Elephant Symbolism & Meaning
Elephant symbolism and meaning is filled with mystical lore and power. These intelligent beings inspire the imagination.
Do you have a long, hard journey in front of you and need strength to make it through? Are you taking care of friends or family during tough times and need support? Elephant, as a Spirit, Totem, and Power Animal, can help! Elephant teaches how to nourish the mind, body, and spirit, so you are strong during trying times. Delve deeply in Elephant symbolism and meaning to find out how this Animal Spirit Guide can support, guide, and strengthen you.
Elephant Table of Contents
- Elephant Symbolism & Meaning
- Elephant Spirit Animal
- Elephant Totem Animal
- Elephant Power Animal
- Elephant Native American Symbolism
- Elephant Christianity Symbolism
- Elephant African Symbolism
- Celtic Elephant Symbolism
- Elephant Dreams
- Far Eastern Elephant Symbolic Meanings
- Elephant Tattoo Meaning
- Elephant Spiritual Meaning
- Back to all Mammals
- Back to all Spirit Animal Meanings
Elephant Symbolism & Meaning
What do Elephants symbolize?
Elephant, the ever gentle and wise Spirit animal, exemplifies focused Power and strength. When Elephant begins making an appearance in your life it represents a new, improved relationship with the Sacred Feminine in all Her aspects. Shamans and Lightworkers tell us that Elephant guides us toward a deeper understanding of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone and helps us reconnect with our own positive feminine attributes.
Like the Goddess, Elephant has an intense focus on family, including past and future generations. Indeed Elephant’s mantra could well be “family first.” Elephant challenges you to protect the young and weak of your tribe, while also recognizing the amazing extended family unit and how Powerful love and loyalty become when shared. Note, however, that Elephant intuitively knows that not all “family” is bound by blood.
Sometimes people come into our lives that hold that sacrosanct role energetically. Be on the lookout for a new relationship that often lasts for life and sometimes many incarnations.
Elephant loves seekers and students and often comes at a time when you’re focused on those types of goals in your life, mundanely or metaphysically.
In Denmark, there is a religious group called the Order of the Elephant. In this setting Elephant symbolizes piety, gentleness, and temperance. Meanwhile, in Sicily Elephant Spirit has ties with sorcery and magic. Legend has it that a powerful mage by the name of Heliodorus could transform himself into this grand creature. Africans also venerated the Elephant, honoring as representing cooperation, mental keenness, long life, endurance, and devotion. Think about these additional associations when walking with Elephant. She may bear more than one message for you.
As an interesting note in Elephant’s history, Pliny the Elder spoke of this creature as being the one who most closely mirrored human sensibility.
African lore says that Elephants are actually the Chieftains of the forest, having been reincarnated from ancient human chiefs. Their role is settling disputes among the native creatures. After all, who is going to argue with them? Other local symbolism includes joy, luck, leadership, fortitude and poise.
Elephant Spirit Animal
What does Elephant represent as a Spirit Animal?
When the Elephant comes to you as a Spirit Animal and Guide, the message is typically one of connectedness. Have you lost intimacy with those in your home? Have you been lax in keeping in touch with family? Have you meditated and stretched your empathic/telepathic skills so you are attuned to your tribe on the deepest levels of your “be-ing”? These are the questions that Elephant puts forward.
In times of drought, so selfless is a mother Elephant, she will cool her calf with water regurgitated from her own stomach. Are you being called to examine your commitment to family?
Those struggling with sexual issues may find that Elephant appears as a helpmate for transformation. Elephant expands your awareness of all your senses (and sensuality). This lesson begins with a cornerstone of sincere affection and grows from that point of trust and compassion.
Another reason Elephant may choose to become your Animal Spirit Guide is if you’ve embarked on a mental exercise like research or a career in the sciences. Elephant Spirit finds itself attracted to a keen mind and wit and enjoys working cooperatively for intellectual goals.
