Do Dreams About Death Predict the Future?

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Dreams about Death and Dying

Dreams about death may be upsetting but are not necessarily dark prophecies of the future. These dreams are so common that if they were all to come true there would be hardly any of us left alive! The truth is that nearly all death and dying dreams are metaphors that express the way you are feeing.

This is a copyrighted extract from my book  Psychic Dreaming  by Craig Hamilton-Parker ( ISBN 1-4027-0474-7 Sterling Publishers 2004 )

Death may represent the ending of one phase so that a new one can begin. Major changes in your life such as the end of a relationship or career may be represented by this symbol of finality. Similarly, important changes or your behaviour can be symbolised by a common dream about death. For example, you may decide to stop behaving in a childish way and consequently dream about a child dying. Or you may fear that you are neglecting the parental side of your nature and so dream about your mother of father dying. The dream may be telling you to be more maternal and caring. If you dream of a death the first question to ask yourself is ‘What aspect of myself doers this person represent?’ Answered with honesty and you will see that the dream is most likely about you and your feelings rather than a prophecy for the future.

If a situation in life is becoming too much to handle you may dream of being a corpse. The dream may be saying: “This’ll be the death of me” or “This situation is killing me”. We don’t mean people to take us literally when we say these things in everyday conversation and so too dreams are here expressing your feelings in a figurative way. Also a cold corpse may represent the coldness of your feelings and be a call for you to be more compassionate. Similarly a burial, coffin or funeral can symbolise the emotions and feelings that you try to push away from your conscious thoughts and burry away. You may feel that part of yourself or something in your life has died. You may be grieving for something that has passed from your life such as a happy relationship or situation in which you were happy and secure.  And of course these dreams may also be about your feelings of bereavement connected with deaths that have happened in the past. The dream may be saying “I feel just as upset now as when so and so died”

Freud had a lot to say about dreams about death. He believed that everyone has two contending basic drives: eros, which is the drive toward pleasure and life, and thanatos, the drive towards death. The “death instinct” identified by Sigmund Freud, is the desire to give up the struggle of life and return to quiescence and the grave. Death symbolism in dreams may highlight that you have feelings of despair and need to address these negative tendencies.

If you have a dream about death then clearly is wise to first consider whether the dream is more about you and your feelings than about events that are to take place. However in some rare instances dreams about death may predict future events. One of the personally memorable ones was a dream that my grandmother had on the night before my sister’s wedding. She woke to an upsetting dream that she told my aunt in the morning. She dreamed that my sister was wearing a black wedding dress and that the groom was nowhere to be found. Six months after the wedding my sister’s husband was diagnosed as having cancer. Six months after that he died. Clearly my grandmother’s dream of the bride wearing black was a symbol of the tragedy that was to come.

Examining my own dreams that have foretold of a death and also similar dreams sent to me through my newspaper columns I have noticed that there are qualities of precognitive dreams that are very different to the death dreams I described at the start of this entry.  Dreams that predict a death are usually without fear and emotion. They are very vivid but nonetheless their quality is matter of fact. Dreams about death that are filled with upsetting feelings are usually expressions of ones emotions. Dreams about actual death stated as a fate accompli and are generally not accompanied by upsetting feelings. Often they are filled with symbols of hope and the promise of the continuation of life beyond death.

I believe that it is possible to ‘feel’ whether the figure of the dead in a dream is being used as a symbol or should be taken literally. Certainly once we pass middle age it is more likely that we will begin to have death dreams and even more so as we get older still as the issue becomes more important to us.

Psychologists have made some interesting studies of dreams of patients prior to anticipated or sudden death. In most instances these dreams imply not an end to earthly existence but transformation into a continuation of life. Carl Jung emphasised that the unconscious psyche pays little attention to the sudden end of bodily life and behaves as if the life of the individual will continue. The unconscious ‘believes’ in a life after death.

Dreams contain many symbols of death and the subsequent rebirth into a new transformed state of being. Remember though that some of the symbols that appear in death dreams are images that are also present during what Jung called the individuation process- the growth into psychological wholeness. These images are especially likely to appear in dreams during the second half of life.

Psychic Dreams About DeathPsychic Dreams about Death and Dying

Dreams about death – Signs, Stories and Symbols:

Angels: As well as being messengers from God, mythology has it that angels are the beings that take the dying person away from life and to a better world. Jungian psychology may liken the angel to the anima- the perfect woman that in reality is symbolic of the female aspect of the man’s psyche. She may appear in dreams as a guiding figure. (A woman has an animus figure- the psychological symbol for the perfect man and male aspect of her own nature). These figures appear often in dreams as a person strives towards psychological wholeness. People who are terminally ill may dream of their anima/animus figure as a guide to the next life. This was the case with the Greek philosopher Socrates, who, in prison, dreamed of a radiant white woman. He took this to be an announcement of his death. My own work as a medium has led me to meet dying people who at the time of death have seen a being of light stood in the room. Their joyful descriptions of the ‘vision’ they have certainly convinces me that their experience is much more than a psychological process.

