Self

Elephant Symbolism & The Spiritual Meanings Of Seeing An Elephant

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elephant symbolism

Elephants are land animals that have roamed the earth for nearly 56 million years! And though they are mighty creatures who appear domineering, giant and imposing, they are quite peaceful, generous, and calm.

Elephants live in forests, deserts, savannahs, and marshes, and are native to South Asia, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Elephants have a matriarchal social order, where an elder female leads the group, which consists of other female elephants and their young. Male elephants on the other hand, go to live on their own when they reach adolescence.

In addition to being quite majestic, elephants are one of the world's most intelligent animals, on par with primates and aquatic animals like dolphins and whales. They can also live up to 70 years in the wild!

Elephant Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Elephants

Elephants are a symbol of strength and power, wisdom, intelligence, family and loyalty. But elephants also a symbol of good luck and good fortune, compassion, majesty, and leadership.

Gentle giants, elephants are more than just their grandiose appearance. With brains containing 300 billion neurons, elephants are capable of deep thought and emotion.

In addition, their memories are superb, they are known to be selfless when protecting their young, are dedicated to their herds, and have been symbols of good luck since ancient times.

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Elephant Encounters and Omens

Seeing an elephant in the wild is extremely rare, though you're most likely to see an elephant at a zoo or wildlife park. Elephants show up in your life if you have been neglecting your roots, such as family, home, or your relationships.

Elephants will also appear in your life when you're in need of inspiration or the strength these creatures possess. When your driving force is at an all-time low, an elephant might appear to give you that extra push you need to carry out your desires.

​When an elephant enters your life, it shows that you have the instincts to lead and nurture others. So, trust the elephant when it shows up in your life. The elephant is greatly loyal, so it will not judge you for your choices.

What Different Color Elephants Symbolize

While elephants are usually gray, different colored elephants may show up in dreams, art, or other symbols.

White Elephant Meaning

The color white is associated with purity and renewal, but in many traditions and religions, a white elephant is associated with gods and goddesses, rain, good luck, nobility, and is a sacred symbol. White elephants are also symbolic of spiritual enlightenment.

Black Elephant Meaning

The color black is associated with authority, darkness and pessimism. But if you see a black elephant in a dream or as a symbol, it indicates overcoming obstacles, and coming out the other side a better person.

Gray Elephant Meaning

Gray elephants are those we see in the real world, and the color gray is associated with neutrality and balance. But gray is also a symbol of the unknown, and seeing a gray elephant in your dreams or in real life indicates making a jump forward into the future.

Golden Elephant Meaning

Gold is the color of wealth, as well as love and magic. But with a golden elephant, it's a symbol of good luck and abundance as it relates to welcoming certain manifestations into your life.

Elephant Symbolism in Dreams

An elephant will often appear in your dreams to lend you strength when you need it most. Though it won't necessarily provide clarity on what decisions to make, it will provide you the tenacity to carry out the risky choice you’ve decided on.

Traditionally, dreaming about an elephant means you will become someone powerful and influential, but you are ruled by your emotions and your duty to others. The elephant acts as a warning then to persuade you to use logic to solve your problems, not your gut reactions.

However, depending on the circumstances of the dream, it affects what the dream means.

Dreaming of riding an elephant

A dream in which you are riding an elephant means that you are overcoming your challenges and, essentially, harnessing the power of the elephant. Riding an elephant also symbolizes discovering your personal power.

Dreaming of being chased by an elephant

If you dream of an elephant chasing you, there may be an issue in the waking world that you are trying to avoid. You're becoming stressed a great deal at the thought of overcoming any struggles plaguing you.

Dreaming of an injured elephant

To dream of an injured elephant indicates that you may be somewhat of an empath, and are absorbing the emotions of those around you in the real world. It also may point to you being a caring person who is trying to help others.

Dreaming of a dead elephant

Though this dream may seem negative, it's actually indicative of a big change in your life, and obtaining peace and harmony. Think of this dream with positive energy, and take it as a sign to let go of the past.

