Spiders in a Dream and the Spider as a Dream Symbol

Australian Peacock Spider Designed by Nature

Australian Peacock Spider- Designed by Nature, Not Photoshop
Australian Peacock Spider- Designed by Nature, Not Photoshop | Source

Wolf Spider Close-Up

Wolf spider close-up
Wolf spider close-up | Source

Introduction to Spider Dream Symbolism

In waking life, spiders are arguably rivaled only by snakes in their ability to provoke irrational human fear.

There is something profoundly "other" about spiders--eight legs, four pairs of eyes, their lack of an actual jaw, a digestive system unable to digest solid food which necessitates the need to liquify prey prior to ingestion--their anatomy is almost incomprehensible.

Anything which is misunderstood is something apt to provoke fear since what one cannot comprehend is often that which is automatically feared.

But when spiders spin dream webs, is their symbolic meaning found only in their fear factor?

The answer is no. Read on to discover myriad meanings for spider dreams.

Four Pairs of Eyes

Four Pairs of Eyes
Four Pairs of Eyes | Source

Mythology and Dream Interpretation

Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, had an interesting take on the best way to interpret dreams: "Learn all you can about mythology, then forget it."

The quote seems pointless. Why study something with the purpose of forgetting all knowledge gained?

Jung's reasoning was based upon his theory regarding archetypes. Jung believed that mythology and folklore were a way that human beings used to express various archetypes and archetypal functions. He believed that archetypes were basically imprinted on the psyche via the collective unconscious and that some symbols had a near universal interpretation. To find the universal interpretation, all one need do is look toward mythology.

However, despite Jung's belief in certain prevailing patterns woven cohesively throughout humanity's psyche as a whole, he was also an ardent adherent to the belief that human life also expressed itself not only as a common experience, but as an individual life.

Jung believed that while symbols carried common meaning that might inform one's predispositions, the actual experience of each individual, that person's own personal mythology or way of apprehending and assimilating knowledge and experiences, always took precedence over any cultural or common comprehension of a symbol.


Complexity of Dream Symbols

When one has a confusing dream, a dream encyclopedia or article like this one is often the first place one starts.

Those are great places to start. They are not great places to end.

Ideally, encyclopedias should provide background on a symbol and give the dreamer a look at the diverse ways in which that symbol can be interpreted.

Symbols rarely, if ever, have a singular meaning.

While that bit of information may be disheartening to dreamers, they should rest assured that just because a symbol has no definitive meaning, that does not mean meaning is lacking or that a symbol means just anything.

What makes interpreting a dream symbol so complex, what makes it impossible to encapsulate meaning in a paragraph or web page, is the dreamer's own individuality.

Dreams are messages sent to the dreamer by the dreamer. They are reports as to what is going on in the areas of the mind that speak in concepts and images, not words.

In order to accurately interpret a dream's meaning, one must learn to speak dream language. Symbols are that foundation of that language.

The importance of examining the mythology of a dream subject is to get an idea of what archetypal image a dream might be communicating, that is, what basic meaning a symbol has across cultures and communities.

The purpose of making an analysis of how a dream subject operates in waking life is to gain insight from the obvious, because it is the obvious that is often overlooked.

Mythological Symbolism of Spiders

When attempting to interpret a dream about spiders, Jung's advice on learning and then forgetting its place in mythology is profoundly appropriate.

Jung's advice is appropriate not only because one's own experiences with spiders are the foundational block upon which a dream's meaning is built, but also due to the vast differences in how various cultures assign mythological meaning to spiders.

Mythological spiders are portrayed as positively as well as negatively.

Spiders in their negative mythological form appear as symbols of:

Conversely, many cultures view spiders from a positive point of view, praising the spider as a symbol of:

  • Patience
  • Craftiness
  • Creativity
  • The Self
  • Weavers of World Life

Some cultures even utilize the spider, or rather the spider's bite as an excuse to behave sexually provocative. This is the origin of the Tarentela dance.

While the spider's mythological identity may be somewhat confused, it is still helpful to look at some of those mythologies to help get a handle on the meaning of spider dreams. Mythologies may not only help one interpret a spider in a dream, but if one has a spider phobia, insights revealed in mythology may help trace the origin of that fear.


