetan yoga, which is said to be coiled at the base of the spinal column, symbolizes the cosmic evolutionary energy that accompanies growing spiritual awareness.  In this dream, I believe the little green snake represents my masculine spiritual striving for transformation, personal empowerment, and individuation.

Tree:  An archetype of individuation;  spiritual development;  androgyny.

Brown:  The color of the ‘feminine’ earth.

Female Snake:  The ancient, earthy, natural feminine;  the archetypal Great Goddess or Great Mother, which has the power of life and death;  my feminine essence.

Hole:  An opening into the unknown, or spiritual world.  Since it is a circle, also the Self.

Right: A suggestion that the snake is headed in the ‘right’ direction;  the direction of consciousness.

Left: The unconscious.

Onlookers:  Other aspects of my personality.

Cowboy: A rugged individualist, a mature individuated animus.

These were my associations to the symbols twenty years ago when I was working on this dream for inclusion in Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dreamwork. I no longer see the cowboy as a “mature individuated animus,” but at that time my animus was still in the throes of youthful heroic swagger. I forgive myself (and him) for being so full of ‘ourselves.” My body was no longer young when I had this dream, but my ego was, and inflation always shadows a newly-empowered ego.

I’ll share what I wrote about this dream next time. Meanwhile, I welcome your associations.

Jean Raffa’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks

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14 Responses

  1. Dear Jean thank you for your posts. They are always so full of food for thought. I have written to you before and would value your response to what your dream has triggered for me. The image that struck me was the one of the huge female snake swallowing the male snake. Is that a visual comment on the path of female individuation – that for male energy to be actualised within a woman, it has to go through the path of female energy? I ask this because of a recent dream I had involving male and female energy. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it, and asking for your insight regarding the dream elements. This dream too is connected to my daily life. I am busy writing up my master’s thesis and previous dreams have indicated that internal freedom necessitates going through the Mother. I have wrestled with a shark in a subsequent dream. This latest dream has me within the depths of the sea facing a shark with its jaws wide open. I want to kill the shark. Instead I throw into its open mouth a golden key. Instead of blowing the shark up, the shark swallows the key and before my eyes becomes a huge round ball of energy. The ball is glowing with blue and white inside. There is movement inside the ball, as if much is happening inside it. Then the ball opens up and the shark has changed from a terrifying figure into a nurturing mother figure who is curled around my inner male child archetype, protecting him. The child is about 12 years old. It is like the shark has transformed into this unified picture of maternal energy and young male energy. They are lying together to make a mandorla like figure. The energy gave off was one of a sense that this picture was symbolic of my true self. The image that overlaps with your dream is of the female form swallowing something – in your dream the green snake, in my dream, the golden key. What does a golden key point to? What energy do I need to give to the negative shark to effect it’s transformation, and thus release not only the power of the positive female but the young male energy – both of which I need to proceed with the writing of my thesis. That was rather a lot in terms of a comment to your dream. Hope you don’t mind. Take care Cheryl De Beer

    1. Hi Cheryl.
      I like your question, “…the huge female snake swallowing the male snake. Is that a visual comment on the path of female individuation – that for male energy to be actualised within a woman, it has to go through the path of female energy?” and would say that this seems to be one meaning. A reader of Facebook has suggested something similar: that the female snake is my ego-consciousness assimilating my animus (green snake) consciousness. I’ve come up with another level of meaning too, which I’ll share in my next post.
      Your dream is fascinating, and I don’t mind your sharing it here at all. I think most of my readers are very interested in dream images and their possible meanings. I agree that the little green snake and the golden key being swallowed by the instinctual and frightening (because unconscious) feminine both appear to point to the same thing: the feminine ego gaining conscious access to valuable new masculine potential. The golden key (gold is the most valuable metal and shines with a golden light that never tarnishes) opens doors that were previously closed: doors to untapped potential, to knowledge, to wisdom, and to other treasures of the unconscious. The boy is the young animus.
      Your waking life situation is similar to mine at the time I had my dream: I had earned my doctorate, come out of a long dark night inner crisis, and was writing my first book about it; such discriminating intellectual activity is associated with the animus. I love it that our dreams are so similar and seem to be sending us the same messages, each in the way and at the appropriate time best suited to our individual journeys. My dream was extremely affirming to me and gave me the courage and determination to continue to write and do the inner work that was moving me along the path to individuation. The cooperation that was developing between my ego and animus made all the difference in my waking life, both in terms of my work and my relationships.
      Thank you very much for writing, Cheryl.

