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Interpreting Volcanoes as Dream Symbols

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The Meaning of Dream Volcanoes

Mount Prometheus at Night

Mount Prometheus at Night

Volcanoes erupt in places known as convergent boundaries. These are places where the earth's plates meet and in these places there are what might be thought of as cracks in the earth.

When material that has been pressed down breaks free, that material will erupt from the top of the volcano.

The eruption will either be an explosion of ash, magma, lava, and rock or it will be an effusion of slowly moving lava that flows down the volcano.

What does the way a waking life volcano erupts have to do with volcano dream symbolism?

Read on.

Volcano Cross Section

Volcan cross section. 1-Inactive volcan; 2-Fumarole; 3-Secondary volcanic pipe; 4-Volcanic pipe; 5-Crater; 6-Ash cloud; 7-Volcanic bomb; 8-Volcan cone; 9-Ash bed; 10-Solid lava flow; 11-Lava flow; 12-Magmatic chamber.

Volcan cross section. 1-Inactive volcan; 2-Fumarole; 3-Secondary volcanic pipe; 4-Volcanic pipe; 5-Crater; 6-Ash cloud; 7-Volcanic bomb; 8-Volcan cone; 9-Ash bed; 10-Solid lava flow; 11-Lava flow; 12-Magmatic chamber.

Volcanoes and the Psyche: Comparison

Examining the structure of a volcano and the theoretical structure of the psyche can prove useful for the sake of comparing the two.

In the top diagram to the right, one can see the structure of the psyche.

The whole of the unconscious is at the bottom, followed by an accessible part of the unconscious, followed by the personal unconscious, then the subconscious and the conscious mind at the top.

Volcanoes are, in a way similarly structured. The bottom diagram to the right shows that structure.

There is the deep bed of lava which contains all the lava in that volcano's chamber.

The contents of that chamber build and grow moving upward through layers and layers until its contents spill out of the crater's vent.

Similarly, unconscious content moves upward through the psyche's layers until it finally reaches the conscious mind.

Sometimes the unconscious contents are forces that erupt into the waking mind.

Sometimes these psychic eruptions result in powerful creative impulses that can manifest as amazing forms in waking life.

However, sometimes the unconscious contents overwhelm and one experiences violent instability, instability that can threaten one's mental health.

Structure of the Psyche

1. Consciousness 2. Subconscious 3. Personal Unconscious -- Shadow, Anima/Animus  4. Collective Unconscious 5. Whole of the Unconscious Which Will Never Reach Consciousness

1. Consciousness 2. Subconscious 3. Personal Unconscious -- Shadow, Anima/Animus 4. Collective Unconscious 5. Whole of the Unconscious Which Will Never Reach Consciousness

Volcano Symbolism: Emotional Pressure and Conflict

Volcanoes are basically mountains connected to chambers of magma deep within the earth.

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When gases and other materials begin summoning force and seek release, they find they are kept in place by a mountain of earth pressing down upon them.

Volcanoes lose their tops when the forces finally overcome that which holds them down--even the mountain sitting atop them.

When volcanoes erupt in dreams, they can symbolize a situation wherein the dreamer feels he is similarly about to blow his top.

Volcanoes indicate pressure--pressure coming from two diametrically opposed forces.

One force seeks and needs release, but another force is attempting to prevent that release, to suppress it.

If one dreams about erupting volcanoes, it is important to pay attention to the waking world. Ask the following questions:

  • How is work going?
  • How does one feel about work?
  • How is home life? Are there intense pressures there?
  • Does it that life is one big pressure cooker, that there is no place to go to find peace?
  • Does it feel that every area of life is opposed to every other area of life?
  • Is life filled with constant unresolved conflict?
  • Is there a feeling that the need to maintain control is opposed to the need to let off steam?
  • Does it feel as if something's got to give before something explodes?

Volcanoes in dreams indicate some form of severe emotional pressure.

Oftentimes that pressure comes from interpersonal conflict--conflict that has continued for a long period of time without resolution.

Volcanoes in dreams symbolize the need to take these conflicts and the emotional pressure resulting from them very seriously.

They have reached the danger threshold meaning that there is a likelihood of angry words causing injury or even dangerous actions that could result in devastation.

It is important for the dreamer to make an honest assessment of the emotions and the waking world and find a healthy way to process and let off steam before exploding.

Volcanic Rock in Norway

Norway's Volcanic Rock

Norway's Volcanic Rock

Volcano Dreams as Violent Emotions

Active volcanoes can be sources of volatility.

Dreams come from the unconscious which speaks in images and symbols rather than words.

They take familiar scenes from the waking world--scenes that symbolically represent the words the unconscious cannot speak--and use those images to get a message across.

