The meaning of the dream symbol: Milk

Milk may symbolize mother-love, or your nurturing as a child.
It may symbolize nourishment for your psyche, enabling personal expansion.
Drinking milk may symbolize sharing in divine life or consciousness; or awareness of the one source of all life, one life-force. Religious traditions speak of a fluid or drink that came from Cod - as sap in trees, blood, etc. -and was variously named: milk, ambrosia, honey/mead, nectar, etc. Psychologically, ‘Cod'/'divine life' may be experienced/understood as your true self, living in tune with your ‘destiny’ or fundamental psychic structure.

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The symbolism of Milk refers to nurturing, maternal purity and emotional sustenance. As such, the image of milk in our dreamscape, may refer to an endearment and compassion for new acquaintances in our life. Moreover, the serving of milk may imply an aspiration to strengthen our relationship with these respective individuals.

However, the vision of spilled milk may negate all these representations and symbolize instead a loss of faith, opportunity and trust. Nevertheless, if this same milk is spilled, and an unrecognized animal comes along and laps it up anyway, we may be epitomizing the loyalty of a friend, who unbeknownst to us, returns our love and care in a humble, yet naturalistic, fashion.

In yet another dream imagery, we may find ourselves choking on milk. This dream figure involves overprotectiveness and a desire to smother another individual with our love. This behavior works against self-development. Individuals must learn to ‘weather’ life’s experiences. When we shield our loved ones from experiences we limit the ‘true’ shaping of their character. In this sense, it may be indeed harmful to ‘cage’ our loved ones.

According to the Ramayana, amrita, the nectar of life, was produced by the churning of the Sea of Milk. This was the first food and the first drink, in which all other beverages resided in a state of potentiality, and hence milk was naturally the symbol of plenty and fertility, and also of knowledge. The meaning of the word was extended in an esoteric sense and, as a channel of initiation, milk was lastly a symbol of immortality. No sacred writings have celebrated milk to the extent of those of India. The morning hymn, the agnihotra, sung every day since the Vedas began, tells how ‘Indra and Agni with joyful song give life to this milk so that it confers immortality to the righteous man who makes sacrifice.’

There is a similar note in Orphic hymns in which milk is not only the drink, but the place, of immortality. Similarly Herakles (Hercules) imbibed the milk of immortality at Hera’s breast, while the Pharaoh was suckled by a goddess and by this means attained to a new and wholly divine life, from which he drew the strength to fulfil his mission as an earthly ruler. Again, milk was poured on the 365 altar tables around the tomb of Osiris, one table for each day of the year, and this sprinkling helped the god’s rebirth each morning.

The Celts, too, regarded milk as the nectar of immortality when a drunken stupor was not required. Furthermore, milk possessed medicinal virtues. A Pictish druid, Drostan, advised the King of Ireland to heal his soldiers, wounded by the Bretons’ poisoned arrows, by collecting the milk from 140 white cows and pouring it into a hole in the middle of a field. Those who bathed in it would be healed.

The Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite compared God’s teachings with milk, because the strength instilled in them furthers spiritual growth.

Suckling by a divine mother is a mark of adoption and hence of absolute knowledge. Herakles was suckled by Hera and St Bernard by Our Lady, making him the adoptive brother of Christ. The Philosopher’s Stone is sometimes called the Virgin’s Milk, milk in this context being a food of immortality.

There are many instances of Muslim commentators giving milk this sense of the initiatory. For example, in a hadlth recorded by Ibn Omar, Muhammad is supposed to have said that ‘to dream of milk is to dream of learning or knowledge’.

In the language of Tantrism, ‘milk’ is bodhicitta meaning both ‘thought’ and ‘semen’, rising to the manipura-chakra, or umbilical centre.

Lastly, it should be added that milk, like all symbolic vehicles of Life and Knowledge as absolutes, is a lunar symbol, predominantly female and linked to the springtime renewal of nature. This is the essential quality of libations of milk and of such milk-white sacrificial victims as the cow which the Yakut sprinkled with milk at the Spring festival in May and which somehow signified the transfer to the fields of the powers inherent in the symbol.