Animals in dreams: an example
In this article I quote the excerpt from a dream of a young lady, to focus in particular on the motif of animals in dreams. Here is the dream as described by the dreamer:
“I’m in a garden. I stare at it with a trusted person by my side. In one part of this garden there are so many silhouettes of dead dogs and alive dogs! I know they are dogs but I see only strange shapes. In the middle of these shapes there is a wolfhound. Compared to other dogs I can see it very clearly and it’s eating another dog! I see him swallowing whole pieces of meat with blood.
So I think to myself: these dogs behave this way because they need to survive. On the other side of the garden there is a wall. Beautiful, very large white butterflies are resting on it, spreading their wings. All of a sudden I see one of these butterflies, a little smaller and a little uglier than the others, chasing a dog. This little butterfly is not flying but running using its tiny paws.”
Each element of the dream should be carefully dissected and analyzed (for example, the setting of the garden, the “trusted person”, etc.) but I want to focus immediately on the core of the dream dynamic: a fight between animals is represented.
Animals in dreams: general meaning
Animals in dreams are representations of the “animal” parts of our psyche.
They are elements that live at an unconscious level, in a primitive and undifferentiated way from nature. In other words, these are instincts in a natural state that must somehow be reintegrated, cultivated and recovered in the light of consciousness. If we neglect these instincts too much (for example by relying too much on Ego rationality), they begin to act in an aggressive and uncontrolled way. This will typically occur unconsciously, with animals fighting other animals (dog eating other dogs) or attacking us.
It is necessary to establish a relationship with these animals, to draw on their strength, as depicted in the Tarot number XI, “The Force”.
Dreams of animals fighting
The motif of the fight between animals is representative of an unconscious conflict between our various instincts, which are poorly integrated into our consciousness. In the Tarot, this process of integration can be described with the Arcanum of the World, which is a symbolic image of the psychic totality (the Self as described by Carl Gustav Jung).
In the configuration of the World Tarot, the various primordial forces, most of them depicted as animals, are ordered and integrated around the center of our totality, the Self.
The characteristics of animals in dreams
The characteristics of the dreamed animals shed light on the specific nature of non-integrated instincts.
Dogs are domesticated animals, thus dog instincts are very close to man level of consciousness (dogs are man’s best friend). The dog expresses elementary instincts related to nourishment, sexuality, but also to protection and fidelity towards our home (i.e.: towards ourselves).
In the dream described, the dog has become a wolf, a wild dog: it has not been “pampered” adequately, the dreamer has neglected her own “canine” instincts!
The butterfly, on the other hand, is more representative of our spiritual nature, the most graceful and noble part that exists in us. The butterfly is the symbol of psyche itself and is also related to soul symbolism. However the butterfly lives in the world of ideas, of thinking. Unlike the dog, butterflies don’t live rooted on the ground!
Explanation with the Tarot of the dream
In the dream, these two natures, earthly and spiritual, are separate. The dogs are in the garden, the butterflies beyond the garden, secluded by a wall.
Through the dream we can guess that the dreamer’s unconscious presses for these two natures to establish a relationship. The timid attempt by the butterfly (the spiritual nature above) to connect with the dog (the material instincts at the bottom) are very well described in the dream when the butterfly is placed at the level of the dog without using its wings but the paws.
This operation is once again represented by the World Tarot. The psychic elements of spiritual nature that are at the top (the Angel and the Eagle, both volatile principles) are connected to the principles of a sensual and material nature that are at the bottom (the Ox and the Lion) through the ordering center of the Self. We could say that the fratricidal fight between dogs will continue to be perpetuated until the butterfly knows how to fraternize with them, recovering its playful and pleasure-seeking nature!
Alchemical symbolism of animal fighting
I would like to end up this article highlighting the very strong analogies of the dream described with the alchemical symbolism, which made ample recourse to depictions of struggles between animals (in particular the fight between dogs, or between a dog and a wolf, as can be seen in the Arcanum XVIII of the Moon). Or even symbolic images of volatile animals in relation to terrestrial animals (eg: eagle Vs. lion, winged dragon Vs. snake, etc.).
Carl Gustav Jung has long studied the psychological meaning of Alchemy. For further information read the book Psychology and Alchemy.
Fighting animals are examples of the various stages of the Opera, which culminated with the “fixation of the volatile”: the reunification of the volatile elements, once purified, to the fixed element, to give rise to the Stone of the Philosophers.