TATTOO DESIGNS & SYMBOLS - BEAR TATTOOS
Tattoo designs - B >> Bears
Bear Tattoo Meanings - The bear is an extremely popular symbol in many cultures around the world, appearing in European, North American and Asian myths and legends. This is due not only to the wide range of the bear, but also because of the unique characteristics of the animal. Bears, omnivores like ourselves, occupied the same ecological niche as humans, foraging for roots, nuts and berries, honey, grasses and birds' eggs and hunting fish, and game, both small and large. When bears competed for shelter in caves and overhangs, it must have been difficult for early man not to be struck with the similarities we had to bears. When threatened or aggressive, the bear even stood up on its hind legs like a man.
The bear is a powerful animal totem, or spirit in shamanistic and animist belief systems. Bears in dreams were thought to be spirit guides. Bear claws and bear teeth are frequently used as amulets, talismans and decoration, all in an effort to evoke the powers of the bear for the wearer. Bear tattoo designs serve a similar function.
Famous for hibernating, the bear has gained status as a creature that gains wisdom through its winter-long incubation. Shamanic people in both Europe and America took the bear as a symbol of 'awakening the power of the unconscious'. Strong, swift, quiet and extremely protective of family, the bear has become a symbol of maternal protection.
As a powerful animal totem (or spirit) in shamanistic belief systems, the bear acts as protector and source of wisdom and inspiration. Bears in dreams were thought to be spirit guides.
For the Celt, the bear was the great warrior. Legends tell of two goddesses who shape-shifted into bears, and of the association of the male bear with King Arthur. Like the Native Americans, ancient Celts considered the bear as a symbol of intuition and instinct, standing for primal power. Other qualities that the bear projects are strength in the face of adversity, bravery, solitude, and attention to the practical side of life.
Some early peoples believed the bear was a human clad in bearskin. Others believed that it understood human speech. Bear cults in some polar regions projected supernatural status onto their favourite beast. A North Korean myth tells of the bear being granted a wish to be human if it could avoid sunlight for a hundred days. The indigenous people of Japan - the Ainu - have a myth about descending from the polar bear.
In European heraldry, bears symbolize integrity of character, strength and bravery and are often in the arms of names that sound somewhat like the animal itself, such as Baring and Barnes. The bear is often muzzled in heraldic designs, symbolizing great power under control, but not always. Bears' paws, with claws prominently displayed, are often found as crests or symbols on shields.
See also: Animal Tattoos Index
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Tattoo designs - B >> Bears
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