The meaning of the dream symbol: King

1. A king may symbolize your father - or your subjective image of your father.

2. King may be a symbol of the self. So may king and queen together, representing a union of opposites in the psyche - for example, conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine qualities, etc.

3. If the king and queen are chess pieces, and the king is under threat from the queen, this may symbolize (in a man’s dream) a motherattachment that is threatening to smother his individuality and independence; or a threatening - because repressed and neglected - anima; or (in a woman’s dream) the repression of the animus.


In the dream sense, a King may be representational of absolute authority and the apex of social order. As opposed to tyrants or dictators, who lead their respective empires by force and the conquering passion of lust and desire, the heralded king assures tranquility and a code of morality in the ranks of his own dominion. Accordingly, in a dream, the image of a king may refer to taking charge of a particular situation, or mediating a dispute, with an organizational, ethical and spiritual wisdom. We must determine our exact relationship with the ‘dream’ king. Do we believe ourselves to be in charge of a particular situation? Are we able to deal with this responsibility? Have we abused our power and in so doing, acted more like a tyrant, than a king? What are the ‘parameters’ of our kingdom? Are we just in providing the answers, rules and needs of our relative kingdom?


The Chinese ideogram denoting ‘king’ (wang) comprises three parallel horizontal strokes, for Heaven, Mankind and Earth, linked centrally by a vertical stroke. ‘Who better able to act the part of intermediary,’ Chuang Chou asked, ‘set between them to act as a link and to co-ordinate their activities by sharing in them, who better than the Prince? The one whose nature derives from Heaven is endowed with the qualities which he absorbs from Heaven.’ This summarizes the meaning of kings and kingship for the Chinese. The king, fortified by the Mandate of Heaven (t’ien-ming), sets his throne in the centre of his realm, and it would seem that this was true originally of the central province of Honan and its capital Lo-yang. Around it, the spatial area expands like a series of squares welded together. The quintessence of royalty is wafted to the four cardinal points, while homage and tribute is paid along these selfsame axes. The king was identified with the central pillar of the Temple of Heaven or with the pole bearing the awning of a chariot. With his feet on the chariot floor and his head brushing this celestial awning, the wang became one with the World axis, which is both the Royal Way (wang-tao) and the Heavenly Way (t’ien-tao). Moving through the Temple of Heaven like the Sun through the sky, the sovereign bestowed upon his realm times and seasons, the rhythm and harmony of the Heavens, his regulatory function extending from the cosmic to the social realm.

The role of initiating and regulating cosmic movement may also be applied to the Hindu symbol of the king - chakravarti - he who makes the wheel turn, the universal sovereign. He is the motive force of the world, abiding motionless in the void at the hub of the wheel. The primeval legislator, Manu, might be cast in a similar role, filled, above all, by the Buddha. The ceremonies performed in the Tantric mandala relative to the sovereignty of the Buddha are rites of kingly consecration. The symbol is given its clearest expression in the shape of that massive structure, the centre of the Bayon at Angkor, a mandala, or eight-spoked wheel, at the centre of which stood a statue of the Buddha as king. The duties of the kings of Angkor - like those, furthermore, of the Javanese Kings of the Mountain - were expressly identified with those of the chakravarti and this is the meaning behind the initiation undergone by Jayavarman II in 802 on the top of the Phnom Kulon. Shiva, or the lingam, possess qualities identical to those of other rulers. The Lordship of the Universe is kingship. One of the ancestors of the kings of Angkor was Baladitya, Prince of the Rising Sun, whose activities were identified with the course of the Sun through the signs of the zodiac. Nor should it be forgotten that the emperor of Japan is a direct descendant of the Sun-goddess, Amaterasu-omikami.

The basic duties of these ‘centre’ rulers was the establishment of justice and peace, that is, the balance and harmony of the world. Thus Manu’s Old Testament counterpart, Melchizedek, is the King of Righteousness who rules over Salem, City of Peace. His attributes were the sword and the scales. According to Dante, the duties of an emperor were of the same nature. Guenon, too, has drawn attention to the symbolism of the Three Wise Men, representatives of primordial tradition, whose presents to the Christ-child bear witness to their recognition of his duties as king (gold), priest (frankincense) and prophet (myrrh).

Al-Malik (‘King’) to the Muslim is one of the Names of God, basically corresponding to the duties of the judge.

By analogy with the central and regulatory qualities of the office of king-ship, Shabistari compares the human microcosm with a kingdom in which the heart is sovereign. If the soul cannot administer justice, ‘the spirit decays and the body falls into ruin’. The Chinese Secret of the Golden Flower similarly suggests the functioning of the central, imperial power in the ‘celestial heart’, the point of spiritual concentration.

