Our basic spinal and lower brain reactions, such as fight or flight, reproduction, attraction or repulsion, sex drive, need for food and reaction to pain. This includes the fundamental evolutionary ability to change and the urge to survive—very powerful and ancient processes. Our relationship with the reptile in our dreams depicts our relat- edness to such forces in us, and how we deal with the impulses from the ancient pan of our brain.
Modern humans face the difficulty of developing an independent identity and yet keeping a working relationship with the primitive, thus maturing/bringing the primitive into an efficiently functioning connection with the present social world.
The survival urge at base might be kill or run, but it can be transformed into the ambition which helps, say, an opera singer meet difficulties in her career. Also the very primitive has in itself the promise of the future, of new aspects of human consciousness. This is because many extraordinary human functions take place unconsciously, in the realm of the reptile/spine/lower brain/right brain/autonomic nervous system. Being unconscious they are less amenable to our waking will. They function fully only in some fight or flight, survive or die, situations.
If we begin to touch these with consciousness, as we do in dreams, new functions are added to consciousness. See The dream as extended perception under ESP and dreams.
Unconscious life or growth processes which can lead to transformation (the frog/prince story); the growth from childhood vulnerability—tadpole to frog—therefore the process of life in general and its wisdom. Frogspawn: sperm, ovum and reproduction.
Example: ‘My wife and I saw a large lizard on the wall near a banana. It was there to catch the flies.
The lizard turned so it was facing away from us—head up the wall. We then were able to see it had large wing-like flaps which spread from its head in an invened V. With amazement we saw on these flaps wonderful pictures, in full colour, of birds. In fleeting thoughts I wondered if the bird “paintings” were to attract birds, or were some form of camouflage. But I felt cenain the lizard had “painted” these wonderful pictures with its unconscious an’ (David T). Generally, a lizard is very much the same as a snake, except it lacks the poisonous aspect; awareness of unconscious or instinctive drives, functions and processes. In the above dream, the banana is both David’s pleasure and sexuality, while the lizard is the creativity emerging from his unconscious through the attention he is giving it—he is looking at the lizard. Chameleon: either one’s desire to fade into the background, or adaptability.
Example: A small snake about a foot long had dropped down my shirt neck. I could feel it on the left side of my neck Fearing it was poisonous and might bite me, I moved very slowly. At one point I put my head on the ground, hoping the snake would wish to crawl away. It did not. Then I was near an elephant I loved, and hoped it would remove the snake. It did not. Even as I slept I felt the snake was an expression of the attitude of not shanng myself with anybody except family’ (David T).
For months prior to the above dream David had experienced a great deal of neck pain. After discussing the dream with his wife, and realising much of his thinking and feeling was intumed, the pain disappeared. So the snake was both poisoner’ and ‘healer’. This may be why snakes are used as a symbol of the medical profession.
The Hebrew word for the serpent in the Garden of Eden is Nahash, which can be translated as blind impulsive urges, such as our instinctive drives.
So, generally, snakes depict many different things, but usually the life process.
If we think of a person’s life from conception to death, we see a flowing moving event, similar in many ways to the speeded up films of a seed growing into a plant, flowering and dying.
The snake depicts the force or energy behind that movement and purposiveness—the force of life which leads us both to growth and death. That energy —like electricity in a house, which can be heat, power, sound and vision—lies behind all our functions. So in some dreams the snake expresses our sexuality, in others the rising of that energy up our body to express itself as digestion—the intestinal snake; as the healing or poisonous energy of our emotions and thoughts.
Example: ‘I was in a huge cathedral, the mother church. I wanted to go to the toilet/gents. As I held my penis to urinate it became a snake and reached down to the urinal to drink. It was thirsty. I struggled with it, pulling it away from the unclean liquid. Still holding it I walked to a basin and gave it pure water to drink’ (Bill A). Here the connection between snake and sexuality is obvious. But the snake is not just Bill’s penis. It is the direction his sexual urges take him he is struggling with. Out of his sense of love and connection with life— the cathedral—he wants to lift his drive towards something which will not leave him with a sense of uncleanness. Snake in connection with any hole: sexual relatedness.
A snake biting us: unconscious worries about our health, frustrated sexual impulse, our emotions turned against ourselves as internalised aggression, can poison us and cause very real illness, so may be shown as the biting snake. Snake biting others: biting remarks, a poisonous tongue.
A crowned or light-encircled snake: when our ‘blind impulses’ or instinctive or unconscious urges and functions are in some measure integrated with our conscious will and insight, this is seen as the crowned snake or even winged snake. It shows real self awareness and maturity. In coils of snake: feeling bound in the ‘blind impulses’ or habitual drives and feeling responses. Instincts and habits can be redirected, as illustrated by Hercules’ labours. Snake with tail in mouth: sense of the circle of life—binh, growth, reproduction, aging, death, rebirth; the eternal. Snake coiling up tree, pole, cross: the blind instinctive forces of life emerging into conscious experience—in other words the essence of human expenence with its involvement in pain, pleasure, time and eternity; the process of personal growth or evolution; healing because personal growth often moves us beyond old attitudes or situations which led to inner tension or even sickness. Snake in grass: sense or intuition of talk behind your back; danger, sneakiness. Colours: green, our internal life process directed, perhaps through satisfied feelings, love and creativity, into a healing process or one which leads to our personal growth and positive change; white, eternal aspect of our life process, or becoming conscious of it; blue, religious feelings or coldness in relations. See colours; anxiety dreams; death and rebirth, the self under archetypes; dreams and Ancient Greece; cellar under house, buildings; hypnosis and dreams; jungle; paralysis.