What Do Spiders Mean in Dreams?
Are Spiders in Dreams a Bad or Good Omen?
There is something profoundly "other" about spiders—with those eight legs, four pairs of eyes, the lack of an actual jaw, and the fact that they liquefy their prey prior to ingestion, their anatomy is almost incomprehensible. Not to mention their creeping, lurking, predatory behavior. Anything that is misunderstood is apt to provoke fear. But when spiders spin dream webs, is their symbolic meaning found only in their fear factor?
The answer is no. Read on to discover the myriad meanings of spider dreams.
What the Spider In Your Dream Might Represent
Dream spiders might represent art, artistry, creativity, or craft.
A web is an artful construct. Like the plot of a story, it requires both a birds-eye-view of the larger picture and a microscopic attention to detail. A web-weaver is like a storyteller—think of the spider Charlotte in Charlotte's Web using her silk to write in the sky. Perhaps your dream is about something you're building, some creative project you're working on, or an idea you'd like to manifest?
Your dream spider might represent a hidden plot, a scheme, or a manipulation of some kind.
Spiders weave intricate plots to capture their prey. They sit on the web feeling for any tremor or tug that might indicate a possible meal. A web is delicate, but it's also extremely sticky and strong. It is invisible, but also deadly. Its purpose is to ensnare and imprison. Where are the webs in your life? Is someone weaving a hidden trap to catch you?
Your dream of a spider might signify feelings of entrapment, captivity, or loss of freedom.
A spider's web is dangerously sticky. The spider wraps its victims tightly in silk and then injects a paralyzing venom. Are you feeling trapped or unable to escape from someone or something?
A spider might represent a woman in your life—a girlfriend, your mother, or some other powerful or possibly terrifying female figure.
Spiders often represent feminine energy. They weave silken homes that double as traps. They weave carefully, they watch quietly, they wait patiently. They pack a lot of power and cunning into their tiny bodies, so the spider in your dream might be a woman in disguise.
A dream about a spider might represent your own feelings of estrangement and alienation.
Even though you are always within three feet of a spider, for the most part we don't notice them. That's because spiders linger silently in the corners where nobody sees them. Even though they work constantly to rid our homes of flying creatures, they remain largely invisible and unappreciated. Maybe this is how you feel in life, like an outsider or an unwelcome guest?
If you're afraid of spiders, then a dream spider might represent your fears. Conversely, if you like spiders, then perhaps the dream spider represents a friend.
In other words, your feelings about spiders in general and your feelings about the specific spider in your dream will help guide you towards an interpretation.
Spiders Have Both Positive and Negative Symbolism
Not only do the dreamer's experiences with spiders play a huge part in the spider's meaning, but so do influential cultural mythologies and interpretations of spiders. Mythological spiders are portrayed both positively and negatively.
At their worst, spiders symbolize...
- the Shadow
As positive symbols, spiders might represent...
- the Self
- weavers of the world and life
While a dream spider's mythological identity may be somewhat mixed, it is still helpful to look at these mythologies to get a handle on the meaning of your dream. Mythologies don't only help you interpret the appearance of a spider in a dream, but if you have a phobia of spiders, insights from these mythologies may help you trace the origin of that fear.
What Do Dreams About Spiders Mean?
What does it mean if I dream about killing a spider?
The meaning depends on what the spider in your dream represents and how you felt about killing it. For example, if you determine that the spider symbolizes your entrapment in a dead-end job, then squashing it might have been liberating. On the other hand, if the spider represents your grandmother, then the act (and your feelings about her) might be harder to untangle.
What if I dream of a spider attacking me?
Again, your dream's meaning depends on what that particular spider represents to you. Pinpointing the ways in which you feel attacked or ambushed in your life might help you figure out what your subconsciousness is trying to work through via the dream.
What if spiders are crawling on me in my dream?
If you've ever watched them, you may have noticed that spiders seem to crawl by feel, not by sight... and just the thought of those little, creepy-crawly, hairy legs touching you can make your skin crawl. Is there something that appears small and harmless in your life but is provoking a violent reaction? What is annoying, irritating, tickling, or gently trying to get your attention?
What if there are lots of spiders in my dream?
If you meet a multitude of these creatures, determining what they're doing and what they want from you can help you interpret the dream. Are they all watching you (with fear, interest, or predatory intent)? Are they waiting for something (if so, what?). Could they represent all the things you need to clean up and deal with in your life, mentally or physically?
What does a dream of a giant spider mean?
You may find yourself face-to-face with a giant, terrifying creature in your dreams. As with any dream, you'll need to find out what the spider represents in your life: Is there an overwhelming, larger-than-life person or situation you're grappling with? Maybe you just saw Harry Potter's Aragog or Tolkien's Shelob in Lord of the Rings... or you're just really scared of spiders.
What does a spider web represent in a dream?
