Published on August 2, 2014 by Amy
Myth, legend and cultural lore gives us endless fodder upon which to feed our creative selves for meaningful bear tattoo ideas. To wit, this pages offers just a few aspects of bear symbolism with an idea for your next ‘roaring’ tattoo.
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Shamanistically, the bear is a protective, warrior representative. It is invoked for the purpose of shielding the tribe from negative influences. It’s energy is also called upon to calm and settle anxious tribes (hibernation).
Native North American Indian minds held the bear as a symbol of freedom and a ritual rites of passage. Certain tribes understood the cycles of time and life. Ergo, the bear is a marker for such passage because of the females unique process of birthing. In a Native American light, the bear is symbolic of the potential power found in the concept of peace because this large, ferocious looking animal is actually quite peace-loving. In ancient hieroglyphs and cave markings, the bear is thought to be the liaison, or Great Communicator between earth and sky.
In Japanese lore the bears and therefore bear tattoo symbolism represents wisdom, stoicism, patience, strength and benevolence. The bear was a sacred oracle to Ainu, who are an indigenous tribe of Japan. These people were animists, (similar to other aboriginal people like Native American Indians of North America) and so their perspective of bear symbolism is a valid one. Further, these people adopted ritualistic tattooing.
In Celtic symbolism, the bear is considered for her lunar power. To the ancient Celtic mind the bear is associated with the moon, and thus carries a feminine theme with concepts such as: childbearing, mothering, and fiercly protective of family and young. The bear is associated with the Celtic goddess, Artio. Indeed, there is evidence of a powerful bear cult in which ancient Celts convened to honor and worship this magnificent creature. Interestingly, and in spite of it’s nurturing connotations the bear is also a symbol for warriors and military to the Celts.
In Chinese symbolism the bear is associated with yang enegy – masculinity, power, force, domination, authority. Chinese legend states that if a woman dreams of a bear whilst pregnant, she will give birth to a boy (a very big deal in China). She-bears are symbolic of maternal wisdom in Chinese symbolism.
Alchemically, bear tattoo symbolism can mean prime matter – the foundation – the first building block in alchemical symbolism. In alchemy, the bear is also duplicitous in its symbolism depending upon whether the bear is hibernating, or active. If hibernating, the bear is symbolic of the female, passive, dormant nature of potential (moon/quicksilver). If active, the bear represents assertive, male, confident domain (sun/gold).
In Greco-Roman mythology the bear is represented by Diana/Artemis, goddess of the hunt and shares more affiliations with lunar symbolism. Ursa major and Ursa Minor are the constellations of the Great and Little bears in the heavens. These constellations represent Diana/Artemis, and also mark the seasons (more symbolic connections to the cycles of time and nature).