Leopard Symbolism & The Spiritual Meaning Of Leopards

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leopard symbolism

Native to Africa, Asia, Russia and the Middle East, leopards (belonging to cat family Panthera pardus) have existed on earth between 2 and 3.5 million years. These big cats belong to nine subspecies of leopards, but perhaps what they are most known for is their skin.

Leopard skin stands out for its pattern, which features dark spots grouped in rosettes. And just like human fingerprints, each leopard's pattern of rosettes is unique.

Fur color varies depending on the leopard's location; leopards who live in forests and mountains have darker, deep golden fur, while leopards who live in hotter regions are cream-colored or yellow.

Not only is their fur patterning unique, but their vision and hearing are superior. Unfortunately, because of their beautiful skin, leopard populations have shrunk around the world.

Solitary and territorial, female leopards live separately from male leopards, interacting occasionally and during mating season. Female leopards raise their cubs for up to two years.

But leopards also carry deep spiritual meaning.

Leopard Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Leopards

Leopards are symbols of power, strength and confidence, stealth, perception, bravery, and cunning. But leopards also symbolize survival, shapeshifting, authenticity, agility, and self-reliance.

While they may be small compared to other big cats, leopards are capable of dragging a carcass that's three times their body weight... up a tree!

Paired with their incredible hunting prowess, ability to run up to 36 mph, incredible eyesight and hearing, and capacity to exist in a wide range of climates, they are amazing symbols of strength, agility, stealth and perception.

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Leopard Encounters and Omens

Because leopards are extremely solitary creatures, they will go out of their way to avoid visitors to their territory. So, it's unlikely a person would ever encounter wild leopards, unless in a National Park where leopards are part of conservation efforts.

Still, encountering a leopard in some capacity represents an awareness of the senses, as well as a connection to the psychic abilities within. Leopards move in the darkness, with their prey unaware of their presence; just like leopards rely on their senses to hunt, so too should an individual use their own senses to guide them.

Overall, leopards are positive symbols throughout many cultures and countries, and their presence is a good omen.

What Different Types Of Leopards Symbolize

Black Leopard Symbolism

Black leopards, which are also called black panthers, are leopards that are melanistic, meaning they have black pigmentation. (Leopard is a term that describes jaguars, mountain lions, cougars and pumas. These spotted cats belong to the cat Panthera genus.)

Black leopards are symbols of transformation, mystery and revolution; similarly, black panthers are symbols of leadership. Black leopards also represent the need for change, harnessing inner strength, and standing up for personal beliefs.

Snow Leopard Symbolism

Snow leopards are found primarily in Central and South Asia, inhabiting mountains at high altitudes. They are easy to tell apart from leopards due to their skin, which is white or yellow with black rosettes.

Snow leopards are symbols of intuition, karma, courage, spiritual awareness, and a connection between the divine realm and physical world. In many cultures and religions, snow leopards are greatly respected and sacred.

Leopard Symbolism in Dreams

In any dream, it's essential to pay attention to not only the circumstances of the dream, but the overall feeling you have when experiencing the dream. Dreams of leopards vary in their meanings, but these are some of the most common ones.

Dreaming of a leopard attacking you

If a leopard attacks you in your dream, it means you may be too arrogant or confident in regards to the problems you will face in the future. Your attitude is blinding you to reality. Conversely, this dream can also mean that you don't have enough confidence to overcome your troubles.

Dreaming of a leopard chasing you

When you dream of a leopard chasing you, there are multiple meanings associated with it: you may be causing people you know inadvertent harm, you're being manipulated by someone around you, or you need to get in touch with your feminine side.

Dreaming of a caged leopard

Dreaming of a leopard in a cage means you will soon win out over your "enemies," or those you are frequently in opposition to. Be sure to keep doing what you're doing, and you'll find success.

Dreaming of killing a leopard

If you dream about killing a leopard, it means you are succeeding in accomplishing the goals you've set for yourself. Continue working hard and you'll excel at anything you set your mind to.

Dreaming of leopard skin

Though rare, dreaming of leopard skin isn't a good sign; in fact, it indicates that you will soon come into contact with a toxic person who will endanger you. Pay attention to your circumstances in the waking world!

Dreaming of fighting a leopard

Fighting a leopard in your dream mirrors what you're experiencing in the waking world, meaning you are in conflict with someone. It may not be a physical fight, but there are some issues with this person you need to solve.

Dreaming of a baby leopard

If you dream about a baby leopard, it indicates the need to look within and find the strength you've been searching for. Consider seeking answers to the internal questions you've been asking yourself.

Leopard Spirit or Totem Animal

Spirit animals are spirit guides who keep you on the right life path, all while teaching you lessons along the way. Similarly, totem animals are also spirit guides, but are only invoked when in need of assistance.

You can't choose your spirit animal; however, you'll know if a leopard is your spirit animal if you resonate with this big cat in some way or have had a profound experience with one.

Those with a leopard spirit animal are keen on accomplishing their goals, spreading their big ideas with those around them, and thinking before they leap, so to speak. They are unique, strong, confident, independent, and in control of their life.

If you have this spirit animal, leopard teaches you to be considerate of how your actions affect others, how to be confident and powerful in who you are, and learning to trust yourself.

A leopard totem is called upon when you are in need of strength, resilience, and positivity. Having a leopard totem means being able to adapt to your surroundings, owning who you are, and trusting your decision-making and problem-solving skills.

With a leopard totem animal, you rely heavily on your intuition and instincts to guide you, and are resourceful in the way you approach situations. However, those with a leopard totem tend to avoid confrontation.

Photo: David Evans Jr / Shutterstock & unsplash

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Spiritual Meaning of Leopards in Christianity and the Bible

Leopards are mentioned a handful of times in the Bible, often in reference to God's power.

