How Dream Symbols Help Us Understand Ancient Legends

Copyright (c) 2009 Dave Smart

Symbolic objects in our dreams have intrigued us since ancient times. The symbolism in both tribal lore and legends, and stories in the Bible, is related to the symbolism of dreams. I seek here only to give a little taste of this fascinating subject; by discussing TREES and TRUMPETS.

Most psychological terms like projection, complex, system and symbol are absent from the Bible, for the simple reason that they were absent from most ancient languages. Likewise they are absent from the myths and legends of tribal peoples. When the ancients needed to talk of such things, they had to turn to metaphor and symbolism. That was not so hard to do. Our dreams are full of symbolic imagery, alchemical colors and mythical creatures that seem to be a synthesis of life-forms that we know. A basic tenet of Jungian psychology is that these symbols are held in the collective subconscious are are available to all of us at the subconscious level.

The Bible mentions TREE some 160 times, and in the majority of these instances tree is symbolic. Olive, fig, oak, green and dry trees are mentioned requently. Trees often symbolize spiritual processes, and are often seen as a link between heavenly activities and earthly activities. The fruit of a tree often symbolizes the end result or the bottom line of the process. The processes symbolized are not necessarily morally good ones. For instance, GREEN tree is typically associated with idolatrous or otherwise sinful processes. Fig tree is mentioned not only in regards to figs as food, but as in material prosperity in general. In Norse mythology the YGGDRASIL or World Tree is associated with the process of creating, and eventually destroying, the world; although it is believed that it itself will survive that destruction. Yggdrasil connects the world of gods, of the giants, of mankind, and Niflheim, the world of the dead. It is morally neutral; creatures both good and bad are nourished, sheltered and facilitated by it.

Trees in dreams tend to have similar symbolism. A dry tree can represent a constant, or unchanging process; but this can also mean a stagnant or essentially dead one. A green tree can represent a growing, maturing process, but possibly a morally questionable one. Of course the tree you see in a dream may be just like one you are familiar with in waking life; or may be a synthesis of several you know in waking life; or it may arise from the universal imagery of the collective subconscious.

Trumpets in the Bible are of course often to announce heavenly events or interventions, as they do in folklore and tribal legends. The events are not necessarily morally good, as in the usurping Sheba (2 Sam. 20:1-20). Psychologically the trumpet symbolizes the point of no return; when events have come to an unstoppable momentum and inevitable conclusion. So it is in Norse mythology with Gjallarhorn, Heimdall's 'trumpet', (which was a long serpentine horn; it did'nt look much like a trumpet).

Mythicalism - a philosophy put forth by Santayana - holds that events and relationships in our lives are the re-enactment of tribal legends, and/or of Bible stories. The symbols in these legends and stories can combine in a great many ways. For instance the story of Joshua and Jericho is one of walls - the setting of boundaries - and of the process of tearing down those walls - the dissolving of boundaries. Just as in astrology where Virgo - the boundary creator - and Pisces - the boundary dissolver - are opposites; so in our lives there has come, or will come, a time that conflicting parts of ourselves will try to build and strengthen boundaries, and dissolve those boundaries. The trumpets in the Bible story suggest that the time will come when we have passed a point of no return. Several things in the story occur in quantities of seven: trumpets, number of times marched about the city, etc.: these bring the symbolic qualities of the number seven; it will be a time of completion, of rest, with its ever- present danger of stagnation. The harlot in the biblical story suggests a situation where what we think as morally wrong will be, in this case, right.

Using dreams to understand our life patterns

Jungian psychology combines with the philosophy of mythicalism, championed by Santayana, which maintains that patterns of our lives and relationships are in effect re-enactments of ancient cultural and tribal legends, translated into the scenarios of our modern age. In coaching, clients explore parts of themselves, using the archetypal interactions of Biblical stories and of cultural-tribal lore and legends as points of reference. This is the value of dream work in coaching, because even though the substance of our dreams seems to have no relationship to the events of our day-to-day lives; through the symbolism of dreams which is also the symbolism of tribal lore and of Bible stories, they do.

By: Dave Smart

About the Author:

Dave Smart, the lead coach for Transcendence Coaching and Mentoring, has had extensive education and experience in coaching, and as an initiate in certain mystery schools he has studied the legends and symbolism of various tribal societies. "Legends quite similar to one another often pop up in cultures separated continents apart", he says. If you find recurring incidents being the "story of your life" and want to change that; then coaching, dream work, and learning about how these incidents tie in to tribal legends, is for you. Check out TCM's website: