Understanding Dream Symbols for Better Health

Did you know that your dreaming mind is the most powerful part of who you are? When you begin to work with and understand your dreams, you’ll find that they give you inspiration and ideas for your creative endeavors, show you how to handle specific problems in your life, and even give you information you need to know about your health.

In my research, I’ve found that two main symbols can point to and advise you on your health: The snake and the horse. Certainly there are more, but these two symbols seem to pop up the most when our dreams want to advise us on our health. So, let’s explore them a little deeper. The following is an excerpt from my latest book Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life. 



For as long as I have been studying and researching dreams, I am still surprised how often snakes slither into the collective dreamscape. Snakes evoke fear in most of us, even to the point of phobia! They have sharp teeth, a demonic forked tongue. They can strike at lightning speed and inject you with their poison. Shudder.

Because of these widely feared characteristics, the dreaming mind often uses a snake to represent the dangerous, venomous behavior of yourself, or more often of someone close to you who is typically male. Yes, the phallic shape of the snake plays a big role in its meaning.

Interestingly enough, snakes in a dream can also signify the onset of emotional or physical healing. The connection can be found in the Caduceus, the symbol for medicine, which is two snakes wrapped around a winged staff. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing this symbol on the side of ambulances, in pharmacies and in hospitals; therefore, it is embedded in our subconscious that snakes equal healing. The following dream is a great example of the duality of the snake symbol.

"I've had several dreams about snakes lately. In the first dream I was trying to get away from a multi-colored poisonous snake. It kept striking at me, but never bit me. A few nights ago, I dreamed I was riding my bike and was being pursued by a snake that kept trying to strike at my ankles."
  – Shelley 42

Lauri: Is there a man in your life that is causing you problems? Or is there a physical or emotional issue you are trying to heal from? The bicycle in your second dream leads me to believe you are trying to balance both of these issues. The fact that the snake never bites is an indication that there is no resolution to either. 

Shelley replies: Yes and yes! There are issues with my spouse, and I am also trying to heal from health and emotional issues: Narcolepsy, depression, arthritis and a variety of other things that give me low energy.  I feel like my husband punishes me for being ill.  He walks away from me when I'm grieving the recent loss of my father.  He threatens to get rid of our pets just to get a reaction out of me.  He seems to enjoy upsetting me.  I could continue on and on, but I think you get the idea.

Shelley’s dream is showing her the big picture of her husband’s behavior. He is like “a snake in the grass” that repeatedly strikes at her with venomous words and actions. Shelley’s dream is showing her his true colors, hence the colors on the snake in the first dream. 

However, Shelley’s healing has yet to begin because her husband’s behavior only aggravates her illness and her illness only aggravates her husband. She is in a vicious, poisonous cycle and her wise inner mind will continue to nag her with snake dreams until she puts a stop to it, one way or the other.

Believe it or not, despite the fearful element of a snake in a dream, a snakebite is a good sign that healing, whether it be emotional or physical, is underway. Think of a snakebite in a dream as an injection of healing serum. 

While Shelley’s dreams contain both the vicious and healing elements of the snake archetype, many of our snake dreams are likely to contain only one or the other. The best way to determine which meaning applies to your snake dream is to look at the day before the dream – remember dreams are always connected to the previous day – and ask yourself if someone around you (particularly a male) was causing you to feel threatened in any way.  If that doesn’t seem to fit, then ask yourself if there are any physical issues that need better attention. This will help you connect the dots.


When looking at a horse, it’s hard not to respect it as the mighty and noble beast that it is. And when riding a horse, it’s hard not to feel somewhat powerful and “high on your horse” as you control the muscular steed with just a tug of the reins or a gentle kick to its sides. Sturdiness, reliability, strength and nobility; these characteristics will show up in our dreams in the form of a horse when circumstances call upon us to behave this way in waking life. But the horse can also show up in our dreams when we need to grab the reins on our health.

Virgil’s dream below not only shows us how a horse represents strong, noble, determined behavior, but can also represent one’s health. Remember the old saying “I’m as healthy as a horse?” Yep, it certainly applies here.

"I am sitting in my backyard when I see my childhood horse, Blaze, sauntering up to the table. He snorted and nudged me until I grabbed the reins and walked with him. We went down to the river and he showed me a campfire which had burned out. In the ashes was a small, tin box. He kept nudging me with his head. I picked up the box. Inside was a shining key. I put the key in my hand and I was flying."

- Virgil 56

Lauri: Like the campfire, have you "burned out"? Or has some project or relationship been extinguished? Your horse is most likely your inner strength and your health, and they are urging and nudging you to get your energy level back up to where it should be so you can reignite that project or relationship. I think your dream may be showing you that "the key" is to realize that you can "rise above" the situation, get back in the saddle and get your life "off the ground” again.

Virgil replies: I am burned out from working hard and recovering from a bad accident. I am basically fully recovered from the accident but, it really “burned me out." I do feel my inner strength pointing me in new directions. Understanding this dream really made me think about my possibilities.

Like Virgil and Shelley, your dreams are giving you clues about your health and about your life, too. If you start working with your dreams, you may discover your own personal symbols that are special to just you. Remember, your dreams can be your best friend, and once you know how to communicate with them, you can take control of your life and your health!

More on dream interpretation:

The 5 Most Common Stress Dreams

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