Spiral as a Dream Symbol

Any time a spiral shows up in a dream, it carries with it the resonance of all spirals. In An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, J. C. Cooper writes:  “The spiral is symbolized by all that is helical: snail shells, sea shells, the ear, the tentacles of the octopus, animal horns, animals like the dog and cat that curl up, the coiled serpent, plants which grow in spiral form such as ivy, fir cones and the unfolding fronds of ferns. It is also associated with ears of gods and kings and with rain-bearing animals and reptiles and with the coiled and sleeping serpent Kundalini.” [p. 157]  I agree with all the associations (though I’m not sure what a “rain-bearing animal” is) but I would add the spiral symbolizes all those things as well as being symbolized by them.

Cooper also notes that the spiral is “A highly complex symbol which has been used since paleolithic times and appears in pre-dynastic Egypt, Crete, Mycenae, Mesopotamia, India, China, Japan, pre-Columbian America, Europe, Scandinavia and Britain: it also appears in Oceania, but not in Hawaii.” [p. 156] Why is the symbol so prevalent? Probably because, as the authors of The Book of Symbols point out, the logarithmic spiral “is the most widespread shape found in the natural world. It is the form of embryos, horns, whirlpools, hurricanes, and galaxies….” [p. 718]

When such an ancient an archetypal symbol appears in a dream, it carries with it the potential that all of the associations will shed light on the meaning of the dream. If I dream of a whirlpool, for example, the spiral shape evokes both galaxies and embryos, and so the import of the dream has a collective level as well as a deeply personal one. It could refer to my ongoing growth of self-awareness (as I mentioned in Sunday’s post) with an emphasis, because of the inward movement of a whirlpool, on the inward focus of that self-awareness.

Before reading Cooper’s piece on the spiral, I hadn’t made the association with the human ear. A dream with a spiral, then, would emphasize listening, whether to the inner voice or the teachings available in the world. How important the association is would depend on the context of the dream, of course, but it would be worth asking the dreamer if such an association elicits any “aha” of understanding.

Like the snake, the spiral represents “an archetypal path of growth, transformation and psychological or spiritual journey.” [Tashen p. 718] As we grow in life, we climb the spiral path of understanding, and so to dream of a spiral seashell would carry this meaning, as would dreaming of bindweed. The beauty of dream symbols is that they hold multiple meanings at once, and these archetypal meanings are present even if we’re not consciously aware of them. To dream of a spiral is to dream of the cosmos and of the structure of life itself.

7 comments to Spiral as a Dream Symbol

  • Karen Robinson

    The only spiral dream I remember is from several years ago: I was dancing with a huge crowd of people in downtown Loveland, and we were doing one of those dances where you hold hands and spiral into the center and then back out, and pass every person in the line in the process. It was very moving. After I woke up, I wrote in my dream diary that I had been spending weeks typing up the family tree, and that I thought all those people in the dance were ancestors :-)

  • kim

    I love the book The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and a spiral home figures prominently in that story.

  • […] with the omnipotence of deities. Because of their shape, tornadoes are also associated with spirals and so carry the weight of the created universe, from galaxies to the human ear. Yet a tornado has […]

  • eli

    my dream was so real and breath taking. i was alone on my house roof. it was cloudy and in the middle of this cloud wich was far of me maybe 10km distance i saw wich it seems to be at first glance a biginning of lightening strikes hits the ground, when i focus on it a strange zoom on the scene, a clear view of whirl of light spinning upward toward the sky.. i’ll be gratefull for explanation. thanking you in advance.

  • Art

    My dream was very vivid in color. My dream started out in the dark with several people that I knew walking towards me in the dark. I used a flashlight to show them the way. Moments later, the sky turned into day with a vivid blue sky with several see-thru water type spirals floating above me. People around me started to panic but I stood there looking up them. What happened after that, I don’t remember.

  • Merari

    Few nights ago I dreamt that I found my son crowching on one side on the ground and when I touched him, he turned on his back and it had a Spiral with words in other language, it was covering all of his back like a scaring tattoo, clean no blood and burning red. I jumped from the bed and it was a very vivid dream. Ive been googling this ever since and reading about what could it mean.

  • Katy

    Can anyone help to interpretate my dream?
    I was on the shore….walking in white dress.. and the ocean was very calm..then I looked up to the sky, and saw many clouds that looked like fluffy spirals. And then cold wind blew ..and I woke up.

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