The serpent is a universal symbol which can be male or female or it can be self-created. It can signify death or destruction or conversely life and also rejuvenation. It is the instinctive nature and is also potential energy.
Understanding and harnessing the snake’s power of nature and instinctincts was thought in many cultures to bring harmony and balance to a person’s sexuality, while also helping them make use of the higher and more spiritual energies which become available.
The serpent is frequently believed to signify evil, such as the snake in the Garden of Eden, yet it actually represents uncontrolled passion. The serpent suggests temptation, yet also signifies the search for the spiritual.
Throughout all time snakes have been endowed with magnetic force.
Because it sheds its skin, it symbolizes resurrection, or even eternal youth since when the snake shakes off its skin it likewise shakes off its old age.
Because of its sinuous movement (and also because its coils are capable of strangling) snakes symbolize strength.
Because of its viciousness, it represents the evil side of nature.
Snake venom could both kill and cure and that made it the symbol and attribute of the aggressive powers, positive and negative, which rule the world.
Black and white snakes (ouroboros)
A snake that is both black and white is called an ouroboros, and is typically depicted as a snake that bites it’s own tail.
In the broadest sense, the black and white ouroboros snake is symbolic of time and of the continuity of life.
The ouroboros symbol enshrines ideas of motion, continuity, self-fertilization and, consequently, of the eternal cycle of creation and destruction.
The image’s circular shape gives rise to another explanation – the marriage of the earthly world, represented by the serpent, and the celestial world, represented by the circle.
It is no coincidence the ouroboros is part black and part white. It would thus bear the meaning of the marriage of opposing principles, Heaven and Earth, night and day, the Chinese yin and yang, and of all the properties possessed by these opposing elements
The ouroboros biting its own tail is symbolic of self-fertilization, or the primitive idea of a self-sufficient Nature which continually returns, within a cyclic pattern, to its own beginning.
Dreaming of a black and white snake
Dreaming of a black and white snake often references a duality of some sort within yourself. The rational you as well as the instictual you, your kindness and your cruelty etc.
The black and white colors could represent certain aspects of your personality (love or hate) or even your entire personality as a whole. To properly identify this, analyze the actions of the snake and who they were directed towards.
Finally, a snake in your dream that is colored in equal stripes of both black and white symbolizes that you have achieved inner balance and acceptance of all the contradicting aspects of your personality, or at least, that you have balanced just one such side of your personality.
If the black and white snake in your dream is swallowing it’s own tail, this means you have either reached a point of spiritual and emotional self-sufficiency or that you are seeking to arrive at this point.
Meaning of Black Snakes in Dreams
A dream of a black snake has many layers of hidden complexities, for it combines the many symbolisms typical of the snake with the deep meaning of the color black.
Almost universally black is viewed as a symbol of death and mourning, and it’s appearance in dreams is linked to sadness, loss and even passivity.
However, black might also suggest the death of old ideas, or some other aspect of one’s personality.
Another possible explanation is that it represents a hidden or rejected aspect of the dreamer, as it is also the color of mystery, the unconscious and sometimes even protection.
Another interpretation is that black is the color of the dreamers shadow personality or of an unfulfilled part of their life. It may therefore symbolize absolute recklessness and disregard of life, without considering or caring about the consequences. If black predominates in a dream, consider taking a rational and reasonable approach in waking life.
Combine the meaning of the color black with those of the snake, and multiple interpretations of such a dream arise:
A black snake dream can symbolize that a personal belief or part of yourself was killed by the snake. The black snake in the dream that committed the murder could be a different part of your personality or, just as likely, a toxic person in your life such as a boss or overbearing parent.
The black snake in this case can also your shadow personality, meaning your instinctive urges and desires that are held down by your rational mind.
This interpretation of the black snake dream suggests you are denying your urges, instincts and desires too much but that they need to be released and expressed in your daily life, at least in a controlled manner. The more violent and vicious the snake, the more internal pressure there is inside of you.
Finally, black is also the color of wickedness,evil, lust and temptation, which also happens to be common attributes of the snake in the Christian religion.
Thus, the black snake in your dream could be a person in your waking life that has a negative effect on you and is straying you away from your true goals and aspirations.
Symbolism of White Snakes in Dreams
Just as the color black, white also carries rich and varied meanings.
Thus, white is often interpreted as the color of purity, truth, goodness and hope.
If you live in a Western culture, seeing this color in a dream suggests it could be a subconscious message that urges you to discover the truth of a situation, or to find your own truth. It is also the color of completeness and innocence.
To dream of a white snake suggests that your inner being and insticts are at peace, and that your instinctive urges and desires have room to manifest themselves in your waking life in a way that is healthy and constructive.
To be bitten by a white snake can have different meanings, depending on the context of the dream. One explanation is that the white snake bite represents a strike of inspiration, the creation of a new idea.
