Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Santa’s Belly: Food dreams in holiday season


Food is going to be a major theme in many Western families over the next week or so. While the original Santa, a reindeer shaman, was probably a lean and wiry fellow, our holiday habits have projected a copious belly onto this beloved seasonal gift-giver. This seems the right season to examine how we dream of food.
Say you dream of consuming sugar feasts of candy or chocolate or over-the-top whipped-everything desserts. The first thing to consider – after you check your morning-after feelings (guilt or pleasure or a mix of both, perhaps) – is how the preferences of your dream self compare with those of your waking self. If both of you have a sweet tooth, maybe you’re simply doing in your dream what you’d do anywhere else, or rehearsing for that special dinner. But maybe your dream self is overdoing it to the point where you might pause to ask yourself: do I need to cut back a bit? This could be an example of how the way we eat in dreams can offer course correction. 
Or maybe you have a sweet tooth, but you’re on a diet and are restricting your sugar intake. Then we might look at the same dream a different way, as compensation. Your dreams are allowing you pleasure and comfort you have denied yourself, and you don’t have to pay in calories. 
Then again, you might be one of those who couldn’t care less about chocolate or dessert in regular life – but there you are, downing that cake and spun sugar and whipped cream. We might now want to look at the same dream content in a different, symbolic way, asking: what pleasure or experience (other than food) are you hungry for?
Dreams of food and eating are often social dreams, and our role in them can be quite illuminating about our connection – or lack of connection – with others and our readiness to give or receive. A potluck dream dinner, or one in which everyone is helping out in the kitchen, might reflect a happy and harmonious community or family. If someone else is feeding us, we want to check whether we are actually enjoying the fare. We may need to ask, “Who is trying to make me swallow something I don’t want?”
Some dreamers never seem to get to the restaurant, or the table, like the characters in Buñuel‘s surreal movie The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The question becomes, “What am I missing out on?” Or the dreamer is kept waiting in a line or at a counter where she is never served. The question, this time, may be: “In what sense am I at a place in life where I am not being fed or nourished?” Asking that question, of a dream of this kind, once inspired a woman I know to leave her marriage.
Our food dreams can be very direct advisories on diet and nutrition and taking care of our bodies. If you are throwing out food in a dream, for example, that may be a prompt to eliminate that food from your diet. If you are putting food in a freezer, that could be a nudge to cut back on that food for a certain period of time. Our dream producers will hype a theme and use special effects to get this kind of point across. At a time in my life when I was eating quite a lot of fried and fast food, I dreamed I was driving at crazy speed until I flew off the road and stopped – safely – at the entrance to an Asian market featuring organic and vegetarian items.
Food, as a dream symbol, can be a stand-in for many things. The range is reflected by how we use words like “food” and “hunger” in everyday conversation. Something can be food for thought or food for spirit; we can be hungry for meaning or hungry for love. As we seek the meaning of a food dream, it will always be appropriate to ask “What is being fed (or not fed)?” and “What does the dreamer hunger for?”

state of food preparation in dreams may be symbolic of what we are cooking up in a different sense. I find that, whenever I am working on a book, my kitchen dreams mirror my progress (or lack of progress) rather exactly. In the late 1990s, for example, I dreamed that I was in a kitchen where the 
counter and the tiny table are
both littered with dirty dishes, paper plates, and odd pieces of china. I started piling plates up and clearing this out of the way, to make room to eat a huge steak I had ordered in. At
 the time, I was working on the book but had hit a speed bump. The dream gave me clarity about the need to clear space
for what I wanted to serve up, and the “huge steak” reminded me (on the sounds-like principle) that there were “big stakes” involved.


Then there is the Exotic Foods category. Contemporary dreamers, like the ancients, dream of eating books, a rather powerful metaphor for absorbing knowledge. They also eat shoes, lumps of incense, crystals, statues and minor deities, as well as yucky things – bugs and maggots and shit – they would be just as unlikely to eat in normal life. The basic question, with all these varieties, is likely to be: What am I bringing in to my body and my life, and is it good for me?

Our inner senses can come richly alive in our food dreams. I know dreamers who talk about dream banquets, even thirty years on, as the most wonderful meals of their lives. I think of sensual dreams in which we don’t need Freud to tell us that what’s going on with certain foods is very sexy. Of a delicious dream of stirring a pot of peach conserves. Of a wildly funny dream recently shared with me by a woman who found herself having a bouncy romp in a tub of red potatoes.


As I write, I can taste the perfect lemon sorbet and fine champagne I once enjoyed in a cafe that seemed to be in the astral realm of the moon. And now I am smacking my lips as the remembered taste of raspberry juice plays with my palate. Years ago, I woke from a dream certain that raspberry juice was spilling down my lips, from a bittersweet love scene at the Gare du Nord in Paris, apparently on the eve of Nazi occupation, in which my dream lover and I shared a kiss with raspberries in our mouths.