Elephant Totem Animal
What do Elephants symbolize as a Totem Animal?
Those born with an Elephant Totem become naturally responsible and accountable even when they are young. You will find yourself drawn to caring for the elders of your tribe as well as the children, particularly if something stirs your defenses into high gear.
When one member of an Elephant herd is injured, the others will risk their own lives to get their fallen comrade to safety. If you’ve chosen Elephant as your Totem Animal, this mighty animal’s sense of duty can help you, and those you are loyal to, survive.
When you have an Elephant Totem being social is essential to your well-being. Connectedness is in your nature, not just toward people but also in the animal kingdom. Note that this is not the proverbial “butterfly” type of social interaction. Elephant is sensitive, determined, and loyal to the circle they gather.
One of the great gifts from your Elephant Totem is the ability to plow through challenges and blockage using those huge tusks. It’s interesting that Elephants not only use tusks to move through the brush but also for digging up food. You are, like your Totem, a natural provider who uses confidence, persistence, and commitment as tools for “bread-winning,” including feeding the Spiritual nature.
Elephant Power Animal
What does Elephant represent as a Power Animal?
There are numerous situations under which you may want to reach out to Elephant as a Power animal. One is when you have strife and squabbles in the family. Elephant provides you with the empathy necessary to see all sides and build a harmonious bridge.
Another good application for Elephant energy is to aid you in tracing your heritage. In this world, your family tree and the Ancestors are part of what creates your reality and tribal dynamics. In the Spiritual world, your past lives have lessons that may resolve current questions, struggles, or provide guidance on decisions. Let Elephant help you along those paths.
Finally, invoke Elephant as your Power Animal when you need help calling forth ancient wisdom and messages from the Divine. Because of their size and grey color, Elephants have long been likened to clouds. Elephant energy can help you discover the secrets and esoteric knowledge hidden in those heavenly mists.
To some, Elephant as a Power Animal can be the patient, loving, driving force that leads others back on track. This is because Elephant is said in some folklore, to help others navigate through the forest and find their way.
How are you being led through a confusing tangle of decisions? Elephant may be trying to help you find your way.
In some cultures, Elephant can also symbolize libido and virility. You may be led to pay attention to your strength, stamina and even your prolific creativity.
Elephant Native American Symbolism
What does an Elephant symbolize in Native American cultures?
Remember, Elephants are not native to North America. So instead of deriving a direct meaning in this culture, we can instead look to a similar creature the Wooly Mammoth and a mythical creature that seems to resemble the Mammoth in some ways.
Native American lore surrounding Mammoth is complicated. Many tribes had legends of a “Stiff Legged Giant Bear” who is sometimes associated with Mammoth and therefore Elephant universal symbolism.
When Southeastern American tribes first saw African Elephants, their initial reaction was to use the same term used to describe the Stiff Legged Giant Bear.
According to lore, Stiff Legged Giant Bear was carnivorous and actually ate people. This is where the connection to Elephant is less clear as Elephant is a vegetarian and certainly doesn’t eat people. Also, by some accounts, the mythical creature from Native lore did not have a trunk, but had an otherwise similar appearance and gait to Mammoth/Elephant.
This creature was called by several different names including Stiff Leg, Giant Bear, Man Eater, Hairless Bear and Naked Bear.
Some of the stories about this creature include the stories of encounters between Stiff Leg/Big Bear and Rabbit. In these tails, Rabbit uses their wit and trickster energy to divert Big Bear and spare the lives of villagers.
While there are some parallels between Mammoth/Elephant and these references to Stiff Leg, it is unclear if Native people actually were describing the symbolism associated with Mammoth or if they were using stories based on remnants of Mammoth found much later, or drawing on collective Ancestral memories. Some associate Mammoth with connection to Ancestral wisdom and the past as well.
When you work with Elephant or Mammoth, you may be tapping into ancient forces or being called to heal wounds or losses from the past. You may be connecting to Ancestral archetypes and have to heal epigenetic traumas and wounds.
