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A Pocket Full of Gold

In my dream, snakes are chasing me, biting at me. A friend said it can represent evil (doing), transition, or betrayal.

I am ashamed, because days later I betrayed a very close friend who had been better than family to me. She employed me, fed me, and at times, even bought me clothes when things were hard for me. I cost her every dime she had, and told lies to people to cover up what I had done.

There are still snakes. What does it mean?

— kim, age 40, married, Columbia, Tenn.

Hi Kim,

In ancient Greece, dreams of snakes were happily received as omens of physical and psychological health. Specifically, if you were ill, a dream of a snake indicated the healing process already had begun. The snake was a symbol of growth, transition, and vitality. You can still see this link between snakes and the healing arts today. Next time you visit a doctor’s office, take a closer look at the symbol of the medical profession — the caduceus. You will discover a snake (or two) winding up a winged staff of wisdom.

Snakes are associated with transition and evil because of their Biblical heritage. A snake encouraged Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden — which subsequently provoked the proverbial “fall of man.” Another reason snakes are associated with change and transition is because they shed their skin. Snakes occasionally are considered phallic symbols owing to their shape, and are associated with lying and betrayal, because they have a forked tongue.

It is easy to see the link between the act you committed and symbolic meanings of treachery and deceit. Because you betrayed a friend, you probably feel like a “snake in the grass.” And yes, you told lies, which means you were speaking with a “forked tongue.” In this light, the snakes in your dreams, chasing and biting you, appear to be signs of a guilty conscience. What may be harder for you to see, however, in this bleak scenario, is the broader significance of the snakes. According to the Greeks, the snakes signal that a life-defining, transitional moment is upon you. An opportunity for growth and healing is at hand. Do you see what it is?

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The reason you are ashamed is because you know what you did was wrong. Will you rise to the occasion now, admit your mistake, make amends for damage that was caused, and reclaim the moral high ground for yourself? Or will you let this life-changing opportunity pass you by?

The message of your dreams is clear. Don’t sell your soul for a “pocketful of gold.” You’re better than that — and you know it.

Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.

A Pocket Full of Gold

Charles McPhee

APA Reference
McPhee, C. (2020). A Pocket Full of Gold. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.