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animal symbols

Animal Symbols - Animal Meanings - Animal Vectors

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.



The Squirrel symbolizes abundance, fertility, and new beginnings. They are a sign of good luck, and they often appear when there is something new in store for you. When you see a squirrel, it is a reminder to enjoy the moment and be grateful for all the blessings in your life.
Squirrels also remind us to stay active and busy during times of uncertainty. They are known for their ability to get a lot done in a short amount of time, and they can teach us how to manage our tasks more effectively.

RAVEN Symbol


Literature often frames ravens as bad omens or shape-shifters symbolizing death and destruction. On the other hand, authors might use intelligent ravens to indicate deep insight. If the author anthropomorphizes this bird, it may serve as a prophet communicating truths of the spirit world to human beings.
The famous poet Edgar Allen Poe celebrated the interesting and mysterious qualities of the raven. In Western culture, this bird is often associated with negative qualities such as a trickster or shape shifter. Among the Celts, the raven represents the dark side and is equated to death. On a positive note, Poe’s poem celebrates its high intelligence and wise and clever nature.

OWL Symbol


The Owl holds several different symbolic meanings throughout different parts of the world. These shrewd observers symbolize wisdom in some cultures and stand-in for death and a sense of foreboding in others. After all, these skillful hunters appear only in the dark of night to stalk their prey.
The owl is the most rare spirit animal and creature. In the case you encounter an owl, the universe is giving you a sign. This animal represents wisdom, patience, solitude, deep connection, and intuitive knowledge. An owl’s wide-eyes is known to pierce deceit and encourage you to see beyond the illusions created in your head.



The Lizard represents many things to many cultures. This makes lizard symbolism not only diverse but also complex and intricate. In general, lizards hold similar status as snakes as they are viewed as similar creatures in many cultures.
To many they are a symbol of resurrection, rebirth, and regeneration thanks to their ability of many lizard species to regrow their tails and also their ability to molt (shed their skins).
The ability of the lizard to drop its tail, and grow it back has led to it being a symbol of growth, regeneration, and survival. To many Native American tribes, the lizard’s survivability has made it an important symbol especially when it comes to the birth of a boy child.



Always boppin’ around, the hummingbirds are full of optimism, speed and lightness. They’re known as a sign of connection, playfulness and adaptability. When you see a hummingbird, it means you need to stop what you’re doing and not take things as seriously. Connect and keep it playful.

HAWK symbol


Hawks are often found perched up high, with a wide observation of everything happening for miles around them. They appear confident within their surroundings, giving the feeling that everything is under control. They are expert hunters and have one of the best optic abilities out of most in the bird kingdom.
Spiritually, hawks represent being in control of your own reality by utilizing a blend of intuitive wisdom and swift decision making. They represent the power of focus, determination, and confidence in the process of creation. Hawks are intelligent and represent the power of divine sight, seeing opportunities and futures that most others can’t see.



The giraffe is an animal full of significance and symbols. Generally, it represents: Elevation of the spirit, Sincerity, Kindness and softness, Interior calm. The giraffe is an ideal representation for a perfect spirit guide or power animal. The giraffe’s long neck allows it to reach heights above others. The giraffe spirit animal symbolizes self-acceptance and self-love. The giraffe is proud of its appearance and knows that it is truly unique in the world.

FALCON symbol


The fierce Falcon has special symbolism and meaning in Egypt, where it represented the rising Sun. Many depictions of the Gods bore a Falcon head, most notably Ra the solar deity. As the “king” of birds, Falcon represents victory, rulership, and overcoming. Like other birds, Falcon also signifies the Higher Self and connections with the spirit world. Europeans treasured Falcons for their hunting assistance and saw them as an emblem of war.
The Falcon animal totem comes to us when we require higher vision, or higher knowledge in solving current dilemmas in our lives.
The Falcon is a solar emblem for success, victory and rising above a situation.



Hailing as one of the animal kingdom’s largest and most powerful entities, the elephant packs major animal symbolism across cultures. Folklore throughout the African continent consistently highlights the close relationship between humans and elephants—specifically how one forms into the other and vice-versa. In Indian culture, this powerhouse was constantly used in battle and prominently endowed with religious symbolism through the various gods and goddesses. The Greeks also touted elephants’ military strength and triumph. Even Alexander the Great had his dynastic successors wear the elephant scalp as a crown or headdress.

