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Storm – Meaning and Symbolism

Storms evoke images of dark skies, ominous lightning and thunder, and devastating floods. With such imagery, it’s no wonder that negative thoughts and feelings are usually associated with storms. It is usually considered a symbol of trauma, chaos, difficulty, and sometimes, even depression. Read on to find out more what stormy weather usually means.

Storm Symbolism

Storm symbolism

As impressive natural events, storms inspire awe and dread. Over time, these weather events have come to hold deep symbolism. Here are some of these meanings:

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  • Chaos – Storms bring with them chaos and unpredictability. Often, it’s difficult to say how bad the storm will be and what the aftermath will look like. Because of this, storms are often used to represent a difficult and intense period of a person’s life. Sayings such as One friend in a storm is worth more than a thousand friends in the sunshine, or In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm reference this symbolism of storms.
  • Fear – Storms cause fear and uncertainty, because of the dangers of lightning, the terrifying sounds of thunder, and the damage and devastation that can be caused. There is a sense of helplessness and loss of control, as often, the only thing left to do is wait out the storm.
  • Negativity – Storms bring with them dark skies and gloomy weather, taking away the cheerfulness of a sunny, blue sky. Like rain, they can make people feel miserable, and down.
  • Change – Storms represent quick and sudden change. These are sometimes unpredictable weather events and can take people by surprise.
  • Disruption – Storms symbolize disruption, change, and intense activity. The phrase calm before the storm is used to indicate an impending period of change.

Storms in Mythology

Thor storm symbolism
Norse God of Thunder and Lightning

In most mythologies, storms and bad weather is usually attributed to a deity. Also referred to as storm gods, these are usually depicted as powerful beings wielding thunder and lightning. While these gods are usually conceived as irritable and surly, their counterpart wind and rain deities are usually gentler and more forgiving.

People’s fear of such deities can be seen in the rituals that they used to perform to appease the gods and to ask for better weather. Archaeologists have discovered several sacrificial sites in Mesoamerica that prove this narrative.

So far, the largest found has been in Peru, where 200 animals and 140 children were sacrificed in the mid-1400s. During this period, the Chimú civilization suffered from extreme weather, with heavy rains leading to agricultural collapse and flash floods.

Some storm deities from around the world include:

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  • Horus – The Egyptian god of storms, sun, and war
  • Thor – The Norse god of thunder and lightning
  • Tempestas – The Roman goddess of storms and unpredictable weather events
  • Raijin – The Japanese god of storms and the sea
  • Tezcatlipoca – The Aztec god of hurricanes and winds
  • Audra – The Lithuanian god of storms

Storms in Literature

Famous literary works use storms as metaphors, setting the mood and tone of each chapter. William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a perfect example, where a thunderstorm is used to add drama to the scene where the tormented king ran away from his wicked daughters. Moreover, the storm was used to mirror King Lear’s psychological state, given the emotional turmoil that he was going through. It also represents his kingdom’s demise.

In Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, a storm is also used to set the tone of the novel. Bronte skillfully describes how a violent storm rattles over the place on the night that the protagonist Heathcliff runs away from home. The furious storm symbolizes the tumultuous feelings of those who live in Wuthering Heights, with the weather peaking as their emotions become stronger.

Storms are also common elements in Gothic literature. It adds more suspense to the story, allowing villains to hide and protagonists to miss things that can otherwise be seen. The sound of thunderstorms can even be used to mask the sound of an attacker creeping up one of the characters or to trap protagonists in unpleasant situations. These attributes make a storm an ideal literary device for foreshadowing things to come.

Storms in Movies

Storm in movies

Like books, storms are usually used to depict feelings of unrest or add more suspense to a scene. Since hurricanes are uncontrollable and unpredictable, they are inherently scary, making them a perfect addition to horror movies and suspenseful disaster movies. For example, in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, an enormous superstorm leads to a series of catastrophic events that put human beings on the brink of extinction.

Another movie that shows how bad weather is used as an antagonistic force is The Perfect Storm. It focuses on a human versus nature conflict, with a group of fishermen at sea bracing themselves as they get caught in a perfect storm. Despite having nowhere to run, they struggle to fight the severe weather conditions and make it back alive.

In the 2002 crime movie Road to Perdition, a stormy night is used to set the scene for one of the most memorable moments in the film. Sullivan ambushes and kills Rooney, his old boss. Here, the storm is used as a foreboding sign of bad things coming, making it a classic example of having dark clouds over the horizon, which hints that things might not end well for the protagonist.

The Last Samurai, an epic war movie, also features an unforgettable scene shot in a heavy downpour. Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is challenged to a swordfight in which he repeatedly falls but tries his best to stand up every time. In this scene, the rain is used to signify the main character’s determination, not letting even the harshest of conditions weaken his resolve. It symbolizes that nothing will stop the character from doing what he thinks he needs to do.

Storms in Dreams

Some say that when you dream of a storm, it usually means that you experienced or are experiencing feelings of shock or loss. It may also represent anger, fear, or other negative feelings that you have kept bottled up inside. It may be your subconscious mind’s way of telling you to face your fear or express your anger or sadness without holding back.

If you dream of yourself taking shelter from a storm, it symbolizes your patience during a chaotic or unpleasant situation in your life. You could be waiting for someone to cool off or holding out until whatever hardship you’re experiencing finally blows over. Unlike the previous dream, this one is favorable because it means that you’ll eventually have the strength to get through the turbulent weather.

Conversely, if you dream of yourself waiting for a storm, it means that you are expecting to have an argument with a friend or someone from your family. As you anticipate the trouble brewing, you think about how telling that person bad news or something unpleasant will cause a fight or conflict between you two. Such a warning gives you a chance to think about whether you must spill the beans or just keep things to yourself.

Aside from repressed negative feelings or chaotic situations, you may also have a dream about a storm because of some unexpected yet positive changes in your life. Changes in your relationship or your finances can bring about such dreams. For example, if you dream about the aftermath of a storm, it means that you were able to survive the bad times and have a much better life than what you previously had.

Wrapping Up

These are only some of the most popular interpretations of storms in literature, movies, and dreams. Whether you want to interpret that terrible storm in your dream or you simply just want to watch a disaster movie while snuggling up while bad weather rages outside, knowing what storms symbolize will give you a better idea of what’s in store for you.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.