[Carl Jung on the “Lion” in a child’s dream]
The dream begins as follows: “I went into the forest,” meaning, I went into my darkness, where anything that cannot be explained comes from.
It could also have been still water—running water has a different meaning—or a labyrinth, a cave or the basement, the dark space of the house, the dark attic, the toilet.
For this is the place of fantasy; there creative work is done.
There are children who cannot defecate without fantasizing.
In the case of adults suffering from constipation, it is sometimes necessary to stir up again the fantasies that alone make them able to defecate.
In Kundalini yoga, Muladhara (Sanskrit, literally: root support) is the lowest chakra.
The Perineal chakra is situated in the hypogastrium (lower abdomen), the so-called cloacal zone.
There the Kundalini lives in her lotus.
She is the creative fantasy par excellence.
So going into the forest, to the dark place, means concentration on those regions of the body that belong precisely there, in this darkness.
A gloomy, evil darkness, filled with fantasies.
And now there comes a lion, the devouring monster.
This is the instinctual life.
The child is 8 years old, already in prepuberty.
If a cathexis with libido happens here, a phenomenon of prepuberty may appear in the form of an immature sexual instinct, or this may happen in the form of a flooding with fantasies that only later in puberty will become actual sexual fantasies.
The lion is a kind of fantasy that grasps and completely devours the child.
All the images in this dream go back to primal situations.
In former times, the woods were really full of danger zones.
Robbers were in it. In dreams, the forest is the uncanny place, which is filled with the projections of fantasy:
Pan, witches, wild hunters, Rübezahl, or any other delusion spreading panic-stricken fright.
The dreamer is 8 years old.
Between eight and nine years of age, the transition toward ego consciousness takes place.
The child frees herself from the closest ties to the familial milieu.
She already has experienced a part of reality.
The libido that had been tied to the parents is decathected, often introverted, goes into the unconscious, and arranges something there.
As to the lion: it is the king, the mighty instinctual energy, the fiery principle, the heat of the sun, desire.
In royal coats of arms it stands for great courage, strength, and power.
The deus leontocephalus is the god of time.
He appears at the climax of the zodiacal circle, at the end of July and the beginning of August.
He stands for fire.
The lion is also the symbol of Mark the Evangelist and of St. Hieronymus.
Most often it is depicted as the animal supporting the pillars of portals, the pulpit, or the font.
This lion, as a Christian symbol, is the sign for domesticated paganism and is meant to stand for the power of heathen Rome.
That is why the lion is the bearer of the pillar of the church.
The constellation of the Lion is the domicilium solis.
In the Mithras cult there were underground grottos, for example, at the Saalburg near Frankfurt-on-Main.
In these mythraeums, most often there stood a strange statue near the altar, a man’s figure with a lion’s head, with a snake coiled around it that laid its head on that of the lion.
This is the deus leontocephalus, that is, Aion, meaning infinitely long time, the god of time who combines the opposites.
This is an old Persian image.
In the north, the bear appears instead of the lion.
Originally these probably were animal masks.
In antiquity, in the Mithras cult one even went so far as to imitate the voices of animals.
It was believed that the god would hear better something roared in the voice of an animal; or one whistled and clacked one’s tongue to attract him.
His animal attribute was thought to listen more to that.
This goes back to the fact that the gods were originally conceived as animals.
Another conception, that of god as a bird, is still found in Christendom: the dove of the Holy Spirit, corresponding to the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit in early Christendom.
In the so-called Acts of St. Thomas, the Holy Spirit is simply the feminine side of the deity, the Woman God.
The lion is always goal oriented, a directed fire.
When a lion attacks, it always runs toward its target in a direct line.
It is, by the way, always interesting to know about the natural character of animals.
Whenever animals appear in dreams, read Brehm!
Our forebears knew even more about the life of animals.
The Rosicrucian conception of overcoming the lion is that of overcoming the instincts.
In alchemical tracts there are descriptions of how the lion’s paws are chopped off.
In the Mithras cult, as well as in The Epic of Gilgamesh, it is the bull that is overcome.
In our dream the lion embodies an instinctual force that the girl does not have under control.
We know only that she is overwhelmed by something instinctual, stronger than she is, by an instinctual force that is represented by a feared beast of prey.
She is the victim of an animal instinct.
The child then acquires a psychology that would no longer be appropriate for her age, but for an animal.
She regresses to an animal-like being.
The lion means all-consuming fire; that is why it is the symbol for the heat in August that burns all the vegetation.
So the child comes into a state of inexorable desire.
The desire will also play a role later on. Examples of such states are when the Malaysians go berserk or run amok.
The Maenads, those raving women, tear up young goats and eat them raw in Dionysian orgies.
The Indian goddess Kali has got teeth like a wild animal; she has drunk wine and blood and is dripping with blood and grease.
She is a raving lioness.
In most pictorial images, she is riding on a lion, or goes over the bodies of her male victims.
When she went into a fury, her husband Shiva was called.
He lay down among the bodies of her victims; she then came to him and recognized him, thus coming to her senses.
The consequence of the regression in this child was that she could not concentrate.
Regressing adults, too, can’t concentrate, but revert to a primitive state.
Similarly, primitives, or civilized persons who stay primitive, cannot concentrate.
We also understand why the child wants to ride on the lion: this is the backside.
But then she fell off, that is, she falls down into those regions where one is completely being driven, loses consciousness, and is devoured by fantasies.
In primitives, this phenomenon leads to various measures of precaution out of fear of such emotional states.
The same may happen in the case of adults when they have all too lively fantasies or embarrassing ideas.
They fear those fantasies because they easily fall victim to them.
That is why one avoids speaking about certain things or thinking of something particular—because then one can be robbed of one’s soul or devoured by the fantasies.
When this happens to the child, it becomes clear that she can no longer follow in school or is superficial; her interest is occupied by an overpowering fantasy production.
Her interest vanishes and her achievements become unsatisfactory.
So here comes a well-known solution: when you are in this passive and vulnerable situation, you have to call in sick.
You are paralyzed; someone has to take care of you. If an adult happens to be devoured, he eventually has to call the doctor, so that the latter may carry him on his back, or accompany him and play the roles of mother and father, until he has found himself again.
In our dream, this happens when the mother brings the girl home and lays her down in her bed.
The bed is the place of shelter and care.
Now this is precisely the opposite of the situation at the beginning of the dream: originally the child wants to stroke the lion, just in the way little kids do.
She has started to play with her own force.
It is possible to lose consciousness to a certain extent during play, and then to become identical to this play.
So this is also dangerous.
We can, for instance, see that when primitives perform dances: eventually they become identical to their roles.
In play, the child becomes unconscious with the lion, and identical to it.
This means that she wants to assimilate the instinctual forces.
The center of the ego has to be equipped with the instinctual forces.
This, however, entails the dangers of the rapacious animal, namely, being devoured by it.
The same happens in the dream: what the mother takes home is precisely the child devoured by the lion.
The child has turned into a little lion, she has become an invisible lion child.
We find such ideas also in primitives: in some South American tribes, the humans turn into parrots.
Although they don’t look like parrots, they feel like parrots. ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dream Seminar, Pages 58-66.