The lion corresponds principally to gold and to the sun itself, and hence it is found as a symbol of sun-gods such as Mithras. In Egypt, it used to be believed that the lion presided over the annual floods of the Nile. In this guide, we will study lion symbolism in detail so you can interpret what does a lion symbolize to best suit your situation.
Table of contents
- Lion Symbolism and meaning
- Lion Native American Symbolism
- Lion Eastern Symbolism
- Lion Christianity Symbolism
- Lion Celtic Symbolism
- Lion African Symbolism
- Lion in Dreams
- Lion Encounters and Omens
- Lion’ Mythology and Folklore
- Lion Spirit Animal
- Lion Totem Animal
- Lion Power Animal
- Lion Tattoo Meaning
Lion symbolism and meaning
Just as the Lamb is the symbol of the sun’s light, so is the Lion, the symbol of the sun’s heat. The Lamb is meek and its light withdrawal leaves the world a dark and dreary waste.
On the other hand, Lion’s heat withheld leaves the Earth without life. The lion symbol meaning also represents gold or the sun.
It is, therefore, the symbol of the sun God and presides over the Leo sun sign of the Zodiac. The equation between the lion and the sun dates back to the Middle Ages and even finds its way in Christian symbolism.
There are some negative symbolic meanings associated with lions as well, mainly pertaining to its proud nature. A group of lions is called a pride and that is why pride also refers to Leo’s characteristic nature.
A lion is an effective killer, but usually, he isn’t confrontational. They generally prefer a peaceful life. Lions also believe in family and they take care of their young.
They also hunt in groups. Their hunting together is symbolic of the fellowship of strength and safety. Thus lion meaning is varied and ranges from a predator, adversary, an object of fear, but also an object of respect. (1)
Lion Native American symbolism
The mountain lion was known variously to the different Native American tribes as a cougar, puma, panther, etc. The mountain lion was the largest cat measuring about 100 to 175 pounds.
Native Americans revered the animal but also had to compete with it for the game. In the Keres Creation account, the Mountain Lion guarded the Shipap – the pre-emergence place.
In Tewa traditions, the supernatural beings living in Sipofene – the pre-emergence place — sent a man to explore the upper world. He returned to Sipofene as Mountain Lion. For the Zuni, the Mountain Lion was the beast God associated with the North.
Although animals like puma, panthers, cougars, and mountain lions were all fast and deadly, the Native Americans lived by their side without any fear.
Rather than fear, they respected the presence of these awesome beasts. Of all of the cat’s qualities, the tribes respected the animal’s silence.
Their silence was viewed by the Natives as a holy state of consciousness. They quietly beheld the grace and the Glory of the Creator through the silence of these beasts.
The elders believed that the cat’s silence spoke of the words of the Great Mystery. Despite their potential threat, Native Americans not only respected these predators but also protected them.
Lion Eastern Symbolism
The presence of the lion is found everywhere in the Indian mythology, religion, and history of ancient India.
Narsimha, who is Lord Vishnu in the form of half lion and half man, is sent by the Gods to destroy the evil on Earth and restore peace and Dharma. Hindu texts associate the lion as a symbol of Vishnu and Parvati.
In Japan, the Guardian Koma-inu of the Shinto shrine is a lion. These guardian statues were depicted with comical pop-eyed expressions.
Kara-shishi is the lion of the lion dance and a favorite image of the Edo Art period. Koma Inu, like the kara shishi, are fierce and protect their young cubs with devotion.
These qualities make them ideal protectors of shrines. The lion dance in Chinese culture pays homage to the symbolism of the lion, where it is a representation of the Han Dynasty and of strength and nobility.
Buddhist texts describe Buddha as having the power and wisdom of a lion. Early tribes of Israel encountered lions in the Middle East and based on the symbolism adopted from Egypt, Persia, and Greece, formed their own symbolic meaning. (2)
The lion is the National symbol or emblem of Sri Lanka – where, interestingly, there are no lions. The translation of Sri Lanka is The Land of Lions – because although now extinct, the lion was the mythical symbol of Sri Lankan kings and royalty.
Lion Christianity symbolism
Modern lion symbolism is of strength and courage. However, in the Middle Ages, there were many other Christian symbolic representations for the Lion: watchfulness (because lions were thought to sleep with their eyes open), resurrection (because it was believed that lion cubs were born dead until their father breathed on them), and even evil.
The lion also came to be associated with gold and the Sun God. In Egypt, it was believed that the lion presided over the annual floods of the Nile because they coincided with the entry of the sun into the Leo constellation.
The relation between the sun and the lion has also come from the Middle Ages and found its way in the Bible and Christianity as well.
In the Bible, the lion has two opposite meanings: it is compared to the Devil (1 Pet 5:8) and to victorious Christ (Rev 5:5). Animals from Physiologus that were symbols of Christ were also chosen as symbols of Mary. Here, the lion stands for awakening; it’s young.
