- Snakes are a common dream symbol that may shed some light on challenges in your life.
- Snake dreams could mean you’re afraid of something, facing a change, or dealing with a toxic person.
- Writing down your dreams and comparing them to events in your life may help you understand them.
If you have snakes on the brain — or rather, in your dreams — don’t worry. You’re not alone there. In fact, snakes are one of the oldest dream symbols in the world.
Seeing a random snake in your dreams once in a while might not mean anything at all. But if you frequently dream about snakes, it’s possible your subconscious wants you to pay attention to something.
In general, recurring dreams about snakes often point to something you’re neglecting in your waking life, says Linda Mastrangelo, a psychotherapist specializing in dreams and executive director of the Institute for Dream Studies.
According to Mastrangelo, snake dreams aren’t meant to scare you, but rather, to inform you about unattended areas in your life and inspire you to take action.
Discover five possible explanations behind your snake dreams below — and learn what you can do about them in the waking world.
1. There’s someone toxic in your life
Does someone in your life act downright venomous? If so, they could take the form of a snake in your dreams, according to Lauri Loewenberg, certified dream analyst and member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
Your subconscious may be showing you this person’s behavior in the form of a venomous snake so you can better understand their role in your life, Loewenberg says.
If you’re unsure exactly who the snake represents, the context surrounding the dream might give you a clue. For instance:
- The snake biting you: “If the snake bites you, it can mean you have been on the receiving end of someone’s biting remarks or criticism in real life,” Loewnberg says.
- The snake trapping you: If the snake squeezes or traps you, it might represent someone making you feel trapped — like a toxic partner or family member.
- The number of snakes: According to Loewenberg, multiple snakes in your dreams could represent several toxic people in your life — like a toxic work environment.
What to do next: “If the snake is a threat to you in the dream, ask yourself who — in your real life — makes you feel the same way,” Loewenberg says.
If you dream about chopping the snake’s head off or cutting it in half, Loewenberg says, your subconscious might want you to cut this person out of your life.
If that’s not possible, you could consider limiting your contact or scheduling some self-care time after interacting with them.
2. You’re afraid of something
The snakes in your dreams may also represent a more abstract fear — like rejection or the unknown.
Human beings are hardwired to have a genetic phobia of snakes. Researchers think you might inherit this fear from your ancestors, since snakes posed a significant threat to the survival of early humans.
While you probably don’t face boa constrictors or pythons on a regular basis today, that primal fear could still live inside you — and slither into your dreams.
According to The Dream Dictionary, the specific type of snake that slides into your dreams might clue you into your particular fear.
- Anacondas: These may represent emotional or unconscious fears, like a fear of rejection.
- Black snakes: These may point to a fear of the unknown.
- Cobras: These could represent a fear of provoking an enemy.
- Rattlesnakes: These could suggest a minor fear, or something that shakes you up — symbolized by the rattling tail.
- Pythons: These could mean you’re afraid of something that’s metaphorically trapping or suffocating you.
What to do next: It may help to start by pinpointing any fears or worries that tax you while you’re awake. Then, consider some techniques you can use to manage these fears, such as:
3. You have something new to learn
Snakes aren’t always negative symbols in dreams. In fact, some dream interpreters believe they can be good omens in some cases.
For example, Carl Jung, one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis, viewed snakes as a symbol of transcendence — an experience that goes past your usual limits, like a personal or spiritual breakthrough.
According to Mastrangelo, you may dream of snakes if you’re drawn to knowledge or about to embark on a path of learning and discovery.
Snake-related images in your dream could also carry transcendent meanings. For instance, the ouroboros — an alchemical symbol of a snake eating its own tail — represents a cycle of transformation and rebirth, so it could point to a personal transformation or discovery in your own life.
In fact, the German chemist August Kekulé is said to have dreamt of the ouroboros before discovering the ring-like structure of benzene.
What to do next: These types of snake dreams might have something important to teach you, Mastrangelo says, so aim to stay open, playful, and curious.
A few ways you might welcome or encourage personal growth include:
4. Your life is changing
“Snakes are often associated with change and transformation because they shed their skin,” Mastrangelo says. So, dreaming about snakes might relate to a big change in your life — like a new job or relationship.
Perhaps you’re feeling anxious about a new life stage, such as moving to a new city. Or, if you’ve already embarked on a new path, your snake dreams could represent old memories or trauma rising to the surface.
What to do next: If you think your snake dreams stem from anxieties about a life change, try techniques that could make the transition period easier on yourself — like writing down your anxious thoughts or chatting with a trusted friend.
The more you’re conscious of these changes, the better you can work through them mindfully, Mastrangelo says.
5. Your health is on your mind
“If you are dealing with a physical ailment, you may find snakes slithering into your dreamscape,” Loewenberg says.
While you might not actively associate snakes with doctors and medicine, your subconscious certainly might — especially since snakes and healing have been synonymous since ancient times.
For example, Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, used a snake-entwined staff as a healing instrument, and medical associations across the globe have adopted this symbol. You’ll find it on the sides of hospitals, ambulances, and even on the World Health Organization (WHO) flag.
Because of this subconscious association, Loewenberg says, snake dreams could mean your body needs to heal or is already going through a healing process. The way you interact with the snake could help you tell the difference.
According to Loewenberg, signs of active healing include:
- Touching or picking up the snake
- Letting it crawl on you
- Talking with the snake
On the other hand, seeing the snake, but not interacting with it, could indicate that you still need to heal, Loewenberg says.
What to do next: Consider anything in your life that might be taking a toll on your physical or mental health — like a recent health diagnosis or a stressful project at work.
Negative thoughts or emotions brought on by life difficulties may sometimes upset your body’s hormone balance or affect your immune system.
However, a better awareness of any factors stressing you out or harming your health makes it easier to take steps to manage them. For instance, you might:
- Step up your self-care routine
- Make more time for rest and relaxation
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor
How to handle unusual or distressing dreams
If you’re still scratching your head over the meaning behind your snake dreams, consider jotting down any snippets you can remember in a dream journal.
Once you have a few entries, you can look for specific patterns or symbols that might indicate overarching themes or meanings.
According to Mastrelengo, factors to pay attention to include:
- Your emotions and overall feelings
- Certain settings or characters
- Your behavior in the dream
In addition, teaching yourself how to lucid dream might help you take charge of the narrative — for instance, by imagining yourself with an industrial-strength snake repellant.
When to work with a professional
Sometimes, you might find it fairly straightforward to work out the meaning of your dreams and address them on your own.
But if you have intense nightmares or recurring dreams that affect your sleep and mental health — or leave you scared to fall asleep — it might be time to reach out to a therapist or professional dream interpreter.
“Recurring nightmares, in particular, can point to underlying factors like unattended trauma,” Mastrangelo says — so, it may help to work through these with a professional who has a background in dream interpretation.
If you’re afraid of snakes, they may show up in your nightmares — but snakes aren’t always a negative symbol in dreams.
For example, snakes could represent healing, personal change, or transformation in your life. A venomous snake in your dreams could even offer a warning by pointing you toward a toxic person in your life.
By keeping a dream journal or working with a professional, you can map out the potential meaning behind your dreams — and take action in the waking world to deal with them.
“Snake dreams have something to teach us about ourselves and humanity on a universal level — if we would only listen and face our fears,” Mastrangelo says.