Just as Mammoth’s extinction predated many Native civilizations, you may be called to contend with losses or traumas experienced by previous generations. What wisdom can you tap into by drawing on collective and Ancestral memories?
According to some, parts of a Mammoth’s remains were associated with strength and fertility. As language and cultures evolved and knowledge of Elephants crossed the ocean, a plant that came to be known as “Elephant’s Ear” was also used as a medicinal tea by Cheyenne people.
Elephant Christianity Symbolism
What does an Elephant symbolize in Christian art or stories?
Elephant symbolism and meaning in Christianity is associated with patience, wisdom, grace and temperance. Chastity and purity are also related to Elephant Spirit Animal in the Christian religion.
As they are gentle giants, Elephants can symbolize the mercy and strength embodied by Christ and Christ-like personality. Though Elephant is large enough to do a great deal of damage, they aren’t overtly destructive. They are not violent toward other creatures and in spite of their size and strength they have the power to be helpful and compassionate.
They are associated with wisdom and intelligence and their strength is associated with the power of prayer and faith in God. In some stories, it is said that Elephant overindulged during the journey on Noah’s Ark, resulting in their large size.
The popular children’s story of the Elephant and the Mouse is also related to the story from Israeli folklore. In this story, the Elephants wouldn’t move and in remaining stubbornly stuck before boarding the Ark, were holding up all the other animals. Noah prayed for guidance and was given a dream, God instructed Noah to tickle the Hyena, which led to a chain of events resulting in a mouse emerging from hiding. The sight of the Mouse startled Elephant and led them to rush forward, breaking up the gridlock.
Though this story is humorous and pokes fun at Elephant for being scared of a tiny Mouse, the deeper spiritual implication of the story is that even the largest and most intimidating appearance doesn’t make one invincible.
We all have our fears but fears can also motivate us to take action. Also, this is a reminder that “pushing” others forward doesn’t require violence or intimidation. We can lead others to make momentum by finding the right motivation to stimulate action.
Elephant is often called on as a representation of anything large, vast and enormous- a challenge or a blessing. As such Elephant can also be symbolically connected to God/the Universe.
You may step back and appreciate the large scope of a situation in order to grasp the vastness of your connection to all creation including the Divine.
Elephant African Symbolism
What does an Elephant symbolize in African cultures?
African cultures are not monolithic, however we can derive some common symbolism related to Elephant. Elephant is often portrayed as an influential animal, often with the status of King or Queen because of their size. Yet they are also associated with being mediators, helping other Animals sort out their differences.
Their association with nobility, power and wealth contributes to Elephant’s connection to victory in war. Though Elephant is not violent, their association with war is not as aggressors but as a symbol of victory.
The size and long lifespan of an Elephant give this creature a symbolic association with strength and vitality. Elephants are also associated with wisdom, intelligence, triumph, and also cooperation and collaboration.
Elephant serves as a reminder that you can be big, strong and intimidating, but your true power can come from acting with gentleness and not using your full force just because you can.
To the Ashanti people, Elephants were thought of as reincarnations of the Souls of Ancestors, especially powerful Ancestral leaders. Thus the symbolism of grace, power and nobility and Elephants is seen in this culture.
In cultures such as the Yoruba, it is common for people to speak metaphorically about domestic and wild animals, assigning the attributes associated with the specific animal to themselves or other people. To refer to someone as having a connection to Elephant (or even to part of Elephant such as the Tusk) is to draw a connection between that individual and the prosperity, strength or wisdom associated with Elephant.
The Akan people of Ghana have a story of Nyame, the Sky God who created the World from nothingness. He then created Elephant, Leopard and Monkey. In this tradition, it is believed that these three animals fused their power together to create life on Earth.
Another tale tells of an old man who sought charity from Ivonya-Ngia, who gave him food that turned his wife to an Elephant. She then went to live in the forest with her son, also an Elephant. This story is considered the origin myth of this amazing creature and how, appearance aside, they can be so human like in feeling and intelligence.