Another explanation however, is that the white snake (meaning your subconscious that is at peace), feels threatened by an outside force or even yourself, and wants to protect its freedom.
Finally, a white snake dream could also be a symbolism of a fresh start, that a new idea or aspect of yourself has taken root in your personality.
At the moment, the snake’s white color symbolizes that it is new and fresh, but whether it will become a positive or negative aspect of your life remains to be seen.
Snakes as symbols of evil & treachery
Biologically, snakes are the very opposite of human beings: cold blooded, hairless, armless and without the sense of rationality found in mankind.
Symbolically, this biological primitiveness in snakes has come to represent our own base and instinctual desires.
Combine this with the perception of the snake as a treacherous creature (for it wander silently, and invisibly through grass and other terrains), and it is easy to see why snakes, be they black or white, are often thought to represent evil of some sorts.
Symbolically however, it is not the snake itself that is evil. The snake simply represents our own weaknesses: our temptations, lust, selfish desires, primal impulses.
This interpretation of snakes is clearest in Christianity, where Adam and Eve commited a sin when eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, not when they were tempted by the snake.
Snakes as symbols of wisdom and knowledge
From a mythological perspective, snakes also represent wisdom and knowledge.
The temptations of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden may have cost Adam and Eve their immortality and place in paradise, but they received in return the gift of knowledge because the forbidden fruit they consumed came from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Hinduism expresses a certain form of divine knowledge and feminine energy through the concept of Kundalini, which is often depicted as a coiled snake resting at the base of the pelvis, moving upwards towards the head.
Spiritual energy moves from the bottom of the pelvis upwards towards the head through various meditation techniques. In Hinduism, properly mastering these kundalini techniques can lead to spiritual enlightenment and the unlocking of powerful healing energies.
Snakes as symbols of creation and destruction
Throughout cultures, the serpent has been a symbol of creation and destruction.
In India, the “Mother of All that Moves” and Goddess of the Earth would sometimes carry the title of Sarparajni, meaning “Serpent Queen.” As Ananta the Infinite, she contained all gods in her embrace during their death-sleep between reincarnations,
Ancyent Egyptian mythology likewise tells of the serpent-mother lusaset, or Ua Zit, or Per-Uatchet. In pyramid texts, she is described as the Celestial Serpent, who gives the food necessary for eternal life. Her symbol, the uraeus, can be translated as both “Serpent” and “Goddess.”
Iusaset was also Mehen the Enveloper, the female serpent like Ananta who enclosed the phallus of Ra the Sun God every night. The myths indicate that Ra’s renewed power to light up the world each day was derived from this nightly sexual communion with Mother Earth’s serpent power.
In Nordic myth, the world of humans, Midgard, is held in place by the coiled snake Jörmungandr. When the Norse end of the world, Ragnarok, begins, Jörmungandr will release Midgard from his hold.
South American mythology explained eclipses as a giant serpent swallowing the sun or moon.
Earth and heaven are united in Mexico by Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec version of the bird-snake divinities.
Egyptian art depicts the snake in a variety of forms.
In one of these, the snake had a part in creating the world. According to the Hermopolis creation myth, the Ogdoad are eight deities who personified the chaos before the universe became ordered.
The Ogdoad were split in two groups: four male frogs and four female cobras through which Amun created stability through his form as a snake.
Other texts describe Apophis, the snake-god, as an Underworld monster who threatens to return the world to chaos. At dawn and sunset, Apophis attacks the boat of Ra to destroy him, but is repulsed and sometimes bound (the boat of Ra itself was protected by Mehen, the snake-god of the Underworld). After each failed attack, the blood from the wound of Apophis reddens the evening sky.
Throughout these and other serpent myths, a protective-destructive symbolism becomes evident, and illustrate how the snake is a dualistic force: a source of strength when tamed but potentially dangerous and often emblematic of death or chaos as well as of life.
Resources and references:
- A dictionary of symbols by Cirlot, Juan Eduardo
- A dictionary of symbols by Chevalier, Jean
- Dictionary of symbols by Chetwynd, Tom
- A dictionary of dream symbols : with an introduction to dream psychology by Ackroyd, Eric
- Illustrated dictionary of symbols in eastern and western art by Hall, James
- Dictionary of symbols and imagery by Vries, Ad de
- Symbolism : a comprehensive dictionary by Olderr, Steven
- Dictionary of mythology, folklore and symbols by Jobes, Gertrude
- The complete dictionary of symbols by Tresidder, Jack
- The dream dictionary from A to Z by Francis-Cheung, Theresa
- 1001 dreams by Altman, Jack
- The Watkins dictionary of dreams by Reading, Mario
- Dictionary of dreams : interpretation and understanding by Colin, Didier