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.