Santa image from crazy frankenstein

  • Nancy

    I love “course correction”! For years I have dreamed of missing out on eating: cafeterias about to close as I arrived, or with only remnants of undesirable food, restaurants dark and empty when I wanted a meal, someone else’s kitchen with nothing I like to eat. I’ve thought that I’m not nurturing myself sufficiently, that this is about more then food. Recently I dreamed of being in a line to be served food, and a fellow dreamer digging out the “heart” of some bread pudding to give me — it felt like the center cut of steak. I took this as a sign that I am finally learning to nourish myself better.
    Merry Christmas and bon apetit!

  • Robert Moss

    Nancy – Yes, if i can’t get to the table or get what I want to eat in dreams, I’ll ask where am I missing out on what nourishes me (far beyond food) in regular life. Whether the person who produces the “heart” of the bread pudding is an aspect of myself or a transpersonal friend or ally, his/her appearance does feel like a very positive transition. Merry Christmas et bon appetit a toi!

  • Wanda Burch

    I have more dreams of places where food is prepared – kitchens and cafeterias, where I am selecting or being offered food. I found myself in a cafeteria line with Cernunos several Easters ago.
    I had a vivid dream of swallowing an amber stone in an initiation ceremony. I sat up gagging from the dream and took some time to pull myself back together, but actual dreams of food came to me during the long months of chemotherapy. They prompted me on the diet I needed to eat to avoid nausea [potatoes, cauliflower, pasta and milk]. My oncologist was astonished since those food items usually produce nausea; the foods suggested in my dreams became a Wednesday ritual called “pasta night.” In another I was eating whale soup and raspberry sorbet prepared by a family member in my kitchen – I added fish [not whale soup] and raspberries. I ate apples and bananas and had a large steak in another dream. At least one, sometimes two, dreams of food followed each chemo treatment. I followed the food direction in my dreams as part of my healing year.

  • Kate

    perfect timing I just dreamt I opened some cafe but had nothing to serve, I had only one customer [a awkward boy I knew in my teens that reminds me of a current friend] in it he was sick and starving but was not allowed to eat the soup infront of him.I drew up a menu of things I could possibly cook and sell.I’m still a bit puzzled by the meaning.
    Enjoying the blog!

  • Robert Moss

    Wanda – Wonderful that your dream nutritionist prescribed a diet (unexpected by the regular staff) that worked so well, part of that “healing cocktail” you describe so beautifully in your book “She Who Dreams.” I’m sure everyone would LOVE to know more about the dream of standing in a cafeteria line with Cernunnos! One thought that comes to me with this intriguing summary is that the powers of the deeper world are coming through in ordinary life. The dream of swallowing amber as part of an initiation sounds wildly shamanic and would have deep resonance with those of our ancestors who regarded amber, the congealed blood of ancient evergreens, as sacred stuff, and used it in healing, divination – and initiation – as some traditional practitioners I’ve visited in the Baltic still do today. Do you recall the taste of the amber?

  • Robert Moss

    Kate – If this were my dream, i would make a list of the things I have to offer others (not necessarily food) at this point in my life. And I would think of what specific help and nourishment my current friend may need from me.

  • Nina

    For my dream self this is an infinite and wonderful way to let me know what nutrition I provide my soul (and my body) with and the other way round.
    I am not a strict vegetarian, eating fish a few times a year, but I avoid eating meat. Despite not consuming animals for some twenty years I occasionally dream about being served meals that contain meat. Usually my meatdreams take place in a solemn and contemplative vein. I tend to eat very slowly and after waking up I feel that something very important is happening at deeper levels, and I need to become more silent and attentive to what occurs inward.
    Then there are other dreams in which I swallow food too quickly and without giving any real thought to what I am doing. These dreams urge me to become more aware and rooted in the present moment, instead of my impulsive and greedy behaviour.
    And one more group of my really favourite fooddreams is about seeing or eating more archaic types of poppy seed or nut cakes that have been just taken out of the oven. Not modern ovens, because one clearly perceives the transformative fire energy present on the spot. It feels like the fire coming from the core of the earth and creating its very best.
    Not to stay only in the past, one of my recent “drinkdreams” was that half-known, half-unknown person has brought me a glass of grapefruit juice, just wonderfully natural, fresh product, of light yellow colour, thick and with foam on the top.
    My last point about the first sentence of your great post. There is a lovely story by Daudet called The Three Low Masses (people probably know it) and it´s a good example of what can happen if we somehow neglect the real meaning of Christmas. It´s easy to listen to it in English or French on the page
    Thank you very much for your inspirative and wonderfully soul-nutritious post.

