Everybody dreams and according to dream laboratory studies everybody dreams at least four to six times every night. How much we remember them and how vividly we recall them varies from person to person and from night to night. Some people swear they never dream while others, on waking, are able to recount their dream sequences second by second and in minute detail.

What purpose dreams serve is a widely debated issue but many believe interpreting our dreams gives us powerful and useful insight into all aspects of our waking life.

The World of Esoteric and Science Side by Side

dream interpretation and symbols
There are two main schools of thought regarding dream interpretation – one psychology based and one which has a psychic basis. Interestingly, dream interpretation is one of the few areas in which the world of science and the world of the esoteric cross over and intertwine. Both worlds agree that dreams give us important insight into the psyche. Inside us we have stored memories, thoughts and emotions which lie deeply buried in our waking form; dreams allow us to access this. The esoteric school of thought tells us that along with our brain stores which relate to experiences we have had in the physical realm, we also have inside us messages from and memories of connections with our guardians, guides, angels and other forces of the higher realms. Our subconscious can accept these messages which our waking self has forgotten how to hear or acknowledge. Dreams act as the bridge between the two.

Dream Interpretation Through History

Dream interpretation is a very ancient concept. An epic poem entitled the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh‘ – one of the oldest surviving works of literature dating from the 18th century BC– makes reference to dream interpretation while part of the clay tablets from the 7th century BC library of Ashurbanipal make up a whole book of dream interpretations. There are many further examples of texts, books and teachings throughout history on the subject. By the end of the 19th century dream interpretation became firmly linked with the world of science and medicine, becoming part of psychoanalytic treatments and theories.

During the 20th century, both Freud and Jung developed the theme of psychology and dreams, although with rather different approaches.

Today, dream interpretation tools and aids can be found everywhere – in libraries, bookshops, the Internet, through workshops and through services offered by psychics and psychologists.

Some are very against using a one-size-fits-all dream interpretation dictionary, arguing that one symbol can have a thousand different meanings depending on the individual’s personality, their social and cultural background, unique personal life experiences and emotions. This is of course true and in order to get real in-depth insight it might be necessary to consult a dream interpretation professional. However, it does appear that certain symbols and themes are particularly common and in many cases indicate shared issues linked with them. The following is a short list of such common themes which relate to Western dream interpretation. Islamic, Chinese and Hindu dictionaries will typically have quite different interpretations.

Common Dream Themes and Interpretations

chasedBeing Chased – this theme tends to suggest the dreamer is feeling somehow threatened in their waking life. This could be from a person(s) or with regard to a particular situation. It could also mean avoidance of or not facing up to an issue, choosing instead to ‘run away’ from it, perhaps because it is too painful or frightening.

bloodBlood – this is one of those dream symbols which can have very diverse meaning depending on context. The most common of these is taken to mean a loss of blood equates to feelings of loss of power. Alternatively, blood in a dream may represent acrimonious conflicts taking place in your waking self with friends, family or those close to you.

Those suffering from extreme tiredness or those severely emotionally stressed and drained often have blood themed dreams and elements of sacrifice may also be linked. To many, blood represents the sacred and if blood is spilled or present then some form of sacrifice has taken place.

fireFire – there are many different types of fire dream which might range from sitting round a cosy campfire to trying to escape a burning building. This in turn means it could symbolise many different things but most typically this is linked with purification. It might be that the fire dreamer is carrying some guilt and feels in need of cleansing/purification or it could relate to feelings of spiritual purification at the start of a new growth period.

fishFish – dreams in which fish are present tend to have links with our emotional self. The Western world has many idioms and sayings relating to fish such as ‘plenty more fish in the sea’, ‘other fish to fry’, ‘a cold fish’, ‘a queer fish’ and ‘a fish out of water’, so we may have many ideas and concepts related to fish within our minds. This might extend to a situation which seems elusive and tricky or ‘slippery’ or something which is odd and out of place. Typically, fish dreams represent the seeds of some idea taking form without our conscious yet being aware. This may be with regard to actual physical projects or something less tangible such as a spiritual stirring within us.

Swimming fish can also represent conception while catching a fish can symbolise ‘catching’ hold of an idea or the emergence of some buried insight now ready to come to the surface.

flyingFlying – most of us who fly in our dreams find the experience rather wonderful and as such, at base level, dreams about flying can simply be celebrations; expressions of our joy and exhilaration when we have achieved something personally significant and large. It indicates we have risen above something or found a solution by looking at projects/issues/problems from a new perspective. Additionally, if we are controlling our flight it suggests we are feeling powerful, in control and full of I-can-do-anything emotions.

