I had this dream in January 2000 when I was sleeping over one night at my then partner’s house. The setting in the dream was exactly as it was in reality and there was very little of the kind of fantasy-like symbolic imagery that dreams often employ. From the vantage point of understanding I have today, that indicates the issue is very close to the surface.

Even though I was having a lot of intriguing and dramatic dreams around this time, this one kept haunting me and did so until I finally understood it, a full four years later. It was an important lesson in the power of dreams as a life guidance system and was pivotal in encouraging me to take the dream life more seriously. Another important lesson from the dream is that dreams don’t lie, even though our understanding of them may miss the mark.

I dream that I wake up and get out of bed to find spider web wound round and round me, binding me. I move my arms away from my sides and find I can break out of the web easily. I start itching and realise I have been bitten. I look in the mirror and see I have raised bumps all over my body and face. It looks like I have chicken pox. I vaguely recall a little black spider being in the bed and somehow know it had bitten me to try and wake me up and when that didn’t work, it bound me up. I marvel at the fact that it was able to wind the thread right around me even though I was lying down, and can’t understand how it was able to get between my body and the bed. I am both amused and impressed by its attempts to get my attention but to what end I do not know. 

I had no idea what the dream was about but I made a note to the effect that I was able to get out of the binding easily and that I was aware that the bites were no more than temporary annoyances. What puzzled me most was the sense of urgency and exasperation in the spider’s behaviour. It seemed determined to get my attention and yet its attempts were rather pathetic. I made a note that I thought it might be a prophetic dream and that turned out to be correct. A few days later, I had a dream about a cat being trapped in my bedroom in my own house and noted the similarity to the spider dream.

At the time I had the dream, I was in the process of returning to Uni with the intention of doing a Social Science degree and with so much else going on in my life as well, I had very little time to pursue a study of dreams.  Truth was, although I didn’t realise it at the time of course, I was afraid of entering the deep waters of the unconscious mind. I was still wading in the shallows at the water’s edge and following my old pattern of trying to find myself in external activities. Eventually I quit the course and as I was doing it for enrichment rather than a career, from then on I chose to study on my own only the topics that really interested me. Ironically the final straw had come when I read a statement in the psychology textbook that dreams were just random firings of neurons. I didn’t know much about dreams at that stage but I knew from my own experience that that simply was not true.

The Uni course did have some benefits though and one of them was a requirement to connect to the Internet. I must have felt some motivation to work out the dream because I found a website that offered online dream analysis for about $25 and sent it in.  It was a waste of money but a good lesson in the futility of this kind of simplistic approach. I also had a session coming up with my hypnotherapist and discussed it with her but still didn’t come any closer to cracking it.

Fast forward to September 2002 and in the interim my partner had become my husband and now soon to be ex-husband. I was having a very difficult time dealing with the rapid turn of events but I had lucked onto Jane Teresa Anderson’s dream forum a couple of months earlier and it was an invaluable source of support and help. There was some discussion on the forum about spiders in dreams and it resurrected the memory of my trapped spider, so I posted it. Through the discussion, it became obvious that it was related to the relationship in some way but I still didn’t get it. Finally, 16 months after posting to the forum, I had the Aha! moment. This is what I put in my journal, a full 4 years after originally having the dream:

This morning in the shower I was reflecting on the spider dream and it suddenly made sense. It was warning me not to get married – not to bind myself up.

Why didn’t I see it at the time? After all, I had made some effort to understand it. One reason is that at the time of the dream, marriage was not on the agenda. We had been together for two and a half years and had discussed it from time to time and though there was an expectation it would happen, we had no definite plans. By the time we made the decision to marry, the dream had faded from my memory. The other, more pertinent reason, was that I didn’t want to know. The biggest block to heeding messages from the unconscious is when it tells us things that conflict with our conscious desires and it takes some hard lessons to learn to pay attention.

I eventually learned that spiders are a potent symbol of intuition because of the fact that they extrude the silk from within their bodies. And of course black is also symbolic of the unconscious. Cats too are symbolic of intuition and spiders and cats are both symbols of the feminine – the inner dimension of being, or yin energy, as distinct from the masculine/yang energy of action in the outer world. I was definitely being called to attend to the inner world but old ways of being don’t yield easily to change.

Six months after the original spider dream, the decision to marry was hastened due to the priest at the church we had been attending getting a post as Dean of the Cathedral. His new post would take effect within eight weeks, which meant if we were to have the wedding in our church, with him officiating, we needed to make a decision quickly. Arrangements were made and everything fell into place nicely. We had quite a close relationship with this very progressive priest, even though we were only casual churchgoers. We were part of a group that met socially with him for in-depth and no-holds-barred discussions of contemporary spirituality. I was also seeing him privately for spiritual direction, which I had considerable conflict about, given my long standing, though recently challenged, atheism.

Twenty one months after we married, it was all over and I was feeling devastated. The dream forum became my lifeline because I was so emotionally fragile that I would only leave the house when I absolutely had to. The break up brought fully to the surface all the childhood loss, abandonment and betrayal issues that I had been trying to keep a lid on all my life. I had worked through some of these issues after my husband’s death 5 years earlier, due in no small part to the new relationship but now I was on my own for the first time in 34 years and faced with another loss that left me feeling totally confused and bewildered. Even so, in the midst of the anguish, part of me recognised it as an opportunity to really find out at last who I am as an individual and what my life is really about. These were questions that had been posed in one form or another through the upheavals in my life since my first husband’s death in 1997 but I had attempted to answer them by trying to recreate my old life. It hadn’t worked.

With the initial awakening experience my feet had been firmly planted on a spiritual path. Though I had believed my new husband and I were compatible in this regard, it turned out not to be the case and apparently a relationship not in alignment with my soul’s agenda had a use by date not of my choosing. Just prior to the split, there had been a lot of intense activity, consisting of what I can only refer to as psychic communication. As with the dream and for the same reasons, I just couldn’t figure out the message. It turned out to be the same as the dream – wake up! I will explore some of those communications in these pages.

The prospect of a divorce created a great deal of anguish within me but eventually I had a dream about meeting with the priest who had married us and all of the inner conflict was resolved. This dream too turned out to be prophetic, albeit with a much more positive and affirming message. The divorce laws required a 12 month waiting period before being finalised and during that period I had some interesting adventures with afore-mentioned spiritual communication. Though I was still somewhat sceptical and often a bit spooked by these happenings, I eventually realised that my fears were unfounded. I didn’t always like what was happening, or what was being communicated, but it became apparent that it was all for my support and ultimate benefit. In retrospect, the psychic communication had been there all along but my scientific materialistic worldview was a very efficient interference device. Dream work became the means for unblocking the channels of communication.

There is a wonderful poem by Rumi, which captures the essence of this dream and its message.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you

Don’t go back to sleep!

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep!

People are going back and forth

Across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,

The door is round and open

Don’t go back to sleep!