As in many other cultures, it was also believed that shapeshifting between human and Elephant form is possible. This is symbolic of humans adopting the strength, wisdom, memory and compassion of Elephant and Elephant interacting with humanity as a guide and leader.
Elephant Celtic Symbolism
There is very little in Celtic writings about the Elephant save for a battle in which Antiochus I of Seleucis used Elephants in battle (275 BCE). This, understandably, shocked the Celts who were unfamiliar with the creature. This historical tidbit gives Elephant the symbolism of unanticipated surprise (and it’s a BIG one).
When Elephant visits your dreams, it often portends overcoming an obstacle, particularly in relationships. You may also have to move into a new role of responsibility in your family.
Elephant meaning in dreams can range depending on your cultural association with this majestic animal. Elephants can symbolize strength and virility. In many cultures, Elephant meaning is associated with luck and manifestation, clearing obstacles and achieving success.
What does an Elephant symbolize in dreams across cultures?
Everything from good luck to overcoming hardship to the death of a leader, depending on the specific cultural group. In some Hebrew cultures, dreaming of an Elephant with a saddle was considered a good omen that something positive is about to happen. Carl Jung thought the Elephant, in dreams, was a symbol of the Self.
Learn more about Elephant Spirit by reading Elephant Dream Meaning on WhatIsMySpiritAnimal.com!
Far Eastern Elephant Symbolic Meanings
What do Elephants symbolize in the cultures of the east?
Elephant meaning and symbolism is significant in China, India and Japan. The lore and myths surrounding Elephant give these animals great spiritual and cultural importance.
Elephant features heavily in Far Eastern symbolism, with the most striking meanings being those found in religion. Elephant mingles with various Divine figures, and the world itself is supported by Elephants who reside at each of the four directions.
In Japan, Elephants are depicted in art and story as of the 16th century. In Shinto art, Elephants are often portrayed with animals like Leopards or even dragons. A mythical figure called the Makara has the head of an Elephant and the lower body of a dolphin or fish. To some, this is associated with the symbol for the Astrological sign of Capricorn, or the creature that is part goat and part fish.
Their association with water can also symbolically convey a link between the qualities of the water element, such as family, emotion, nurturing and compassion, and the Elephant. In Japan they are associated with protection from fire because of the link between Elephant and water.
Elephant is also thought to be associated with rain because of this connection to Water.
In China, the association with nobility and Elephant can also be found. Statues of Elephants could be found marking the path to the palace of the Ming Emperors. These statues were considered to be associated with fertility and women who wanted help becoming fertile would place stones on the backs of the statues as a ritual to encourage fertility.
Elephant is a sacred animal in many cultures and is significant to Buddha. According to lore, Maya, the mother of Buddha, dreamt of a White Elephant prior to Buddha’s birth.
Consider Ganesh, perhaps the most popular deity in Hindu mythology. Ganesh appears with the head of an Elephant, and when paired with Lakshmi the couple becomes the “openers of the way.” This “way” can be anything from getting a job to personal transformation. Ganesh himself is a god of good fortune, blessing (especially for inceptions), long-lived success, and protection.
When you need to draw on the power of Elephant to overcome obstacles and clear your path, a common practice is to speak the name of Ganesha, the Elephant-Headed God of prosperity and opportunities. Repeat the name like a mantra, one hundred and eight times. Ganesha is considered a protector and provider for those who are disenfranchised or in need.
Tales of Ancient Indian culture describes the use of Elephants as “vehicles” for warriors riding into battle. It is also said that Elephants were seen as omens of luck before battle. An Elephant raising his trunk was considered a good omen. Elephants running away or scattering was considered bad luck.
It was also believed that an Elephant showing signs of illness such as vomiting blood, would be a bad omen for illness or death of a King or leader.
