Animal Symbolism in the West
Western astrology also makes use of symbolic animals. Aries has the ram, Taurus the bull, Cancer the crab, Leo the lion, Scorpio the scorpion, Capricorn the goat, and Pisces has two fish swimming in opposite directions. These animals date back to Babylonian times.
Mythology is full of animal references. In Greek mythology, Zeus was able to change his shape into that of a swan, and even a bull, when he approached a young woman he desired. In Germanic mythology, the goddess Freya had a sacred cat. Wotan had his sacred boar, horse, and raven.
Symbolic animals also appear in the Bible. In the Revelation of St. John the Divine (Revelation 4:6-8), we read:
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a Hon, and the second beast Hke a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was Hke a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were fuU of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
These four beasts from the Bible can be related directly with the four heraldic animals that we have already met: the snake, tiger, phoenix, and dragon.These animals symbolize the Four Heavenly Kings. Taoists beheve that these kings control the four spheres of heaven.
Animals have also been used to symbohze people in the Christian tradition. Depictions of eagles, lions, and oxen can be found in many old churches. The lion symbolizes Mark, the ox Luke, and the eagle John. (Matthew is depicted as a man or an angel.) Christ, of course, is usually symbolized as the Lamb of God. However, he is also symbolized as a fish, lion, pelican, unicorn, and as a serpent on the cross.In Christian art the Holy Spirit is frequently represented as a dove. Satan is symbolized by the dragon, serpent, and swine.
Many of the Christian saints are symbolized by animals: Bear: St. Columba
Boar: St. Emilion Bull: St. Adolphus Calf: St. Walstan Camel: St. Aphrodisius Cow: St. Berlinda Crocodile: St. Helenus Crow: St. Vincent Deer: St. Henry Dog: St. Benignus, St. Bernard Dolphin: St. Adrian Donkey: St. Anthony of Padua Dove: St. Ambrose, St. Basil, St. Catherine of Sienna Eagle: St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. John the Evangelist Falcon or Hawk: St. Bavo, St. Edward Fish: St. Andrew, St. Raphael, St. Simon Frog: St. Huvas Goose: St. Martin Hare: St. Albert of Sienna Hen: St. Pharaildis Horse: St. Barochas, St. Irene, St. Severus of Avranches Leopard: St. Marciana Lion: St. Adrian, St. Ignatius, St. Jerome, St. Mark Ox: St. Blandina, St. Luke Pig: St. Anthony of Egypt Rat: St. Gertrude of Nivelles Raven: St. Benedict Rooster: St. Peter Serpent: St. Cecilia, The Virgin Mary, St. Patrick Sparrow: St. Dominic Swan: St. Cuthbert, St. Kentigern Wolf: St. Blaise
In the Greek and Roman traditions, various animals were considered sacred to particular deities: Asclepius: serpent Apollo: wolf, gryphon, and crow Bacchus: dragon and panther Diana: stag Hercules: deer Isis: heifer Juno: peacock and lamb Jupiter: eagle Mars: horse and vulture Mercury: rooster Minerva: owl Neptune: bull Venus: dove, sparrow, and swan Vulcan: lion
In the Egyptian tradition, three of Horus's sons are shown as animals. Prehistoric people painted animal pictures on the walls of caves in Africa, France, Scandinavia, and Spain. Some of these were used for sympathetic-magic purposes; in some caves, the animals have been deliberately pitted to indicate a symbolic slaughter. Other animals are depicted mating, showing that these pictures were used in fertility magic.