Known for their tendency to snoop around and pilfer scraps, the raccoon’s adorable bandit mask matches its reputation for petty crime. Clever, crafty, and tenacious as can be, the raccoon always finds a way to get what it is after! Although these traits are the main ones associated with raccoons, these charismatic mammals are connected with lots of virtues as well. Read on to learn about the many playful, sneaky, and loveable faces of the raccoon!
Table of contents
- Raccoon Symbolism and meaning
- Raccoon Native American Symbolism
- Raccoon Christianity Symbolism
- Raccoon Celtic Symbolism
- Raccoon in Dreams
- Raccoon Encounters and Omens
- Raccoons’ Mythology and Folklore
- Raccoon Spirit Animal
- Raccoon Totem Animal
- Raccoon Power Animal
- Raccoon Tattoo Meaning
Raccoon symbolism and meaning
Lots of people can identify with this scene: a clattering noise in the night, trashcans overturned, and glowing eyes peering at you from the center of the mess. The lumbering form of the raccoon is quite often spotted at the scene of such crimes. The raccoon is most famous for thievery.
In fact, the dark coloration around the raccoon’s eyes is often referred to as its “bandit mask,” that is how strongly raccoons are associated with thievery. So, raccoons may symbolize theft, roguishness, pests, chaos, or criminal behavior.
The raccoon’s thievery is not so simple that these animals can be classified as nature’s criminals. In fact, the raccoon is such a successful thief because these intelligent mammals have adapted so well to survive and thrive in spaces inhabited by humans. Instead of being cowed by the presence of cities and towns, raccoons have become streetwise urban animals that carve out a living in the shadows of homes and businesses. (1) So, the raccoon can also be associated with tenacity, adaptability, and endurance.
Raccoons are also known to display a behavior which sometimes associates them with fastidiousness despite their vermin reputation. Raccoons very often “wash” their food before eating it. Current science suggests that racoons aren’t actually “washing” dirt off of their food, but using their sensitive hands to gain more sensory information from the wetted object. Still, raccoons can be associated with cleanliness and hygiene. (2)
Additionally, this “washing” behavior demonstrates the incredible fact that raccoon forepaws are primate-like and resemble hands. Those forepaws are very sensitive and surprisingly dexterous. Although they don’t have thumbs, raccoons can still lift and manipulate objects, which is why they’re so good at breaking into trashcans and chimney flues. So, the raccoon can represent craftiness, resourcefulness, or problem-solving. (3)
Some believe that a raccoon can be a sign that a person is living their lives behind a “mask.” Raccoons are a reminder to be honest and authentic with others. (4)
Raccoon Native American symbolism
Raccoons are native to North America exclusively and are found in parts of Europe and Asia only as an invasive species. For that reason, most cultural traditions involving the raccoon originate from the rich myths, legends, and traditions of North America’s Native American peoples. The word “raccoon,” in fact, comes from the Powhatan word “arahkun” which means “he scratches with his hands.” (5)
Obviously, Native American tribes have long observed the fascinating dexterity of the raccoon. In many Native American myths and stories, raccoons appear as trickster figures which use their craftiness to outwit others and succeed through problem-solving. (6)
In one Menominee story, for example, a raccoon tricks a pair of blind men into fighting so that he can steal their food. In this story, the blind men use a rope to guide themselves to and from the edge of the lake so that they can drink water and cook their food each day. One day the raccoon finds this rope and moves its position so that one of the men believes the lake must have dried up. While the men are arguing, the raccoon slips into their tent and waits for them to cook dinner. Having found the lake, the men return and cook some meat for dinner. As they sit eating, the raccoon reaches into their pot and steals half of their food. Discovering some food missing, each of the blind men blames the other and the raccoon is able to escape unharmed in the midst of their squabbling. (7)
Raccoon Christianity symbolism
Vermin in biblical contexts are typically associated with sin. The raccoon with all of its thievery would likely be no exception. Unfortunately, there is little else we can say about the biblical meaning of these mammals since they make no appearance in the Bible.
There are a few modern stories which use the raccoon to deliver biblical messages. One such story suggests that the raccoon is responsible for the extinction of unicorns due to an incident on Noah’s Ark. Obviously, this story is fiction and not associated with any religious canon. (8)
As a creature of the night, the raccoon may also represent fear and faithlessness. (9)
Raccoon Celtic symbolism
Raccoons are not native to the Celtic world, however these clever little animals might be assumed to hold similar meanings to other forest critters like badgers and bears which represent courage, ferocity, and grit. (10)
The raccoon isn’t a bear but for a long time, it was thought to be related to pandas. The name “Ursus lotor” (washing bear) has been closely related to “Procyon lotor,” which is the scientific name given to raccoons. In Germany, where raccoons were introduced in the 1930s, people called the species “Wasch Baer” (meaning washing bear).
As previously mentioned, this name probably derives from the “washing” behavior of raccoons. The connection of raccoons to bears may not be accurate to evolution, but it is easy to see why these lumbering mammals might resemble miniature bears at first sight. (11)
Raccoon in dreams
Dreaming of a raccoon may represent something stolen. Feeling as though you’ve lost something along the way is a common complaint as people look back on their lives. A raccoon dream may indicate a desire to recover what has been “lost” to you. Remember that the child you once were is a part of who you are now and that it is entirely up to you to reclaim that.
