Humankind has a long history of relationship with lions. Since ancient times, lion deities have been revered in mythology and legend. They have also been feared as monsters and strange hybrid creatures that often symbolize humanity’s greatest or worst attributes. From Mesopotamia to medieval Europe, the lion plays an important role in folklore and religion.
In this article we will take a look at the symbolism and spiritual significance of the lion
Spiritual significance of the lion
What do lions symbolize spiritually?
By studying the attributes of this animal, one can easily deduce the spiritual meaning of the Lion. Stealth and the need to balance when to be outspoken and when to be silent.
Lions roar loudly to declare their presence and claim their territory. But they also stalk silently when they need to sneak up on their prey.
Sometimes, it is best to remain silent about their intentions. In this sense, the Lion correlates with the Witch’s pyramid: Know, Want, Dare, and Be Silent.
These principles serve as a reminder that, to be effective as a magical practitioner, you may need to call upon your Lion qualities of boldness, perseverance, and also pursue your goals with discretion.
In a more mundane sense, sometimes it may be best not to advertise your strategy. If you are working on a patent or trying to get a promotion at work, you may want to follow the Lion’s lead and remain silent until your strategy is complete.
The Lion in traditional Tarot representations is an interesting reminder of the special significance of this animal. The Lion represents the Ego and identity, as in the astrological representation of the sign of Leo and Leo’s ruling planet, the Sun.
However, the Lion also appears in various contexts.
In the Strength chart, the Lion is tamed by a Maiden who puts her hand in the Lion’s mouth and calmly subdues the powerful animal. The spiritual meaning of the Lion is thus the balance between strength through emotional power and strength through brute instinct.
In the Two of Cups, the winged Lion’s head represents a powerful and even divine connection or alliance between two people. Perhaps a couple who consider themselves the King and Queen of their life can easily understand the symbolism of the Lion in this card.
In the Wheel of Fortune and the World, the same four animals are used to represent the four corners and the four directions. The Eagle , the Person, the Bull and the Lion. These four animals are associated with the four directions and also with quadruplicity in the Zodiac, thus the signs of Taurus, Scorpio (associated with both the Eagle and the Scorpion), Leo (the Lion) and Aquarius (the Angel/Human/Humanitarian).
These are the four Fixed Signs, and therefore symbolize pillars that are immovable.
In some depictions, each being is winged.
The Lion or winged Lion in these two cards represents one of the four pillars of universal strength and wisdom that serves as a guidepost, either as you wade through the changes in the Wheel of Fortune or as you embrace culmination and transition in the World card.
The Lion as Sphinx appears in the Chariot, a card of stagnation between the past and the present. The Chariot is also a vehicle and, as such, represents the journey or road you are traveling. The Lion/Sphinx represents what pushes you forward and what holds you back, two opposing aspects of yourself that you may need to align.
The Lion represents ties to family and responsibility to the community. As much as the Lion represents ego and individuality, in a spiritual sense, the Lion connotes the individual’s obligation to serve society in some broader way.
Thus, while the symbolism of the Lion relates to kings, queens, emperors and royalty, the Lion also reminds us that power is not only about status and wealth, but also about the sacred obligation to be a protector and steward of resources.
how do you feel guided to protect, help and be a beacon for others?
The Lion’s association with royalty can also relate to the Crown Chakra and the connection between the mundane and spiritual realms.
do you need to speak from a higher philosophical point of view? Do you feel compelled to take initiative and help others find power and success? Do you encourage others because you trust yourself first?
If so, you are working on a spiritual path that is aligned with Lion energy.
Here’s a brief summary of the characteristics associated with the lion
- Inner knowledge
The Lion in Mythology and Folklore
The oldest funerary paintings in Ancient Egypt, at Nekhen, c. 3500 BC, classified as Naqada culture, possibly Gerzeh, include images of lions, including an image of a human (or deity) flanked by two lions in an upright posture. Among the ancient Egyptians, from prehistoric times to well-documented records, the war goddess Sekhmet, a lioness, later depicted as a lion-headed woman, was one of their principal deities. She was a solar deity, as well as a fierce warrior and protector. She was usually assigned important functions in the natural environment. The Egyptians considered this sacred lioness to be responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile, the factor that contributed most to the success of the culture.
Sometimes with regional differences in names, the lioness deity was the patron and protector of the people, the king and the land. As the country united, a mixture of these deities was assigned to Sekhmet.
Other similar regional lioness deities assumed minor roles in the pantheon or, when they were so important in a region, continued local religious observance in their own right, such as Bast. Descendants of these deities also found niches in the expanding pantheon.
