The meaning of the dream symbol: Father

In many ways, a Father represents the masculine and authoritative natures within ourselves. Appropriately, how we view the behavior of the father figure in a dream, may be reflective of personal feelings about our own ‘recent’ behavior effecting the society of individuals around us. This is especially true of persons believed to be subordinate to us, for instance children, employees or service laborers. Are we a guiding force, or do we exercise power and unjust punishment upon those below us?

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1. If you dream of your father dying, this may be a wish-fulfilling dream. Feelings of hostility towards parents are common, stemming from childhood feelings of resentment or envy.

2. Father may, if highly respected (and properly so), appear in a dream as a Wise Old Man figure.

3. For father represented by an animal.

The father stands for awareness, as opposed to instinctive impulse, spontaneous enthusiasms and the unconscious; he is the old authoritative order opposed to the fresh forces of change.

Paul Ricoeur, in his book De L'interpretation (Paris, 1966), attributes the symbolic wealth of the father-figure, specifically ‘to its potentiality for transcendence. Symbolically the father ranks less as a progenitor equal to the mother than as a law-giver’. He is the fountain of social order. Like God and Heaven, he is an image of regular, wise and righteous transcendence. In accordance with the inversion which is the rule in symbolism, the original progenitor changes into the God who is to come. The father is at one and the same time both past and future. His function as progenitor becomes one of regenerator, birth a rebirth in every analogous accepted sense of the term. His influence may then be related to that exercised by the hero or by the ideal. Not only does the individual wish to have or to possess a father of his own, but fatherhood is a role to which he aspires or whose properties he wishes to acquire. The father always remains the image of transcendence who cannot be accepted uncritically and only by mutual affection in adulthood.

In Celtic tradition the notion of ‘the father of mankind’ finds expression in the surname of its god, the Dagda Eochaid Ollathair, ‘Almighty Father’. He may thus be compared with the Dis Pater mentioned by Caesar, from whom the Gauls all claimed descent. The Father of Mankind stands above and beyond primeval man. He is the first god, the Absolute Being, father of the living and lord of the dead, exercising both the bright and dark aspects of godhead. He does not himself procreate, but is responsible for procreation. His essence represents something unique, while his manifestation is twofold.