For years, I was tormented by dreams of being chased by wolves and packs of angry dogs. Usually I would wake up from fright, but sometimes not before one of them sunk their teeth into me or scratched at my hands and face.
In waking life, I’m a dog lover who raised and trained several dogs. In particular, I helped raise a beautiful Alaskan Malamute/German Shepard mix named Bandit who was also a quarter wolf. He lived only 7 years due to a faulty heart. So my nightmares do not come from a fear of unknowing, but rather a legacy of love, which always confused me further. What am I so scared of?
When discussing animal dreams, often we are tempted to focus on the traits and characteristics of the animals, reducing our relationship to a symbol or metaphor. This is valid, especially when we look at the evolutionary significance of “wild” animals and our collective relationship to them throughout the eons. Clearly, packs of wolves were once a threat to humans, especially lone people or children out in the open. Wolves are cunning, able to organize hunting parties, follow tracks and wait for the right opportunity. Yet, more often than not, wolves and humans lives peacefully in the same land-base, except when they successfully taxed our livelihood, such as in sheep-herding or ranching cultures.
Wolves make a good mirror. They are highly social, with a similar pecking order to human groups, with well-established alphas, betas and zetas. Wolves are loyal, intelligent and capable of great feats of endurance. They howl when excited, preen and groom one another, and alpha pairs can form lasting pair-bonds to raise pups.
But the wolves in my dreams are more than symbols of my cunning or my aggressiveness. As depth psychologist James Hillman says in a 1994 interview with Jonathan White about animal symbols in dreams, “Animals come into our own dreams as guides, helpers, and saviors… they teach us about something, but they are not a part of us. The bear dream that one man had corresponds to his own earthy, shaggy nature, and therefore he can feel an affinity. But that bear is not his own shaggy nature. That reduces the bear to just a piece of himself and insults the bear – it interprets the bear away.”
The Dream Provides the Solution
A few years ago, I told an elderly German psychotherapist about my wolf dreams and my inability to proceed when the animals attack, despite often becoming lucid in the dream. Should I fight them off? Allow myself to be devoured as some sort of initiation rite? As with many lucid dreams, my self-awareness seemed to bungle the dream rather than provide clarity.
She suggested something else. “Reach into your pocket and pull out a gift for them.” I was struck by the simplicity of this action. I asked how would I know what to give them and she answered, “That is up to the dream, not you.”
A month or so later, the wolves came back. I was running through a clearing in the woods and climbed halfway up a tree when I became self-aware. I remembered the woman’s words. As the wolves snapped their teeth at me all around, I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a cloth pouch. Inside, I found raw, red meat. I offered it up and the wolves hungrily ate from my hands. I could feel their teeth scrape against my flesh and soon they were licking my fingers. I looked around and saw they were now non-aggressive and awaiting my direction. I thought, “Go” and they instantly took off, running back to the forest.
I have not had terrifying wolf dreams since then. While I still do not know the full story of who these wolves are and how they are connected to me, but I have forged a relationship that continues to grow. On more than one occasion I have called the wolves in my dreams when I needed aid. They come running now, not to hunt, but to help.
This article is now an excerpt from my ebook Dream Like a Boss (Book One). I also tell the second part of the story — how my wolf dreams came back after the birth of my son.
You can pick it up from Amazon for $4.99.
I love the imagery, Ryan, and the solution that emerged.
Fernando Cavalaro says
You can find dream´s animal meanings in every dream dictionary, but sounds like those tests to discover your magic numbers. For me, when a animal appears in dreams, the dream always have a kind of mistery background. Dream animals are misteries, like the llama with feather wings that i dreamed last week, it´s not the first time that this strange animal apperead, and i even had seen a llama on tv or anywhere else recently to dream with it. Now, thinking, the dream animals can be perceveid as outsiders, characters that don´t “appear” in everyday dreams.
Like animals and humans in waking like, they (we) belongs to the same seed but are some “billion-genes” apart from each other (what a stoned word, sorry). A dream animal, in this hipothesis, would help to integrate this connection with our original seed. Animals researches in real life can show beautiful traces of EARTH EVOLUTION. So, studying dream animals could help us to discover somes interesting things about DREAM EVOLUTION.
Wow, I think I´m having a coffee od. Sorry for being so long and not saying anything. But i fly in my dreams and sometimes i should let them fly too.
Fernando Cavalaro says
Hey Ryan, the Gods of Dreams must be angry with me! hehehe. Yesterday i wrote the comment about animal dreams being misterious beings, but today i had a dream where there were two animals, one aligator an one little monkey. They were acting just like animals, without any “misterious background” in the dream scene. Maybe using the five star method i will be able to “catch a clue or something” about some valid interpretation throught the day, maybe. But surely i will be more focus when writing about dream characters, in this case, dream animals.
Reflecting now, it wasn´t a peaceful dream, and the animals figures were threatening me. it puts me in a similar situation with you and the wolves (but a not recurrent nightmare like yours). and reflecting just a little more bites (hauhauahuha), my fellings about my past comment are like “saying something about someone (the animals) not knowing about “this something” of “this someone”, of course they should be a little angry, i would be too, so this is why they were so rude in the dream.
We don´t tell animals what kind of gift we want, so i will wait for a while to dream more about them, and then i could write more experiences.
Have a nice day!! Today in Curitiba-Brazil the Sun is smiling kindly to us, so i wish to all you dreamers this felling of hapiness.