Arizona's Spider Rock

Spider Rock in Arizona, home to world creator, Spider Grandmother
Spider Rock in Arizona, home to world creator, Spider Grandmother | Source

Spiders in Mythology and Cosmology

When spiders appear in mythology, it is their weaving ability that is typically highlighted. The web is an especially popular way of depicting destiny deities, symbolizing their ability to deftly weave individual fates into an interconnected life tapestry.

In various cosmologies, the spider is either a creator deity or its web is used to symbolize creation itself. Occasionally, the web is not viewed as a life symbol, but rather it is depicted as an intricately designed veil hiding the face of ultimate reality.

Native Americans have cosmological stories that involve the creation of the Ursa Major constellation via a spider's web and another that posits the creation of the creation itself through the silken threads spun out from Spider Grandmother's abdomen.

The ancient Egyptian deity, Neith, was a destiny weaving goddess who had a Babylonian equivalent who was then passed on to the Greeks in the form of Athena.

Athena's contest with the mortal Arachne not only makes mythological commentary regarding destiny and creation, but provides an explanation for the spider's creation itself.

Arachne takes on the goddess Athena in a weaving contest. Athena, angered at the mortal's refusal to acknowledge that her gift with the loom was bestowed upon her by the goddess herself, rips Arachne's tapestry to pieces, touches her head and curses her with feelings of guilt for her arrogance and hubris.

Arachne promptly flees from the goddess and hangs herself. When Athena sees Arachne's lifeless body hanging from a tree, her heart is softened and she transforms Arachne into a spider, taking away her human beauty, but allowing her deft weaving skills to persist throughout eternity. Arachne's name is the origin of "arachnid" the scientific term for the spider.

Scientists have discovered that there are actually spiders in space--nebulas, actually, that resemble a spider's shape, such as the Black Widow and Tarantula nebulas.

The Beginning of Arachne's Transformaton

Arachne Weaving a Web of Hubris
Arachne Weaving a Web of Hubris | Source

Gustave Doré's Illustration of Arachne's Transformation

Arachne's Transformation from Girl to Ghoul
Arachne's Transformation from Girl to Ghoul | Source

"Otherness" of the Spider

The spider's archetypal significance is as varied as it's mythological significance.

On the one hand, the spider, with its ability to provoke irrational fear completely disproportionate to its actual danger level, is an appropriate Shadow archetype symbol.

Spiders can symbolically represent traits and characteristics human being normally find unseemly at best.

Spinning spiders sit motionless in corners, waiting for the opportunity to devour any unfortunate creature it traps in the web it spun prior to retreating to the shadows.

Net casting spiders do not rely on webs for their prey's entrapment. They simply lie in wait casting a net over anything small enough for the spider to conquer and devour.

Still other types of spiders monitor their surroundings with their eight eyes and literally run down passing prey.

Spiders, lacking the ability to digest solid food, inject their victims with an agent that paralyses then liquifies, enabling the spider to consume its victim without the need for chewing, with is fortunate since spiders lack an authentic jaw.


Australia's Spider Crater

NASA Image of Western Australia's Impact Spider Crater
NASA Image of Western Australia's Impact Spider Crater | Source

Spider Shadow

When human beings interpret the spider's abilities, behaviours, and characteristics, they translate symbolically into:

  • Diabolical Deception
  • Sneakiness
  • Hidden Danger
  • Backbiting
  • Venomous words
  • Personal attack
  • Abuse of power
  • Using the weak for personal profit
  • Careless disregard for the concerns of others
  • Manipulation
  • Using others, sucking them dry, then discarding them once no longer useful

Whenever one finds one's self automatically angered, revolted, obsessed with or hypercritical of another's actions, one should check one's self to see if one is truly outraged by another, or if one is projecting one's own shadow self outward onto another person.

If one is dreaming of spiders, it might be wise to check the Shadow for evidence of spider-like activity occurring there. It may be helpful for the dreamer to make a list of everything spiders symbolize, then carefully and honestly examine one's self to see if those traits are part of one's self.

This may be a painful process, but if one finds spiders and what they symbolize revolting, realizing that they are living inside one's own psyche should be enough motivation to face their existence and clear out the psychic cobwebs. Denial of something does not negate its existence--it simply blinds one to the activity of it as it grows more powerful in the dark.

