“The appearance of animals in dreams carries power and numinosity,” says Jungian psychotherapist Barbara Platek. “...all the head knowledge in the world can’t match the sheer vibrancy and power of our own animal.”
I notice the same thing in my own groups. In opening sessions, I get people to introduce themselves with the title, just the title, of a dream or synchronicity. When the animals are present in those words, all of us immediately feel enlivened. Words flow into body language. The woman who dreamed of panther is on the prowl, the snake dreamer is undulating, the bear man grows mountain-big and -strong, the eagle dreamer’s feathers are rustling, ready for flight.
Dream animals come to claim us as powers of the deeper world, revered and inhabited by our ancestors and still vitally alive in the deep cave of ancestral knowing, to which each of us has access if we are willing to go below the surface levels of consciousness.
The condition of animals in your dreams often reflects your situation in regular life. You see an eagle confined in a birdcage, unable to spread its wings, and you’ll want to ask where, in your waking self, you need to claim space and freedom to fly. You see a lion napping on your porch, and you might ask what you need to do to awaken the lion energy in your soul and claim the courage and the voice of the lion. You find a bear cub in your basement, and you might think about how to nurture and grow the medicine power of the bear in your life.
Born with a Connection with a Particular Totem Animal?
Our ancestors believed that we are born with a connection with a particular totem animal; this was the raison d’être of the clan system. Some Australian Aborigines believe, up to the present day, that when a human is born, its “bush soul” is born in the form of an animal or bird. We may feel that we have a lifelong connection with a certain animal or bird. Others may observe this in our body type, our lifestyle, our mode of responding to challenges.
But in the course of a lifetime, we may develop many animal connections. Some of these may stem from our relations with the animals who share our homes and habitats, from the family pets to wild animals encountered in nature and in our travels. Animals we have met in the physical world may reappear in our dreams, as allies and helpers.
After a black dog I loved was killed on the road, he appeared again and again as a family protector. His presence, for a time, was all but physical. I believe that, in the year after his death, I was dealing with the individual spirit of the dog I had loved. I feel that, in later years, the form of my beloved dog fused with a larger transpersonal source of guidance.
On the same land where I lived with my black dog, I had a series of physical encounters with a red-tailed hawk who spoke to me in a language I felt I could understand — if I only spoke hawk. The hawk has appeared again and again over the years to offer confirmation or warning in her flight patterns over the roads of everyday life, and to lend me her wings in dreams and visions.
When Animals Represent Other People in Our Lives
Animal dreams can be about other humans, offering insight to the character and behavior of other people in our environments. When they are allegories for the behavior of others, animal dreams may coach us for our interactions with those people. A woman dreamed she was in her project manager’s office when a piranha appeared in the fish tank and attacked and swallowed a larger fish whole. The manager tried to get it out before it attacked other fish, but could not catch it. I suggested that this might be a rehearsal for a future situation at the office when a colleague might behave like the piranha, and the dreamer agreed to stay alert to that possibility.
The dream was played out within a few days, when a senior executive who had ignored all preparatory discussions and emails walked into a meeting and proceeded to take it over, chewing up other workers and devouring the time, so that the dreamer was left with only a few minutes of the half hour she had been allocated for her own presentation. She resolved to be very attentive to the state of the fish tank in future dreams
Unfolding and Embodying the Animals' Significance for Your Life
Whatever animal is stalking you in your dreams, there are a few things you can do right away to start unfolding and embodying its significance for your life. First, you’ll want to study the natural habits and characteristics of your dream animal. Is it diurnal or nocturnal? What does it eat? Is it a loner or does it live in groups? Does it mate for life or have multiple sexual partners? How does it hunt and hide? As you consider these things, you may find your dreams are giving you excellent tips on how best to follow the natural path of your own energies.
Second, track your dream animal through mythology and folklore, especially the legends of the land where you live and lands of your ancestors. There are useful books on animal symbols; don’t be content with consulting just one or two. Reach further.
Third, consider how you might want to feed and nourish the energy of your dream animal in your physical body. Practice moving or using your senses as the animal does. Eat something it might enjoy or at least tolerate.
Finally, you’ll want to learn how to go back inside an animal dream and connect with the power there, which may involve braving up in order to face something that scared you.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA. ©2012 by Robert Moss.
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole
by Robert Moss.
Robert Moss teaches that our dreams give us maps we can use to find and bring home our lost or stolen soul parts. We discover how to heal ancestral wounds and open the way for cultural soul recovery. You’ll learn how to enter past lives, future lives, and the life experiences of parallel selves and bring back lessons and gifts. He writes. “It’s about growing soul, becoming more than we ever were before.” With fierce joy, he incites us to take the creator’s leap and bring something new into our world.
About the Author
Robert Moss was born in Australia, and his fascination with the dreamworld began in his childhood, when he had three near-death experiences and first learned the ways of a traditional dreaming people through his friendship with Aborigines. A former professor of ancient history, he is also a novelist, journalist, and independent scholar. His nine books on dreaming, shamanism and imagination include Conscious Dreaming, Dreamways of the Iroquois, The Three “Only” Things, The Secret History of Dreaming, and Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination, and Life Beyond Death. Visit him online at www.mossdreams.com.