I was out for an early morning walk just the other day with my camera in hand. I paused for awhile to observe this Great Egret at dawn. If you have ever watched an egret, or similar heron, you may notice their patience. While fishing, they stand silently, effortlessly, poised on long graceful legs. They wait patiently for the fish to be within range. Watching the egret fish by the water’s edge, reminded me of how in life we must also sometimes wait patiently for our next “fish.” Symbolically, fish, or Ichthys the Greek word for fish, are potent with meaning. The first letters of the Greek phrase Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior) comes close to the spelling of Ichthys. Early Christians were awed by the magic of this acronym, and among other reasons, they adopted the fish as one of their most important symbols (Caspari, 2003). Additionally, fish live in the sea, that great symbol of the unconscious. When dreaming of fish, we sometimes are dreaming of the deeper Self. A passage about how remembering our night-time dreams can be similar to fishing comes to mind as I write this post. John Sanford (1978), Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst said about dreams and fishing:
Remembering dreams can be likened to fishing. The fisherman stands by the side of the water with the faith that there are fish out there even though he can’t see them. By patience, diligence, sensitivity, and intuition he may catch a fish and bring it up from the depths of the water. Dreams, like fish, may be caught by us and lifted up from the depths of the unconscious into the light of awareness. The difference is that the fish of the unconscious, those living contents that emerge in our dreams, often act as though they want to be caught. They attach themselves to our line, so to speak, and seek the light of day. However, we must take the trouble to put the line out and bait it with our expectancy. (p. 13)
Learning to be open to receiving our dreams, the “fish” of the unconscious, we can learn from the Great Egret. And as Sanford said, patience, diligence, sensitivity, and intuition can serve us well in our nightly forays into the world of the spirit. If you are patient enough to wait for your dreams to reveal their messages to you for your life’s journey, perhaps, like this egret, your patience will be rewarded and you will hear the fish speak.
Caspari, E. C. (2003). Animal Life in Nature, Myth and Dreams.Wilmette, Illinois: Chiron Publication.
Sanford, J. A. (1978). Dreams and Healing: A Succinct and Lively Interpretation of Dreams. New Jersey: Paulist Press.
© 2012, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.