Symbolism of animals

Animal symbolism

Perhaps we should blame the Chinese for our obsession with the symbolism of animals. After all, it was them, many centuries ago, that developed the concept of the Chinese Horoscope and its associated animal symbolism, which has been used for thousands of years since: The Chinese day is divided into 12 hours (not 24), so each ‘hour’ lasts for two Western hours. The ancient Chinese then linked an animal to the hour of a person’s birth in order to tell them about their outer self, or the personality they would exhibit to others. Furthermore, the animal of the year in which they were born, together with an element (earth, fire, water, etc), and their Yin / Yang, is believed (by the Chinese – and, it has to be said, many other people around the globe) to tell you about your inner self, or your true personality. The Chinese used the symbolism of the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig and finally, Rat, to portray characteristics.

Fish symbolic of pisces

And then came the Greeks – and their study of our solar system in relation to us here on Earth. Indeed, the word “astrology” comes from Greek (literally translating as “star knowledge”). Nowadays, our science of the stars is termed Astronomy. But the Ancient Greeks didn’t have our scientific know-how and so they related everything to the immediate world around them. In consequence, their “Astrology” was the study of celestial objects as a means for predicting human affairs and terrestrial events. And this trend has continued to the modern day. Many of the star signs of the Zodiac relate to the animals the Greeks were familiar with all those years ago. For example: The Fish (Pisces), the Ram (Aries), Taurus the Bull, Capricorn the Goat, Scorpio the Scorpion, Cancer the Crab, and of course, Leo the Lion (strength, and an easy-going, fun lifestyle as King of the jungle).

Ever since those days of Ancient Greece and China, we have been looking to the symbolism of animals in our lives. Add to this the animal symbolism of other cultures around the world and we end up with quite a collection of animals / creatures to which human society relates symbolic significance: For example, the Owl, Cat, Elephant, Gecko, Ladybird, Butterfly, Seahorse, Tortoise / Turtle, etc. People say that the Butterfly signifies new beginnings (or making a new start) – probably because of its extraordinary transformation from a lowly caterpillar. The Owl has been a symbol of intuition and wisdom for centuries. The Native Americans were (and still are) especially mindful of animal symbolism.

Lucky symbol Ladybird
Ladybirds herald good luck

We feature quite a few of these animals in our Good Luck Gift Shop – especially, those that are related to luck.

Gecko animal symbolism luck
Lucky Gecko

But what makes an animal “lucky”? For example, the Tortoise is one of the four celestial animals in feng shui and, being a creature of “the north” in China, they are thought to be very lucky. In Spain (and, to a lesser extent, in Portugal) people put models of lizards or geckos on the wall of their homes to attract good luck. Conversely, in Portugal (not so much Spain), the Rooster or Cockerel has a strong association with prosperity and good fortune. In fact, the Rooster is so engrained in national culture in Portugal, it has become a national symbol . . Galo de Barcelos. One legend has it that some silver was stolen from a landowner in Barcelos – a small town which is east of Braga, in the north of Portugal. The suspect was taken to court and despite claiming his innocence he was sentenced to death. During the execution, the convicted man said that he would make a dead rooster crow three times to prove his innocence. In the presence of the judge, the rooster crowed and the man was released.

Rooster cockerel lucky figurine
Lucky Rooster / Cockerel

Myth, legend, folklore, etc, all add to people’s beliefs as to what makes something “lucky”. (See our article about  Symbols of Good Luck  for more information on this.)

Elephants too are renowned for being lucky – especially in Eastern society: “Put an Elephant facing the door if you want to bring good luck into the home” goes the saying. Anyway, it is meant to ensure that only good fortune passes through. Even the humble Pig is considered lucky by some: The Irish say: “It’s the pig who pays the bills” and even in China where, although not thought of as a particularly smart animal, it is one of their horoscope animals, and so people born in the Year of the Pig can expect to attract wealth and good fortune when that year comes around.

So, please take a look at our online shop for animals that symbolise good luck (or have other accepted meanings) that could make them very suitable as gifts to pass on your good luck wishes to a friend or loved-one.

Myth, legend, folklore, religion has added to people’s belief in the symbolism of animals and make some animals luckier than others: Elephant, Butterfly, Turtle, Ladybird, Owl, Gecko, Rooster . .