In literature animals have long been used to symbolise aspects of human emotions and traits. Animals may represent urgent, unthinking emotions, animal vitality and energy; or at worst, crude, animalistic behaviour. If you dream you are struggling to control an animal, it may be that you are trying to tame the instincts expressed by that particular creature. If an animal threatens you in a dream, try to tame it rather then kill it. If it is slaughtered, the instincts it embodies may be completely lost to you. Dreams about animals may also refer to the signs of the zodiac, with which they are associated, or in the Far East, with the Chinese astrological system.
In Native American traditions, wise men or shamans, often assume the form of animals in their dreams. Creatures that act as guides during the shaman’s journey to other worlds. Mythical beasts, such as unicorns or centaurs, may also appear; Perhaps created by the subconscious from memories of childhood fairy tales, to tackle personal fears. The meanings attributed to dream animals, both real and unreal, lie partly in the dreamer’s cultural and personal attitudes to them. Dragons, for example, are generally regarded as fearsome creatures in Western civilization. Whereas in China, they are powerful symbols of good luck. Similarly, dogs are traditionally considered to represent fidelity and loyalty. But a person who has been attacked by a dog is unlikely to view them in the same way in his dreams! Below for your interest, I have named and described a selection of different animals, with the traits and characteristics attributed to them, and a little of their symbolic meaning.
In dreams animals may express aspects of ourselves or people we know. Animals can also symbolise our emotions and fears. Dogs are reputedly faithful and loyal creatures. So a dream about walking a dog may encourage the dreamer to express his/her loyalty to a cause or person. A dream about a lion, the proud king of the jungle, may encourage the dreamer in his/her ambition to gain promotion at work. The strength and reliability of many domestic animals are generally less threatening than the untamed power of wild creatures. So while peaceful animals in dreams may augur success and prosperity. Fighting off a fierce animal represents bravery against all odds.
In biblical times, a mans wealth was measured by the number of cattle he possessed. And so in dreams, fat cattle indicated prosperity; while thinner beasts are symbolic of harder times. One of the most famous of all biblical dreams was Pharaoh’s dream: ‘Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile; and there came up out of the Nile, seven sleek and fat cows, who grazed upon the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them and stood by the other cows on the banks of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke.’ (Gen 41, vs. 1-4) Pharaoh remained puzzled for some time by his dream, until Joseph was summoned to interpret it. He correctly predicted seven prosperous years would be followed by seven years of hardship.
Bulls are particularly powerful animals with especially masculine associations. Aggressive and single-minded, bulls have personified male sexual passion. Cows, however are far more docile, and the term bovine can have connotations of laziness. Sacred creatures in the Hindu religion, cows are maternal figures, and their milk is a staple of the human diet. Do not dismiss dream cows: as they are solid creatures, sometimes representing the mother goddess, who should remind you of your home, family and roots. The second sign of the Zodiac, Taurus the bull, denotes qualities of practicality, sensuality and like a typical bull, can be angered if thwarted.
Pigs suffer from a mixed reputation, but generally porcine metaphors are unflattering: you may be accused of eating like a pig, or behaving like a swine. Pigs are actually clean animals and their reputation for ignorance and poor behaviour is unfair. In Chinese astrology, people born in the year of the pig are regarded as honest, good humoured and sensual. Nevertheless, pigs are generally seen to embody the grosser side of human nature, and it is this that is what usually emerges in dream imagery.
Horses have been used by humans as pack animals and as a means of transport for centuries; And so represent the energy or the personal driving force behind the dreamer. Horses are powerful creatures, but can usually be controlled by their human owners, just as we have control over the amount of energy we devote to activities. Dreams about riding may indicate liberation, as the dreamer flees from everyday responsibilities. Those born in the Chinese year of the horse, are reputed to be fickle, optimistic and determined. The colour of the dream horse may also be significant. White horses, which feature frequently in myths and legends, are usually symbolic of renewal and optimism. While black horses signify bad news. Donkeys are said to be a sign of poor decisions that may later rebound on the dreamer.
Rabbits, who are prolific breeders and so numerous, are most obviously associated with fertility. Cuddly toy rabbits have strong associations with childhood. Wild animals are the embodiment of power, freedom and untamed instincts.
Elephants are regarded as wise animals and famously are believed to ‘never forget’. These attributes may in part stem from Hindu mythology, in which Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva, is regarded as the god of wisdom.
Bears appear as friendly, if sometimes, gruff beasts in children’s fairy tales. Yet often real bears are bad tempered and often violent animals, as far removed as possible from the cuddly teddies of childhood. Their sheer power and strength are important factors and some cultures, particularly the Lapps, hold them in great respect. They are often used to symbolise military leadership. While female bears represent the mother who ‘bears’ children. A dream bear symbolises the elemental power and capricious random forces of nature. Which often indicates the bear represents the negative side of the dreamers character. His shadow side.