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Exploring Lion Symbolism
Lion symbolism embodies qualities of courage, strength, and authority, with roots in ancient history and mythology. It’s a paradoxical symbol, signifying both admirable attributes and the dangers of unchecked pride and dominance. When a lion attacks in a dream, it symbolizes a call to embrace lion-associated qualities like courage, strength, and authority. It may also represent inner conflicts, challenges in life, or the need to harness latent strengths. The dream encourages personal growth and integrating powerful qualities into your conscious life.
Before delving into lion symbolism and its significance in lion dreams, take a moment to contemplate the image of this magnificent creature. Try to connect with the sheer power embodied by the lion. Write down anything that comes to you. This initial step is crucial whenever you work with dream images.
The lion holds the prestigious title of the mighty and regal ruler of the animal kingdom, and his sunlike mane designates him as a solar symbol of immense brilliance.
Like all solar images, the lion symbolizes the light of consciousness and the ability to overcome the darkness of unconsciousness. Much in the same vein, the lion also symbolizes resurrection, as we will see in the section on Egyptian mythology.
All of these symbolic associations with the lion should come to mind anytime you have lion dreams. Do you need these lion qualities in your life, or are you too much possessed by them?”
Lion Symbolism Overview
Biology of Lion Symbolism
It is always interesting to know about the nature of animals. Whenever animals appear in dreams, read Brehm! Our forebears knew even more about the life of animals.
C.G. Jung, Seminar in Children’s Dreams
Jung refers to Brehm’s Life of Animals because when animals appear in dreams, we should know something about its biology. As Jung suggests, our forebears had a richer comprehension of animal nature than we do today due to their close and personal interactions with animals. The human psyche retains dynamic imprints of our early encounters with animal life, and these experiences can resurface in our dreams
The King of Beasts
Lions are often referred to as ‘Great Cats’ due to their majestic and predatory qualities. When a lion makes a decision, it exhibits pure goal-oriented determination, akin to a directed line of fire. These skilled stalkers and expert ambush artists effectively subdue prey with a single pounce and a swift neck bite.
In an attack, a lion charges directly towards its target, relying on its well-defined muscles for the raw strength needed for the takedown. Unlike other big cats, the lion’s reputation doesn’t rely on swiftness alone but rather on the combination of raw strength and graceful agility.
Lion Symbolism History
Lion symbolism has a rich history dating back approximately 35,000 years to paleolithic cave paintings. These caves were known as sacred places of initiation. As the King of Beasts, the lion symbolizes powerful instinctual energy and so he frequently serves as a representation of strength and authority. You can find his symbolic presence in heraldry, like the British lion and the Lion of Judah.
The Sunlion is a symbol often associated with royalty and conquerors, much like the Solar Eagle. This symbolism also carries over to spiritual figures such as the Buddha. The intricate representation of the sun-lion has stood the test of time.
While the artists of ancient cave paintings may not have been enlightened in the traditional sense, their wisdom still radiates through their work. Art found in locations like Altamira, Lascaux, and others reveals a profound comprehension of the world and the influence of the solar eye that molds it.
The Rosicrucian conception of overcoming the lion is that of overcoming the instincts. In alchemical tracts there are descriptions of how the lion’s paws are chopped off.
Lion Symbolism, Sun, and Consciousness
As a solar image, the lion represents the light of consciousness, which also brings it into association with the color gold. The constellation Leo, linked to the high heat of summer, symbolizes the intensity of desire. This connection between the lion, gold, and the sun can be observed in deities like Mithras and Apollo.
The Paradox of Lion Symbolism
However, excessive pride and unwavering self-assurance can transform it into a symbol of the domineering father. Remember from our posts on dreams about the father, he can sometimes be the authoritarian master, or the power-drunk monarch who becomes a tyrant in the belief that they are the ultimate guardian. The lion, therefore, stands as a paradox, being both admirable and insufferable, with aspects of its symbolism oscillating between these two extremes.
For Jung, the lion symbolized not only latent passions, but also the danger of being consumed by the unconscious. The unconscious consumes the ego in the form of wild fantasies, uncontrollable moods, or obsessive thinking. In the realm of alchemy, the Green Lion devours the sun, a metaphor for how the elusive and mercurial energies of the primal psyche can overpower even the intense heat of reason, plunging the mind into unsettling depths and shadows.
