You’re drifting off to the Land of Nod when suddenly, you feel oppressive humidity in the air. All around, you hear the cries of animals. A heavy green jungle pulses with rain and wind.
And something else: a heavy thudding of an enormous primate, lumbering through the rainforest toward you! As the curious, intelligent, yet terrifyingly powerful ape approaches you, close enough to feel its hot breath on your face, you awaken in a mass of twisted bedsheets! You’ve been dreaming of gorillas. Why? What could it mean?
Unless you’ve been to a zoo or on a safari of late, there may be hidden layers of meaning causing you to dream of gorillas. Let’s discover the spiritual meaning and interpretation of your dreams of gorillas.
The Gorilla’s scientific name is easy to remember: Gorilla gorilla gorilla. Literally, it means “tribe of hairy women.” (You’re welcome for that little party fact.) But we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, gorillas and humans have 98.3% of their genetic code in common. The only animals we people are more similar to are chimpanzees and bonobo monkeys.
Gorillas are the largest of the great apes. They carry a lot of muscle as well as fat: males grow up to 350 pounds. They’re clearly distinguishable from other primates by their large and remarkably human-looking hands, broad chests, and small eyes set in hairless faces.
There are eastern gorillas and western gorillas, and each species has a lowland and highland variety. These distinct gorilla species live on either side of the Congo Basin.
Gorillas typically live in families comprised of 5 to 10 members. Sometimes just two gorillas will live together, but a massive family of up to 50 has been recorded. Their societies are patriarchal, organized around a dominant male (called a silverback, because of a light streak of hair down his spine).
Gorillas take a long time amongst primates to grow to sexual maturity — from seven to ten years old. Gorilla mothers give birth to just one baby at a time and might have as many as four pregnancies in their lives. Due to poachers and this relatively slow rate of reproduction, gorillas are an endangered species.
In better news, local governments and organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund have helped designate new protected areas for gorillas. Between 2010 and 2018, gorillas have been downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered. However achieving this has been tremendously difficult, and as the above fact suggests, the gorilla is still quite endangered by poaching.
Gorillas are extraordinarily intelligent and live rich emotional lives. They can build tools, and one even learned to understand and use American Sign Language. They have a sense of humor and are capable of mourning. We also know that gorillas can be ferocious, have deadly strength, and possess an air of mystery, the unknown, and in a sense, the natural path from which humans only recently evolutionarily diverged.
Gorillas can present a kind of symbolic paradox: a human ancestor, we sometimes use them to describe stupidity, aggression, or wildness. Yet compared to people, gorillas have no guile or cunning about them and seem to live lives in tune with nature. In this manner, we might envy our primate cousins, and see in the things they don’t know an organic wisdom our human society sometimes yearns for.
The Symbolism of Gorillas: History
There are some African myths surrounding gorillas: that a pregnant woman who eats gorilla meat will give birth to a strong baby, and that drinking gorilla blood can heal the sick. Sadly, these untrue superstitions have led in part to the gorilla’s endangerment.
As late as the mid-19th century, most people outside of Central Africa had no idea what a gorilla looked like. They had only seen a skull and heard terrifying reports that they were monstrous man-eaters. PT Barnum took his best guess and put black fur on a fossil of a caveman, charging admission to see “The What Is It?”, which he claimed was not only a preserved gorilla but also the missing link between man and beast. The exhibit, although absolute rubbish, was a huge success. It seems Gorilla gorilla has always fascinated humankind, since long before we even knew what it was. Perhaps it will always represent something very human-like, yet ultimately unknowable.
All to say, dreaming of gorillas could mean a lot of different things! And now that we’ve got a strong gorilla background, let’s interpret.
The Symbolism of Gorillas: Positive
Gorillas are large and sometimes scary, yes. Yet even more than size and fearsomeness, gorillas radiate strength and a sense of authority. The more you know about gorilla society, the more you understand that gorillas use their power to solve problems rather than create them.
Positive Gorilla Symbolism: Power
You’ve heard the expression “beating one’s chest like a gorilla”. And if you’ve ever gone down a YouTube rabbit hole and seen a silverback making a display of intimidation, you know it can be terrifying. Yet gorillas are far more likely to threaten violence than to act on it. With really no natural predators except human poachers, gorillas rarely have to fight to survive. Often, they can head off danger with a good chest-beating and a roar. Even more often, a glare from one of these muscular beasts would be plenty to send the odd puma packing.