Underwater Spider's Scuba Tank

Spider on Air Bubble

Spider on top of the World
Spider on top of the World | Source

The Self Archetype

The Self archetype is quite different from the "me" one typically thinks of when defining "I."

The Self includes the conscious personality with which one identifies--all those elements such as one's hair color, gender, profession, etc.

However, the Self also adds to that personality everything about which one is personally unconscious. It includes all of the Shadow elements, the Anima/Animus, the spirit, the soul, etc.

The Self is the whole human being and the human being inside the whole.

When one achieves Self realization, this simply means that there exists unity between the conscious and the unconscious--there is balance between physical form and intangible, subjective reality.

When the Self is realized it does not mean that the conscious personality is obliterated; it means that the conscious personality is augmented with those parts of the psyche which are fractured and contained in the personal unconscious.

A symbolic expression of the Self is a circle with a dot inside it. The Self is neither just the circle nor just the dot. The Self is both the circle and the dot.

Spiders as Self Symbols

While spiders seem perfect expressions of the shadow archetype, they can also be representatives of a more surprising archetype--the archetypal self.

With the attainment of Self-realization being a lifelong goal of many spiritually minded people, with it being the crowning achievement in the quest for personal awareness, the suggestion that the spider can be a representative of such a lofty goal may seem positively preposterous.

But if one puts aside one's own arachnophobia and views the spider through an objective lens, one can see that the spider:

  • Creates physical form in the outer world from a substance produced unseen from within its body
  • Sits center point with its web radiating out around it, much like the sun's rays radiate outward from the sun
  • Creates a home that resembles the mandalas so symbolically synonymous with the Self.
  • Can, with its web, resemble the Self symbol of the circle with the dot inside it

As a weaver, the spider's web can be viewed as a beautiful tapestry symbolizing the dichotomous dance between the active and the passive, the anima and animus, the hidden and the revealed, all brought to life by the spider so often reviled.

If one has carefully examined the unconscious for possible spider shadow tendencies and found them missing. One might try viewing the dream spider as a herald that one is approaching or is gaining some level of Self-realization. One is allowing light into the unconscious, shining it so brightly that no shadows, or spiders, have corners in which to crawl.

Spider Web Imposed on Tarantula Nebula

Spider as Archetypal Self -- Circle, Dot, and Everything Inside and Out
Spider as Archetypal Self -- Circle, Dot, and Everything Inside and Out | Source

Black Widow & Tarantula Nebulae

Spiders: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

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Spiders as Captivity Symbols

Spiders can symbolize captivity or paralysis. One may feel as though some malevolent outside force is holding one hostage or that such a force is heading one's way and no amount of struggle will result in freedom.

Spider dreams can be expressions of generalized anxiety, that feeling that some unknown, faceless something is lying in wait, ready to pounce on the dreamer as soon as she missteps and falls into the unseen trap spun specifically for her.

Alternatively, the dreamer may feel trapped by his own life. He may, having surveyed his life and found it far off base from his goals and desires, feel as though he is so enmeshed in what he does not want that he will never attain what he does.

A waking life spider spins a web, then sits in its center surrounded by her spinning. If one has engaged in some sort of hidden, deceptive, or manipulative activities, spiders in dreams may symbolize that one is trapped inside the sticky situations created by one's self. One may feel as though the web spun for personal profit has turned into a prison maze with no discernable path out.

Spider: Visonary's Symbol

Four Pairs of Eyes, Four Layered Retina - Spider Sight is Visionary
Four Pairs of Eyes, Four Layered Retina - Spider Sight is Visionary | Source

Spiders and Visionaries

Since orb spinners are primarily alerted to the presence of prey via sensing vibrations as it struggles, many people assume a spider's visual acuity is less than accurate.

This is incorrect.

Prey hunting spiders, net casting spiders, and other varieties have vision that is only a bit less accurate than a human's.

What may lead to a belief spiders have impaired sight is that spiders may process light into images quite foreign to that produced by a human eye.

Spiders eyes and the way they function are another arachnid quality leading to "otherness" from humans.

A four layered retina processes the light collected via a spider's four pairs of swiveling, scanning eyes.

Images produces from this process are probably completely foreign when viewed through a human lens.

