On my recent travels through Italy, I came across one of only two English speaking news shows running a story on iconic, universal symbols.
The reporter defined this as an instant recognition or association of a visual symbol regardless of your age, location on the Earth, religion, social status, gender or level of intelligence.
Several people from different parts of the globe were then shown these symbols and every one of them related in a similar way. Even if they didn’t know the exact name, they knew what that symbol represented. This is akin to how it works in dreams…
Because we are asleep, our brain is functioning at a lower level physiologically, so we are sent crude, sometimes grotesque or beautiful images to express the message behind the meaning of the dream.
My husband of nearly 26 years has remembered approximately a dozen dreams in his entire life, and these are exclusively after naps. Whenever he gets worried about financial matters (he is a Taurus) he dreams of Uncle Moneypenny.
Now, you may not know this name, but he is the dude from the game of Monopoly with the top hat, monocle and cane.
See where I’m going?
To my husband, this is his iconic symbol for money matters, and anyone who has ever played or even heard of the game is well acquainted with this character.
So, let’s take a look at some of the symbols I saw on the program and we will see that although everyone easily identified them, they all had a slightly different take on it:
- Crucifix or Cross: to a Christian, this is a symbol of God, suffering, faith, sacrifice, morals and to some, an endless sense of guilt. But, to a Muslim, a Jew, a Wiccan or an Atheist, this will have a totally different meaning, subjective to each individual dreamer. For example, I was bullied as a kid because I am a Jew. So, for me, this is not a particularly comforting symbol.
- Peace sign: Is there anyone that has not seen this symbol or even made it with their own fingers? Could it have the same meaning for someone living in Beverly Hills that it does for someone living in a war torn, unstable country?
- Uncle Sam: The good, old U S of A. To a person trying to emigrate or living in a land where democracy does not exist, this symbol would have a very different implication than to an American military veteran.
- McDonald’s Arches: are you hungry all the time, trying to make ends meet, living off of food stamps? Do you think the person that has their own private chef and our hungry person see this the same? I would imagine a burger, however unappealing some find fast food, would be welcomed if one hadn’t eaten in a few days, but to the guy in his penthouse, sipping Pinot Noir, it would represent a HUGE fear of losing status or money.
- Coca Cola: One of the most recognizeable and oldest product logos, for most it means refreshment, relaxing, taking a break. But what about to a dieter or a diabetic? Now, we’ve taken this lovely symbol and have exposed how it could be unhealthy for some.
- Frankenstein: A monster to all, eliciting fear in our very beings! Green, towering, bolts sticking out of the neck and scars everywhere, is this another person we are dreaming of or is this the person with low self-esteem, feeling ugly, self critical, regarding themselves as a monster? Or, is there that monster within that you are trying hard to suppress? Although all have negative connotations, except for monster movie buffs, they are all different.
- Pyramids: some of the older and more mysterious structures on our planet. Most of us recognize these immediately and know they are in Egypt, but because they carry the stigma of the unknown, death, afterlife and survival through the ages, dreaming of a pyramid can mean so many different things. Is someone around you acting mysteriously? Do you enjoy puzzles and cracking codes? Are you seeking to reach a higher spiritual level? Do you just want to go and visit Egypt?
- Swastikas: there are no questions regarding what this means. Although not everyone, especially the younger generation, are fully aware of the ramifications of one lunatic leading a party of Nazis in an attempt to rule the world, it is immediately looked upon with scorn. For Christians, it is a perversion of that they hold dearly, to Jews it’s a never ending memory of hate, cruelty, suffering and to NEVER FORGET. But, what about a poor worker in a factory somewhere in China? What would she think if she saw this very same symbol? She would certainly recognize it, but wouldn’t have the emotional attachment, therefore the meaning to her would be quite interesting, as it would differ greatly from people that lived through it. Then, there are the Neo-Nazis…
- Smiley Face: such a happy image, how can you not smile yourself? But, to a depressed person or someone that might have recently suffered a great loss, they might be confused and baffled if this were to appear in their dream, almost as if they were being mocked.
It seems that the pivotal word here is DIFFERENT! Because of our experiences in life, we assign our own meanings to common images shared by many of our fellow citizens of the world.
Let’s sprinkle a bit of tarot into the mix now! Using JUST the symbol of Uncle Moneypenny from my husband’s dream (since we already know his security is based on his monetary situations and is a very typical anxiety dream for him) let’s do a spread.
Here’s what I pulled:
- Main Event: 4 of Wands: A happy home filled with passion, hard work to get there, establishing boundaries, prosperity, harmony. This is how he sees his life, as he works 70-90 hrs/week we keep our outward socializing to a minimum and enjoy the peace & quiet of our later years, after the trials and tribulations (not to mention expenses) of raising 2 children and a grandchild.
- What is blocking the message: Page of Pentacles: Work, work, work, that’s all I do! Whenever he experiences a fear of loss, ends up bailing a family member out of a financial mess or feels like he is being ripped off, his ego gets a bit in the way and he ends up taking it personally and stresses. As he always seems to land on his feet, I see this card as the anxiety blocking out the message that sometimes, people screw up and if you continue to help them out, you will continue to have this dream! If you enjoy your happy home, build those walls on the 4 of Wands a bit higher.
- Main Message: Death: he must learn to release from these self-imposed obligations to be the provider and go-to guy for everyone. Maybe it’s because being the baby of 11 he feels the need to prove himself even more, or for the fact that he lost his father early, at the age of 13. Although he had older brothers as mentors, he felt a bit gypped out of having a Dad as long as his siblings did. I tell him to just have faith, release it to the Universe and it will all be okay.
- Application/Lesson/Outcome: Justice: Read my last sentence of the previous card, wink wink. If you continue to do the right thing, even if it’s not always easy and accept that you are bound to hit a few bumps in the road, you will always get your rewards in the end. Trust not just in the Universe, but Karma, and know that even if things seem unfair, everything works itself out in the long run. Just have faith.
So, now we see how iconic images and symbols differ greatly from Jung’s archetypes, frequent vistors in our dreams, too. I come from a very Jungian perspective when interpreting dreams and am still studying him intensely, but since he died in 1961, what would he answer if you told him you kept dreaming of the Google logo or hearing the words, “You’ve got mail!”? Investigate, relate to waking life, get a firm grasp on all the symbols in your dream and do a spread. Then, if possible, sit back, flash someone a peace sign, have a Coke and relax!
Monopoloy image courtesy of Free-Extras