However, if you are struggling to stay in the air or having to manoeuvre around trees, power-lines and other obstacles, it could indicate low levels of confidence and self-belief and that something or somebody is blocking your path forward.
Feeling afraid while flying too high may indicate that the dreamer is fearful of challenges taken on which he/she may not be ready for.

birthGiving Birth – when you or some-one else is giving birth in a dream it is an indication of new beginnings and the ‘birth’ of a new venture or period in your life. This might be a new relationship, a new job or simply a new way of doing things or emerging fresh attitudes.
Another interpretation of giving birth is that of the inner child calling out to be recognised or given some extra attention.

Giving birth to creatures and monsters often represents fear at the outcome of some decision or project. This could be connected to artistic projects where the dreamer has concerns about bringing their work out into the light and worrying about how it will be received by others.

plane-crashPlane Crash – this type of dream suggests you may be experiencing feelings of being out of control. Perhaps you are involved in something or having to watch a situation unfold around you while being denied the right to have your say or influence the outcome.
Seeing or being involved in a plane crash in your dream can also symbolise a fear of things turning out badly which may be in reference to some project you have in hand or some goal which you feel will be missed. Your subconscious may be aware that you have set unrealistic goals while your waking self remains unaware.
This type of imagery is often connected with fears about financial issues.

spiderSpiders – most of us associate spiders with webs – something intricate and beautiful but nonetheless deadly to the unaware fly. This association tends to link with the idea of manipulation – we may be either the manipulated or the manipulator. Additionally, if we are aware our dream spider is poisonous this could indicate that somewhere around us is some destructive or dangerous force which could be a person/relationship, venture or situation.

tigerTiger – the tiger is a symbol of female sexuality, aggression and seduction so can mean many things. It may indicate repressed emotions, especially if the idea of bringing such feelings out frightens you.The tiger can also represent significant inner strength and good health – both emotional and physical.If you are being attacked by a tiger this may represent your own distress at the treatment you are being subjected to by rivals in your waking life.

weddingWeddings – according to dream interpretation experts, weddings offer one of the most varied meaning themes. Often they can indicate that change is afoot, perhaps with joyous new beginnings or simply an innate desire to celebrate.

Weddings are about union and often bring together a female and male half which might suggest the uniting of our own masculine and feminine parts, the acceptance and convergence of different parts of our character and/or beliefs or the marrying together of ideas. Where the dream involves a wedding in which the bride, groom and perhaps all the guests are unknown it could indicate that you have adopted certain behaviours which don’t fit well with you or put yourself in a situation which isn’t right for you. You are simply going through the motions expected of you to be accepted by friends, family, work colleagues or society as a whole.

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Dreams as Channels to the Spirit World

Quite why we dream and its purpose is a mystery although research continues in a quest for answers. Most of us would agree that the world of our dreams is by nature other-worldly – a place where we accept things we never would in waking life, where the weird and wonderful are perfectly normal and where anything is possible. Many people believe that the dream realm is a world between worlds – a place where our angels, guardians, guides and every type of higher realm messenger finds it easier to reach out to us. In this place we are more receptive and accepting of things beyond our comprehension including the odd and obscure – the things which would perhaps totally freak us out in the waking world.

Animal themed dreams especially are believed to relate particularly to messages and guidance from our animal totems or spirit guides and where one type of animal appears over and over this is almost certainly the case. Many of us will have had what is known as an animal power dream in which we may have taken on an animal form ourself, been led on a journey by an animal or even been scared. These dreams can take a variety of forms but typically leave us exhilarated and often with the feeling of having been told or shown something. Try and ask questions in your dreams (which might take some practise) and then keep a dream journal to jot down such encounters with details and any answers given which may or may not make any sense at the time.


Depending on which school of thought you lean towards dreams could be wish fulfilment, repressed anxieties and fears, spirit messages, a window into the subconscious or quite possibly a mixture of the whole lot. One thing is for certain dreams can teach us much about us, if we take the time to explore them and work with them.

Click here to learn more about visitation dreams and contacting the dead while you sleep!

Picture credits:
Julieslv, Vishal.jalan, Redglow82, benwatts, malias, mdpai75, gregoryallen, shock264, oddsock, Dave Stokes, WalterPro4755 (all edited by me) CC-BY-2.0 – Thanks!

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