This difference is seeing can make spiders a perfect symbol for the visionary.

Visionaries are those who attempt to bring life to visions, usually visions that they see will benefit the world and all who inhabit it.

They not only see their visions, they feel them in their souls.

Their experience is so profound and alters their lives in such a positive and dramatic manner, the seek to share the experience with those around them.

What makes a visionary's task so difficult is that what he or she sees with such vivid detail is indecipherable to others.

How does one describe something to one who has never seen anything resemble the sight the visionary sees so clearly?

How did the first person to see the color blue communicate that hue to those seeing only black?

The difficulty a visionary has getting his or her vision across to a world with no frame of reference for that vision might be symbolized in the spider whose vision processes are so different from that of the human and the misunderstanding that accompanies spiders in general might make it a perfect symbol for the visionary.

Step Into My Parlor

"Step into my Parlor," Says the Spider Dream
"Step into my Parlor," Says the Spider Dream | Source

Fishing with Kites and Spider Webs

Conclusion

Spider symbolism is as myriad and complex as the webs spiders spin. What is tantamount to finding meaning in spider dreams is the dreamer's own association and personal mythology regarding spiders.

If spiders are a source of revulsion and fear for the dreamer, then the meaning of a spider dream is likely to be found in the spider's more negative symbolism.

If however, spiders are sources of wonder and marvel for the dreamer, then looking to positive spider symbolism will be the place for the dreamer to start unravelling the mystery of his or her spider dream.

Sources

The Portable Jung by C. G. Jung.

Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.12) by C. G. Jung.

Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension: Select Essays, 1944-1968 by Joseph Campbell.

The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987 by Joseph Campbell.


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Comments 8 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Esme, I am scared to death of spiders, although I've had to overcome my fear as a single mom; my son is even more afraid of them than I.

I must tell you of a dream I had when I was about 21. I'm now 55 and have never forgotten this dream:

I was lying in bed, alone and asleep when suddenly, a huge spider has big as the queen bed in which I slept, ascended from the ceiling. Get this: it was wearing a wet suit! I paniced in my dream because I was frozen and couldn't avoid the spider landing on me. Just before it ascended onto my body, I was awakened (this part is real life) by crawling out of bed with my head ducked so as to avoid the spider touching me. My movement is what awakened me. It is now thirty some odd years later and I still remember that dream.

Any idea what it meant? Especially with the spider wearing a wet suit?


EsmeSanBona profile image

EsmeSanBona 3 years ago from Macon Author

Here is where I would start interpreting your dream.

First, is your spider phobia something you have had all your life? Or does it have its origin in an actual spider encounter that scared you?

If the phobia has no origin in life, then the spider is going to be a stand in for a more universal kind of fear or issue. If it originates in an encounter, you'll want to look at the situation or situations that provoked the fear and see what was going on in your life at the time of the dream and compare the two.

Either way, think about what it is about a spider that scares you. Phobias still have reasons. For example, I have a moth phobia--yes, I know, scared of those harmless little moths. It is kind of embarrassing to go running from the room when one gets in the house. :-) Obviously, no moth ever did me any harm--I think moths can actually only harm clothes--but here's why thy scare me. They are completely erratic--they fly around like maniacs and they are completely unpredictable. You can't tell where they're going and that means that they might go on me and once they're on me I'll never be able to get them off because I'll never know where they're going next.

What this translates to on a larger scale is a general fear of the unpredictable, the random, being trapped, getting into something I can't get out of. And that is 100 percent true about me. My greatest fear in life is being trapped with no way out. I also detest random things, I don't mind change but I don't like things that appear out of the blue and destroy. I hate it when people prank scare me by jumping out at me. Just hate it!

Just like moths symbolize my fears about things other than actual moths, I am willing to bet that your spider phobia actually symbolizes something else other than actual spiders.

Try to find out what the spider symbolizes to you. Then look back to what was going on in your life when you had the dream and see if there was something either actually going on or something you were afraid might happen that the spider might symbolize. Also check to see if the spider might represent a person who might have been provoking fear.

