Tiger Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

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Tiger symbolism stands for strength, fearlessness, and military prowess. In many cultures, as well as religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, tigers are vehicles of various deities. 

Psychologically, these majestic beasts represent something that scares you- and that is the meaning dreams about tigers. Let us delve deeper into tiger significance and other things the tiger represents.

Table of contents

Tiger symbolism and meaning

When we talk about tiger symbolism, we often refer to Bengal tiger symbolism. After all, tigers are found in Asia and mainly in the West Bengal region of India. 

So, in many countries where tiger symbolism is used, it is an adaptation of the majestic beast from India. Also, most of the symbolism that is linked with lions is also used for tigers. 

Therefore, the symbolism of tiger stands for strength, military prowess, and even royalty or King. The mystical tiger was also used extensively for its medicine. In many tribal areas, tigers are still hunted today for their bones and skin.  

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The ashes of tigers’ remains – especially its teeth and bones- are used for treating dental ache and a variety of other diseases. In Hindu culture, tiger skin is considered sacred because it is the seat of Lord Shiva. 

The state of being grounded is another symbolic meaning of the tiger, for no other animal is as fearless and steady as the tiger. In some Eastern countries, the tiger represents status, rank, place, and position. 

When he is not hunting, you will find the tiger sitting still and it appears as if it is presiding from its lair. And while he is acutely surveying his kingdom, he is aware of everything. Thus the tiger teaches us to remain grounded in the present moment. (1)

Tiger Native American symbolism

Animal symbolism is an integral part of Indian life as well as ceremony and the Natives often use it in healing rituals, ceremonies, and even for a good harvest and successful hunts. Native Americans used animal totems. 

Totems stood for symbols for a clan or family. Since there were no tigers in the reservations for Native Americans, the word tiger represents any large animals like cougars, mountain lions, and pumas, etc. 

Tigers stand for strength, power, courage, and ambition. The animal represents a symbolic release of fears and standing for truth, justice, and integrity. 

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A prominent Muskogee Billy Tiger has the CREEK Co named after him. Just like a cougar totem represents leadership and courage, so does the tiger totem. In Native American lore, the tiger has its place as a great teacher. 

When a tiger showed up as a totem animal, it meant that much of the trial had been worked through and that now it is time to assert. For the Native Americans, a tiger represents leadership, physical grace, and strength. 

It also exhibits intuitive ability, sensitive hearing, and night vision, and some say its medicine includes clairaudience or clairvoyance. The tigers are also spirit keepers for many cultures in the West. (2)

Tiger Eastern Symbolism

In the East, the tiger is always regarded with awe for its beauty combined with the underlying fear for its massive power. Carvings of tigers have been discovered in the caves in Indus Valley civilization that existed 5000 years ago. 

Soon, the tiger was absorbed in Hinduism and became the symbol of a vehicle for a great female deity. In China, the tiger’s head markings resemble the Chinese character ‘Wang,’ which means King. 

Therefore, the children born in the Year of the Tiger had those characters painted on their foreheads for valor, strength, and good health. In Korea, the white tiger symbolism is linked to the Mountain Spirit. 

white tiger

In 1988, South Korea chose the tiger as the symbol of the Olympic Games. India replaced the lion with the tiger as its national animal in the 1970s when conservation efforts started to protect this endangered species. 

In Pakistan, where no tigers are found, the opposition party used the tiger as its election symbol. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand are all called the Asian Tigers because of their economic progress. (3

The tiger in Japanese and Chinese art is often pictured in a bamboo forest, never alone on ceramics. It is thought that the tiger’s mortal enemy – the elephant- cannot follow him into the bamboo, therefore this design.

Tiger Christianity symbolism

The tiger represents Dionysus and is the symbol of wrath and cruelty. In Chinese religion, it is a symbol of darkness and the New Moon but also the symbol of war and the highest-ranking general. (4

In some allegories, the tiger stands for the service of righteousness, strength, and valor. Five tigers in China defeated Chaos: the Red Tiger in South and summer, the Black tiger reigns in North and in winter, the Blue Tiger in the East, and in spring, and the White Tiger in the west in autumn. 

The yellow tiger inhabits the earth and reigns supreme over the other tigers. In the Christian tradition, the tiger represents royalty, fearlessness, and wrath.

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In early Christian tiger symbolism in Great Britain, the tiger was described as a kind of serpent and is actually drawn as a dragon with wings. 

In Egypt, tigers and similar animals are considered ‘destroyers’ and even represent the murderers of Osiris. Thus, tigers and leopards are symbols of Set, who is also represented as a serpent. What does a tiger symbolize spiritually? 

There is no mention of a tiger in the Bible, but it has come to spiritually symbolize authority, royalty, and luxury. It also represents supremacy over territories and revitalizing energies.

Tiger Celtic symbolism

When a tiger roars, it is a sign of high winds and storms; there was a belief that tigers roared loudly during high winds and stormy weather as it evoked rage. Celtic tiger has a political meaning, especially for Ireland. 

