What does the color black mean to you? Ask 10 different people and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Across time and across the world, black has had a host of different symbolic meanings. And as the color of mystery, it can make your dreams quite difficult to decode!
Still, if you’ve recently dreamt of this alluring color, you probably want to know what it was trying to tell you. Here’s a guide to help you understand the meaning of dreams about black.
The Complex Symbolism of Black
Every color has different meanings across the world. But the color black seems to have more different (and often conflicting) meanings compared to other shades. Here’s a quick look at some of black’s modern and historical color symbolism.
Black is the absence of all light, so it’s only natural that it’s considered a color of mystery. Black holes, outer space, and even dark alleyways are full of unknowns.
Death and Mourning
At least in most of the Western world, black is the color most associated with mourning. The tradition of wearing black to funerals and during periods of mourning goes back centuries. It may have begun in the Roman Empire — family members of a deceased person would swap their light-colored togas for darker ones.
Black was cemented as a color of mourning during the Victorian era. After Prince Albert’s death in 1861, Queen Victoria wore black for the next 40 years. As a result of that wardrobe choice, it became common practice for widows and widowers to wear black after the death of a spouse. Women usually wore black for one to two years after the death of a husband. Men usually wore black for three to six months after the death of a wife.
Because black is so closely associated with mourning, it sometimes represents solemnity or sadness in general. In some cases, it may also represent hopelessness or despair.
Black is often used as a symbol of death, but in some cultures, it symbolizes rebirth as well. The ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation, and since any being who dies is reborn, black also became a symbol of fertility and rebirth.
Have you ever noticed that many judges, police officers, and magistrates wear black? This color’s association with authority is hardly a new one. Since the Middle Ages, black has been viewed as a color of both solemnity and authority.
Although black has many positive meanings, it’s also associated with evil in many parts of the world. Part of this may be because evil tends to thrive in the shadows, and many evil people prefer to act surreptitiously. After all, movie villains tend to wear dark clothing so they can disappear into the shadows.
Even language has historically connected black to evil. The Latin word for black, ater, was also associated with cruelty and brutality. Ater is a root word for “atrocious” and “atrocity.”
What’s the color of anger? If you said red, you aren’t wrong. However, in many cultures, black is also associated with anger. One 1997 study on color-emotion associations found that participants in Germany, Russia, Poland, Mexico, and the United States all associated both red and black with anger.
Black is also associated with sophistication, especially in Europe and North America. This association may have started in the 1400s and 1500s when a pure black dye was developed (prior to that, “black” clothing was really more of a faded gray). The dye was prohibitively expensive, so only the wealthy wore it. Northern Italian noblemen were supposedly the first to regularly wear black clothing.
The connection between black and sophistication still remains today. Many luxury brands use black in their logos. Some notable ones include Prada, Coach, Gucci, and Chanel. Black is also a common color in formalwear for both men and women.
Wisdom and Maturity
Even though black is often used for mourning, it has a certain gravitas that leads to other associations. For instance, in some cultures in Africa, black is seen as the color of wisdom and maturity.
You’ve probably seen a yin-yang symbol at some point. It’s an ancient Chinese symbol that shows the balance of energies in the world. Yin (the black part of the symbol) and yang (the white part of the symbol) have several different meanings. In general, yin represents quiet, feminine energy. Yang represents active, masculine energy.
While black might be associated with feminine energy in some parts of the world, other parts of the world see it as a masculine color. Some cultures in Africa believe black represents masculinity. Empirical research has indicated that consumers often perceive a brand as more “masculine” if the logo is primarily black.
Interpreting Black in Your Dreams
Interpreting the meaning of any color in your dreams can be challenging, but figuring out black can be especially difficult. Because there are so many possible symbolic meanings, narrowing down your dream’s potential message can be a lot harder than it sounds!
To help you get started interpreting your dreams, here are some things to consider:
How Do the Events in Your Dream Relate to Your Waking Life?
This is a critical part of dream interpretation. And while it’s not always the case, what happens in your dreams can often be closely connected to something in your life.
For example, if you’re deciding on a career path, you might dream of walking through a city and having trouble deciding which streets to turn on. If you’re having trouble letting go of past trauma, you might have nightmares about being chased by an unknown entity.
What Does Black Mean to You?
What do you most closely associate with black? This is often a clue as to what black means in your dream. After all, if you strongly associate black with sophistication and elegance, you’re less likely to find that it represents anger in your dream.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should disregard the context of your dream entirely. But if you’re having some trouble figuring out what black means, considering your personal associations with the color can definitely be helpful.
Was the Dream an Overall Positive or Negative Experience?
This is another way to narrow down the color’s possible meanings. If you have a dream that prominently features black and you feel primarily positive emotions during it, black might symbolize mystery or elegance. Depending on your cultural background, it also might symbolize feminine or masculine energy.
If you primarily experienced negative emotions during your black dream, chances are good that black represented evil, anger, or mourning. If you’re having trouble figuring out which, think carefully about how you felt during the dream. For instance, if you were intensely fearful, black may have been symbolizing evil or anger.
Where Did You See Black?
Remembering the color black from your dream is important, but so is noting where you saw it. Pay close attention to any black objects in the dream and consider their symbolism. For example, if you see a black cat, the old belief that black cats are bad luck may be playing into your dream. If you have a dream about a sky covered in black clouds, you might be feeling weighed down or suffocated by sadness, grief, anger, or another negative emotion.
Do You Notice Any Recurring Themes?
You can certainly interpret individual dreams on their own. However, if you want to truly get an understanding of your dreams (and your subconscious mind), it’s a good idea to keep a dream journal. Every time you wake up, take a few moments and write down everything you remember from your dreams. You can also write down your interpretation of each dream if you wish.
Periodically review the dream journal, looking for any repeat images or themes. For instance, if you’ve had several dreams where you are followed by a black dog, the dog is likely symbolizing something very important!
Analyzing an Example Dream
Not sure how easily you’ll be able to interpret your next dream involving black? Let’s take a look at an example:
You’re walking through a strange landscape. Everything is grayscale, and sharply pointed mountains dot the otherwise unremarkable ground. You have an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Suddenly, the ground below you starts to rumble. You see a deep, black crack running along the ground in front of you. But it’s not like you see in the movies — this is a perfectly straight line.
Then, to your horror, the ground starts to open. The chasm below you is a deep, terrifying black. You try to jump to the side, but it’s too late. You feel yourself starting to fall. Then you wake up.
This might be a strange-sounding dream (or nightmare, rather), but it’s quite symbolic. And as you saw above, one of the best ways to start analyzing your dreams is to relate what’s happening in the dream to your daily life.
Let’s say you’ve hit a rough patch: you’ve lost your job, can barely pay rent, and have a chronic health condition that seems to be getting worse. That might explain being surrounded by gray, with only mountains (obstacles) around you.
What about the crack in the ground (and the black chasm that follows it)? This is the first time you see black in the dream. The crack becomes a black void that starts to swallow you up, so it’s pretty clear that black is symbolizing something negative here.
Given the situation in your waking life and the fact that your dream is pretty clearly symbolizing it, it’s reasonable to think that the deep black chasm represents despair or hopelessness. The fact that the crack was a straight line might be a sign that you feel your life is heading straight toward this point of no return.
Ready to Dive In?
Analyzing your dreams can be challenging. But remember that there’s no “wrong” answer to what your dreams mean — you know yourself and your mind best, so you’re better equipped than anyone else to decode your dreams. As you continue analyzing your dreams, finding meaning will be faster and easier. The best way to master dream analysis is to start!
Learn more about dreaming in color and discover what different colors mean in dreams.