During the New Kingdom, the Nubian gods Maahes (god of war and protection and son of Bast) and Dedun (god of incense, and thus of luxury and wealth) were represented as lions. Maahes was absorbed into the Egyptian pantheon and had a temple in the city that the invading Greeks called Leontopolis,“City of Lions,” in the Lower Egyptian delta. His temple was attached to the major temple of his mother, Bast. Dedun was not absorbed into the religion of Ancient Egypt and remained a Nubian deity.
Bast, originally depicted as a lioness and the“eye of Ra” in the delta region, was the parallel deity to Sekhmet in the southern region. Her nature gradually changed after the unification of the country and Sekhmet prevailed throughout. At that time, Bast became the goddess of personal protection, with different responsibilities, and was often depicted as a very tame lioness or a cat. She is shown on the left on an alabaster jar containing precious oils and lotions. It probably bears her name because materials sacred to her used to be stored in it.
The Ancient Egyptian sphinx shows the head and shoulders of a human and the body of a lioness. The statue represents Sekhmet, who was the protector of the pharaohs. Later, pharaohs were depicted as sphinxes, as they were considered descendants of the deity.
Several discoveries of lion bones in Greece, Ukraine and the Balkans have confirmed that lions lived there certainly from the 5th millennium BC to the 6th century BC, while according to written sources they survived until perhaps the 1st or even the 4th century AD, which was previously only a suspicion of some archaeologists. Thus, the great prominence of lions in older Greek figurative art, especially that of Mycenaean Greece from around 1600-1400 BC, reflected the world in which the Greeks lived, rather than being based on stories from further east, as had been thought.
Lionesses often flanked the Gorgon, a vestige of the early Greek protector deity that often appeared atop temples of later times. The western pediment of the temple of Artemis at Corfu is a well-preserved example. The most notable lion in Greek mythology was the lion of Nemea, which Herakles killed with his bare hands and then used its skin as an invulnerable magic cloak.
This lion is also said to be represented by the constellation Leo, and also the sign of the Zodiac. In many cultures, the lion is known as the king of animals, dating back to the Babylonian Talmud and the classical book Physiologus. In his fables, the famous Greek storyteller Aesop used the symbolism of the lion as a symbol of power and strength in The Lion and the Mouse and The Lion’s Share.
Since classical antiquity, a Gaetulian lion in literature is a lion with a fierce reputation. Gaetulia, in ancient geography, was the land of the Gaetuli, a warrior tribe of ancient Libya that appears in Virgil’s Aeneid (19 BC). The lion of Gaetulia appears in Horace’s Odes (23 BC), Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (77 AD), Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana (c. 215), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey through the Cevennes (1879).
In the model of Socrates’ psyche (described by Plato), the bestial and selfish nature of humanity is metaphorically described as a lion, the“leontomorphic principle.”
In the Bible
Several biblical accounts document the presence of lions and the cultural perception of them in ancient Israel. The best known biblical account featuring lions comes from the Book of Daniel (chapter 6), where Daniel is thrown into a den of lions and miraculously survives.
Another lesser-known biblical account is that of Samson, who kills a lion with his bare hands, later sees bees nesting on its carcass, and poses a riddle based on this unusual incident to test the fidelity of his betrothed (Judges 14). The prophet Amos said (Amos, 3:8), “The lion hath roared, who shall not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who shall not prophesy?” i.e., when the gift of prophecy comes to a person, he has no choice but to speak.
The lion is one of the living creatures in the Book of Ezekiel. They were represented in the tetramorph.
In 1 Peter 5:8, the Devil is compared to a roaring lion “seeking whom he may devour”.
In the Christian tradition, the evangelist Mark, author of the second gospel, is symbolized by the lion of St. Mark, a figure of courage and kingship. It also represents the Resurrection of Jesus (because it was believed that lions slept with their eyes open, a comparison with Christ in the tomb), and Christ as king. Some Christian legends refer to St. Mark as“St. Mark the Lionheart.” The legends say that he was thrown to the lions and that the animals refused to attack or eat him. The lions slept at his feet, while he stroked them. Seeing this, the Romans released him, frightened by the spectacle.
The lion is the biblical emblem of the tribe of Judah and, later, of the Kingdom of Judah. It is contained in Jacob’s blessing to his fourth son in the penultimate chapter of the Book of Genesis: “Judah is a lion’s whelp. He crouches, he lies down like a lion, like the king of beasts: who shall dare to rouse him up?” (Genesis 49:9).” (Genesis 49:9).
In the modern State of Israel, the lion remains the symbol of the capital, Jerusalem, and appears on both the flag and the city’s coat of arms.