The title of Ancient Egyptian sovereigns, Pharaoh, was taken from a word meaning ‘great house’, first denoting the palace and then its occupant, who was regarded as of the same nature as the Sun and the godhead. His regalia

identified him with the gods. Like the latter he wore attached to his belt an animal’s tail which hung from his waist. He had a false beard which was itself a god and he carried a sceptre with the head of the god Set [originally a god of great valour who was degraded by later tradition to a Typhon or base demon]. His faithful subjects sang hymns to his crowns which were imbued with supernatural life. In the middle of his forehead a uraeus spat flames which consumed rebels.

His power inspired fear, his progeny were countless, his decrees infallible and his judgements instinct with justice and goodness. ‘Every change on the throne had a cosmic significance. Although Chaos threatened the order of the universe at the death of a king, the accession of a new pharaoh revivified the original creation and reestablished the equilibrium of nature’.

Celtic kings were elected by the nobles from members of the warrior caste, but under the supervision and religious sanction of the druids. A warrior by birth and training, the king was closely akin to the priesthood and his symbolic colour was like that of the druids, white. Kings no longer did battle themselves, but their presence on the field was essential, as a Middle Irish proverb has it: ‘Battles are not won unless the King is there.’ However, his major role was not warlike - the good king was the one who ensured the prosperity of his subjects. Taxes and tribute were brought to him and these he shared out in gifts and rewards. He was the ‘giver’, and bad kings were those who levied taxes and gave nothing in return. Under such a ruler, all fruitfulness vanished from soil, trees and animals. Usurpers’ reigns were often those which turned out badly and from whom kingship was wrested. The king who was either deposed or had reached the end of his reign, or the usurper, died by violence, drowned in a butt of beer or wine and with his palace burned over his head. Controlled by the druids, kings acted as intermediaries between the priestly caste and their subjects. One of the taboos set upon the Ulates was not to speak before the king had spoken and upon the king not to speak before the druids had spoken. Thus druids took precedence over kings, but kings spoke before the rest of the people. The royal festival was Lugnasad, the Feast of Lug, the god conceived as the mediator between Earth and Heaven. It was also the harvest festival. Unlike the druid who enjoyed complete freedom of action, Celtic kings were hedged around with a host of taboos and duties which could not be infringed without incurring serious risks. Should he suffer mutilation, the loss, for example of a limb or an eye, or any physical disability, he was disqualified from ruling. King Nuada lost an arm in the first Battle of Mag Tuired and could not regain his throne from the usurper, Bres, until he had been given an artificial arm of silver. However, the king’s presence, as giver of gifts and holder of the balance, was essential to maintaining the fabric of society. When kingship began to vanish from Gaul in the first century вс, a state of almost complete anarchy resulted. The Celtic was almost the complete opposite to the Roman system, based upon the supremacy of the temporal power under which the flamen rather than the king was hedged with taboos.

A Gaulish cognomen of Mars was Albiorix, which should be translated as ‘King of the World’. Albio means both ‘white’ and ‘world’, thus hinting at a religious significance, white possessing a fully sacred character in the Indo-European world. Another epithet based upon office is the name of the tribe which occupied central Gaul, the Bituriges or Kings of the World. However, while Albio corresponds to the aspect of kingship as mediation, bitu is also a synonym for ‘time’, ‘age’ and ‘eternity’, denoting the timeless aspect of kingship. The Bituriges were thus simultaneously ‘Kings of the World’ and ‘Kings for Ever’. By contrast with both Albiorix and Bituriges, Dubnorix (or Dumnorix) - an important member of the Aeduan nobility, according to Caesar - was ‘King of the World’ in the temporal sense of the word. Livy mentions a fifth-century вс Gaulish emperor, the ambidextrous King of the Bituriges, Ambigatus. By this ambidexterity should be understood his possession of the two powers, spiritual and temporal, a symbolism which Livy undoubtedly failed to understand. This concept of universal kingship, a concentration of the two powers over the three worlds, is less clearly expressed in Ireland. Nevertheless heroic literature frequently calls King Curoi Ri in Domuin, King of the World, a title which the writers of the lives of the Irish saints applied to Christ alone.

In African beliefs, the king symbolizes ‘the one who holds all life, human and cosmic, in his hands; the key-stone of society and the universe’.

The king is also conceived as a projection of the higher ego, an ideal to be realized. From that point onwards, he ceases to hold any historic or cosmic significance, but becomes a mere ethical or psychological quality. Upon his image are concentrated all longings for independence and self-governance, of basic understanding and awareness. In this sense the king becomes, along with the hero, saint, father and sage, the archetype of human perfection and energizes every spiritual element to that end. This image, however, may be depraved into that of the tyrant expressing the ill-controlled urge to power.

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