Dreaming of a baby elephant

A dream of baby elephants symbolizes success in your future, but only if you embrace new challenges and opportunities coming your way. Whether it's a new relationship or career, put your best foot forward.

Dreaming of a herd of elephants

When you have a dream of a large group of elephants, it relates to your community and social aspects of life. You are in a close group of individuals that easily express love for one another.

Another interpretation of a herd of elephants in a dream symbolizes reincarnation of individuals you knew in a past life, in addition to spirit guides assisting you to help move through challenges.

Dreaming of an elephant graveyard

Though elephant graveyards have never been proven to be real and are often part of folklore, dreaming of an elephant graveyard indicates big changes in your future, as well as transformation in your life.

Elephant Spirit or Totem Animal

A spirit animal is a spiritual guide that teaches you lessons, all while making sure you stay on the right path in life. A totem animal is also a spirit guide, but is a guide you invoke when you need help.

You cannot choose your spirit animal; however, you'll know if an elephant is your spirit animal if you have had a profound experience with one or resonate with this creature in some way.

Those with an elephant spirit animal have natural instincts to help other people. People respect your quiet power, and will often defer to your knowledge. You have a strong sense of responsibility and an innate sense of duty to the people around you.

You also don't forget things easily, have a strong sense of self, are able to quickly rebalance, are incredibly reliable, and are a deep thinker who will always come to a rational and fair conclusion. Having an elephant spirit animal also means it's important to never forget your roots, because although the elephant travels far, it needs to also keep its family and structure close behind or it will get lost.

An elephant totem is called upon when you need to understand your connection to the divine and ancient wisdom. Having an elephant totem means you have a duty to protect the part of yourself connected to the spiritual realm.

But this totem animal also represents good luck, abundance, wisdom, and removing obstacles in your way. An elephant totem animal will help you connect with higher powers, but you must express compassion to others, and stay close to your family.

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Spiritual Meaning of Elephants in Christianity and the Bible

In Christianity, the elephant stands for chastity and abstinence, as the animal’s careful balance between dominion and gentleness shows that it is devoid of intense passion. But elephants are also symbols of the strength of prayer.

In one story, Noah's Ark, elephants ate the entire food supply and grew big enough to almost tip the Ark over. Noah asked God to help, who had Noah tickle a hyena. The hyena was the catalyst for a series of events that eventually ended with a mouse hiding under a head of cabbage.

As the elephants went to eat the cabbage, the mouse scared them, causing the elephants to run to opposite ends of the Ark and re-balance it.

Spiritual Meaning of Elephants in Islam

The Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 CE, in the Year of the Elephant.

But there's another tale about a man named Abraha, ruler of Yemen, who attempted to conquer Mecca. As the story goes, in the same year Prophet Muhammad was born, the white elephant he rode on, leading his 40,000 solders, refused to walk into Mecca.

Spiritual Meaning of Elephants in Buddhism & Hinduism

In Buddhism, the elephant is an otherworldly creature that represents complete mental clarity. The elephant is known to be the reincarnation of Buddha.

Additionally, in Buddhism, elephants are the spiritual equivalent to a God, proof of which is seen in the numerous temples and shrines across India depicting elephant-headed gods. An elephant, specifically a white elephant, is a symbol that represents Buddha.

Buddhists also had a god named Kangiten, shown as a man and woman embracing, both with elephant heads. And the reincarnation of Buddha, or Shakyamuni, was a white elephant right red eyes.

In Hinduism, the god Ganesha has an elephant head, and is a symbol of wisdom and luck.

Elephant Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Elephant Symbolism

Even though elephants don't exist in the United States or North America, as a whole, some Native American tribes were known to hunt mammoths, and were thought of as symbols of luck, power and wisdom, similar to the elephant.

Tribes used mammoth tusks for medicine, but once mammoths went extinct, they would use bones to cure sexual problems. Tusks were also used in jewelry, headdresses, whistles used for hunting, or even as gifts.

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African Elephant Symbolism

Because African elephants are native to sub-Saharan Africa, it only makes sense that this creature has been a large part of African culture and folklore.