DEER Symbol


As one of the most majestic creatures, the deer is associated with woodland deities Saba, Flidais, and Cernunnos. Whenever a deer appears in folklore, it usually signifies a profound change.
The deer’s antlers are one of the characteristics that have made it the figure of a spiritual superiority, according to some. Like a crown, the antlers grow beyond its body, bringing it closer to the sky and making it sacred. In many cultures, the deer is a symbol of spiritual authority. During a deer’s life the antlers fall off and grow again and the animal is also a symbol of regeneration.
In the Christian imagination, the deer is a symbol of piety, devotion and of God taking care of his children.

WOLF symbol


The wolf that disguises itself as the grandmother in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood shows the creature as a trickster, with malevolent intentions. However, the disguise isn’t very good and the little girl recognizes the wolf by its easily identifiable features—huge teeth and massive eyes—and so makes good her escape. Here, the wolf is also a sexual predator, another emblem of the animal that has endured since ancient times; the “wolf whistle” is aptly named and the tendencies of the wolf itself are well known. Like the wolf in the fairytale, its true nature is impossible to disguise for long, just like the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
The wolf also has a reputation of being a loner, hunting not in packs but singly. In Greece, it was associated with the Gods Zeus and Apollo as a symbol of masculine power, energy, and sexuality.

WHALE symbol


The remarkable story of Jonah and the whale is really a story of initiation, a symbolic death, and rebirth. The whale in this story was originally referred to as a fish, as it was in many old stories. Jonah had been chosen by God as a prophet, but was quite understandably shy of telling the people of Ninevah that judgement would soon be upon them for their wicked ways, so he took to the sea to avoid this duty. When a violent storm arose, the sailors decided to throw Jonah into the sea in order to propitiate the Gods. Instantly, the waters calmed, and there appeared a huge “fish” that swallowed Jonah. After three days and nights in the pitch dark innards of this fish, Jonah decided that he had had enough, and that it would be easier to give the prophesy than spend any more time inside the whale.

Turle Symbol


The turtle may appear to be an innocuous and rather unresponsive slow-moving household pet, but to ancient man it was a living collection of secret and sacred symbols, and as such, it was accorded the same kind of reverence as the greatest Gods.
The four sturdy legs of the turtle represent the four elements and the four directions. These legs support the flat underside of the creature, which represents the Earth. The dome-shaped shell of the turtle represents the vault of the Heavens. Thus the turtle carries the Universe, a task shared by other sacred creatures such as the whale and the dragon. This is represented in the Hindu cosmogram or map of the Universe, shown here.
The cosmos-supporting turtle is linked in Hindu iconography to Vishnu, who is said to have emerged from the waters of creation carrying the Earth on his back.
In Native American belief the World Tree grows out of the back of the turtle.
In alchemy, the turtle represents the Prima Materia or Massa Confusa, the Confused Mass, the first stage in the transformation of matter to spirit.

TIGER Symbol


The very word “tiger” conjures up notions of fierceness, swiftness, and also great beauty. To fight like a tiger is to fight with great savagery.
In China, the tiger, rather than the lion, is the King of the Beasts. Like the lion, it symbolizes nobility, power, ferocity, and authority. The tiger is also somehow seen as an angry animal; this is partly explained by the legend of the first tiger, said to have been a young boy, whipped many times by his teacher hence the stripes, who was pushed too far, escaped into the forest in a furious rage and transformed into the animal.



The motif of the spider as creator/creatrix is repeated all over the world. In many creation myths, it is the spider that weaves the fabric of the universe. However, the seeming fragility of the cobweb led to suppositions that what the spider made was, in fact, no more than the illusory veil of “reality” that the Vedic scriptures call Maya. The idea of spinning and weaving is also an attribute of the Fates, in both Greek mythology and in the Qu’ran.
Native Americans called the spider the “Thinking Woman,” who has the power to both make the world and destroy it if it is not to her satisfaction. Because of its ability to move in different dimensions, the spider was used as a means of divination. The African bird-eating spider is particularly skilled in this art, apparently, and symbols are placed at the entrance to its home in such a way that the spider will disturb them as it enters and exits. These disturbances are interpreted as auguries.



Lying on its belly close to the earth, limbless, hairless, and coldblooded, the serpent represents the opposite end of the scale to the loftier spiritual heights to which Man aspires. The snake, or serpent, is arguably one of the most prominent animal symbols, and carries with it diverse and contradictory meanings.
Some of those contradictory messages include the serpent as a symbol of evil but also of healing powers; of cunning and also of wisdom; as a life form that is so base that it must be capable of reaching the greatest of spiritual heights. The serpent is considered, unsurprisingly, to be a phallic symbol, yet is also one of the oldest emblems of female power, seen, for example, held in the hands of the priestesses on Knossos as a symbol of their wisdom and power.



