The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 20, 2000
Dream theme

Snakes and the subconscious
By Vinaya Katoch Manhas

I regard sex as the central problem of life.

 ó Havelock Bilis.

SEEING a snake in a dream, according to Freud, has a sexual connotation. Of course, the interpretation varies as per the context of the dream. For instance, seeing a person turn into a snake (or vice-versa) would be psychoanalytically interpreted as signifying your perception of the personís character or nature. Snakeís eyes or its moving tongue are descriptions of a personís physical appearance, as is the perception of a person: character being similar to a snake is common.

In Hindu mythology, seeing a snake in oneís dreams brings forth troubles and worries, but catching one, would be perceived as victory over enemies. Being bitten by a snake is lucky, but killing a snake is unlucky. Seeing a snake fall over you is a forewarning of sickness and worries, just as seeing a snake come out of any part of your body such as an ear or a nose predicts trouble in that part of your body. Seeing a snake climb a tree or cross your path is lucky.


The western theory has a lot in common with the Indian one. Seeing a snake for them, too, is a foreboding of evil. Seeing it wriggle and fall foretells struggle. Similarly killing means enjoying victory over enemies. To see a snakebite warns you to beware of succumbing to evil influences. These last two interpretations stand contradictory to that given in Hindu mythology. To see a snake coiled around you is a sign of being placed in a position where you will be powerless in the hands of enemies and shall fall ill. If you see or step on a snake while bathing in your dream it means trouble where pleasure was anticipated. To see little snakes warns you of hypocritical friends, who you shall entertain but who will behind your back harm you.

Although these are symbolic interpretations they shall differ according to the context the age of the dreamer his past and his background.

For instance letís take this dream: I am a 23-year-old man. I dreamt that a snake was coiled around my arm. It tries to bite me but I have caught it by its neck, and I manage to free myself

from it. I throw it down and climb a tree, but the snake follows me so I jump down and start running. It keeps on following me. Then I escape into a house. Suddenly I feel pain in my hand, when I check I find that the snake has already bitten me.

We shall interpret this dream both psychoanalytically as well as in the Indian way.

Psychoanalytical interpretation: The dream portrays a stark conflict between desire and fear of sex. The snake is following the dreamer coiled around his arm and in the end bites him. This shows a strong sexual desire. But the escape tendency portrays fear of such thoughts, a result of our moral and social taboos. Such a dream is not unusual among both, adolescents and adults.

Indian mythological interpretation: It has both positive and negative connotations for the dreamer. The snake coiled around your arm predicts fear and tension for the future. Warding it off by running and climbing a tree means success, but your again climbing down is not in your favour. The snake biting you in the end foretells gain in fortune. Thus although gains are there in the near future, but they come with a lot of obstacles in your way and lots of ups and downs. You simply have to persevere to be able to succeed.

For some people in India, the snake has a distinctly religious significance. Thus, dreams of snakes during Mondays or around Shivaratri are common. This is a simple reflection of the personsí religious beliefs.