What Does It Mean If You Dream About Spiders?

It doesn’t symbolize what you’d think

The American actress and singer Doris Day getting frightened with the view of a spider in a scene of 'Caprice'. 1967 (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)
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Dreams about spiders are a very common dream theme for both women and men. It makes sense when you think about it. Your dreaming mind loves to seize on symbols from your waking life that are likely to invoke strong emotion in you. Why? Because it increases the chances of you instantly recalling and reflecting on their meaning when you wake up. Many of us have an innate fear of spiders, those creepy eight-legged uninvited squatters in all our homes, who seem to enjoy making frightening surprise appearances in the bathtub. So, what does a dream about spiders mean? Sure, there is a fear factor and you may wake up feeling as terrified of spiders as Ron Weasley in Harry Potter or trapped in a web of fear like Frodo in Shelob’s web in Lord of the Rings. But, you may be surprised to know that dreaming of spiders isn’t always a sinister sign. Quite the contrary, spider dreams, like Charlotte’s Web and Spiderman, can suggest that significant opportunities for creativity and power are yours for the taking in your waking life.

In the decades I’ve been a best selling dream decoding expert and Dream Dictionary A to Z author, I have lost count of the number of messages I receive about spider dreams and requests to interpret their meaning. My response is always the same. To understand your spider dreams you need to start with the universal meaning and symbolism associated with spiders and then add in your own personal associations. In cultures around the world, spiders are rich with symbolism and contradictory meaning. They represent darkness and mystery but also productivity and power. Given their incredible ability to weave intricate, perfectly-constructed webs, they're known as creators — and therefore represent divine feminine energy (women are the creators of the world, after all!). They also represent knowledge, ingenuity and creativity: "Their bodies are shaped like the number 8 and they have 8 legs, symbolising infinite possibilities of creation," explained Shamanic Journey on its site. Stories about spiders are commonly found in folklore, and they're thought of as spiritual by some.

According to the father of dream interpretation, Sigmund Freud spiders are symbols of the mother or the controlling aspect of her we may fear the most. His arguably more influential psychologist colleague, Carl Jung, believed spiders represent the archetypal shadow or dark and undesirable side lurking within us all. Modern dream theorists, myself included, put a more positive spin on spider dream interpretation and reference the infinite calm, patience, resilience, speed and creative skill of the spider, flagging up the helpful role spiders play in home pest control. In other words, these strange little creatures that most of us loathe sharing our homes with — even though house spiders really are okay and likely more afraid of us than we are of them — remain a topic of endless fascination with both negative and positive symbolic associations.

Although it is illuminating to know about the common symbolism and associations with spiders, absolutely crucial is how you feel about spiders in your waking life. If you are a spider fan seeing them in your dreams will have a more upbeat, just-go-with-the-flow interpretation. If, however, spiders bother and alarm you greatly and the web they weave to catch and poison their prey seems cruel rather than something inevitable they have to do to survive, your dreaming mind is using the spider symbol to alert you urgently to something very big and significant you need to deal with in your waking life. To help you figure out what that important thing might be for you, here are some common spider themes with illuminating insight into why these creepy crawlers are spinning their way into your dreams. You’ll know when you hit on the right interpretation when you get an “aha!” moment of instant clarity.

Web of Fear

In his seminal book, Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker explains that during REM or rapid eye movement stage sleep where most dreaming happens, your brain exists in a unique state: without the flight or fight stress hormone noradrenaline which is present in other sleep stages as well as during waking hours. With this hormone absent your mind is free to dream stress hormone free about close encounters with a spider or getting trapped in a web. It’s only on waking that the cold sweat starts and you wonder what on earth it all means.

One way to interpret the appearance of a spider in your dream is to think about the webs that spiders spin oh so skillfully. The web could point to complicated relationships in your life or it could point to a situation or a specific relationship that is making you feel trapped.

If fear has been a theme of your spider dream you need to figure out what or who in your waking life is limiting your freedom or making you feel vulnerable or paralysed. Do bear in mind that more often than not this dream isn’t really about someone or something else but about an aspect of yourself that is self-sabotaging or stopping you from progressing as you should.

Manipulation Alert

The purpose of that web is to survive, a spider needs to catch its prey. That said, if you see a spider (and especially a spider web) in a dream, you'll want to examine your life to see if you're in the midst of getting stuck in (or weaving!) a sticky trap of your own. Perhaps you have perfectly valid reasons for the reasons you are operating in a certain way in real life but do bear that in mind. "Spiders are associated with manipulation," explained Cynthia Richmond, author of Dream Power, in an interview with the Huffington Post. "Depending on the rest of the dream, the spider may indicate that the dreamer is being manipulated or that the dreamer is the manipulator." Analyze the situations that are weighing on you to suss out whether your dreaming mind is trying to alert you to some manipulation taking place in your own life.

Toxic Forces In Your Life

You may dream of a spider biting you. A bite is an aggressive action. It hurts. It takes something precious out of you. Examine in your waking life if you are feeling hurt or if someone has deeply offended you. If that doesn’t seem to be the case, consider whether you need to be more assertive or to protect your own needs. If the spiders are crawling all over you in your dream rather than biting this suggests something is threatening or irritating you. It is not yet as urgent or dangerous as the biting but it is something you need to keep a keen eye on because you are at risk of losing something.

