What animals are symbols of death
The symbolism of animals
In ancient times, people were convinced that animals hold messages for and about us humans. About lucky rabbits, foreboding swans and cunning ravens.
Text: Margret Handler, illustrations: Andreas Posselt
The wolf: messenger of darkness
Character traits: Boldness, intelligence, hunting instinct, hard-heartedness, cunning, unsociable outsiderism, belligerence, perseverance
Symbolic meaning: dark side of the unconscious, center of primal fears, uncontrolled instinctual nature
For a long time, “wolf month” was the name given to the period from November 23rd to December 22nd. Then the demonic wolf devoured the season full of light and veiled the moon with gray fog. Wolves were considered dangerous, but they were honored for their bravery and their will to be free.
Up until the 16th century, the “wolf blessing” was given in Vienna's St. Because in winter you should have heard wolves howling for food in front of the city walls of Vienna. The wolf symbolizes darkness and evil. In myth, the wolf is always surrounded by ambivalent features. "Wolves in sheep's clothing" feign harmlessness and are considered insidious.
The deer: master of medicinal plants
Character traits: Speed, dignity, beauty, loneliness, pride, good-naturedness, gratitude, gentleness, sensitivity
Symbolic meaning: Power to change, intuition, messenger of higher consciousness, potency, growth
The deer was considered an animal of the sun. Because its antlers grow with the rhythm of the sun and the plants in the annual cycle, it has been associated with the growth of the plants. Much like plants, its antlers grow quickly in spring and grow to full size in summer, at harvest time.
In Europe it was believed that the deer is the best connoisseur of medicinal plants. That is why there is still a “Zum Hirschen” pharmacy in some cities today. The solitary deer symbolizes seclusion and wisdom, but it also promises prosperity and happiness.
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The swan: wanderer between the worlds
Character traits: Beauty, grace, melancholy, seriousness, aloofness, intuition, infatuation, controversy
Symbolic meaning: Intuition, inspiration, lack of self-assessment, lack of grip, longing for renewal
Snow-white plumage, red beak, black hump: with the colors of the triple mother goddess, the swan was a creature of the intermediate world for the Celts and other forest peoples. Not entirely on earth, but more in the water and in the air.
Swans mediate on the border between this world and the hereafter. A swan should be able to sense its approaching end. From this derives the saying “You feel like something” when we anticipate something. Swans exude beauty and grace. But they also convey loneliness, quickly lose their composure and attack.
The beef: prosperity and happiness
Character traits: Strength, perseverance, diligence, peacefulness, serenity, loyalty, immobility
Symbolic meaning: Power of inner calm, passivity, listlessness, narrow-mindedness
The cow symbolized abundance and femininity and stood for the creation and maintenance of life. With their stoic calm, the serene equanimity and the warmth from the cattle, the good-natured ruminants offered a feeling of security.
The Taurus was associated with the power of creation, life energy and male procreative power. Up until the Middle Ages, cattle were used regionally as currency. The organized robbery of cattle meant a declaration of war and triggered numerous small feuds.
The rabbit: renewal and abundance
Character traits: Speed, cunning, peacefulness, vigilance, restlessness, cowardice
Symbolic meaning: spiritual rebirth, dangers of instinctuality, unpredictable behavior
The rabbit was a symbol of the power to change. As the holy animal of spring, it mediates the renewal of nature. Rabbits have offspring all year round. Their pronounced sex drive also characterizes the demonic aspect of becoming: unrestrained growth and rapid change.
In the Chinese zodiac, born rabbits are considered lucky children. They are said to be cheerful, strong emotions and empathy. In fables, the hooking beast is usually a shrewd prankster who exudes fearfulness and superiority towards opponents.
The raven: Dark fellow
Character traits: Willingness to fight, contradictions, loquacity, lies and deceit, cleverness, betrayal, but also the ability to love
Symbolic meaning: Beginning and end of realization, flight of thoughts, change for the better
In the earliest times, common ravens served seafarers as weather prophets and compasses. In ancient Rome they were considered omniscient messengers of the gods. However, they mostly announced bad news.
Raven and wolf accompanied the gods of the dead like shadows and could become guides for souls. As scavengers, they were considered nourished by horror and were respected for their proximity to death.
In the Celtic culture, on the other hand, the raven stood for protection, wisdom, healing and change. Incidentally, the clever raven can also speak - to this day there are 250 different vocalizations in his raven language. He is also considered cunning, witty, fun and clever.
The bear: infinite motherly love
Character traits: Fighting spirit, cunning, comfort, dignity, good-naturedness, leadership, helpfulness, seclusion
Symbolic meaning: Introspection and inner stability, strength of the primal instincts
Among the forest peoples he was always considered the chief and king of the animals. Strength and intelligence were attributed to the bear. Shortly before his hibernation, he impregnates the she-bear who, when she wakes up in spring, brings her new life, the bear cubs, with her. This was a symbol for the eternal cycle of nature.
The she-bear was a symbol of motherly love. Bear milk, it was believed, gave a lot of strength. The many roles of the bear - from the caring mother to the courageous fighter to grumpy relatives - are combined in the popular teddy bear.
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