In fact, Ireland was called the Celtic Tiger during its boom time between 1995 and 2007. The symbol of RyanAir was Celtic Tiger. Tíogar Ceilteach – the Irish name for Celtic tiger- represented a period of rapid economic boom for the country. This period lasted for 8 years and it crashed post 2008. 

In many parts of Northern Europe, it is said that when a tiger eats a man, it acquires his spirit. Some places, the tiger is holy and worshipped and even called the Lord of the Black Rock. 

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A show called Celtic Tiger (conceptualized by Irish-born Michael Flatley) was filmed in Birmingham and Budapest and was well-known for its live band, dancers, and epic staging. 

Since the tiger was not native to Rome, its symbolism was mainly linked to its traits and characteristics. Because of its wildness, the tiger was likened by European poets to wine and romance. 

Live specimens of tigers were brought to Europe only during the last generations of the 15th Century – probably from the animal markets of Constantinople. In his book The Celtic Way of Evangelism, Tenth Anniversary Edition, author George G. Hunter III describes Celtic 

Tribes as tigers because, like tigers, these tribes were never united during wars and due to this reason, other armies (described by the author as lions) pushed the ‘tiger tribes’ to the Celtic fringe of western Europe (Gaul, British Isles, and Brittany). (5)

Tiger African symbolism

Tigers are not native to Africa, yet they do have symbolic representations that are similar to those of large cats like leopards, panthers, jaguars, cougars, lions, and puma. In most tribes, tigers symbolize feminine power. 

African tiger symbolism also stands for cruelty, ferocity, beauty, and speed. It is a symbol of both: aggression and protectiveness. In many parts of Africa, the tiger replaces the lion and is used as a symbol of the supreme animal image. 

Like lions, tigers represent death and life and also evil and destruction of evil. In African folklore, particularly in Ghana and West Africa, there are many folktales about tigers and other large cats.

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These stories mainly discuss these large feline animals and their relationships with other animals. In West African storytelling, the tiger may represent any large predatory cats. 

Many powerful shamans are believed to have tiger bodies. The shaman’s soul – while he is sleeping – leaves his body and enters that of the tiger’s. 

In the morning, the shaman’s soul returns to the human body while the tiger goes to sleep in the depths of the forest.

Throughout history, African people have worshipped tigers and other large cats to avert disaster, regenerate life, and increase fertility. (6)

Tiger in dreams

A tiger in dreams symbolizes something that frightens you. What do dreams about a tiger hunting, you mean? It means that you are terrified of something or someone, probably an exam coming up, or even some presentation, or an encounter with a superior at work. 

Anything you are trying to avoid or dreading can trigger tiger dreams. In your waking life, you are terrified of something and have been suppressing those emotions and feelings. 

But stay courageous and brave; you will see through this adversity. (7) Dreams about a tiger can symbolize someone harsh or severe. You might be too harsh and severe with yourself. 

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Tigers are fierce and powerful. As a dream symbol, they can represent an aspect of yourself— your inner strength and potency. Due to their ferocity, they could represent anger. 

Suppressed anger and resentment can also lead to a tiger in dreams. Tiger dreams can follow after you have had a ferocious argument or lost your temper. 

Tigers’ dream meaning can also represent your ego. Perhaps you are territorial like the tiger.  

The symbolism of a caged tiger can also represent containing your temper. Tigers rip or shred their prey to pieces. Therefore: dreaming of tiger hunting or attacking you means that you are afraid of being shred to bits.

Tiger encounters and omens

In Asia, particularly India, tiger omens and encounters are taken negatively. The tiger is feared greatly and that is why; villagers hunted tigers relentlessly until they became endangered and protected animals. 

There are many National Parks dedicated to protecting these beasts and as a result of these conservation efforts, tiger numbers are growing. 

However, tigers often stray into human settlements where they instill great fear in people who see them. 

In the Hmong District of Thailand, there are jails situated near tiger reserves. These jails have no walls because any escaping prisoners are ‘taken care of’ by tigers. 

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It is believed that the ‘spirits’ of people eaten by tigers still roam these forests. In many Eastern cultures, it is said that tiger omens meaning indicates a recently dead spirit that has been transformed into a man-eating tiger. 

In India, when a man has been eaten by a tiger, his spirit sits in the tiger’s forehead and guides him to new prey. 

In parts of India, gardeners refused to let sportsmen know of the whereabouts of lions or tigers in their plantations, for they have a belief that a garden plot loses its fertility if a tiger is killed nearby. Tiger’s loud roars symbolize heavy storms and omens of high winds. (8)

Tiger mythology and folklore

Tiger mythology makes an interesting read. The whiskers of a tiger are mortal poison. In Japan, mentioning the tiger is unlucky. Tigers’ ears can work as a lucky charm and are supposed to keep death at bay. 

They even ward off sickness and evil spirits. Natives of Sumatra never killed tigers as they believed that the spirits of their forefathers resided in these majestic beasts.

If a man is killed by a tiger in India, he will appear in the dreams of his kin, asking them to change their names so that the tiger cannot find them. Chinese gamblers ‘worship’ tigers as their lucky charm.