Because the scorpion is so dangerous – it has enough venom to kill a man — in the countries where it lives its name is often not mentioned in case the scorpion is somehow “invoked.” Instead it is referred to euphemistically. Whenever this happens we know that an animal is particularly potent.
The scorpion is constantly prepared to attack, the sting in its tail always unsheathed. As such, the insect is the embodiment of brute aggression. This aggression is further promulgated by the fact that the female scorpion will only ever give birth once; her progeny have the grisly habit of destroying their mother by digging their way out of her belly.
The scorpion was a hieroglyph in Ancient Egypt and was sacred to the Goddess Selket, who had either the body of a scorpion and the head of a woman, or (more usually) the body of a woman with a scorpion sitting on her head.



The scarab is one of the most important symbols in Ancient Egyptian belief, but why? What relevance, if any, does it have today? Modern Egyptians still believe that dried and powdered scarabs will help them to become fertile. However, it is as the sacred animal belonging to the God of the Rising Sun, Khepera, that the scarab is important.
The Ancient Egyptians observed that the scarab beetle rolled its own ball of dung along the ground in the same way that the Khepera rolled the Sun across the sky. They also believed that the scarab hatched itself from this dung ball, symbolizing death and rebirth. As a God, the scarab was depicted with the wings, legs, and tail of a falcon.



Incredibly fecund, the rabbit is a symbol not only of fertility, but also of sexuality and lust, personified by the “bunny girl.” “Bun” is an old English word and refers to the distinctive circular shape of the animal’s tail. Although the rabbit didn’t make its appearance in the British Isles until the twelfth century, its prolific breeding habits meant that it was soon prevalent everywhere and it adopted a little of the same symbolic meaning as the hare, minus the mystery accorded the hare as the more elusive nocturnal creature.
Because of its fecundity and gregarious nature, the rabbit is a symbol of love and peace for some Native Americans. There is a courtship ritual called the Rabbit Dance.

Pig Symbol


Calling someone a pig is a pejorative term, implying that the person is dirty, greedy, and generally uncouth.
The pig is regarded as ignorant, gluttonous, and selfish, an animal that wallows in its own filth (notwithstanding the fact that the animal is actually extremely clean and scrupulous), one of the animals considered “unclean” by both Hebrews and Muslims and which is forbidden as food to followers of these faiths. To throw “pearls before swine” is to offer something to someone who is unable to appreciate it.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the pig represents worldly desire in all its forms—lust, material possessions, food. It sits at the center of the Wheel of Dharma as a symbol of things that tie us to the cycle of materialism, holding us back from spiritual enlightenment.

MOUSE Symbol


The mouse, such a small, seemingly insignificant creature, is one of the forms taken by the great God Apollo. There is a dichotomy with this symbolism, representing the idea of the God in both his aspects—as destroyer and as protector. Apollo, like the mouse, destroys by spreading plague, whereas in his guise as the Harvest God it falls to Apollo to save the crop from the attentions of the little creature.
In Europe, the mouse was symbolic of the soul leaving the body, an idea shared by other tiny creatures. It was believed that the soul/mouse escaped through the mouth as the dying person breathed their last breath. This supposition was so well founded that it even has witness reports.
The mouse also appears with the great elephant-headed Indian God Ganesh. Curiously, the huge Ganesh is described as “riding” this tiny animal. The physical improbability of such an arrangement does not matter, however, since this is a symbol of Ganesh’s humility.

MONKEY symbol


Many animals simply symbolize aspects of their own personality. The monkey is mischievous and agile, and has a wily intelligence. It is also a good mimic, although it is not always certain that the animal understands precisely what it is imitating; in this sense the monkey is a symbol of randomness. A recurrent theme of the monkey is as an emblem of chaotic, unguided, unconscious action.
In the Ramayana, it is a monkey called Hanuman who helps Vishnu rescue his bride from a demon, and is deified as a reward. The monkey is a sexually active, fertile creature, and in India women are known to strip off their clothes and hug the effigy of Hanuman in the belief that this will help them to conceive.