Many symbols were also chosen to represent virtues as well as vice. For example, dogs represented loyalty and also envy and anger. Likewise, the lion represented persistence, moderation, and strength but also cruelty. (3)
Lion Celtic symbolism
The lion symbol can be found among the early Celts, but it is viewed as similar to the dragon in Celtic mythology.
It mainly represents warrior gatherings and appears on the coat of arms in Irish clans as well as in Irish literature. You can find the lion emblem on helmets and also as a guardian.
The Lion may have arrived in Europe from Asia or through Indian, African, and even from Greek cultures. Many Welsh epics depict lions and cats. Fairy tales often depict the lion as the King of the Animals.
The lion also found its way in Christian symbolism, where it stood for St Mark to represent Christ’s power and dignity. With the development of chivalry, lions became the most important animals in heraldry owing to their characteristic strength, majesty, and aggressiveness. (4)
Some experts believe that the lion symbol belonged to the Greek and Anatolian cultures and was not familiar to the continental Celts.
In some legends, the lion’s mane symbolizes power, confidence, boldness, uprightness, and authority, both to humans and presumably to lions as well.
Maned lions are practically ubiquitous in European heraldry, which is remarkable in view of the fact that lions have not lived in Europe for ten millennia.
Lion African symbolism
Throughout Africa, the lion is a symbol of power. The importance of the lion symbol in Lebu’s ritual practices reflects the recurrence of this symbolism. In Ghana, the lion symbol is very important to voodoo healers.
Lions, hyenas, and hares are central to the rituals of curing and healing. In order to reach the spirit world, the healers also actual body parts of the lion as ingredients in concoctions prepared during the rituals. The lion is also very important in East Africa.
Among the East African Nuer people, the lion meaning is the link between the seer and the spirits in shamanic ceremonies. Contrastingly, in many parts of East Africa, the lion is also a negative symbol of laziness.
This is also considered an insulting symbol. As such, it is not used in rituals or used in a negative way. Today, most African lions live in game preserves where they are protected—and a source of tourist income.
The earliest lion images, not surprisingly, appear in Egypt (in relation to the Sun) and the Ancient Near East. Lion symbolism, mythology, and folklore differ in various regions, according to the extent to which people are familiar with it.
Lion in dreams
Lions are usually a regal dream symbol of power and pride. In a woman’s dream, a lion may represent the male aspect of her psyche.
A Freudian interpretation may consider lions the powerful and admired aspect as well as power, strength, majestic looks, pride, arrogance, and virility.
Seeing a tame, fawning lion in dreams is an auspicious sign and symbolizes benefits to a soldier from his King, to an athlete from his excellent physical condition to a citizen from his magistrate, and to a slave from his master. The animal resembles them in power and strength.
But, if the lion threatens in any way or appears angered, then it is a negative omen meaning sickness and fear. (5)
In Africa, if you dream of being chased by lions, then it means that the spirits are chasing you. It may be because of the fact that the spirits are angered because of something they want from you or something you haven’t done.
African people believe that lions are not harmful and will not attack. In the Bible, lions symbolize God, while in the African valleys, lions are king. Dreaming of a lion means a spirit is trying to communicate with you.
Lion encounters and omens
Lion encounters are usually not common unless you live in the forests. However, you might encounter lions in art, on TV, and in books, and frequently in your dreams.
If you are here because you want to know why you keep seeing a lion, then it could be trying to communicate with you. You are also a highly evolved spiritual being and that must make you more receptive to the lion encounters.
A lion can make a powerful impression upon the seer. It has multitudes of associations, primary among which include temper and pride. A lion’s loud roar and violent actions denote temper.
Perhaps, you need to keep your own temper in check. A person dreaming of protecting a smaller animal (a hare/lamb/dog/tortoise) from a lion can interpret the dream as follows: the smaller animal is his/her sensitive inner nature.
The lion may use scare tactics to harm the inner nature. What a lion means the dreamer needs to protect his/her sensitive inner child from these scare tactics. One can use I Am affirmations to overcome this.
I am strong, I am powerful, I am worthy, and I am beautiful are some examples. A lion encounter is often related to bullying as this animal bullies meeker animals. Lions also act proud and symbolize a high sense of self-worth. (6)
Lion mythology and folklore
Powerful and regal as they are, lions are often portrayed as meek and gullible fools in many folktales and legends. In an African story, a lion is caught in a trap and helped by a warthog to escape.
Since the lion is hungry, he tries to eat the same warthog who helped him escape. The warthog traps the lion again by praising him and asking him to show how he, the lion, got trapped in the first place.
The lion’s proud nature and his stupidity make him jump back right into the trap. The Azande people of Congo believe that people become various animals after death and the dead rulers and kings all became lions.