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In China, mothers worship tigers for the good health of their children. When a tiger roars, stormy weather and high winds may come. Sorcerers can turn themselves into wolves and tigers. 

An oath taken on a tiger skin should be abided by else bad luck will follow. Priests in Tibet sit on tiger skins as special powers can be obtained from them. Tigers’ whiskers, fangs, and claws are used for making potions. 

Anyone in possession of these objects will receive good luck. Tiger’s flesh is also a good luck charm. In some jungle tribal folktales, if a man eats special roots, he is immediately transformed into a tiger. (9)

Tiger spirit animal

Tiger spirit animal is suitable for someone who acts with precision, instills confidence, deepens presence, and awakens passion and power. This is the largest of all cat species and it moves with grace, purpose, power of stealth, and self-assurance. 

Hidden in its furry paws are sharp claws that can kill. It takes time to study its prey and attacks only when ready. When a tiger spirit animal appears, it is time to get serious. 

Pay attention to the small details and maintain awareness of your surroundings. Do you feel that your actions are ineffective and unconvincing? Perhaps you are arrogant and dismissive of others.

In both cases, tiger meditation can help. Invoke the tiger’s spirit and power so you can learn to own and balance your power. Study the tiger’s teaching and skills. 

When you feel discouraged, you can call for the tiger’s help. You can even mimic the tiger’s movement to realize your own strength. 

This will help you draw power from your spirit animal and eventually help manifest the tiger’s spirit within you. 

Another very simple way of adapting the tiger power within is by tapping those nail claws. A tiger will help you present the strongest you can be. (10)

Tiger totem animal

Tiger totem is an ally to help you improve your senses— olfactory and sight. Tigers have exceptionally good eyesight and a strong sense of smell. They are usually solitary beings and live in a marked territory with their scent. 

Tiger totem is a reminder to take notice of aromas and scents in your environment. This will help you interpret situations and the safety of your surroundings. 

Tiger medicine also helps you own your world with courage and confidence. 

It tells you to live confidently and that you always come alone and go alone. This is the largest member of the cat family and it owns its territory. 

white tiger

So, learn leadership and strength from this mighty beast. When a tiger visits you either in the form of dreams or as symbols, you must know that you have been chosen as a leader. 

You have the power within you to get things done. (11) Tiger energy is savage and primordial energy, a reminder of the fierce spirit within nature and within ourselves. 

Many clans and tribes in North India believe that the tiger is their totem animal. 

The members of these Tiger clans treat the animal with great reverence and think that it would protect them against all evils. They usually have a firm belief that the totem animal would not kill them.

Tiger power animal

Tiger power animal urges you to remember your magnitude and to gather your strength to meet the challenges ahead. Usually, the Chinese call the tiger Laohu —literally meaning “old tiger,” regardless of the tiger’s age. 

So no matter what your age, if the tiger is your power animal, then know that you are strong, majestic, and powerful like your power animal. 

The tiger is the spiritual animal of the western direction and is related to the Queen Mother of the West. So, start your mornings by tiger meditation, facing the west. Ask the tiger spirit to guide you. 

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Much of your personal power comes from an instinctive way of seeing and dealing with things, much like your power animal, the tiger. You are a symbol of natural strength and valor. Your total self-confidence leads you to clear-cut decisions. 

You are a born leader and your colleagues and peers look up to you for guidance and support. Just like your power animal, you are a solitary being and content living that way. 

Never feel alone, for the power of the tiger is coursing through your veins. Worry not: for you have the tiger’s prodigious energy to see you through most of life’s situations. (12)

Tiger tattoo meaning

Tiger tattoos became common in Japan after the images and motifs of the animal came into the country from Chinese artisans. As a result, Japanese tiger tattoos were highly stylized with unnaturally large eyes and expressive facial features. 

Tiger and dragon tattoo pairs are commonly seen in Zen Buddhism and also in Japan. The tiger represents the wind while the dragon symbolizes water. 

Depicting them both together means water-wind pairing. A tiger tattoo with peonies represents strength and royalty. A white tiger tattoo means predator or symbol of war. 

tiger tattoo

Stripes are a tiger’s essence. In tattoos, the stripes of a tiger represent the ebb and flow of waves. Make sure you select a part where the tiger tattoo can be justified- if it is a large tattoo, then you need plenty of space to express the tiger’s scale and power. 

Thankfully, the tiger is very flexible, so its tattoo can be flexible too. For example, you can depict it as standing on rocks as a symbol of their strength and as representing them as the King of their territory. 

Whatever design you choose, a tiger tattoo can be a great reminder of your inner reserved power. Decide carefully after consulting an expert tattoo artist.

Conclusion

Tiger is a symbol of bravery, strength, power, and valor. Tiger symbolism is quite deep and varies from culture to culture. In most cases, though, it is symbolic of strength, fearlessness, and military prowess. Whether you have been feeling a connection to this majestic beast or wish to get a tiger tattoo, we hope this guide has helped you decipher your own tiger meaning.

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