The elephant in mythology and folklore in Africa represents nobility, wisdom, strength, and even war. The Ashanti People considered the elephant to be their leaders reincarnated, while the Kingdom of Dahomey associated elephants with the 19th century rulers of the Fon people, Guezo, and his son Glele. The flag of Dahomey, now part of Benin, depicts an elephant wearing a crown on their flag.

According to The Met, to the Fon people, "The animal is believed to evoke strength, royal legacy, and enduring memory as exemplified in the following proverbs: 'There where the elephant passes in the forest, one knows' and 'The animal steps on the ground, but the elephants step down with strength.'"

In South Africa, elephant tusks are used on shields to represent eternity and strength, and the Côte d'Ivoire nation uses an elephant head on their shields.

In folklore, elephants are believed to be the king of all animals, settling disagreements and shape-shifting into humans.

Nzame, the creator god who created the universe, was asked to make a Supreme Chief of the animals, choosing the elephants, who represent family bonding, trust and loyalty. Nzame chose the elephant because of its wisdom.

Celtic Elephant Symbolism

While elephants weren't quite a part of Celtic mythology or symbolism, in writing, it was told that the elephant was involved in a battle. In this battle, said to be in 275 BCE, Antiochus I of Seleucus used elephants in war, confusing and shocking the Celts, who had never seen such a creature.

European Elephant Symbolism

European history and folklore is rich with symbolism dating all the way back to the Ice Age and the Roman Empire, where relatives to elephants roamed Europe. Actual elephants aren't native to Europe, so they were imported.

Alexander the Great was said to have four elephants guarding his tent while in India, and coins depicted the ruler wearing an elephant headdress. Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, was gifted an elephant from Harūn al-Rashīd of the Abbasid Dynasty.

The Order of the Elephant was founded by King Christian I in 1478, using this creature as a symbol of religious devotion. Napoleon Bonaparte had a giant bronze elephant fountain made of guns from the Battle of Friedland erected.

Far Eastern Elephant Symbolism

In Asian cultures, elephants are symbols of power, vitality, good luck and strength.

In Japan, elephants were sometimes associated with water, and the Japanese believed using elephant figurines protected against fires while bringing rain. Because elephants weren't known until the 1500s in Japan, all depictions of these creatures were based on imagination. In Shinto artistry, elephants are often depicted alongside other powerful creatures like dragons and leopards.

In Japanese mythology, creatures known as Baku are said to have the head of an elephant and the body of a lion. Known as "dream eaters," these creatures were thought to protect people in their sleep from nightmares. Another mythological creature named Makara had the head of an elephant, and the body of a fish.

Chinese cultures believe the elephant to symbolize strength and wisdom as well, with statues of elephants lining palaces of Ming Emperors in Beijing. The statues were believed to be associated with fertility, and women would place stones on the backs of statues for luck in getting pregnant with a son.

In India, there are millions of temples and shrines dedicated to Ganesha, the child of Shiva, the Supreme Being. Ganesha was known as the Elephant God, and had the body of a young man with the head of an elephant.

Elephants were given as housewarming gifts to bring luck, but in ancient times, were considered to be "vehicles" carrying soldiers to battle. Elephants were thought to be symbols of good luck before a war, and an elephant raising its trunk was a good omen.

Elephant Tattoo Meaning

While people get tattoos for all sorts of reasons, seeing as the elephant represents wisdom, strength, power and family, getting an elephant tattoo might symbolize one or all of these concepts.

An elephant tattoo can symbolize loyalty to one's family, wisdom of a spiritual nature, or overcoming obstacles and harnessing inner strength. Just like these creatures are large and majestic, so too can a tattoo of them.

In addition, for individuals living in certain parts of the world, an elephant can be a religious symbol that is sacred. For example, getting a tattoo of Ganesha represents blessings, hope, good luck and prosperity, and keeping evil away.

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who has written hundreds of articles about relationships, trending news and entertainment, numerology and astrology. Follow her on Twitter for more.

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