Spiders in a Dream and the Spider as a Dream Symbol
Australian Peacock Spider Designed by Nature
Wolf Spider Close-Up
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
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:
- The Shadow
Conversely, many cultures view spiders from a positive point of view, praising the spider as a symbol of:
- 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
Amazon Curated Collection Beauty
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
Gustave Doré's Illustration of Arachne's Transformation
"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
When human beings interpret the spider's abilities, behaviours, and characteristics, they translate symbolically into:
- Diabolical Deception
- Hidden Danger
- Venomous words
- Personal attack
- Abuse of power
- Using the weak for personal profit
- Careless disregard for the concerns of others
- 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
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
Black Widow & Tarantula Nebulae
Spiders: Good, Bad, or Ugly?
How do you feel about spiders?
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
Spider Stories, Myths, Legends
- The Worlds Most Deadly Poisonous and Venomous Spiders
While arachnophobia is often an irrational fear, these spiders prove that they can indeed be cause for alarm.
- Poisonous Spiders, Insects and Snakes in Britain
Vacations in England with snakes and poisonous spiders.
- Spider That Builds Its Own Spider Decoys Discovered | Wired Science
A spider that builds elaborate, fake spiders and hangs them in its web has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon.
- 8 Ridiculous Animal Myths You Probably Believe | Cracked.com
People tend to buy into even the most far-fetched ideas with nary a second thought.
- Native American Indian Spider Legends
Collection of Native American spider stories from various tribes.
- The Spider and the Fly - Storynory free audio story
The Spider and the Fly by Marry Howitt: a poem with a moral and a warning. Dramatic reading by Natasha Lee Lewis:
- Jung's Archetypes
Jung described these archetypes of the person as deep elements of ourselves that have siginficance in our lives.
Horror and Comedy from David Wong
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
Fishing with Kites and Spider Webs
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.
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.