Webs can represent creation, fate, responsibilities, traps, veils, shrouds, barriers, obstacles, messes (as in cobwebs), or the important aspects of your life that are woven together (as a tapestry or a nest).
Spiders Can Represent Captivity
Spiders can also symbolize captivity or paralysis. You might feel as though some malevolent outside force is holding you hostage or that such a force is heading your way, with no amount of struggle resulting in freedom.
Spider dreams can be expressions of generalized anxiety—that feeling that something unknown and faceless is lying in wait, ready to pounce upon you as soon as you misstep and fall into the unseen trap that was spun specifically for you. Alternatively, you might feel trapped by your own life. Having surveyed your life and found that it has strayed from your true goals and desires, you may feel as though you are so enmeshed in what you don't want that you will never attain what you do want.
In the waking life, the spider spins a web and then sits in its center, surrounded by her creation. If you have engaged in some sort of hidden, deceptive, or manipulative activities, spiders in your dreams may symbolize that you are trapped inside the sticky situations that you created. You may feel as though the web spun for personal profit has turned into a prison maze with no discernible exit.
Spiders Are Often Feared Because of Their Perceived "Otherness"
The spider's archetypal significance is as varied as its mythological significance. Due to its ability to provoke irrational fear that is completely disproportionate to its actual danger level, the spider is an appropriate representation of the Shadow archetype. In Jungian psychology, the Shadow (aka the Id) is the unconscious aspects of the personality which the Ego doesn't consciously identify with. The Shadow might also be the unconscious—everything a person doesn't see in or recognize about themselves. Quiet spiders lurking in corners could represent those things we don't consciously notice or want to see.
Spiders and Spiderwebs Can Represent Self-Realization
While spiders are perfect expressions of the Shadow archetype, they can also represent a more surprising archetype—the archetypal Self. Since the attainment of self realization is a lifelong goal of many spiritually minded people, a crowning achievement in the quest for personal awareness, the idea that the spider represents such a lofty goal may seem positively preposterous. But if you put aside your own arachnophobia and view through an objective lens, you can see that a spider...
- Creates a physical form in the outer world from a substance produced from within its body (its web).
- Sits at the center point of that web at the spot where all lines connect, much like how the sun's rays radiate from the sun.
- Builds a home that resembles the mandalas so symbolically synonymous with the Self.
- While sitting in their web, they look like the symbol of Self: a circle with a dot inside (ʘ).
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 exposed, all brought to life by the spider who is so often reviled.
If you carefully examine your unconscious for possible spider shadow tendencies and find them missing, you might want to try viewing the dream spider as a herald, a sign that you are approaching or gaining some level of self-realization. You are allowing light into the unconscious, shining it so brightly that no shadows or spiders have corners in which to hide.
What Is the Archetype of Self?
The archetype of Self is quite different from the "me" one typically thinks of when defining themselves. The Self includes the conscious personality with which you identify—all those elements such as your hair color, gender, profession, etc. However, the Self also includes everything about which you are 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 you achieve the realization of the Self, it means that you have found unity between your conscious and the unconscious, and that there is a balance between your physical form and your intangible, subjective reality.
When you realize the Self, it does not mean that your conscious personality is obliterated; it means that your 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: ʘ. The Self is neither just the circle nor just the dot. The Self is both the circle and the dot.
Check Your Shadow Self for Evidence of Spider-Like Activity
When human beings try to interpret the spider's behavior and characteristics, they see:
- Diabolical deception
- Sneakiness and/or passive aggression
- 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 they're no longer useful.
Whenever you find yourself angered, revolted, obsessed with or hypercritical of another's actions, you should check yourself to see if you are truly outraged by them or if you are outwardly projecting your own Shadow self onto another person.
If you are dreaming of spiders, it might be wise to check the Shadow for evidence of spider-like activity occurring there. Make a list of everything spiders symbolize, then carefully and honestly examine yourself to see if those traits are a part of you.
This may be a painful process, but if you find spiders and what they symbolize revolting, realizing that they are living inside your own psyche should be enough motivation to face their existence and clear out their psychic cobwebs. Denial does not negate existence—it simply blinds you to a reality, one which grows more powerful in the dark.
How Spiders Can Represent Visions
Although most spiders have four pairs of eyes, we tend to think of them as visually impaired to some extent. Since orb spinners are primarily alerted to the presence of prey via the vibrations the prey creates in the web as it struggles, many people assume a spider's ability to see is not particularly powerful.
This is incorrect. The vision of prey-hunting spiders, net-casting spiders, and other varieties is only a bit less accurate than a human's. Spiders may process light into images that are quite different from those produced by the human eye. A four-layered retina processes the light collected via a spider's four pairs of swiveling, scanning eyes. Images produced from this process are probably completely foreign when viewed through a human lens. This difference is sight can make spiders a perfect symbol for the visionary.
What Is a Visionary?