  • Robert Moss

    Nina – Thanks for your marvelously vivid and sensory account of your dream menus. I enjoy the contrast you draw between the contemplative dream meals and the hurried ones, and the self-awareness with which you relate this to states of consciousness and being. The dreams of good nutty food from the ancestral ovens and of that wonderfully fresh juice feel like energy dreams through which body and spirit are restored.

  • Wanda

    I recall the feel of the amber more than the taste. I am standing in front of a fire in the dream and willingly accept the amber but the process of swallowing it triggers such a powerful gag reflex [the stone is large] that I sit up in bed holding my throat and still gagging. I recall the amber has been polished and is not craggy – it is smooth but large. There is an energy charge in the swallowing, which does take place even though it is difficult.
    The dream of Cernunnos was Easter morning of 2002. I am participating – with stories from my dreaming and experience – in a workshop with a friend. We both make a decision to stay overnight and attend an Easter service. We part company to change clothes; we both go to locker rooms for the clothing change. My locker room is a busy place filled with jolly laughing women, all of whom have offered me space to store my clothing while I change into Easter clothes. I am struck, as I change, by how expensive and beautiful my clothing is, both the clothing I am removing and even more so by the clothing I am donning for Easter service. I have award medals that I am removing and wrapping carefully and placing inside my weekend hats [two of them], and I select my Easter hat. A large woman, at first wearing black, offers to take my things, particularly my medals and hats, and place them on top of her locker so that they will not be crushed by the other clothing inside the locker. I agree. Then the woman’s clothing immediately changes to bright wonderful colors. I leave the locker room and join my friend at the door to a cafeteria where we are meeting Cernunnos. He is quite handsome—all of us are wearing hats, and his hat is a wonderful helmet-like hat with antlers or horns. He moves in between us, and we all go through the cafeteria line, selecting food before choosing which Easter service we will attend.

  • Irene

    I love food and food dreams! I often dream of food, being in kitchens, restaurants, banquets, etc. I have a recurring dream where I call my favorite pizza take-out (one I know in waking reality) and ask for a “chinese”, “mexican” or “indian”, etc pizza. In the dream, I always find hidden objects resembling “fèvres” or “beans” that are hidden in the Kings’ cakes of January 6th. Always with secret messages.
    Thanks Nina for the practical advice on observing how one eats in dreams (for I too often focus on the what and where).
    And thanks Wanda for reminding me of the healing power of dream food. I think I remember that you spoke in your book about eating white foods. Perhaps I’m mistaken but I do remember having a wonderful friend, Roberta, who had cancer and dreamed of the color orange in many different ways. At the end of her life, I clearly remember that she was ravenously attracted to orange foods like sweet potatoes and pumpkin. The last New Year’s Eve meal she had with us, I made her pumpkin soup and “tarte au maroille”, a French cheese pie made with a golden-orange cheese. She said that the cheese & salt were probably not a good idea for someone with liver cancer, but the color she knew, made her feel safe and protected (which is not necessarily a direct path to healing, but it’s what she wanted).
    I’m going to write a New Year’s intention on a dream card to slip under my pillow on December 30th to ask what “food” I need to best bring in and sustain this New Year’s energy in my body. … and then I’ll work up the New Year’s Eve menu to reflect what the dream brings in. … and I’ll propose the game to my family. My children will love it!

  • Robert Moss

    Wanda – Thanks for this vivid account of the “Cernunnos in the Cafeteria” dream. So interesting that it came on Easter morning, THE great Christian festival of rebirth and regeneration – a theme also symbolized by the antlers of Cernunnos, which die and grow back. The significance is deepened by the fact that your family name is Easter.I’m always intrigued by dreams of putting on a different hat; the splendid ones that you and your friend don, in company with Cernunnos in the cafeteria, suggest BIG roles unfolding in connection with large communities and audiences.

  • Robert Moss

    Irene – That’s a wonderful plan, to dream up the right New Year’s Eve menu. And I love your account of your friend Roberta dreaming and then eating the color orange, so full of energy and juice for life. Yes, dreams also reveal the colors of healing, and which are right for us in different life passages…

  • Anne Hill

    I have had more dreams about eating delicious food this year than ever before, and am still wondering why. Along with dreaming of sinking my teeth into a piece of amazing lime fudge at a farmer’s market (and waking up to realize I have never seen such a food before), I dreamt recently of selecting a perfectly ripe peach from a neighbor’s harvest–except the peach had been hollowed out by bees, so there was no pit in the center. In the dream I smell, taste, and feel the texture of the fruit as I eat it, and it is wonderful.

  • Robert Moss

    Anne – For me, it’s sometimes enough to carry the juice and pleasure and energy from a sensory dream like these, as the memory of a real experience (on another level of reality). I might also ask myself what I am craving in ordinary life and how I can enjoy these sensory delights with my physical body. Not a stretch for me took for the yummiest peach in the produce section and eat it asap…

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