Raccoons in dreams may also represent hiding. Not only are raccoons naturally masked, but they spend much of their lives slinking through dark spaces under the cover of night. While this is a perfectly appropriate lifestyle for a raccoon, humans require light, clarity, and truth in order to be healthy. Try to get comfortable with being vulnerable and you will have a much easier time showing your authentic self to others. Hiding might feel safer, but it may keep you from connecting with others.
Dreaming of a raccoon may also represent a curiosity or desire to investigate. Perhaps a new and unexpected opportunity has opened up to you and you feel an inarguable desire to see it through and find out what your future might look like. Take a leap of faith and satisfy your curiosity! (12)
Raccoon encounters and omens
Encountering a raccoon can be a good reminder to do your best to coexist with others who don’t necessarily live their lives in the same ways that you do. While raccoons can be pests, often when we encounter them they are just going about their business and trying to survive. It is important to remember that that is what most animals on this planet want and that we have a responsibility to avoid interfering with that desire whenever possible.
\Raccoons are playful and mischievous animals. A raccoon encounter may represent one’s inner child and the relationship that they have with their more youthful impulses. Immaturity is usually a bad trait, however youthful exuberance is an important thing to hang on to even as you enter new phases of adulthood. (13)
Raccoons near one’s home might indicate deception. These bandits are masters at finding weak spots in the security of a location and using those weaknesses to gain entry. Make sure that nobody is taking advantage of your emotional blind spots in order to gain your trust. Be careful when situations seem “to good to be true.”
Raccoon mythology and folklore
In most raccoon myths, these animals are tricksters who use their wily behaviors to procure food and triumph over others. In some myths, it is the clever raccoon who learns a lesson when it is outsmarted or its trickery fails to overcome the might of nature. (14)
In Japan, raccoons are an invasive species that are not found in most folk stories. Similar in appearance to the raccoon, however, is an animal of ten called the “raccoon-dog.” The “raccoon-dogs” of Japan are called “tanuki” and are associated with supernatural forces. In myths, the tanuki is a shapeshifter that uses its abilities to fly, play the drum on its belly, and terrify unsuspecting hunters. Today, the tanuki is associated with forest spirits, magic, mischief, fun, and mystery. (15)
Raccoon spirit animal
If your spirit animal is the raccoon then you are likely a free-spirited person who seems disorganized to others but whose chaotic ways are actually the result of unwavering focus. The raccoon spirit animal is often held by those who are eccentric and who tend to do things their own way. People with the raccoon spirit are unafraid to be different and to try new things.
The raccoon spirit animal may seem wild but when it comes to a goal, the raccoon spirit is capable of single-minded focus and determination. People with the raccoon spirit are easily distracted when doing things that don’t interest them, but when their curiosity is awakened they will not falter from their task.
The raccoon is usually a solitary animal, however new discoveries suggest that these animals are more social than we once thought. In any case, they spend quite a while as babies or “kits” learning about the world from their mothers. People with the raccoon spirit animal are natural teachers who enjoy passing the things that they’ve earned down to the next generation. (16)
Raccoon totem animal
The raccoon totem animal is associated with mystery and deception. People with the raccoon totem are excellent at showing different “faces” for different situations. This skill allows the raccoon totem to blend in, even in situations where they don’t actually feel entirely comfortable.
Having different faces to show others is a definite skill which allows the raccoon totem to easily get along with new people. Note, however, the importance of maintaining one’s true self and showing that vulnerable honest personality to others when the relationship in question calls for it.
Raccoon power animal
The raccoon power animal is associated with dexterity and resourcefulness. People with this power animal rarely meet the problem that they can’t easily solve by using their brains and rolling with the punches. The raccoon power animal is unafraid to solve problems via unconventional means, and so it is one of the best problem-solvers around.
Thinking outside of the box is a major strength for the raccoon power animal. People with this power animal may, however, have a hard time seeing simple answers that lay right in front of their noses. Don’t forget that being unique and open-minded shouldn’t prevent you from accepting simple and conventional options when they work well. (17)
Raccoon tattoo meaning
Raccoon and possum tattoos have seen a surge in popularity lately thanks, at least in part, to an increase in interest in “rejected” animals, especially on the internet. People who feel rejected themselves or who have had a tough time finding a place to fit in may choose a raccoon tattoo to represent their appreciation for this misunderstood mammal.
In addition, a raccoon tattoo might be chosen as a symbol of fastidiousness. After surviving the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, many people have felt drawn to the raccoon’s “washing” behavior, even if this behavior isn’t exactly what it looks like.
In Japan, a tattoo of a raccoon, which is an invasive species there, or a similar Japanese “raccoon-dog” or “tanuki,” which is a native species, may indicate magic, sanctity, or good fortune.
A raccoon might, in general, represent resourcefulness, intelligence, stubbornness, or shyness. People who choose raccoon tattoos may do so because they feel like they too are hiding behind a “mask” when interacting with others.
The raccoon might still be classified as vermin in many people’s minds. It is understandable that when one’s trash is scattered in the street by an unwelcome visitor, that the animal might take on a negative connotation. This connotation fails to acknowledge the many fascinating and endearing traits of the raccoon. Raccoons are smart, dexterous, charming, and adaptable. The fact that we see them as pests is only proof that we have taken over the landscapes that they once called home, and that the raccoon has managed to make do with this new urban topography. For that reason, I admire the raccoon, bandit mask and all!