Valleys have a rich history of physical, spiritual, and cultural significance. Many of the world’s civilizations were developed in valleys. And stories in historical and spiritual texts have used valley symbolism for rhetorical effect.
Valleys are often said to be the start of a journey or resting place before embarking on a journey up the mountain to higher peaks and spiritual enlightenment. They’re also settlement places.
In this article we discuss some of the most common symbolic meanings of valleys.
Valley Symbolism – 8 Meanings
1. Fertility & Life
The most common (or popular) symbol of valleys is “fertility and life”. The valleys provide all of the good things that are needed to support life.
Free-flowing water, trees to provide oxygen and shelter, greenery to support wildlife, these are features that can be found in the valley and not available in the peaks of surrounding mountains.
This environment also means that valleys support villages / civilizations / communities and ultimately life. The conditions are ideal for human life and a valley is therefore symbolic of life, growth, opportunity, and community.
Valleys are symbolic of abundance. They provide water, food, and shelter. A valley that is free to flourish and blossom will provide abundance for those that inhabit it.
The Valley of the Kings, for example, is an Egyptian burial ground for previous pharaohs. This valley provides a different form of abundance and that is the abundance of treasure and wealth. While these riches are tangible assets, their abundance demonstrates opportunity and wealth in valleys can be more than just a tangible item.
A valley is therefore symbolic of an abundant, rich, and prosperous life.
A valley is a divider or a path between the mountains and for many people, it symbolizes decision-making and a journey. The journey to the peak of a mountain is said to narrow the physical and spiritual gap between heaven and earth.
Many of the most enlightened monks take home high up in the mountains to align their spiritual and physical being as close to the heavens as possible. To reach the peaks of a mountain top though, you first need to travel through the valleys.
As a valley is safe, peaceful, and homely, this leads to a decision of whether you should pursue your journey and reach for the mountains or stay with the safe and comfortable option of settling in the valley.
A valley is symbolic of peace and harmony. The flowing streams of water, colorful flowers, expanding greenery and distant wisps of mist are the typical backdrops that you’ll see depicting meditation and calming environments.
Valleys are areas that you can be at one with nature and help you to find inner peace before you start a long journey up the mountain.
Even in valleys where war, death, and emptiness exist, you can still find peace within these areas. This is an eerie sort of peace, the one you would find in a graveyard, and it’s this specific peace that allows for a different kind of reflection.
They are often barren areas that are devoid of life and as a result, these valleys offer the opportunity for inner reflection and quiet contemplation.
Peace is also linked to the meaning of rainbows.
Valleys offer the perfect environment for humans to build communities. Many civilizations were developed in valleys. Valleys are strongly linked to fertility and life and many believe that it’s not coincidental that countless civilizations were born in the valleys.
In literature, valleys are the peaceful resting place after journeying through mountains and deserts and offer a final destination for a traveling man to raise a family.
While it’s true that a valley can be symbolic of fertility, life, and civilization, it can also be symbolic of a darker interpretation in the form of death. In biblical and literary texts, the name “death valley” is used to reference this darker meaning and interpretation.
The journey through death valley is metaphorical for one without the lush greenery and flowing rivers but one of challenge and potential danger. In the bible, this is seen referenced as the walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Death valley is also an actual physical location and is a national park in Eastern California while being one of the hottest places on earth. The name was given after a group of people were said to have journeyed through this valley and mysteriously disappear, never to return again.
Throughout history and in scriptures, valleys have been a place of war with many tribes and cultures using them as a battleground. Narrow valleys surrounded by hills and mountains were used to funnel enemy soldiers through for an ambush (as most famously depicted by the Spartans in the story and film 300).
Wider valleys would typically be a central location where opposing armies would march to and commence battle. While some might instantly think of a valley as a fruitful oasis, it can also heavily symbolize war and as mentioned above, death.
8. Life Balance
The relationship between valleys and mountains is closely woven and when considered in a dual context, valleys symbolize one part of a life journey. The journey through the valley is often symbolic of low points in life.
We journey up a mountain for adventure, enlightenment, and spiritual connection however we also reference the valley as going down into the valley. This carries negative connotations and is symbolic of life’s up and downs.
To get to high points in life you must also travel through some low points. The valley is symbolic of the low points that are needed in order to reach the high points at the peak of the mountain.
The Meaning of a Valley in Dreams
Valleys not only have symbolic meaning in the real world but also in our dreams. Those that dream of valleys could be doing so for a number of reasons.
1. Hope and Prosperity
Dreaming about a valley can symbolize hope for the future. Valleys are safe places that are well suited for sustaining human life. It is said that God will create a prosperous valley for those that are deserving of it and a dream of a wondrous valley can give hope for good things ahead.
The Valley of the Kings is an Egyptian desert valley where pharaohs are buried in tombs said to contain riches and treasure. Dreaming of this valley can also provide hope and be symbolic of future treasures and wealth.
These treasures can, however, be hidden and it’s a sign that you need to consider future offers and opportunities carefully as they could provide you with hidden wealth.
Valleys are symbolic of fertility and birth. A dream about a valley could be in relation to your sexuality and can indicate a desire for a newborn and settling down as a family.
Valleys provide all the resources necessary to support human life and setting up homes close to a valley was seen as an ideal settlement for families and tribes. This visual representation in a dream can indicate that an individual is ready to support a family and ‘settle down’.
3. Upcoming Challenges
If you dream of a barren wasteland whereby the valley is dark and unwelcoming then this can be a reference to “death valley”.
Dreaming about a death valley can be symbolic of upcoming challenges and difficult times in the future. We mentioned earlier that valleys can symbolize a journey and a dream about death valley can therefore represent tough times ahead.
It can demonstrate the need for perseverance and adaptability as death valleys are known to be unforgiving for those that cannot adapt and weather the difficult climate.
In contrast, a dream about an open valley can be symbolic of positive future challenges. Ones that are easier to face and will result in more prosperous fortunes.
A valley can have both positive and negative associations and will symbolize different meanings depending on the context with which you interpret them.
Typically, valleys are prosperous areas that have allowed humankind to create settlements throughout history. Flowing water, food, wildlife, and shelter all contribute to a sustainable and welcoming environment.
They are seen as resting areas on greater journeys (both physical and spiritual) and are most commonly symbolic for fertility, abundance, life, and growth. Desert valleys are the opposite though and are symbolic of death, struggle, perseverance, and adaptability.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.