LION Symbol


One of the most powerful animals and appropriately laden with rich symbolic meaning, the lion is synonymous with the Sun, and as such is best personified as Leo, the Zodiac sign that has the great golden star as its ruler. The lion even looks like the Sun, with its tawny coat and shaggy golden mane.
The lion is the totem animal of kings and emperors, of Apollo, of Mithras, of Christ, of Krishna, of the Buddha. Its counterpart, the eagle, is called the Lion of the Skies.
Christ is known as the Lion of Judah, and Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali, who acted as mediator between the Prophet and the people, was called the Lion of Allah. Krishna is known as the “Lion among Wild Creatures” and the Buddha is the “Lion of the Shakyas.”
The lion, with its shaggy halo of a mane, might seem to be the ultimate personification of male energy. However, there are female deities who share the attributes of the lion, and the lioness is a ferociously protective mother. Hathor, the Egyptian Goddess, has the head of a lion when she appears in the aspect of Destroyer. Cybele, the Phrygian Earth Mother, rides in a chariot pulled by lions, and the lion, as well as the bee, was sacred to her.

LAMB Symbol


It might seem odd that the adult version of the lamb—the sheep—carries quite negative symbolism, as a creature that blindly runs with the flock, unable to think as an individual.
However, the lamb is a much more positive symbol. It stands for innocence and purity, the spiritual, the compliant, and gentleness. Further, the lamb is a symbol of spring, of new hope, and of triumph over adversity. The first lamb of the season, as the most potent personification of these qualities, was usually sacrificed to the Gods.
The sacrificial nature of the lamb carries resonance through the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Hence, the symbolism of the Christ as the Lamb of God, sacrificed for all mankind but resurrected by a beneficent God. There is a specific symbol, the Paschal Lamb, which perfectly embodies this notion; the lamb appears with a halo and a banner, symbolizing both sanctity and victory.

PANTHER Jaguar symbol


To Native Americans, the name of the jaguar is synonymous with a creature that “kills with one blow,” while the word “panther” comes from the Greek panthera, meaning “all beast,” showing just how important our ancestors considered this animal to be.
The Mayans believed that, since the dawn of time, four jaguars guarded the entrance to their valuable maize fields. Since these people followed a lunar calendar, the jaguar, a nocturnal creature, connected to their Goddess of the Moon, who is sometimes depicted with the claws of this great cat. Its association with the night and therefore occult knowledge gave the jaguar the gift of second sight and prophecy, which explains why it sometimes appears depicted with four eyes, two for normal sight and two for supernatural vision. The jaguar was one of the major deities of the Mayans, appearing on their calendars, and venerated in the form of the Jaguar Priests who officiated at only the most important and sacred rites and rituals. The Incas, too, revered this big cat and built temples in its honor.

Horse symbol


For millennia the horse has enjoyed a spiritual, symbolic, and mythical significance that arguably surpasses that of any other living creature. Accordingly, its symbolic significance is massive and varied. That the horse has long enjoyed a vital link with humankind as a hunting companion, a beast of burden, as a means of travel, and as an agricultural asset is demonstrated by its image being seen in Paleolithic cave drawings, such as at Lascaux, dating back approximately 30,000 years.
The horse belongs to the Sun and the element of fire. Horses proudly draw the chariot of the Sun God. At the same time, the horse also belongs to the Moon and the element of water, since it carries on its back the God of the Oceans, too. It was believed that where a horse stamped, a spring appeared, and so the animal became a life-giver. In Greece there is a sacred well, called Hippocrene (the Horse’s Well), which is shaped like a horseshoe and is dedicated to the Muses.

Frog symbol


In fairy tales, all it takes for an ugly frog to transform into a handsome prince is a single kiss from a beautiful princess. In this story, the frog is a symbol of transformation. The frog is a transformational creature in real life, too, and because the life cycle of this amphibious creature is carried out in such a visible manner it is a reminder of resurrection and the cycle of life, of birth, death, and rebirth.
Egyptian mummies were wrapped with amulets depicting the image of the frog as a charm to help the person’s soul to be reborn.
The frog’s links with water are obvious, and it often appears on rain charms. In Ancient China, the frog’s image appeared on the drums that were played to summon thunder, the herald of much- needed rain. In Egypt, the frog symbolizes fertility (because of its enthusiastic mating habits and abundant spawn) and so they were sacred to Hekit, the Midwife of the Gods.