      1. Dear Jeanie thank you so much for your prompt response. It still fills me with awe that connections of such depth are enabled between people living a world away, and beyond that, that such sharing is facilitated by similar experiences of the psyche. I am very inspired and encouraged by your journey and would love to dialogue with you some more once my masters is finished. Although I am South African, an Ouijiba Native American woman came to me in a dream not so long ago and asked me when I was going to tell my story. I feel in my heart that I have much writing in me waiting to get out and my masters is only the first step. I would love to write to you but am not sure I would like all my conversations on an open forum platform. Would you be willing to consider email correspondence at some point in the future? I realize your time is precious, but I think nothing ventured, nothing gained. Thank you once again for sharing of yourself, of your wisdom, so openly with others.
        Blessings Cheryl

      2. Hi Jean

        I wrote you a letter and sent it to the email address you gave me: jeanraffa@aol.com. It came back saying that this email address was invalid. Is the above the right address or did I somehow not enter it correctly?

        I hope you are well.

        Kind regards

        Sent from my iPad


  2. Hi Cheryl,
    I recognize a soul sister in you, and would welcome an email dialogue with you at some point. So when are you going to tell your story? 🙂 I told mine in The Bridge to Wholeness and it was enormously freeing and healing! I highly recommend it! Blessings back, Jeanie

    1. Dear Jeanie

      Thank you once again for your response. I so look forward to corresponding with you. I’m hoping to have finished writing my thesis by the end of this year, so next year I can start putting together my inner journey in a form that will hopefully be gift to others.

      With some research I discovered the Ouijiba tribe considered their dreamworlds to be transformative from an autobiographical point to view – that in sharing their stories, their dreamworlds took on greater significance than even their outer lives. This made sense for me in terms of my inner meeting with the Ouijiba woman, and I knew then that it was the unfolding and shaping of my life through inner dreamwork, that I was being invited to tell.

      I have developed a passion and interest in stories of inner transformation through dreams. My thesis has to do with the mysticism of Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard was a 12th century mystic whose writing life unfolded from visions she experienced all her life, visions which transformed her in much the same way as I imagine dreams do nowadays.

      Forgive my ignorance here – your email address, is this the address to use? My address is cheryldb@hotmail.co.za.

      Ps you mention an experience of soul sistership, with which I also resonate. One of my dreams said I would have a daughter and name her Sarah ( which is a whole story on its own- the unfolding of my inner feminine, my inner Sarah). That journey coincided with my pregnancy of my real life daughter, who I then named Sarah ( how could I not). Her brother is Michael John, so Sarah became Sarah Jeanne. Jeanne of course now resonates even more with me, with the way both our lives are so shaped by dreams. Just thought you would smile with this small moment of synchronicity that has surfaced in my life with regard to naming.

      Take care

      Sent from my iPad


      1. I love learning about the Ojibwa perspective on dreams. It is pretty much my own as well. My dreamworld not only motivated my writing, it also informed my books, guided me to their publishers, and dramatically altered the way I experience myself, my relationships and the purpose of my life.
        I read Matthew Fox’s book on Hildegard a few years ago and found it, and her, fascinating. She was an extraordinary woman.
        Best of luck with your thesis. It was in the writing of my doctoral dissertation that I discovered my passion for writing.
        Sarah Jeanne. I love it!
        My email is jeanraffa@aol.com.
        Blessings, Jeanie

        1. Thanks so much for your contact details Jeanie!
          Will keep in touch.

          Enjoy the rest of your day,

          Sent from my iPad


  3. Wow, Jeanie. How many archetypes can one dream hold? This is a big one and since i just read it, i don’t have to wait. Off I go to read your reflections.

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