Throughout history and around the world, people have seen tornadoes as manifestations of God’s will. In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind. In Hosea, the whirlwind is the punishment of the wicked. The fearsome power of tornadoes, and wind in general, is associated with the omnipotence of deities. Because of their shape, tornadoes are also associated with spirals and so carry the weight of the created universe, from galaxies to the human ear. Yet a tornado has a wildness to it that suggests vengefulness and fury.
When a tornado shows up in a dream, it often carries with it the metaphorical meaning of a message from the Divine, or our spiritual selves. Jeremy Taylor has a thorough article on tornadoes on his website, and states that in his extensive experience, “The dream ‘tornado’, over and over again, turns out to be symbol of the dreamer’s own personal relationship to the deepest unasked and unanswered psycho-spiritual questions is his/her life, and these issues always have transpersonal implications as well.” When I dream of a tornado, then, it’s worth asking what questions I’ve been grappling with, or should be grappling with, in my psyche or spirit.
We have many images of tornadoes in our collective awareness, from the one in The Wizard of Oz to the ones that are caught on video by bystanders and tornado chasers and news cameras. It’s easy to see how such an image could influence a dreamer’s night time dreams, especially if those images were first seen at an impressionable young age. But it’s simplistic to “blame” a movie version of a tornado for repeated tornado dreams. Millions of people have seen The Wizard of Oz, yet not every person who saw it for the first time as young child has recurring tornado dreams. A more interesting approach, to me, is to ask why the image captures some people’s imaginations so strongly, while not affecting others. My projection is that the tornado shows up in dreams because, as the dreamer, I have a spiritual calling or a deep issue within my psyche that needs my attention. The tornado gets my attention in a big way, especially if the dream feels nightmarish, and by its intensity suggests that the spiritual question is of the utmost importance in my life.
The tornado in the Wizard of Oz acts as a transformative agent, taking Dorothy out of her familiar life and depositing her in a strange world where she discovers that she has more power than she’d ever imagined. This symbolism holds true in many tornado dreams, where the new, strange world is a metaphorical one, but the dreamer’s ability to discover unexpected abilities and powers is literal.