Lion Symbolism in Mythology
According to Greek mythology, the Nemean Lion was a fearsome and invulnerable creature with a hide that could not be pierced by mortal weapons. Hercules (Heracles in Greek) defeated this lion as one of his Twelve Labors. After a fierce battle, Hercules managed to strangle the lion with his bare hands.
The connection between Apollo and the Nemean Lion is based on the idea that Apollo used the lion’s invulnerable skin as a cloak or shield, known as an “aegis.” This lion’s skin symbolized Apollo’s divine protection and invincibility, emphasizing his role as a god associated with safeguarding and healing.
Apollo’s spiritual and symbolic importance aligns closely with that of the sun. The radiant golden locks adorning the deity’s head hold the same significance as the bow and arrow, symbolizing sunrays. Notably, the Greek name for Apollo is Apollon, signifying “from the depths of the lion,” highlighting the connection between the sun and the fifth Zodiac sign, Leo.
Gods, Goddesses and Their Lion Attributes
In ancient Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet, depicted as a lioness or a woman with a lioness head, embodied power, destruction, and healing. She protected the sun god Ra from threats and also had the ability to cure diseases.
In Greek mythology, the Nemean Lion, known for its invulnerability, was defeated by Hercules. Apollo, often associated with the lion’s skin, symbolized protection and healing. Apollo’s significance in Greek mythology closely aligns with the sun. His golden hair represents sunrays, and his name, Apollon, ties him to the fifth Zodiac sign, Leo.
The Lion, Strength, and the Tarot Card
Working with tarot cards can provide a good base for amplifying dream symbolism. For example, the verse on Strength/Fortitude given to us by John Opsopaus on the Pythagorean Tarot Website goes as follows:
With gentle hand and eye she charms the beast
And teaches him the time to speak. Released
From fear of one another, freedom grows
For each, a bond that blossoms like the rose.
It’s love, not force or fear, that tames the beast!
The tarot card Strength often features a lion prominently. For instance, in the Mythic Tarot deck, the card portrays Heracles overcoming the Nemean lion. Similarly, in the Pythagorean Tarot, the card depicts a woman holding a lion’s open mouth, though her intention to either open it further or close it remains ambiguous.
The key theme here appears to be the act of overcoming the lion using one’s bare hands. This symbolizes the power of inner strength and control over one’s primal instincts.
Taming the Lion
The Pythagorean Tarot, presents us with a similar image but with a notable difference – a sword lies on the ground. This sword symbolizes the rational principle of consciousness. The unused sword indicates that it’s not a tool to be used in overcoming the strength of the lion.
When considering the tarot imagery, there appear to be two distinct approaches to conquering the lion symbolically. One approach is masculine, exemplified by Heracles overcoming the lion with sheer brute force using his bare hands. The other approach is feminine, involving taming the lion through love and patience, as seen in the image with the woman and the lion’s open mouth.
Different challenges in our lives may demand different approaches, and acquiring the wisdom to discern when to employ one approach over the other is essential. These symbolic lions represent inner forces that emerge from the unconscious and can overwhelm the ego, manifesting as moods, obsessive thoughts, or impulsive behaviors.
Nietzsche and Lion Symbolism
In Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra,’ the lion symbolizes an individual’s ‘will to power.’ This concept suggests that people should assert their own values and desires rather than conforming to societal norms. The lion appears in one of Zarathustra’s speeches, where he encounters a group of people who are content with conventional beliefs and values. Zarathustra encourages them to break free from their complacency and embrace the idea of the ‘will to power.’
In this context, the lion metaphorically represents the personal growth and transformation individuals must undergo as they transition to authentic adulthood. It signifies an individual’s ability to assert their own will, reject conventional beliefs and values (‘thou shalt’), and embrace their own desires and values (‘I will’).
“Therefore, my brethren, there is need of the lion.” Jung points out that we need royal courage and the royal character of a lion, to be able to say nay! to one’s duty, for it means to be courageous enough to do something which is against order and against the law.