Fox symbol


Wiliness, slyness and cunning, craftiness, trickery and guile, and yet wisdom too: these are all the qualities that are generally accepted throughout the world as belonging to the fox. An intelligent animal, Reynard, the famous fox that appears in fairy tales, has human characteristics and often converses with men and women in their own language.
The first recorded instance of hunting the fox with hounds is from the sixteenth century, but the tradition is supposed to be much older. Although the animal was hunted for its beautiful pelt, the actual chase often turned into an escapade that resulted in a slaughter so bloody that the fur itself was rendered completely useless. The reason for the persecution of this creature, beyond mere straightforward culling, remains a mystery, although it may stem from early Christian belief that made the fox synonymous with that most cunning of tricksters, the Devil.

fish symbol


The fish lives in the depths that are synonymous with the Underworld, and it has access to secret places that are forbidden to humankind. Water is closely linked to the womb, and the idea of birth and rebirth, and so the fish takes on this meaning too. Because it quite literally has access to hidden depths, the fish is party to secret and sacred information—the Vedas, which are said to contain all arcane knowledge, were delivered by a fish acting as the avatar of Vishnu. Similarly for the Celts, the salmon was a fish associated with wisdom and hidden knowledge. Christ chose from fishermen for his disciples, and early Christians, who had to keep their religion a secret, identified one another by a piscine symbol called the Ichthys.
Fish can lay vast numbers of eggs and therefore are symbolic of fertility and life. In the East, a pair of fish is used as a lucky charm in wedding ceremonies. There is an astrological sign that features two fish swimming in opposite directions—Pisces—and in Buddhism, a pair of golden fish is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols.

DOLPHIN symbol


The dolphin has become ubiquitous as a symbol of the so-called New Age, due in part to its benevolently smiling appearance, its intelligence, its ability to communicate verbally with others of its kind, and the fact that it’s a mammal that is comfortable in an environment normally reserved for fishes.
The name comes from the Greek delphinos, meaning “womb.” The name of the Delphic Oracle where the priestesses gave their prophecies holds the same root; the temple was dedicated to Apollo, who arrived at Delphi in the shape of a dolphin.
For thousands of years the dolphin has been considered a helpful friend to humankind. It also acts as a psychopomp or guide to the other world. This is a fitting role for the dolphin given its ability to exist in a dimension alien to humans and because it has been seen to save those who might otherwise have drowned. The dolphin is symbolic of metamorphosis. There is a Greek legend about some pirates who, after capturing Dionysus and tying him up, fell overboard and turned into dolphins.

DOG Symbol


One of the traditional pet names for the dog, Fido, comes from the same Latin root as the word “fidelity,” and the trust and faith that a dog and its owner invest in one another is a defining feature of their relationship. For thousands of years man and dog have been close companions, living together, working together, and forming a close bond of mutual understanding. Every society has its dog mythology, its deities, and its symbols. The dog is often the companion of a God, too, in addition to being a psychopomp, guiding the souls of the dead to the next world. On a more earthly level the animal can be a guide dog or a guard dog, directing and protecting, one of the greatest allies known to humankind; man’s best friend, indeed.
The dog’s keen sense of smell takes on almost supernatural connotations, a skill denied humans and something that cannot be seen or detected by us. This is part of the reason why the dog acts as mediator between the seen and unseen worlds, seemingly gifted the powers of second sight and psychic abilities. The Egyptians were very keen that their corpses would smell as sweet as possible so as not to offend the sensitive nose of the jackal-headed God Anubis, who shepherded these souls through to their next dwelling place.
While some witches have cats as familiars, others have their dogs, in honor of the Goddesses of Death and their hounds.

COYOTE symbol


The coyote shares many of the characteristics of the fox; it is the trickster God, the miracle-worker, the shape-shifter, and as such plays an important part in Native American belief. Because coyotes can be heard howling at night, they are often associated with the Moon. The coyote is one of the sacred animals that can open the door to the other world and it acts as a messenger between this world and the next. The coyote is sometimes held responsible for all the evils of the world, and in the countries where it makes its home it is generally a symbol of bad luck.

