Animals as Guides
While it might be easy to overlook the significance of a minor repair, the incident is harder to ignore when a wild animal is involved, and the symbolism can be dramatic. Animals you encounter in your dreams can be symbolic or actual guides. Psychic Sylvia Browne calls them totems. She says that before a soul is reborn into this world again, it picks its protectors: a spirit guide, a totem (or animal guide), and angels who will help it through both dreams and waking life.
Browne also says that if you have an extreme affinity for one particular animal, chances are that this is your animal guide. Animal symbolism can be very strong and meaningful. This was the case when Anne, a Florida commercial artist, encountered a snake in her house.
Translating Real Life as a Dream
Anne's real-life experience is called “Snake in the Den”:
I was at the computer, updating my files. The sliding door to the atrium off the den was open because I'd just let my cat outside. Suddenly, I heard bushes rustling and my cat flew through the open door, chasing a snake.
It happened so fast, that for seconds I just sat there in a kind of paralysis. The only thing I could think of was that I was barefoot and the snake was under my desk. Then I leaped up, grabbed my cat, and ran out of the den, shouting for my husband. He came running in with the broom. We didn't want to hurt the snake, but we didn't want the snake in the house, either.
We finally coaxed it near the door, but it darted between the glass door and the screen door and got trapped. It took us half an hour to get it out of the space between the doors and into the atrium. Several days later, I found that it had shed its skin in the atrium.
Anne works with symbols and thinks in symbolic terms, so she immediately wondered what the snake experience meant. To figure it out, she turned to her medicine cards. These are divination cards that are based on Native American beliefs about the role of nature and animals in human lives. Although it wasn't a dream, the event transpired very much like a dream, and that was how she chose to interpret it.
The shedding of skin represents the life/death/rebirth cycle—”the energy of wholeness.” When snakes play a prominent role in an experience or dream, or if you choose the snake card for yourself in a medicine card reading, it means that “there is a need within you to transmute some thought, action, or desire so that wholeness may be achieved.”
According to the medicine cards and certain Native American teachings, snakes represent transmutation. The idea of transmutation “clicked” for Anne. At the time, she was dealing with the aging of her parents. Her mother had developed a short-term memory problem and it was a tremendous strain on her father. Two days after the experience with the snake, her father was rushed to the hospital with a high fever and abdominal pain that was diagnosed as diverticulitis. Her mother was so disoriented by his absence that Anne didn't want to leave her alone. This was when she realized the extent of her mother's memory loss.
Anne believed the snake symbolized the transmutation that had to occur in her own thoughts concerning her parents. She had to accept the reality that they were aging and weren't going to live forever.
Remember that snakes do not always have a negative connotation; they also symbolize healing. A snake coiled around a staff is a symbol of health and medical practitioners. Because many symbols have a few different meanings, it's important to consider them all before making a final interpretation. Analyze your dream and what's going on in your life, and then see what makes sense for you.
You can create additional entries in your personal dream dictionary by adding other common objects that appear in your dreams. You might also focus on specific types of symbols, such as animals. To one person, a frog might represent luck; to another, the creature might represent transformation. Rabbits played a key symbolic role to Edith, a French-Canadian massage therapist who was feeling depressed when she had the following dream, called “Black Rabbits”:
I'm in a school gymnasium, but there are no bleachers. It's a large, open room with lots of cages. I go over to the cages and see that they are filled with black rabbits. There are hundreds of them, but they are all dead.
I'm horrified at what I see. Then I notice an older man nearby. When I tell him that the rabbits are dead, he doesn't seem concerned. He says he can redo them for me. It won't be a problem. When I look again, I'm surprised to see that the cages are filled with black rabbits, more than before, and they're moving about and very much alive.
The events in Edith's life at the time of the dream are important in its interpretation. She had recently ended a bad relationship and was feeling depressed when she called her father one night. She told him that she felt dead inside, that no matter how hard she tried to keep a positive attitude, it wasn't working.
Her father, also a massage therapist, is known in Quebec for his healing touch. He asked her if her third vertebra was sore and she said that it was. He told her that he would work on it in the astral plane while she slept, and that she would feel much better.
The next morning Edith didn't notice much change. Although she felt somewhat better during the day, she went to bed again feeling empty and dead inside. Then she had the black rabbit dream. The following morning she felt much better and wondered why she had been feeling so burdened and depressed.
She interpreted the black rabbits as a symbol of magic and good luck. The fact that they were alive, for Edith, meant that the magic in her unconscious mind had been revived. She felt elated and called her father. He said he'd worked on her spine in the astral plane on the same night she'd had the rabbit dream.
Animals that appear in dreams can be frightening, charming, or puzzling. But they can also be revealing. The meaning is related to your own thoughts about the particular creature. Do some free association with the animal you dream about. It will clue you into whether or not that animal is your totem.
The problem with a static outlook on interpreting dreams is that the meanings of the symbols change as you change. What makes a seven-year-old happy probably doesn't thrill a twenty-one-year-old. Likewise, the joys or fears of a person at forty may be different from what pleases or concerns someone at seventy-five. So, periodically update your personal dictionary—delete and add as necessary.
Dreams impart guidance even when you don't remember them. But once you have a fairly strong grasp of what certain symbols mean to you, you can become more than a passive observer in your dreams. You can request guidance from dreams, and receive answers.