Animals: Death may be symbolised by a dog or a wolf. When Jung’s mother died he dreamed of a giant wolfhound crashing in the undergrowth. He wrote: “It tore past me, and I suddenly knew: the Wild Huntsman had commanded it to carry away a human soul… The next morning I received the news of my mother’s passing.” Similarly a dead animal or bird may represent a human death. A dove may symbolise the flight of the soul after death. In Ancient Egypt the Ka (soul) was represented by a bird or winged figure.

Bridge: Crossing a bridge may represent the transition to the next life. In the Islamic tradition, the deceased must cross over the perilously thin Sirat Bridge to get to the after life. Similarly, the entry to the next world may appear as a dark passage- similar in some ways to the birth canal that brought us to life in the first place. Many ancient cultures used to burry their dead in the embryonic position as a symbol of rebirth into a new life.

Burglar: The closeness of death is sometimes represented in dreams by a burglar. Like death, this person is someone unfamiliar which unexpectedly enters one’s present life 

Clocks: A clock that has stopped or cannot be started again may be a motif to represent life coming to an end. The dreams of terminally ill people have been found to include this brutal symbolism of the ending of life. A stopped clock may also of course symbolise something that has stopped in the dreamer’s life such as a relationship, job and so on. You may be living by the stop clock too much.

Fire: A flame may represent the life force and spirit. To dream of a flame being put out can represent a death. In the past, people would light candles in a mortuary room as an allegory for giving new life and consciousness to the deceased. To this day we still light candles in churches as a symbol of life and remembrance. Fire is also a symbol for transformation. This may be the transformation of the person as they move form this world to the next or most likely will show psychological transformations that are happening within the dreamer.

Flowers: Flowers are a widespread symbol for post-mortal existence or for the resurrection of person after death. Wreaths of flowers at a funeral symbolise not only our feelings of sympathy but also our hidden desire for the departed to find new life. In a dream flowers may also show our search for wholeness. Flowers are generally mandala shaped which makes then a fitting symbol for the Self. A lotus may show enlightenment and triumph over death.

Journeys: Death may be symbolised as a great passage or a journey. This may include crossing over water as shown in the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries of the journey with the boatman Charon to the glorious Elysium or the ‘Isles of the Blessed’. Sometimes the journey is to the West– the place of the setting sun.

Trees: The life of the individual is often symbolised by a tree. It has also been likened to the human nervous system. If the tree of life is hewn down in a dream this may represent the ending of life. For some critically ill patience this symbol has represented brutal surgical intervention. Alternatively this image may represent ones own feelings of despair and show a need to embrace life rather than deny it. (The ancient Assyrians superstitions claimed that to dream of cutting down a date palm denoted a solution to the dreamers problems.)

Vegetation: A field that has been cut down, or a mown lawn may represent the ending of life. The grim reaper carries a scythe.  In ancient mythology wheat and barley are important symbol of the rebirth that follows bodily death. In Egyptian tombs images are sometimes shown of the dead body of Osiris spouting new. Seeds were often put in a mummy’s bandages. Similarly the image of the green man can represent death and rebirth. In a dream these symbols may show the continuation of the life process after death. They may also be symbols for personal transformation.

Water: Water can represent the life force. It may also represent the waters of the womb and the possibility of rebirth. Often the ashes of the dead are cast onto a river or the ocean.

Wedding: According to Jungian psychology, a wedding is taken to mean the union of the psychic opposites- the high and low, the conscious and unconscious and in particular the male and female aspects of the personality. Jung wrote of the hierosgamos (sacred marriage) as a symbol for the ‘death wedding’. A wedding is a symbol of a turning point in life and perhaps also a symbol of completeness. When Jung came close to death he dreamed of a mystical marriage in a garden of pomegranates. The dream included ecstatic visions that made Jung’s waking life appear grey in comparison. Of course weddings can also symbolise other things too- such the coming together of the opposites within the personality or a real life relationship.

This is a copyrighted extract from my book  Psychic Dreaming  by Craig Hamilton-Parker ( ISBN 1-4027-0474-7 Sterling Publishers 2004 )

This is an extract from my new book
Mystical Dream Interpretation

About Post Author

Craig Hamilton-Parker

Craig is a TV medium, author and mystical teacher. I will approve and respond to comments that are short, well-written and on topic. For personal questions and experiences please post on our forums.
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