A visionary is someone who attempts to bring life into their visions, one who thinks about and plans for the future in a creative and imaginative way. Usually, the visions 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 that they 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. The visionary is the only one who sees it. How does one describe something that no one else has seen? How did the first person to see the color blue communicate that hue to others so they could see it, too?
The difficulty a visionary has getting his or her vision across to a world with no frame of reference might be symbolized in the spider whose vision processes are so different from that of the human. The misinterpretation of spiders makes it a perfect symbol for the visionary.
Spiders as Representations of Female Energy
Since spiders weave (as women traditionally do), this power to create intricate tapestries from insubstantial thread is usually attributed to female powers. Arachne the weaver (from Greek mythology), the three Fates who weave the tapestry of life (also Greek), Neith the destiny-weaving goddess (from ancient Egypt), Charlotte (from Charlotte's Web), Shelob (from The Lord of the Rings)... in many stories, legends, and mythologies, the spider is female and represents female power. In nature, many female spiders are bigger than the males, and in many widow species, the females eat the males after sex. Spiders are associated with the energy of creation, creative power, and the magic ability to make something out of nothing.
Spiders in Mythology and Cosmology
Web-Weaving as a Symbol for Creation
Mythologies often spotlight spiders' weaving ability. The web is an especially popular way of depicting destiny deities, symbolizing their ability to deftly weave individual fates into an interconnected tapestry of life.
The Spider Web as Symbol of Life and Creation... or as a Veil to Obscure Reality
In various cosmologies, the spider is either a creator deity or its web is used to symbolize creation. Occasionally, the web is not a symbol of life but an intricately designed veil hiding the face of ultimate reality.
Sacred Spiders in Native American Cosmology
Native Americans have cosmological stories detailing the creation of the Ursa Major constellation via a spider's web, and another that posits the creation of creation itself through the silken threads spun from Spider Grandmother's abdomen. Dreamcatchers, originated in the Ojibwa Chippewa tribe, are like human-spun webs to catch bad dreams, and the Ojibwe word for dreamcatcher, asabikeshiinh, means "spider."
Mythical Spiders in Babylon and Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptian deity, Neith, was a destiny-weaving goddess who had a Babylonian equivalent. She 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 also provides an explanation of the creation of the spider itself.
The Role of Spiders in Greek Mythology
The mortal Arachne challenges the goddess Athena in a weaving contest. Athena, angered at Arachne's refusal to acknowledge that her gift of weaving was bestowed upon her by the goddess herself, rips Arachne's tapestry to pieces and curses her with feelings of guilt for her arrogance and hubris, and Arachne promptly flees 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.
Spiders in Space
Scientists have discovered that there are spiders in space—not real ones, but nebulas that have a spider's shape, such as the Black Widow and Tarantula nebulas.
How Jungian Philosophy Can Help You Interpret Dreams
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 just to forget it?
Jung's reasoning was based on his theory of archetypes. Jung believed that mythology and folklore are expressions of various archetypes and archetypal functions. He believed that archetypes are imprinted on the psyche via the collective unconscious and that some symbols have a near-universal interpretation. To find the universal interpretation, all we have to do is study mythology.
However, despite his belief that there are certain common patterns woven throughout humanity's psyche, Jung also believed that reality expresses itself not only as a common experience but as an individual life.
Jung believed that while symbols carry common meanings that might inform one's perspective, each individual's actual experience—that person's own personal mythology or way of approaching and absorbing knowledge and experience—always takes precedence over any cultural or common comprehension of a symbol.
What a Spider Symbolizes Depends on the Dreamer
When attempting to interpret a dream about spiders, Jung's advice to learn and then forget the spider's place in mythology is profoundly appropriate. Spider symbolism is as myriad and complex as the webs spiders spin. The most important thing is the dreamer's own associations 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 the dreamer should begin looking at positive spider symbolism to start unraveling the mystery of his or her spider dream.
How do you feel about spiders?
It Is Difficult to Pin Down the Meanings of Symbols
If you have a confusing dream, you might turn to a dream encyclopedia or article like this for clues. While those are great places to start, they are not great places to end.
Ideally, encyclopedias should provide the 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, you should rest assured that just because a symbol has no definitive meaning, that doesn't mean it's meaningless.
What makes interpreting a dream symbol so complex—what makes its meaning impossible to encapsulate within a single paragraph or web page—is the dreamer's own individuality. Dreams are messages sent to the dreamer by the dreamer. They are reports of what is going on in the areas of the mind that are written in impressions and images, not words.
In order to accurately interpret a dream's meaning, one must learn to speak the dream language. Symbols are the 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 trying to communicate—that is, what basic universal meaning a symbol has across cultures and communities. The purpose of analyzing how a dream subject operates in the waking life is to gain insight from the obvious—because the obvious is what is often overlooked.
Remember: Dreams are just messages sent to the dreamer by the dreamer.
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.
© 2012 Aisling Ireland