Flood Symbolism (10 Meanings in Mythology and Dreams)

Floods are one of the most common natural disasters. In moderation, floods helped people to grow their crops and get a more fertile ground. In its extremes, a flood means mass destruction and it was often responsible for wiping out entire villages, if not civilizations.

flood symbolismBut flood symbolism also has a deeper layer of meaning to it. It represents our unconsciousness and our stream of thoughts that emerge as they become too strong as actions and emotions. Floods can also purify and are symbols of purification, and cleansing – either physically or in one’s mind.

In Hinduism, a flood is merely a symbol of God’s will and his displeasure with the actions of the people on Earth. Flood dreams are also quite common and we’ll see what they can represent to you if you’ve recently encountered them.

> This article is from our series on weather symbolism

Flood Symbolism: 10 Meanings

Floods have different symbolic meanings, but here are some of the more common ones.

1. Fertility

Water always represents new life and fertility, and when a flood happens in its more moderate form, it was always welcomed by farmers that were looking to grow crops. It made the ground more fertile, especially in areas where the ground was dry (Ancient Egypt, India).

In fact, many civilizations survived and thrived as they became capable of controlling large floods and use them to create irrigation systems that allowed them to control the flood and use the water to provide nutrients to their plants. This was especially useful for Ancient Egyptians who developed this system as they were able to predict the movement of the river Nile.

But there’s a thin line between the flood being a destructive force of nature and the life-giving bloodline that fed farmers’ crops, which enabled entire civilizations to survive. In its moderate state, a flood is a symbol of fertility.

2. Destruction

On the other hand, when a flood gets out of control, it becomes an unstoppable force of nature that will destroy everything it comes in contact with. Large floods were historically responsible for many deaths and the loss connected to floods – loss of homes, crops, livestock, and perhaps more importantly, diseases that came after them.

That’s why countries that are endangered by floods and have many potential sources of floods have designed flood control systems that keep the population safe from potential floods. These systems are designed to prevent the catastrophe that can ensure if a flood gets out to control.

But in the past, civilizations and tribes were not capable of controlling the floods and were thus exposed to the dangers that came with them. They destroyed people’s homes and made the entire area unlivable as they wiped out entire civilizations.

3. Unconsciousness

According to world-renowned philosophers Carl Jung and Sigmund Freund, water is the main symbol of unconsciousness. We can compare our unconscious mind to what happens underwater – it is this invisible, uncontrollable mass that happens spontaneously and unknown to us.

A flood is thus a symbol of a large stream of unconsciousness attacking our consciousness. We often slip into this mode without ever realizing, as we wander away with our thoughts and feelings instead of focusing on the real world going on around us. 

This means that our inner workings and our mind gets control of us, and we start to dwell on our emotions and thoughts. Breaking free of this would be similar to controlling a flood and stopping it from doing damage.

Weather phenomena are normally connected to our emotions. We see them as bridges between our brains and our well-being. For instance, we see a storm as something negative, so we connect it to symbols of anger. Similarly, floods can also provide such comparisons, as we connect them to anger, fear, and sadness.

4. Purification

Even though a flood is a hugely destructive force that can destroy everything in front of it, it’s also a symbol of purification and even rebirth. Initially, it will wipe out anything that comes its way; but at the same time, it provides fertile ground for new crops to grow, and enable new life forms to be formed.

It’s often seen as this force that was sent out by the Gods to destroy everything bad on earth and reset, which allows new things to grow and create a new life. This ability to perform a complete purification makes it a symbol of cleansing.

5. Change

A flood changes the surface of the Earth forever. It destroys and removes anything that might provide some resistance to it. This allows the surroundings to change and create something new, something that was previously not possible.

That’s why we connect a flood to the meaning of change. It can also be symbolic of any change that might happen in our lives on a large scale. This can be linked to your personal life, or to public life such as politics, for instance. It’s symbolic of large-scale changes that were previously seen as unthinkable.

Symbolism of the Flood in the Bible (Noah’s Arc)

One of the most iconic times a flood was used symbolically was in the Bible, when God sent forth days and days of rain (see more: rain symbolism) to flood the earth. The symbolism of the flood in the bible was cleansing of the earth from the sins of those who lived on earth. Too many people had stopped following God, which led to God’s displeasure. He got Noah to gather together 2 of every kind of animal to save them and placed them on his arc.

After the world was fully flooded, God stopped the flood and sent Noah a rainbow (see more: rainbow symbolism) to tell him that all was over and good days were coming again, started by Noah as a true believer in his God. 

Flood Symbolism in Mythology: 5 Symbols

The flood myth is a motif or a myth that is present in many different cultures. The myth tells the story of a great flood that is sent out by the Gods in order to destroy civilization as an act of divine retribution. That’s why floods are often connected to deities, which is visible in many different cultures:

  1. In Hinduism, it is a part of Pralaya, which is a story of how human realms get destroyed by a flood. For Hindus, floods were merely symbols sent out by their deity that showed them that the gods were displeased or unhappy with the humans on Earth.
  2. In China, there’s a story of Gun-Yu, which is a story of large-scale floods that continued for two generations and wiped out the population. The flood might have really happened around 1900 BC, but there were many stories and myths about this Great Flood that scared the population.
  3. In Greek Mythology, there were two names closely connected to floods: Deucalion and Pyrrha. In this myth, Zeus decided to end the Bronze Age with the deluge, and only these two survived it.
  4. In Norse Mythology, the character of Bergelmir closely resembles the character of Noah, which saved humanity from floods.
  5. Other mythologies where floods are involved include Mesopotamia, Irish mythology, Mayans, Aborigines, and others.

Floods in Dreams

If you’ve recently dreamt about a flood, it may mean that you’re suppressing your real feelings and desires. You are not expressing them enough, and are frustrated by this – one day, these emotions will come out as a great flood, whether you like it or not.

You’re also looking for a change, and you want a new beginning, which a flood symbolizes. You want a clean slate and start anew to achieve your goals.

Conclusion

A flood is a mass disaster that can account to deaths and mass destruction. When it’s destructive, it symbolizes wholesale changes and destruction. But in moderation, a flood is a symbol of fertility and change. Flood symbolism is commonly observed in various mythologies where it played the role of this symbolic meaning that was sent out by the gods to tell the humans they’re displeased with their actions.

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