Images of erupting volcanoes are powerfully evocative.

They are also familiar images, even if one has never been near an eruption in person, most people have seen news reports or watched videos of their violent beauty.

Most people are also familiar with the eruption warning signs such as:

  • Small ash clouds coming from the crater's vent.
  • Hot air burped from the volcano's throat.
  • Tremors felt in surrounding areas.

It is also easy to see that violent emotional outbursts are preceded by warning signs similar to those that precede eruption such as:

  • Tremulous body parts.
  • Heartburn
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Indigestion

However, many times people do not take the aforementioned symptoms as seriously as they would a volcano's threats.

Instead, all the anger, passion, frustration, dissatisfaction, and destructive thoughts are repressed and signs ignored out of the faulty believe that one is still in complete control.

It is only after one suffers a stroke, heart attack, or explodes in a rage that the need for help is finally acknowledged.

What all of the aforementioned means is that the correlation between volcano dreams and violent emotions is fairly easy to see.

Pressure building to exploding chaos is precisely the way violent emotion outbursts occur.

Emotions, especially those of the violent variety, can neither be ignored or contained indefinitely.

Volcano dreams suggest that immediate action must be taken to avoid a violent outburst or a devastating physical condition.

Volcano dreams might be thought of as the clap of thunder that presages a storm.

They are warnings to take action and the key to taking action is in acknowledging a serious situation exists rather then attempting to manage the unmanageable.

Kilauea Lava Flow

Kilauea Lava Flow

Kilauea Lava Flow

Lava in Dreams

While volcanic explosions are typically what one thinks of when volcanoes come to mind, slow moving volcanic lava can devastate vast areas as Hawaiian homeowners can attest.

Lava in dreams differs from dream volcanic explosions in that the situation is moving at a more slow pace.

The situation might even seem deceptively harmless in that its slow build might lead one to belief that it is a contained issue.

Whereas erupting volcano dreams indicate that some sort of situation or emotional outburst is imminent, lava dreams indicate that a situation is simmering.

This simmering should not be ignored. Simmering comes just before a boil and when something unattended boils over, a mess is a sure result.

Dreams about running from a lava flow might indicate that one is fleeing the reality of a dangerous situation or from emotions on does not wish to confront.

However, dreams about lava lamps can indicate that one's waking world is stable and fluidly progressing.

Galactic Super Volcano

Volcanoes and an Ex

If one has unresolved issues involving an ex, volcano dreams can symbolically represent those unprocessed issues and emotions.

It is imperative that one take a look at those issues and find resolution.

This does not mean that one must seek out one's ex for a confrontation.

It means that one must examine and process the relationship, be honest about how one feels.

Many times people attempt to avoid painful emotions sometimes via outright denial.

One tells one's self that the ex didn't matter, that it's over anyway so what's the use, or that big boys and girls don't cry attempting to keep a stiff upper lip in order to feel powerful instead of powerless.

Suppressing anger or grief is not synonymous with resolving it.

If one is having volcano dreams and one's ex is in the dream or the volcano is reminiscent of places one visited with the ex or if any other symbol representing an ex is in the dream, it is time to process emotions.

Resolution can be as simple as allowing one' self to grieve or allowing one's self to be angry over the breakup.

Or, if the emotions and the situation is more complicated, one might seek out the help of a therapist or counselor or even have a long chat with a trusted, helpful friend.

Amazing Volcanic Eruptions

Dormant Volcanoes

Not all volcanoes are active. Some volcanoes are extinct and some are dormant.

Dormant volcanoes in dreams can indicate that one has achieve resolution with past events or that emotional issues have been resolved.

Alternatively, dormant dream volcanoes can indicate that some talent, some creative impulse has been denied or is in a resting phase.

One must determine which of the two possibilities is the correct one and the way to do that is to ask:

  • Do creative impulses nag but are denied because they aren't "practical"?
  • Are dreams of engaging in creative outlets stifled out of a belief that one lacks talent?
  • Or, is the dreamer an active artist frustrated by a fallow period?

If the first two questions hit home, one must find a way to nurture one's creativity and engage creative impulses before they go from being dormant, latent talents to extinct ones.

If the last question rings true, the dreamer should attempt to make peace with the fallow period.

Creativity has not been lost, it is simply in a resting stage. Remember that grow occurs even in periods of apparent stasis. Creativity is part of the life force and life always seeks to grow.

Think of the manner in which trees need the winter to rest and regenerate. Within a few months time, their bare branches begin blossoming.

Never underestimate the power of creativity--it never dies so long as it has an active avenue of expression.