In this sense, gorillas are a double-sided symbol: gentle, yet powerful. So don’t assume your dream of a gorilla is about something you should be afraid of. It may be about a power you must find a way to harness or find within yourself.
A mighty beast judicious in its actions can suggest leadership or authoritative energy. If those are qualities you’re interested in or searching for, maybe the gorilla really is trying to guide you there!
Positive Gorilla Symbolism: Family
We also know that gorillas arrange themselves in family units. Maybe you saw more than one gorilla in your dream. How were they interacting? This could provide an insight into the meaning of what you saw; a combination of those notes of power, strengthened further with bonds of family.
We noted above that gorilla families are arranged around a single individual, usually the eldest male. There are other roles within the gorilla community, yet the one who “sets the tone” — deciding when to forage, where to live, and how to move through the mists — is the alpha. If you dreamed of gorillas in community, perhaps this is a clue that your dream is trying to tell you what kind of role to seek in your own family or community. If you seemed to associate yourself with the alpha, perhaps the role you seek is one of leadership.
Positive Gorilla Symbolism: Judgment
Those who believe in animal spirit guides advise us that choosing a gorilla as your “totem” isn’t all about a take-charge attitude and definitely isn’t about throwing your weight around. Instead, they emphasize the gorilla’s judgment: sophisticated social animals, they are able to exhibit fairness, compassion, and empathy to one another. (Perhaps, in some cases, more effectively than humans do…)
Positive Gorilla Symbolism: Wisdom
If you see a white gorilla in your dream, this is a symbol not just of authority, but of age and wisdom, too. It can also represent that you’ll soon succeed at a goal you’ve been working towards.
Positive Gorilla Symbolism: Romance
One final positive gorilla trivium: Some interpreters believe that if you dream of a gorilla in your house, you will fall deeply in love!
The Symbolism of Gorillas: Negative
Let’s say you had a more frightening, negative, or, let’s say, “bitey” visit from gorillas in your dreams. Interpreters see a host of messages your subconscious might be trying to send you through not-so-nice gorillas.
Negative Gorilla Symbolism: Danger
A dream encounter with a gorilla in which you feel menaced, or as though the animal is going to hurt you, could mean that you are struggling with friends or colleagues whom you distrust. If such people have shown you actual hostility, the connection seems even clearer.
Negative Gorilla Symbolism: Injury, Illness, Death
If you are struggling or fighting against a gorilla in your dream, it can mean you’re struggling in life with some heavy, overwhelming issues. If you are being injured or killed by the gorilla, you might expect a conflict to boil over soon in your waking life.
Negative Gorilla Symbolism: Repression
Often, the gorilla we’re struggling with represents our fight to become more conscious people, human beings who are able to examine ourselves in order to make improvements. There are lots of reasons people never reach such a level of maturity, and on a level, it means we are unable to be honest with ourselves.
Gorillas — so genetically close to us humans, and yet simultaneously so much more in flow with nature — can symbolize our wish to return to some idyllic state of self-acceptance. Why gorillas? They confront us with those wishes and put muscle behind them!
Negative Gorilla Symbolism: Christian
Christian iconography only covers monkeys — it appears no one in the Christian Bible was aware of gorillas as such. There is only one mention of apes in the New Testament, as one of the many items brought to King Solomon from distant lands, along with gold, silver, ivory, and peacocks. (These “apes” were probably what we now call monkeys.) However, monkeys are cousins to gorillas, and they tend to represent the base instincts in Christian mythology: greed, lust, and malice. Sometimes, monkeys even represent the Devil.
Negative Gorilla Symbolism: Self-Consciousness
Sometimes we dream that we are the gorilla! And in this case, the interpretation just about flips on its head. You may dream that you are a primate because you are self-conscious of being seen as “less than” by other people.
If you’re dealing with FOMO or wannabe vibes, and we all do, manifesting yourself as a gorilla could be a way of working those feelings out. It could also signify concerns you have that you are in some way immature or frivolous.
If you’re dreaming of a bunch of apes who are behaving in a silly and playful fashion, this could mean you have concerns that your friend or colleague groups aren’t really up to your level, or are leading you into situations you’d rather not be in.
Negative Gorilla Symbolism: Physical/Sexual Aggression
If you dream of yourself as an aggressive gorilla, it may mean you’re dealing with unprocessed anger or even sexual frustration. But hey — if you’re dreaming about it, your subconscious is attempting to talk to you about it — and that’s usually a good thing!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock.com
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