For the Celts, “bear” was synonymous with “warrior.” The name of the greatest Celtic king, Arthur, shares the same root as the name for bear—“artos”—meaning “bearlike.” This warrior-bear attribute was not restricted to the male; in the kingdom of the Gauls, there was a ferocious warrior-queen called Artio. The Greek Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis, also shares the bear’s name. The bear is an earthy creature, and in Northern European pre-Christian society, it represented worldly power and authority, the equivalent of the lion in other societies. The bear is associated with the Moon. As the Moon disappears for a time, so does the bear, when he hibernates during the winter months. Diana/Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt (who also has close links to the Moon), is often depicted with a bear, and can shape-shift into the form of a bear. The constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor—the Great Bear and the Little Bear—are the stellar incarnation of this Goddess. These constellations are always visible in the northern hemisphere, and so are effective markers for the seasons. The Finno-Ugric people made graveyards for bears until relatively recently. They laid out the bones of the bears very carefully, so that the animal could return from the dead. The power of the bear is borne out by the fact that the actual word for the animal was seldom used, replaced with other terms such as “the brown one” or “bruin,” “the old fellow” or “honey eater.” This is because the power inherent in names was such that to say the name of the animal was equivalent to invoking its spirit. Native Americans have a specific kind of witch doctor called a Bear Doctor, able to take on the form of a grizzly to vanquish the tribal enemies.
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Animals main description
THE SECRET SYMBOLS OF THE ANIMAL REALM
This section not only encompasses real animals, insects, and birds, but also takes a look at some of the more fantastical creatures that occupy a significant space in our collective psyche. The attributes of all our animals, real or otherwise, give us an incredibly rich and diverse catalog of symbols. Sometimes, the reasons behind these symbolic meanings are due to historical misconceptions about the habits of certain creatures, and probably date back to a time when we were less well informed than we are now. These curiosities—such as the beaver being a symbol of chastity because of the notion that it would rather eat its own testicles than be captured—give us a delightful insight into the minds of our ancestors.