Vesuvius from Portici

Joseph Wright of Derby - Vesuvius from Portici - Detail

Joseph Wright of Derby - Vesuvius from Portici - Detail

Divine Power, Archetypes and Volcano Dreams

The connection between volcanoes and deities extends into antiquity. Pele, the Hawaiian goddess, is perhaps the most recognizable of the deities linked to volcanoes.

But the word "volcano" comes from the Roman god Vulcan, the god of smithing.

The divine connection with volcanoes can mean that volcano dreams are symbols of contact with the divine, contact with powerful creative urges, or an explosion of unconscious material into the conscious mind that can lead to dramatic insights or even an entire new level of consciousness.

If one is a spiritual aspirant, volcano dreams can indicate that ones aspirations may be on the way to becoming manifestation.

However, when involved in spiritual practice, carefulness is the watchword.

The divine is fathomless and ultimately incomprehensible.

One can never fully "know" God, but one can develop a relationship that grows and encompasses more of the manner in which God manifests.

But attempting to absorb the divine is not only impossible, it is dangerous. A finite vessel is a limited vessel and such vessels are incapable of encompassing the whole of the limitless. Vessels attempting such a feat will break and that break can manifest as lability and instability.

One must seek to be an open channel, an enthusiastic conduit, but never a containment source.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, warned of similar attempts to take on an archetype or an archetypal force.

What we typically call archetypes are actually only images of an archetype as this is the best the psyche can do when attempting to apprehend these primordial forces.

The archetypes themselves are not limited by an image, yet many people assume the image and the archetype are synonymous.

Those people become enthralled with the image and attempt to become the archetype, never realizing the danger in such a pursuit.

The human psyche cannot even remotely contain an archetype in its entirety and attempts at doing so can lead to madness.

Remember that just as volcanoes are best observed at a distance, so the divine is best approached on its terms and on its time.

Trust that the divine wants more for you than you want for yourself and is working to provide for those wants in the safest, most beneficial, and even the speediest way possible.

Last Words

Volcano dreams can basically be interpreted as powerful forces. Those forces can be powerfully positive or violently negative.

In the case of emotions, volcano dreams are typically indicative of anger and suppressed emotions that can no longer be contained.

However, when looked at as a creative force, volcano dreams can indicate contact with the divine, or the outpouring of amazing creativity.

When volcanoes appear in dreams, no matter whether they are symbolizing the positive or the negative, they are, in essence a call to action.

The action required might be the processing of past issues, conflicting emotions, resolving past relationship issues, or even an urge to actively engage the creative impulses coming into the conscious mind.

Good, Bad, or Ugly

Incredible Volcano Footage


The Portable Jung by C. G. Jung.

Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension: Select Essays, 1944-1968 by Joseph Campbell.

The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987 by Joseph Campbell.

Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy by C. G. Jung.

Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.12) by C. G. Jung.

Dig Deeper

The Artist's Way

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Madailein Aisling Ireland


Snakesmum on May 26, 2016:

Interesting hub. Volcanoes are fascinating, and I actually dreamed about one last night.

Michelle Corlee on November 04, 2014:

This is probably the best in-depth write up I've ever come across. My dreams only consist of natural disasters. Whether it be floods, massive volcanoes, multiple tornadoes and even huge meteors falling from the sky. I've always tried to look for an interpretation of these dreams that involve volcanoes, but I could never find anything that I felt could be the reason. I've always felt like it was some sort of spiritual connection, or the eyes to see the destruction of nature in the near future.

I've had plenty that spew ash into the sky and the force is so hard, that the ash coming from the core of the volcano looked like a waterfall. Meaning, the force was so massive, had such great force, that it looked like a big waterfall shooting towards the sky. This was just this morning when I had this dream. Others, I've watched one begin to errupt, lava and ash everywhere, woke up in panic, went back to sleep.. in the same spot and the same dream.

All I ever dream about is natural disasters. I personally do not feel that it's chaos in my life, nor stress. But some sort of connection of the ability to see things that are to happen, or maybe, just a connection in a spiritual way.

Either way, fantastic write up. Thank you!!

Madailein Aisling Ireland (author) from Seattle, WA on January 06, 2013:

Thank you so much! I am happy you enjoyed the article. Yes, dreams are very mysterious and have a wealth of information in them. I am fascinated with the subject!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 06, 2013:

Very interesting and engaging hub. I had no idea, volcanoes mean so much, when we dream about them. This is a very interesting subject---so mysterious. Thanks for sharing.

Madailein Aisling Ireland (author) from Seattle, WA on January 05, 2013:

Thanks so much! It always makes me happy when I help someone help themselves. You rock.

Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on January 05, 2013:

I have always wondered what role volcanoes played in my dreams. Now I know. I can tell you now that I had one of each type of dream in which lava was present and a volcano had erupted when I was younger. Great hub!

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