As Jung said in his Zarathustra Seminars,
Of course, he does not mean a sort of arbitrary, meaningless wishing or willing: he means a will or a decision which includes responsibility. You know, Nietzsche was not a mean mind or an absolute fool. He was a highly gifted man…his morality is a thousand times sharper than the traditional morality of the pulpit. So “thou-shalt” is a sort of prison where people hold to a certain rule … There is no morality, no moral decision, without freedom. There is only morality when you can choose, and you cannot choose if you are forced.
When analyzing lion dreams, take into account everything we have just covered and then apply those amplifications to our conscious situation. I have received many lion dreams from people in which a lion enters the home, but does not attack. So, let’s start there. In dreams our home symbolizes our entire life situation. These dreams provide insights into your inner psyche, reflecting your emotional and mental state. This inner state significantly impacts various aspects of your existence, including your perception of the world, your interactions with others, and your self-perception. Dream houses also shed light on your conscious outlook on life, pinpointing areas where your conscious perspective may fall short.
So, what does it mean when a lion penetrates your psychic atmosphere? For example, a man shared a dream about a black lion coming into his home, but not hurting anyone. A dream featuring a black lion, a creature that doesn’t exist in reality, adds a captivating layer to its symbolism. Here, the black lion can be seen as a profound symbol of unconscious aspects connected to the lion’s symbolism.
Here’s an example way to work on an interpretation:
- Unconscious Power: The black lion’s color, absent in the real world, underscores this dream is delving into the depths of the unconscious. This could signify concealed or suppressed wellsprings of power, primal instincts, or qualities that align with lion symbolism.
- Hidden Strengths: As the black lion is a fantastical sight, the dream may be unveiling latent strengths or attributes within him that haven’t fully acknowledged or integrated into his conscious life. These strengths could be closely tied to the symbolism of courage, determination, and authority often associated with lions.
- Integration: The appearance of the black lion in the dream hints at an opportunity to delve deeper and assimilate these unconscious aspects into your conscious self. It extends an invitation to embrace and harness these concealed qualities, which have the potential to be a source of personal growth and empowerment.
- Confronting the Shadow: Drawing from psychology, the concept of the “shadow” represents the concealed and often less-accepted facets of our personality. The presence of the black lion could symbolize a call for shadow work. This is a process where you confront and reconcile with elements of yourself that you’ve relegated to the depths of your unconscious.
- Facing the Unknown: Given that a black lion is imaginary, it might also signify a journey into uncharted territory within your inner world. This dream encourages you to boldly confront the unknown aspects of yourself, armed with curiosity and courage.
Lions Dreams: When Lions Enter the Home
In the dream, the lion serves as a powerful symbol, representing aspects such as power, consciousness, and primal instincts. Again, the home symbolizes the entire life situation, encompassing the emotional and mental state. Here are some interpretations to contemplate:
- Intrusion of Power:
The lion’s entrance into the dream home may symbolize the intrusion of potent and primal forces into the personal life situation. This intrusion could be related to a particular situation or an aspect that appears dominant or overwhelming. It prompts reflection on how to handle power dynamics and assertiveness in the waking world.
- Inner Conflict:
The dream could reflect an inner conflict between the conscious self, symbolized by the home, and unconscious desires or instincts, embodied by the lion. This inner struggle may revolve around asserting one’s own power and desires, raising questions about self-control and personal boundaries.
- Balance and Control:
The dream could be offering a reminder about the importance of finding equilibrium. It suggests striking a balance between harnessing the power symbolized by the lion and maintaining control over it. This balance encourages integration of inner strength and instincts into conscious life rather than suppressing or disregarding them.
- Emotional and Mental Impact:
Considering that the home reflects the emotional and mental state within the dream, the presence of the lion hints at the influence of potent emotions or thoughts that are currently impacting the dreamer on a profound level. This dream provides an opportunity for introspection and a deeper understanding of these emotions, offering insights into their origins and significance.
- Conscious Outlook:
The dream may be directing attention to areas in the conscious life where the perspective or outlook may be lacking. It encourages addressing and confronting these issues directly, prompting self-reflection and potential personal growth.
Want to learn more about working with dreams or Jungian Psychology?
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