Fernando, I bet your thoughts sound better in Spanish. Thank you for sharing your dreams. I want to thank Ryan for this really helpful website. There are goals every night to try new ways of reacting to situations I find myself in my dreams. I just started experimenting the last few nights. And this article gave me a new idea to react in my dream tonight. Gifts!! So genius!
Ryan Hurd says
thanks ya’ll. I’m experimenting with writing more personal pieces…. glad to hear it struck a chord.
Rebecca Turner says
Great idea! I love to ask my dreams to show me stuff, or come up with surprise items or dream figures. If I have no lucid dream intention I open up a portal or door and just reach in and see what I pull out! Sometimes it’s a person, sometimes it’s an object, and it can be pretty freaky because I have no idea what to expect – it really depends on the mood of the dream. I still can’t believe there is a whole other “me” processing information beneath the surface. But this kind of experiment reveals there is truly a subconscious inner self just waiting to communicate with us. So cool 🙂 Thanks for sharing Ryan!
Ryan Hurd says
Rebecca, I love how you open a portal to grab something…. that’s wild. I’d love to hear more of your portal adventures.
A Muhammad Ma`ruf says
Thanks for this Ryan. It is a great and enlightening addition to the many wolf dream/ vision stories I have read. I have meditated a lot on several of them: e.g. the European fascination with the image of the werewolf, and another very different story, usually counted as an important miracle among Muslims.
Thanks also for the to-the-point summary of wolf behavior and the human being-wolf relationships in the history of the world of “survival”.
If the wolf can be a guide to man, may be the wolf environment is worth a visit sometimes.
“But the wolves in my dreams are more than symbols of my cunning or my aggressiveness. As depth psychologist James Hillman says in a 1994 interview with Jonathan White about animal symbols in dreams, “Animals come into our own dreams as guides, helpers, and saviors… they teach us about something, but they are not a part of us.”
This too seems to me to be very insightful:
“She suggested something else. “Reach into your pocket and pull out a gift for them.” I was struck by the simplicity of this action. I asked how would I know what to give them and she answered, “That is up to the dream, not you.””
This story ending is worth a million bucks!
“As the wolves snapped their teeth at me all around, I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a cloth pouch. Inside, I found raw, red meat. I offered it up and the wolves hungrily ate from my hands. I could feel their teeth scrape against my flesh and soon they were licking my fingers. I looked around and saw they were now non-aggressive and awaiting my direction. I thought, “Go” and they instantly took off, running back to the forest.”
I have had a very similar relationship with wolves in my dreams. Please read my post and see the multitude of similarities between our experiences…
Ryan Hurd says
dude…. that’s incredible. cold shivers…it’s really powerful to read a story so much like my own… so glad you commented! I’ve had werewolf dreams too, — in which I become the werewolf. that’s a whole nother story….
the ancestral tip sounds strong. I think there’s also some masculine energetic process here. Being able to stand in emotion, for example, is a good metaphor for the werewolf, who stuggles with his beastly nature. cheers!
Hi! I’m not very good at English but I’ll try to explain myself, sorry in advanced for my mistakes. So, I’ve just find about you and your iPhone app and I have to say that I admire your work and the fact that you give us the opportunity to find a place to feel that someone understand us. It’s not easy to explain the relationship with our dreams to people that doesn’t dream a lot. As you said in another post “people don’t say anything because we are afraid of people thinking we are crazy”. Since I’m a child I remember my dreams almost every night… I can tell you every single detail of some of my child dreams, and since then my dreams have always been so detailed, so real, so meaningful… Lucid dreams not always but when I have them they are so long and I even wake up sweating and remember everything, I can have the same kind of dream for months or almost year:.. Sometimes great zombies dreams for months, or snakes… It could be anything… Then other times I have a period where I wake up screaming and having the most sick cruel dreams… (this is when I have problems telling other people… They are sometimes so sick and I don’t want people to think u have some psychological problems or issues that I’m sure I don’t have… I’m a normal, good 27 years old girl), so last year I spent almost the hole year waking up screaming,sweating and crying… I know that year was hard, so I’m sure now that dreams behave accordingly to my stress level… Or at least that’s what I think. So… I’m a big dreamer, I even tied myself while dreaming… I need to explain my dream to explain that and I would love to if I can have the chance.. But for now I’m so happy to finally find something real ( sorry but I just hate all those dream info in Internet like “dream dictionaries” and stuff… I think is like offending our dreams, cuz I think there is no global meaning for a dream… A dream I think, can only be translated for the one who dream it, and it’s hard to know how to do that… Meanwhile I would love to continue reading your wonderful discoveries and this group road to understand this part of us that we love.for now I can tell that this morning I felt asleep for 30 minutes and I dream about wolves… I never dream wolves before, but the strange thing is that he was more than a big grey wolf… He was like human inside… I was scared but then I realized he was good… The odd thing is that he wanted to make love with me (yeap, this is the part where people could think I’m a sick person hahaha but I swear I’m not!), so that’s why I tried searching some answers in Internet… So I find your wolves post… And here I am… So nice to meet you!
Ryan Hurd says
Hi Burus welcome to dreamstudies. you sound like a brilliant dreamer! the easiest way to explore my content is to navigate to “start here.” you can also run a search to find something in particular. I don’t do a lot of dream interpretation, but I think you may especially like the post on “big dreams.” disturbing dreams (and even nightmares) are not a sign of weakness but a sign of connectedness to deeper sources of wisdom beyond the surface mind.
Thanks!!! I will read everything! So happy to have found find this! Great Job!
I’ll write about this in my blog! Even if it’s in Spanish-Italian, I’m sure there are so many people that knows English (in order to read you) and can’t find a place to understand more their dreams! 🙂