Electric Dreams

Exploring Dreams through the I Ching

Hilary Barrett

(Electric Dreams)  (Article Index)  (Search for Topic)  (View Article Options)

  Barrett, Hilary (2001 Jan). Exploring Dreams through the I Ching. "Two Snakes in the Grass." Electric Dreams 8(1). Retrieved December 30, 2001 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2000 From: Anonymous
Subject: Two Snakes in the Grass

I was outside and the sun was shining through tree branches somewhere above me. I remember, these sunny dappled spots had a beautiful yellow warmth to them, but I felt hopelessly fearful of something ahead of me. I began to walk toward a dry dirt and gravel path that wound through cool, lush greenery. It became apparent to me that I was back in Kenya, walking through, I can only imagine, a section of the national game park. I knew there was a nest of vipers to my right, in a bunch of long lemon grass, but I continued to walk toward and over the dirt path. As I neared the clump of lemon grass, I saw two huge vipers, probably 8ft each, lying in the sun. As I passed them they both attacked me. One bit me on my right wrist, and the other latched onto my face, just below my left cheek. Their teeth were very large and seemed blunt, and the pressure the teeth placed on my skin was apparent. Both vipers latched onto me and hung on my body and I felt that they were not injecting poison, but rather sucking something out of me, all the while I fought to get them off of my body. I noticed the size of the heads, they were also very large and heart shaped, as with most poisonous snakes. I could see every scale on their head in great detail. I also remember, the snakes were very dry. I finally tore them away. After I got them off of me, I noticed the gaping wounds they had left on my body. The wound on my arm went from my wrist to my forearm and the flesh was torn and flapping. I did not bleed very much. I looked into the wound but could not see bone, only tendons and a small bit of something, I couldn't tell what. I pulled on the unidentified tissue and i felt the muscle attached to my upper forearm pull with it, so I concluded it had to be my muscle, I left it hanging there while I explored the wound on my face. As my attention moved to my face, it felt as though I was looking at it in a mirror. The skin was, once again, horribly torn and flapping and a large section of my face was missing. As I spread the skin folds aside, I could not see any skull, only smooth muscle and skin tissue. It was horrible! I felt very helpless.
Throughout the dream I felt a strong sense of hopelessness. I felt that although I knew what had happened was terrible, I could not do anything about it but I wished I could. For some reason this dream has really bothered me, I would very much appreciate any interpretations available, anything to begin to understand what it might mean. Thank you.

The I Ching's answer: Dangerous Learning

Your instinctive reaction is absolutely right: this is an important dream, and a disturbing one. In a vast, untamed place, elemental forces attack you, and you feel helpless. The I Ching's depiction of the dream acknowledges both its mood and its importance: it begins with Hexagram 29, Double Chasm, the hexagram of danger, darkness and exposure. But it places this danger in the context of Hexagram 4, Learning...

Hexagram 4 speaks to you with the voice of a teacher: 'Learning, growth. I do not seek the young learner, the
young learner seeks me. To ask once brings you insight; to ask two or three times brings only confusion, not insight. You benefit from determination.' This brings out the significance of the snakes in your dream, representing the dangers of knowledge (a snake brought the knowledge that saw Adam and Eve expelled from Eden) and also transformation and renewal: snakes shed their skin. In Learning, the wise teacher will not volunteer answers until you can ask the right questions with understanding. At times of great growth and change, you may have to accept that some things are still concealed from you, and nurture their growth in the darkness. Learning is an honourable position - a sign that you have begun to grow. This offers you a role in which to begin to relate to your dreams.

But the snakes of your dream do not shed their own skin; they are brutal, wild messengers of change, and they tear away your protective covering. Learning is combined with danger, the Chasm. This is where you find yourself at the very beginning of the dream. The sun is warm and bright above, but you are in the shade, with fear and danger. 'Light above, chasm below': this is how the I Ching contrasts hexagrams 29 and 30. It suggests you have fallen into this dark place from Hexagram 28, Great Excess: something has been bearing a great weight, and when it buckled under the strain, you fell into the unknown. The Chasm is the hexagram of the unconscious.

'Double chasm. There is sincerity, connection to spirit. Holding to your heart. Growing. Moving on brings honour.'

Danger concentrates the mind: it demands that your essence become active, and makes you more intensely yourself. This is also the hexagram of flowing water, that runs fastest in deep chasms. It calls you to be committed, to take risks. There are two snakes in the dream, just as the Chasm is doubled. This repetition suggests a chance to learn: this imperative will return again and again until you can confront it with steadfastness. The snakes reveal what you are made of by tearing away your skin, and their heart-shaped heads remind you that your inmost self is involved. The wounds they inflict force you to look beneath the skin.

The Chasm represents both a deep pit, where you can be trapped, and also water as it flows fast through a chasm, with total commitment. Both of these aspects represent danger, but they suggest two very different ways of
imagining it - that is, of incorporating and dealing with it. The I Ching stresses the importance of flowing through: 'water flows and fills, not accumulating but running. Pass through dangerous places; never lose self-confidence. Rely on heart and mind.' Yet your dream is overwhelmingly dry: the path, the skin of the snakes, the almost bloodless wounds. And you feel anything but confident.

The pervading feeling of the dream is expressed in moving line 6: 'Tied with stranded ropes. Banished to the dense thorn trees. You can accomplish nothing for three years. Pitfall.' The thorn bushes were the place for prisoners, people who were judged and condemned and could do nothing to help themselves. Even if they could get free of the ropes (snakes?), they would still be horribly wounded. The question is whether this role of victim is inevitable - do you have to be immobilized and disempowered? This line points to hexagram 59, Dispersing, which suggests that there is a way through. It shows ice being broken, obstacles dispersing like clouds, so that there can be free communication with spirit.

There is an alternative to being a victim. It is represented by the other moving line in your answer: 'The chasm is not overflowing, just calmly filled to the top. There is nothing wrong.' Running water cannot be captured for ever by a pit, though it must fill it before it can flow on. This is another way of being and coping with danger, with the patience and strength of flowing water. This line points to hexagram 7, Army, where the strength of the army is likened to underground water: hidden, powerful resources. Pour yourself out and fill the chasm: give the spirits of earth and darkness their due, and there will be peace. (There may be an ancient reference here to pouring blood into a pit in sacrifice to the earth and the dead.)

The Patterns of Change for 'dangerous learning' are hexagram 34, Great Vigour, for inner change, and Hexagram 20, Contemplation, for outer change. Great Vigour shows the surge of potentially dangerous energy like the water's strong current, driving change within you; Contemplation shows the tranquil, reflective surface of the pool - preparing, detached, not yet engaged.

The I Ching offers you the image of water flowing through the chasm as the mirror image to the dry, dusty path you are on. If you become like water, you can overcome the
sense of hopelessness that pervades the dream, and your strength will be as inexhaustible as the flow of water. You can learn and be transformed through danger.

The I Ching is the ancient Chinese oracle of change. For a hundred generations, it has been answering people's questions, from dream interpretation to career decisions, across the whole spectrum of human experience. I have been learning from the I Ching for many years, and founded Clarity, a dedicated I Ching consultation service, to make the oracle's help readily and simply available to all who need it.

Hilary Barrett.
Please send comments or questions to support@onlineClarity.co.uk