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Animal meanings in symbology
Throughout history, animals have always held relevance and symbolism in different cultures all over the globe. The Ancient Egyptians viewed animals as godlike representations of their deities and thus worshiped them and their individual qualities.
Other cultures saw animals as the living embodiment of fertility and humanity with their natural evolution and reproduction, not to mention the ways their bodies were often used as a food source for humans.
Animals are also often present in lots Western art through the ages, usually depicting a certain theme or hidden meaning. The Native Americans named one another after animals, and even now, people refer to their "spirit animals" when identifying certain traits about themselves. The Zuni Bear T-Shirt displays an example of Native American animal symbology.
It is clear that the history of these creatures with whom we share our planet is rich, deep and full of symbolism. But if we look at it more specifically, what do certain animals represent, and how do they fit into modern cultures?
In Ancient Egypt, cats were revered animals. They protected homes from mice and were therefore practical commodities but also one of the first domesticated and cherished pets. The Egyptian goddess Bastet was symbolized as half cat, half human and was thought to bring fertility, domesticity and protection to the home - particularly for women and children. As a result, cats were often seen as a good luck charm to have in the home. This concept has persisted throughout the years and turned on his head in some ways, too. These days, a black cat can be seen as both a symbol of good and bad luck. The notion of the witch's accomplice follows the black cat, so it remains a mysterious and rather magical creature in symbolism.
Elephants are often bestowed with traits such as wisdom and success. They are powerful but gentle and are thought to have years worth of knowledge - hence the phrase "an elephant never forgets." Moving in strong, tight-knit units, the elephant also symbolizes the importance of family ties. In Buddhism, the elephant is viewed as a representation of the Buddha himself with all of the qualities that he holds dear: strength, wisdom and loyalty.
Snakes are often viewed rather negatively in symbolism. Perhaps the notion of the devious snake in the Bible has stuck with this particular creature, making people wary of its abilities to bring forth evil and be highly deceitful. People often believe that seeing a snake in your dreams is a negative sign and can signal that you may have a toxic person in your life. But it is not all bad; snakes can also represent rebirth and the shedding of an old skin to create a personal transformation that even has connotations within immortality.
Deers are gentle creatures that symbolize innocence and vulnerability. A stag, however, is seen as more powerful and regenerative due to the way it regrows its antlers. The deer is a well-used symbol in Christianity representing purity and a devotion to God.
Foxes are often viewed as clever - sometimes a little bit too clever! Their intelligence may border on deception, hence the phrase "sly fox", or "outfoxing" someone being used to mean that you outsmarted them. In some ancient folklore, particularly in Asia, people believed that foxes were shapeshifters and could transform into humans - an act that often led to destruction and trouble. If a fox crosses your path, it can be a sign that something or someone is holding you back in life and you need to be more assertive and creative about how you overcome your problems.
Tigers, like some other big cats, represent strength, instinct and a strong fighting spirit. The song Eye of the Tiger is all about being strong, challenging your rivals and being self-confident. Tigers induce fear, so seeing a tiger in your dreams may mean that something in life is intimidating you or that you should rely on your instincts and be more self-confident. In Hinduism and Buddhism, a tiger is seen as a vehicle for god, such is its majestic and powerful nature.
Like cats, frogs and toads have mixed symbolism - some good and some bad. They, too, are viewed in a magical light due to their connotations with witchcraft. However, they also represent fertility due to the sheer amount of babies they produce! It is sometimes said that if you see a frog or toad in your dreams, you might be ready to have kids.