Images in Dreams–signs or symbols?


The difference between a sign and a symbol is that a sign is an image that stands for a specific word or object, whereas a symbol is much greater.  It is an image that communicates something much larger than itself.  As an example, let’s take the apple. When we see this apple


Apple logo
Apple logo


We know that this apple signifies the technological company that makes computers, ipads, iphones, and ipods.  Because the image says: apple = Apple, Inc. it is a sign,  Most trademarks are signs.  When images appear in dreams, they are seldom signs.


There are many other associations to the apple:


The apple of my eye    Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge

And there are many other mythological associations to the apple:

  • Eris, the goddess of discord, threw the golden apple inscribed” To the most beautiful”  at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.  She caused discord among the goddesses Aphrodite, Athena and Hers, leading to the Trojan War.
  • Heracles was required to travel to the Garden of the Hesperides as one of his Twelve Labors, and there he was to pick golden apples growing on the Tree of Life.
  • Atalanta did not want to marry and defeated all her suitors by racing them.  Hippoomenes defeated her by throwing 3 golden apples in her path causing her to lose the race.  The apples were gifts from Aphrodite.
  • In the Arthurian legend, Avalon was the “Isle of Apples.”
  • The Cornish festival of Allantide celebrated on October 31st included giving large shining red apples as a token of good luck. An apple under the pillow of the unmarried brought dreams of a spouse.
  • When Heracles wanted to crush an apple under his foot, it grew larger.  it was an apple of discord.  When he tried to crush it again, it grew again twice more its size.


Through the many mythological stories about the apple, we understand it not to be merely a sign, but a symbol that has many meanings shimmering around it. When an apple appears in a dream, its roots reach down into this fertile ground of meaning.


Here’s a dream image:

I dreamed I sat on an apple and fished.
I dreamed I sat on an apple and fished.

The apple in the dream is not a sign, it’s a symbol.  It doesn’t have an assigned meaning.  To understand this dream, we draw from all the symbolic meaning.  The apple as a gift from the gods, with the ability to generate discord,  The oversized apple makes us think of Heracles who tried to crush the apple of discord, and it only grew bigger.  Could this dreamer be sitting on a discord that he is trying to crush?  For sure we know we are circulating in the symbolic realm of the large apple.  Too much knowledge for one’s own good?  Discord that is growing exponentially?  A challenge to the gods?  A temptation?


All of these questions will help the dreamer locate the psychological and emotional area to which the dream makes reference.  Hopefully the curiosity of the dreamer will be awakened by the dream symbol and a rich discovery can be made,  Write to me about the symbolic images that appear in your dreams.