In Hindu mythology, the Narsimha is worshipped as a God. He is half man and half lion- the form of Lord Vishnu who helps expel darkness on earth caused by demons.
In Japan, the word for lion is shih. As this is also the sound of the word, which means teacher, a lion is a suggestive symbol for a teacher. According to Chinese mythology, placing lion statues outside one’s homes brings protection.
These guardian lions, always in pairs, depict one male lion and another female. The male lion holds a ball symbolizing the earth. The female lion is shown protecting her cub. (7)
Lion spirit animal
The Masai people have a lion centered culture and men seek to manifest the powers of the lion.
People with a lion as their spirit animal can easily overcome stress by bringing themselves into alignment with the lion’s energy of strength and pride of self worth. If a lion spirit animal turns up in your life, you need to step up and take the initiative.
Meet challenges with your unquestionable will and easy and natural nobility. Be open to your inner strength and nature. Most importantly, be silent. A lion is always silent and gentle while he rests.
Yes, he has a mighty roar, but he also loves silence at other times. Meditate upon the lion’s spirit and ask for his guidance. The lion spirit is a sign of leadership, which can be a challenging concept because others are not always happy to follow Lion’s lead.
When we take the lead, we are not always praised, and Lion sometimes has to live with a feeling of unpopularity. Your spirit animal may also be pointing out areas where you are weak.
Work on these weaknesses for a lion is all about courage. Speak freely and express your anger and frustration by channeling it into your daily meditations. Your royalty, nobility, and power will get things done without your having to scream and shout.
Lion totem animal
The lion is one of the most powerful creatures in the animal kingdom and has much symbolic meaning. This magnificent king of the jungle is a powerful totem animal.
As totem animals of kings and emperors, lions have been linked to spiritual figures such as Krishna, Buddha, and Apollo. The lion totem is also associated with the sun and gold. The male lion’s shaggy mane resembles the halo that depicts masculine energy.
The lioness is a skilled hunter and she is a dedicated mother. She protects her cubs with a ferocity that shows her power, strength, and courage. Lion totem animals are ferocious, strong, and powerful.
These attributes also make them guardians. That is why your lion totem is guarding you against other predatory aspects. Lion medicine teaches you about leadership.
It asks you to take the initiative and lead others without asking them to follow you. Observe how gracefully the lion pounces. Look at its speed, strength, and courage. Through that observation, learn to balance those powers, intention, and grace.
A lion only takes what he needs. As your personal guide, let the lion instill confidence in you. As you become aware of your powers, learn to live in peace and harmony with others around you. Your totem animal is superior in how it raises its pride. (8)
Lion power animal
Power animals like lions, cougar, and puma or mountain lions all give you the same message: “ to become more aware of your inner strength and power.
The lion power animal is asking you to take leadership. It is asking you to guide and lead as people look up to you.
The lion is the king of the jungle for a reason and it’s a message to you is to be majestic, confident, and lead with grace.
The lion, when he hunts, takes life. But he does that only for his survival. Otherwise, he is a gentle creature that is content in resting silently with his pride.
A lioness is devoted to being a good mother and that is clear in the way she dotes over her cubs and protects them with her life.
Lion power animal will show up in your life when you feel beaten down or dejected. Call the lion to guide you through a tough situation. Meditate upon the lion’s grace, nobility, strength, and power.
Inculcate those qualities within you by becoming more confident and outgoing. You are a born leader and all you need is to be aware of the strength within you. So go ahead – lead with courage and pride of a lion. (9)
Lion tattoo meaning
Lions are fearless; they make natural leaders; they are courageous yet balanced, and all-powerful and mighty beings.
Get a lion symbol tattoo if you believe you have leadership skills and have always believed that you were born to lead others.
You can also get a lion tattoo as a dedication to someone – an important father figure or mentor who has guided you in your life.
Lion tattoo meaning can also include royalty, sun, warrior, and leader. Many clans in Africa, as well as the East – in Japan and China, have lion tattoos symbolic of their warrior clans.
In most animal tattoos, the designs embody certain attributes of that animal. For example, a cancer survivor might wish to get a lion tattoo after having beat the disease.
Someone born under the Leo zodiac sign or constellation can also choose to get a lion tattoo. Lions are also quite significant in the Bible and in Christianity. In this aspect, lions symbolize the power of God.
So a devout Christian can also opt for a lion tattoo. In any case, lion tattoo meanings can change with the type of representation. So, always discuss your vision with your tattoo artist prior to getting it inscribed.
Lion characteristics and lion traits include aspects like leadership, royalty, power, strength, courage, pride, and even familial devotion. A lion is a born leader, yet he is in complete balance and harmony with nature. If you agree with this lion symbolism, then you could consider getting a lion inked on your person.