For example, Jeremiah 12:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil." This means nothing can remove a leopard's spots other than God Himself.

Isaiah 11:6: "The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together; and a little child will lead them." This passage describes the Kingdom of Heaven when Christ returns.

Hosea 13:7: "Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them." God is compared first to a lion, and then to a leopard, explaining how He deals with wicked individuals.

Revelation 13:2: "The beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority." The beasts referenced are symbolic of empires rising from the sea, with the dragon being the most powerful: the Roman Empire.

Spiritual Meaning of Leopards in Hinduism

In India, as well as Hinduism, Waghoba is a leopard deity worshiped by Indigenous People of India. Waghoba, along with actual leopards, are said to destroy bad omens in exchange for being treated with respect. Some also believe that once Waghoba tastes human blood, it eats men.

There are temples throughout the country dedicated to Waghoba, and the deity is worshiped by the Warli, Dangis, Bhatra, Bhaina, Kol, Korku, Gond, Velip, Gosain, and Koshti tribes.

Some local myths say that the domestic cat taught the leopard to hunt, while other myths explain that Hindu god Shiva gave leopards a blessing to eat anything they want, and that leopards protect humans walking in the forest, escorting them to safety.

Spiritual Meaning of Leopards in Buddhism

Buddhists believe in abstaining from taking life, which is why many Buddhists are vegan or vegetarian. An exception to this rule is if a Buddhist monk or nun is living in a place with cold weather; only then can they use animal skin to keep themselves warm.

Originally thought to be "snow lions," lions don't actually exist in Nepal, meaning that snow leopards, specifically, are dharma protectors in this area. Snow leopards symbolize divine pride, wisdom, and fearlessness.

Even today, conservation and protection of snow leopards in the Tibetan Plateau is practiced. Some Buddhist monks even patrol areas surrounding monastaries to protect these big cats.

Leopard Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Leopard Symbolism

In Native American culture, leopards symbolize the guidance needed to possess fearlessness and direction as you move through life. Leopards were revered for their prowess in hunting, leading to associations between leopards and the Moon, as these big cats hunt at night.

Additionally, leopards are considered aids to Shamans, since they are intense, aggressive and observant.

African Leopard Symbolism

African cultures both fear and respect leopards, which are symbols of power, courage, wisdom, and determination. In some cultures, men with high social standing wear cloaks made of leopard skin; other cultures wear leopard skin for worship.

While leopards are often portrayed as clever, they are frequently tricked by other animals, particularly in one folktale.

"How the Leopard Got Its Spots"

Long ago, leopards were white, making it difficult for them to hunt animals like Zebra and Giraffe. Living near Leopard was the Ethiopian, who was similarly colored, and hunted with Leopard.

Eventually, the animals moved to a forest, growing stripes, circles, and other patterns. Leopard and the Ethiopian grew hungry and went to the wise baboon, Baviaan, who told them to follow the animals into the forest. Leopard could smell the other animals but not see them.

At night fall, Leopard and Ethiopian caught Giraffe and Zebra based on their scent and sound, and when they asked the animals why they looked different, Giraffe and Zebra revealed they changed their skin color. Giraffe now had golden spots and patterns, while Zebra had stripes!

With this, the Ethiopian changed his skin to black, leaving marks on Leopard's fur with his fingertips, and both of them could now hide, laying in wait for their prey.

Far Eastern Leopard Symbolism

In Japanese culture, the God of Wind is called Fūjin, who wears a Leopard Shinto garb in myths and stories. As one of the eldest Shinto gods, he is depicted as a demon wizard, with green skin and a red head, carrying bags of wind on his shoulders.

In Chinese culture, leopards are symbols of bravery, and are represented in martial arts; leopards are associated with Shaolin traditions, using the "style of the leopard" in practice. Leopards are also symbols of female power, and represent the cycle of day and night, and seasonal changes.

Celtic Leopard Symbolism

In Celtic folklore, leopards are symbols of courage, aggression, and speed, but are also part of Arthurian legend.

Known as the Questing Beast, or the Beast Glatisant (Barking Beast), this creature had the body of a leopard, head and neck of a snake, feet of a hart (deer), and haunches of a lion. Its growl resembles a pack of dogs hunting, and the monster represents destruction and malice.

Ancient Greek Leopard Symbolism

Ancient Greeks associated leopards with Dionysus, the god of wine and food, who rode on a leopard. Some depictions show Dionysus wearing leopard skin and carrying a wand of giant fennel. In one myth, Dionysus was captured by pirates, eventually being rescued by two leopards.

Ancient Egyptian Leopard Symbolism

In Ancient Egypt, cats were loved and revered, but the same applied to big cats like leopards. Black leopards were associated with the god of violence, storms, deserts and disorder, Set.

But leopards were also part of sacrificial rituals, and priests and other clergy wore leopard fur in an attempt to ward off evil spirits. Both Set and Seshat, goddess of knowledge and wisdom, were shown wearing cheetah or leopard fur.

Additionally, leopards are associated with Anubis, the god of death and the Underworld. In one tale, Anubis protects Osiris' body from Set, who attempts to attack Osiris' body by transforming him into a leopard. Anubis stops Set, branding him with a hot iron, flaying him, and wearing his skin to warn those who would desecrate tombs.

Leopard Tattoo Meaning

While there are various reasons someone would want to get a tattoo, a leopard tattoo, specifically, can hold different meanings. For instance, someone might get a panther, leopard or jaguar tattoo if they see themselves as possessing the same symbolic characteristics as these big cats.

A leopard tattoo can tell others that you are strong, heavily rely on your instincts, can easily adapt to any situation, or that you are confident enough to work your way through difficulties and challenges.

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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.