Carl Jung Resources > Dream Interpretation

Analysis of Several Dream Symbols

By J Jones

Several symbols occurring in dreams are analyzed here. We follow the psychoanalytic approach but don't limit to it. When we thought it needed we appeal to a most comprehensive analysis that goes beyond the sexual approach (as with Freud).

Please note that in general we must collect the free associations when dealing with dreams. Only when these associations are missing, and especially when we deal with symbols, we must use the analysis outside the frame of a specific dream.*


Popular tradition has a typical interpretation of dreaming of oneself as a bride - it is a sign of evil omen, of dying. The starting point for that may be the color twist: the white of the bridal gown is taken as black - a symbol of mourning. Therefore, it is taken to mean either a sign of one's own death or that of a very close person.

I have never met such dreams in my psychoanalytical practice but they are sure not to forecast death. Whereas, if we are to keep within the same area of interpretation, death may be a symbolical one, that is leading or pointing to initiation. Just as the bride steps into a new life after her wedding, in the same way the analyzed starts a new life after wholly engaging in a psychoanalytical cure. This might be a good omen, therefore.


This is an animal one can hardly associate to anything. For the Chinese, the tortoise is a symbol of sacredness and leads to the idea of Oracle as there used to be Oracles in ancient times that used tortoise shells.

For Jung, the tortoise suggested collective, animal unconscious, an evolutionary "floor" the species assumes.

In Freud's opinion, the tortoise shell may induce the idea of defense or narcissistic retreat to the mother's bosom.


The snake is the most used sexual symbol. According to Bible, the snake is the seducer, the most insidious creature, persuading our ancestors into sin. Hence the idea of temptation or moral bias. The snake therefore is the symbol of animal unconscious, of sexual repression.

The snake nevertheless is also a symbol of transformation for its regular change of skin. With Jesus, the snake represents wisdom and foresight. In Greek perspective, the snake is sacred and associated to the God of medicine as well.

Snake - picture
From sexual symbol to the idea of rebirth and immortality, the snake embodies many different meanings


Earthquakes are very often the subject of dreams, associated to other disasters: fire, flood, etc. They are likely to derive from Bible literature related to the Apocalypse.

Fear of earthquakes is also mass media induced by means of frequent notices on earthquakes and the threat of impending devastating earthquake.

Dreams of earthquakes can forebode major changes in someone's life: divorce, death, emotional breaks, etc.

Associated to the repression of aggressiveness, such dreams bring to the fore the dreamer's destructive inclinations. In order to interpret such dreams, we have to resort to their dreamers' associations of course.

Bath Tub

Water is a complex dream symbol. Unless referring to something personal, it can be associated to very many ideas, one of which is inspired by the ritual of Christian baptism. Thus, water washes sins away and cleanses. The idea of cleansing nevertheless also has an aggressive connotation, so one needs to be careful when dreaming of water as it might be a hint to one's aggressive instincts. Floods may be the dream representation of such instinctual energy accumulation - floods that wash away everything but, curiously enough, avoid the dreamer.

Water also suggests the ephemeral character of all things. Nothing lasts forever in this world. In Tarkovski's films for instance, water often translates into decay, dissolution, annihilation: odd objects and fragments float on running water. Everything is transient and does not last. Hence feelings of melancholy, sadness, depression, etc.

As mentioned before, water is an allusion to christening. The bathtub thus becomes the baptismal fountain Jung speaks about mainly in his work Psychology and Alchemy. The alchemy process where symbols of the baptismal fountain are extracted from is similar to Jung's individuation process. The baptismal fountain thus suggests a stage in this process of symbolic death and rebirth. Old man dies in order to new man to be born or, in psychological terms, the old ego dies to give rise to a new one.

*A paper on the meaning of symbols in dreams at Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud may be purchased from our paperstore here .

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 More Resources

  • Read more about the dream interpretation method according to Jung here.
  • Jung's dream interpretation method is presented in our email course Jung and Dreams. Read more here...
  • See also our email course dealing with the dream interpretation methods, including Jung's and Freud's here.

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