COW Symbol


Because of its milk that is a staple food for many human beings, the cow is arguably one of the most useful animals in the world. It was one of the first animals domesticated by humans, and its symbolic importance is rich. It is emblematic of fertility, abundance, wealth, the universal Mother, and of rebirth. The cow is also a gentle and compliant creature.
It is not surprising that the cow is universally thought of as a mother figure. In Egypt the cow was personified as Ahet, the mother of the Sun itself. To make themselves fertile Egyptian women wore amulets of the Goddess Hathor, with the head of a cow, in her guise as Creatrix. In Europe, too, the cow was the mother-ancestor of all living things, called Audumla, the milch-cow. In Greek myth, one of the names for the Great Cow was Europa, which means “full Moon.” The stars were said to be the children of Europa.
Curiously, the cow was also considered a psychopomp, a creature able to conduct the souls of the dead to the Underworld. The psychopomp aspect of the cow is still celebrated in the Nepali festival called the Gai Jatra or cow festival. In a boisterous celebration, every family that has lost a member during the course of the year has to take part in a procession, leading a cow, or, if no animal is available, then a child dressed in a cow costume is considered to be a fair substitute.

CAT symbol


Even the most common household moggie has a mystique about it and the potential for the supernatural powers that man has ascribed to cats for thousands of years.
Typically, in Western civilizations, the cat (particularly if it is black) belongs to the witch; it is her familiar, her companion, and her alter ego. As such, the cat shares magical secrets and arcane knowledge which, of course, she cannot explain to mere mortals, since they don’t speak her language. There is an unspoken communication between the witch and her grimalkin that transcends any language used by other creatures.
The Ancient Egyptians regarded the cat so highly that they revered it as a deity. Bast was the cat goddess, and mortal cats whose fur was of three different colors, or who had eyes of different shades, were honored in particular for their Bast-like appearance; it is not just the black cat that holds power. Egyptian priests believed that cats carried the magnetic forces of nature and so close proximity to the creatures enabled them to access these powers. If a cat died a natural death in the home, the Egyptians would shave their eyebrows as a sign of mourning.

Butterfly Symbol


Unlike the bee that goes from flower to flower with a great sense of purpose and intention, the butterfly seems to flutter about quite aimlessly, no great ambition lurking behind its beauty.
In view of the fact that the Greek word for butterfly, psyche, is the same as that for soul, it is interesting to note that winged creatures are universally thought to be able to communicate with other worlds and higher powers. There was a belief that human souls incarnated into butterflies between lifetimes. The connection between the spirit and the butterfly reaches across the world—from the Celts, who believed that the butterfly was a human soul in search of a mother, to the Aztecs, who believed that the last breath exhaled by a dying person took the form of a butterfly.
The lifecycle of the butterfly is highly visible at every stage, making it a symbol of transformation. Some Native Americans—particularly the Blackfoot—believe that the butterfly brings dreams. If a Blackfoot Indian paints a butterfly onto the wall of a tribal lodge, it is an indicator that any other patterns painted or drawn there were not simply the work of a man alone, but were inspired by the Great Spirit, for whom the painter acted merely as a conduit.

BULL Symbol


The sacred stature of the bull dates back to at least 3000 BC, when early Hebrews carved the effigy of a God, called El, who appeared in the shape of a bull, at the end of their ritual staffs.
The bull is the archetype of brute masculinity, fecundity, tyranny, and ferocity. The bull also has its part to play in the story of Hercules and his monumental labors. A bull that is wreaking havoc on Crete tests Hercules’ huge strength. He strangles the bull into submission, and it is shipped away to Athens.
Bull sacrifice is such an ancient rite that any definitive origins are uncertain, and although in the Ellora Caves there is a painting of the Goddess Kali slaying a bull, its ritual slaughter is far older than the purported age of the painting (c.AD 500–1000) suggests. To ancient man, the bull was such a supremely powerful animal that being splashed in its blood conferred immortality. In Rome, a bull cult introduced from Asia Minor in the second century BC inspired a ritual called the taurobolium.

BEAR symbol


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.

BAT Animal Symbol


For fans of horror movies, the bat has become an animal to be feared; the vampire bat is a satanic agent that sucks the soul from the body along with its lifeblood. However, there is more to the bat than purely negative symbolism.
In China, the ideogram for good luck, “fu,” sounds the same as the word for “bat” and so the animal is a lucky charm. Some bat caves in the East have remained unchanged for thousands of years; the bats that live there are revered as sacred animals. The nocturnal nature of the bat has given it some negative associations. It is symbolic of the night devouring the day; the bat is said to swallow the light because it wakes at dusk, the time between day and night. Christian belief, too, regards the bat with suspicion because it is seen as an incarnation of Satan.
However, the nocturnal nature of the bat makes it, like the owl, a creature that has access to hidden knowledge and secret information, able to detect things in the hours of darkness that are not accessible to diurnal creatures. Before echolocation was recognized and understood, the bat’s ability to find its way about was a source of great intrigue, adding to the mystique of the animal.

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