As weird as it sounds, the wetsuit also gives a lot of information. Wet suits are worn by divers or by people swimming in cold water to protect against the cold, to maintain body temperature or to put it symbolically to maintain status quo in a foreign environment. Was there anything going on at that time in your life wherein it might actually have felt advantageous to protect your fears? I know that sounds crazy, but sometimes we feel fear protects us and sometimes we are right. A person who suffered abuse as a child develops instincts about people who might harm them. When that person fears someone instinctively, there may be good reason for fear.

Were you involved in doing any hard emotional work, looking at things that were painful? Were you involved in anything that made you feel "out of your depth" or that scared you because it was so far from the status quo or normalcy?

Don't just think of things that were negative. Think even of things that were positive. I know firsthand that sometimes the things that provoke the most unconscious fear are the things that appear to be the best. As humans, we get used to situations not just because they are comfortable, but because we know we can survive in those situations because we already are! When something comes along, even something that will dramatically improve life, we often fear it because we don't know it--we don't know that we can survive in the new environment because we never have and that can actually provoke survival fears, fears even of death. I have passed up on enough things I should have grabbed with both hands out of fear of the unknown to know the truth of that fear.

Please let me know what you come up with--I've never dealt with a wetsuit spider before, so I'm really curious!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

You've given me some light. Here's what I have to offer: when I was a little girl (before my mom divorced my USAF fighter pilot father) we lived in California. I remember daddy (my hero) taking pruning shears and chopping black widows in half in our garage where I used to set up my pretend store. Mom divorced daddy when I was 6 and I didn't see him again until I was 40. (I've written a hub about it. It has a picture of Daddy's flight suit in the opening).

At the time I had the wet suit spider dream, I was living in an apartment when I was in my early twenties. I shared it with a physically abusive boyfriend. He was in prison at the time I had the dream (he got popped for sale of drugs after I'd met him but the circumstance happened before I met him). I was relieved that he was no longer there, but naiive me thought I still loved him.

He had a hearing coming up where I was actually allowed to testify to a weird encounter I'd witnessed as an innocent bystander that actually got the charges dropped. I now see the wet suit was protecting me from the disgusting hairs of the spider, aka the fear I had of my fiancé hurting me once again if he was released. The fact that I escaped the spider before he descended upon me was a sign that I was not destined for eternal abuse. And I wasn't. I eventually fought back and rid myself of this abusive man. But, to this day I remember that dream. Is it a reminder for me? Is it solidification of belief in myself? I think the answer to both questions is, YES!

What do you think? How'd I do?


EsmeSanBona profile image

EsmeSanBona 3 years ago from Macon Author

Rock and roll! I love it! I love it anytime someone gives themselves the answers to a dream. After all, dreams are messages sent to you by you so you are going to be the final authority on what that message means.

I am so glad that you got out of that relationship--God knows I have been there. That naïve belief and faith in someone's love can be a really destructive force.

Your spider fear is really interesting in that a hero saw them as so dangerous as to cut them into pieces. That may be why you feel so strongly about them--someone you trusted believed in their danger so it would only be natural you would feel the same way towards them.

I think that spider dream is indeed a reminder for you and a solidification of your belief in yourself. It is weird but sometimes the creepiest things and our ability to overcome them are our best and longest reminders of just how powerful we can be.


EsmeSanBona profile image

EsmeSanBona 3 years ago from Macon Author

Can you give me the title of the article you wrote about your dad? I went to your page but I must be blind--I didn't see one that looked like the hub you described. I'd really like to read it.


Jen 2 years ago

Wow! Thank you! This is an amazing article, and you totally hit the nail on the head. Since my son was born, I have been visited by what I call "sleep spiders" on numerous occasions. They appear on the walls, ceiling, or hanging by a thread above my bed just as I wake up, but slowly fade and disappear the more alert I become. I have generalized anxiety and felt very anxious and trapped as a new mom caring for a very needy baby. I wondered about the symbolism of the spider. When I read the section "Spiders as Captivity Symbols", I thought, "That's it! That's why it's a spider!" How cool is that?!


Jen 2 years ago

By the way, I wrote a blog post about my "sleep spiders". I would love to reference and link to your page, but only if that is OK with you!


EsmeSanBona profile image

EsmeSanBona 2 years ago from Macon Author

Hi Jen--so sorry about the delay responding. I've been ill and haven't been online at all.

Yes! Of course you may reference me on your blog. What's your blog called--I'd love to read it!

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