The common motif of the“majestic and powerful” lion was introduced to China by Buddhist missionaries from India sometime in the 1st century A.D. However, lions themselves are not native to China, although they appear in Chinese art and the Chinese believe that lions protect humans from evil spirits, hence the Chinese New Year lion dance to ward off demons and ghosts. Chinese guardian lions are often used in sculptures in traditional Chinese architecture. For example, in the Forbidden City in Beijing there are two lion statues at almost every entrance gate.
Lions feature prominently in Tibetan culture, with a pair of snow lions on the Tibetan flag. Snow lions are mythical creatures considered protective entities. The Snow Lion symbolizes fearlessness, unconditional joy, the East and the Earth element. It is one of the Four Dignities. It dwells in the mountains and is usually depicted as white with a turquoise mane. Lions (獅子, shishi) figure prominently in many kabuki plays and other forms of traditional Japanese legends and tales.
Neolithic cave paintings of lions at least 30,000 years old were found in the rock shelters of Bhimbetka in central India.
Narasimha ( “lion-man”), also spelled Narasingh, Narasinga, is described as an incarnation (Avatara) of Vishnu in the Puranic texts of Hinduism. He is revered as“Lion God” and considered sacred by all Hindus in India.
Lions are also found in Buddhist symbolism. Pillars erected during the reign of Emperor Ashoka show lions and the chakra emblem. The lions depicted on Ashoka’s lion capital inspired the artists who designed the emblem of India.
Singh is an ancient Indian Vedic name meaning “lion” that dates back more than 2,000 years in ancient India. It was originally used only by the Rajputs, a Hindu kshatriya or military caste in India. After the birth of the Khalsa brotherhood in 1699, the Sikhs also adopted the name“Singh” at the wish of Guru Gobind Singh. Along with millions of Hindu Rajputs and numerous other Hindu martial groups today, it is also used by more than 20 million Sikhs worldwide.
The appellation “Singh” was used by the Rajputs before it was adopted by the Sikhs in 1699. Therefore, all “Singhs” in Indian history prior to 1699 are Hindus and primarily Rajputs. The lion also appears as the bearer or vehicle of Durga, the Hindu goddess of war, revered in and around the Bengal region.
The lion is symbolic for the Sinhalese, Sri Lanka’s ethnic majority; the term derives from Sinhala Indo-Aryan, meaning “lion people” or “people with lion’s blood,” while a lion with sword is the central figure of Sri Lanka’s modern national flag. The entrance to Sigiriya, the Lion Rock of Sri Lanka, was through the Lion Gate, the mouth of a stone lion. The lion’s paws is one of Sri Lanka’s seven World Heritage Sites
The Lion as Totem and Spirit Animal
If the Lion Spirit Animal makes you aware of its presence, the majestic Cat introduces you to its uncommon strength and vitality. The Lion often appears to a person who needs to reclaim their space and resume a leadership role in life. The same Spirit Animal finds courageous and outspoken people with leadership potential attractive.
The Lioness, as a Spirit Animal, likes people who care for and protect the weak. The Lioness teaches her cubs everything they need to know to stand up for themselves without ever leaving them vulnerable. The female Lion offers teachings on how to care for her pride and get her family members to cooperate with each other.
With a Lion Animal Spirit by your side, your personality is a magnet for others, and people often want to emulate that special something you have. Spiritual leaders who have a Lion Spirit Guide are firm in their convictions.
If the Lion is your totem animal, you face challenges fearlessly. You are cunning and have the strength to outmaneuver the competition, no matter what. Although a bit wild, if you have the heart of a Lion, you possess the uncanny ability to remain still and silent; your facility for stillness and silence makes you a natural for meditation and trance work.
Lions make the best leaders. They are adept at dealing with uncooperative groups.
What does it mean to dream of a lion?
What does a Lion represent when this majestic animal appears in your dreams?
To see a Lion sitting in a dream may portend an upcoming change in your role as a leader or teacher. When this occurs, the Lion reminds you to follow its lesson to lead with dignity. Such positions involve the trust of others, so it’s time to trust yourself.
An aggressive Lion in dreams represents personal anger and offense bubbling under its veneer of calm. Or it may signify verbal aggression coming from another person. It is a real threat with malicious intent. Try to keep a low profile or go to someone who can help protect you.
A lion biting you in your dream could be a warning from your spirit animal and mean that you are feeling overwhelmed in your waking life. The source of the worries could be in feelings you or another person may have or a particularly difficult situation. The image of the lion bite is a strong call for you to examine what is going on in your life that you might feel is threatening or dangerous before it actually “bites” you.
Another interpretation of this lion dream is for you to ask yourself what is dominating your life these days and see if you can bring more balance.