If you dream about a poisonous or particularly threatening-seeming spider — or if you dream of having spiders in your hair — this could indicate that there's a threatening force in your life that's compromising your well-being or safety. We typically associate hair as a symbol of health and beauty so this dream is warning you about something or someone (and that someone could be you) who is damaging your appearance, health and happiness. That could be a substance that's being used in excess, or "that a relationship, career or person has turned bad," explained Richmond to Huffington Post. As for spiders crawling on you, Hack To Sleep explained the symbolism: "In this instance, the spider represents negative influences in your life that are difficult to rid yourself of, such as addictions, habits, or people that give negative emotional, mental, or physical impacts on your life."

And if you dream of spiders in your bed, think about the symbolism of your bed. It is your space. It is intimate. It is where you can escape. Your personal space or your privacy is being invaded in some way. This could be someone who is crossing a line in your waking life but again it could be your own negativity towards yourself and/or others.

Major Feminine Energy

Spiders can certainly symbolise controlling male figures but there is a stronger traditional association with feminine power, and that extends to the dreamworld, too. "When you dream of spiders, chances are that it refers to feminine energy in your life," explained Spirit Animal on its site. "This dream symbol could represent a woman you know or your own connection with qualities usually considered as feminine, such as receptivity, patience, creativity." The site advises you to pay attention to your reaction to the spider in the dream. If you're afraid of it or repelled by it, it may mean you're repressing feminine energy of some sort in your waking life — whether that means within yourself or from another person.

Freud suggested that spiders in dreams represent the devouring mother who consumes her children through possessiveness or her ability to inspire guilt. Is there an overpowering female in your waking life or an aspect of your personality that is overpowering or making you feel guilty? Or does the spider represent the soaring creative potential of the feminine waiting to be unleashed within you? Psychologist Fritz Perls pioneered a dream interpretation technique called Gestalt which encourages you to ask symbols in your dreams what they mean. So talk to your dream spider. Ask her who she is and why she is spinning around you in your dreams.

Looming Anxieties

According to celebrity dream expert Lauri Loewenberg, quoted in Cosmopolitan, “bugs in dreams tend to symbolise something that is really bugging you in real life and spiders, in particular, point to deceit and lies.”

If you've ever had a spider descend upon you from above, dangling in the air on their invisible cord and getting way too close for comfort, then you know that experience is basically the epitome of anxiety. And what if it happens in a dream? Well, same deal — it likely means you're anxious about something that's looming over you and this could be fear of someone taking advantage of you or lying or not trusting yourself. "Dreams about spiders hanging over you is a sign it is time to address these issues and insecurities," explained Hack To Sleep. "Alternatively, the hanging spider can represent unfinished business." Think of a spider dropping in on your dream as being a reminder to deal with your anxieties and not keep shoving them aside. You don't want anything — spiders or stressors — looming over you or bugging you like that.

A Spark Of Creativity

Spiders lay eggs and multiply fast. This could be interpreted as a sign of looming danger or threat but it could also be a symbol of great potential for your future. Either way the eggs need time to hatch so you have an opportunity to either prevent anxieties from destroying your life or to put plans in place to build a better future.

And of course spiders also spin those remarkable webs which if you take time to study are a true work of natural art. They are strongly linked with creativity. "A web is an artful construct," wrote Exemplore on its site. "Like the plot of a story, it requires both a birds-eye-view of the larger picture and a microscopic attention to detail." That said, seeing an ever-creative spider in a dream could mean you've got some creativity within yourself that you'd like to express. It could also represent a current or upcoming creative venture that's heavily on your mind. Take the spider as a promising symbol that you have what you need to move forward. Just remember to pursue your creative goals with patience, resilience and an eye for detail.

Destroying spiders in your dream could suggest that you are getting rid of something toxic in life but it could also suggest that something you are doing in real life is having a negative impact on your creativity. You think you are doing the right thing or that the only way out is drastic action but this could be making matters worse. In dreams, as in waking life, peaceful resolution is always the best way forward.

Making Progress On Your Goals

Spiders, being ever-so-patient and, of course, gifted with the magic of web weaving, are masterful in accomplishing their goals. So if you see a spider crawling along in a dream, it might represent the fact that you're making progress towards goals of your own. "In your dream, if the spider is crawling up a wall, it means that you are moving forward in your personal and professional life, and succeeding in a goal you are pursuing," wrote Hack To Sleep. "If the spider struggles on the way up, it could mean that you are hitting roadblocks along the way and need to persist or try new tactics." Take a dream like this as a sign that you should make like a spider and keep on truckin' when it comes to living your own dreams.’ If you fall down you can climb right back up again. If your web is destroyed within you is all that you need to build things back bigger and better than before.

Size Matters

Last, but by no means least, when it comes to spiders in a dream, size matters. The bigger your dream spider the bigger spider-like energy is hanging over your waking life wanting you to notice it and do something about it. You really need to activate your spidey sense (intuition) and do something quickly about it before it really does consume you. This is especially the case if you have recurring dreams about spiders.

Be sure to pay extra careful attention to what is going on in your waking life when spiders roam free in your dreams. Your dreaming mind is using this wicked but wonderful symbol to get you to pay closer attention to something unresolved or which you need to face or integrate to evolve. That something could be a worry or a toxic attitude, situation or relationship. Or it could be your own spectacular creative potential just waiting for you to unleash it. It’s your spider dream and your life. You get to decide.

Additional reporting by Nina Khan.

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