Every so often I see posts on Pagan groups asking someone what their dreams mean.
First of all, not all dreams have meaning — some are merely “housekeeping” dreams, in which your subconscious clears away the debris of the day. (Mine tend to be really amusing and silly.)
Others are your subconscious’s (or Higher Self’s, whatever you want to call it) way of getting a message to you, and in that case, you are (usually) the best analyzer of your own dreams.
There are a lot of books out there on dream symbols, all of which are interesting but none of which is entirely accurate.
If you want a book on dream interpretation I would like to recommend Sacred Sleep: Dreams and the Divine by Scott Cunningham. Among other things, it teaches you how to construct your own dictionary of symbols that have personal meaning to you. After all, just as one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, one person’s dream of cats may be reassuring while another would find it terrifying.
(I have a feeling that most of the following ideas came from that book, but it’s been so long since I read it that I’m not 100% sure.)
Start keeping a dream diary. If you have a dream that you remember write it down as soon as you wake up.
Write down everything that you remember about it — inside/outside, weather, lighting, colors, other people/animals, what sort of place, as well as what happened and what was said.
And the setting. I will sometimes have a series of dreams set in the same location and just that setting clues me in that it’s a dream that I need to spend some time thinking about.
(That said, I find that the “important” dreams tend to stick with me: I still remember a setting for dreams when I was in high school — a dusty road through a town, but the buildings were just facades, like a movie set.)
Once you’ve written down everything you can remember, start to free associate the images in it. Record those results under the dream entry, then try to piece together an overall theme or meaning.
Don’t worry if nothing comes to you. Sometimes it takes a while, so be patient. If it’s important, the message will get through to you one way or another.
And, yes, sometimes it’s hard to pin down a meaning by yourself. Sometimes you are just too close to the situation and are either resisting the meaning or simply unable to see it from where you are. (This applies to Tarot readings and other forms of divination as well.) In that case, it’s helpful if you have others that you can present the dream to, just to see what they say.
Especially people who know you well.
After all it’s not for nothing that the words above Apollo’s oracle at Delphi were “Know thyself.”