In Japan, a reincarnation of Shakyamuni, or Buddha, is a White Elephant with red eyes.
Creatures found in Japanese culture known as Baku are depicted as having the head of an Elephant and body of a Lion. These mythical creatures are known as “Dream Eaters.” They are said to “eat” nightmares and therefore are associated with protecting you while you are asleep.
In Hindu mythology, the Achdequedjam are eight giant Elephants who hold up the Earth like pillars. In Burmese lore, there are tales of a tiny “Water Elephant” with tusks. Elephants can be found in the art and stories of cultures throughout the East.
Usually the shared meanings associated with these animals include wisdom, intelligence and sensitivity, health, memory and strength.
Hope, abundance and prosperity are associated with Elephant as are wealth, good luck and playfulness. This is in part because of the young Elephant’s playful and carefree nature. Baby Elephants often play in the mud and run around in a carefree way. To many in the Eastern cultures, the spiritual meaning of a Baby Elephant relates to reconnecting to your playful inner nature and remembering how to have fun and romp in the sunshine.
Elephant Tattoo Meaning
When you see an Elephant tattoo, it can mean many things.
Perhaps the bearer of such art just loves the beauty of Elephants and wants to pay homage to this fascinating animal. Yet it could also be a tattoo linking the bearer to their Ancestral link or to the power, nobility, strength and gentleness in their personality.
An Elephant tattoo can also link you to the cultural values of community, mercy, healing and love. Elephants are often associated with grief because they ritualistically mourn their dead. Having an Elephant tattoo can be one way to memorialize a profound loss.
If you are trying to remain connected to your strength, wisdom and sense of nobility, you may consider adorning your body with an Elephant tattoo to serve as a reminder of these strengths you have within yourself.
A Tattoo of specific Elephant related deities can also have additional meanings. A tattoo of Ganesha, for example, can remind you of your ability to break through obstacles and clear the way when you need to navigate through difficulties. Your prosperity and potential for success can also be reinforced by having a tattoo of this sacred Elephant headed God.
Having a tattoo of a Baku, the mythic creature with the head of an Elephant and body of a Tiger, can help remind you that you are walking through both the intellectual, esoteric and intuitive realm of dreams and the mundane world of the physical realm.
For some people of African descent, an Elephant tattoo can have a deep sacred meaning, helping them feel connected to their Ancestral culture.
Elephant Spiritual Meaning
Elephant Spirit Animal can represent many aspects of yourself or your path. To some, Elephant was associated with laziness or sluggishness because of their slow and lumbering pace.
Elephant is associated with love, loyalty and healing. Elephants are known to be loyal to their matriarchal social groups and so the connection to Divine Feminine and your matrilineal Ancestors can be associated with Elephant.
Elephant can call you to nurture your network and community. Are you working to process wounds and heal old traumas and supporting those close to you who need your strength and patience?
Are you being called to act as a keeper of wisdom? Using your memory and intelligence to store the tales and lore of your Ancestors and elders may be part of the spiritual meaning of Elephant.
As Elephant was also used to carry powerful people like cultural leaders and royalty, they are associated with grand parades and displays of luxury and power. Spiritually, Elephant meaning can be related to conveying status or humble service.
Also, based on this tradition, Elephant Spirit Animal can represent being a pillar of strength for others. Who are you carrying nobly on your shoulders? Are you the pillar of support and strength for important people in your life?
Your ideas or talents may “carry” influential people and when you work with Elephant, you may be called to support others who are given status and respect in society. Elephant doesn’t steal the spotlight. Instead, Elephant does the heavy lifting that benefits others.
Elephant spiritual meaning and symbolism is also related to perception, including the potential to perceive different aspects of a situation based on your specific vantage point at a given moment. A story of two blind men touching different parts of an Elephant and describing a whole different animal, so to speak, illustrates this.
Is there something you’re facing that is so vast and large that you can’t automatically grasp the entire situation? Maybe what is most important to you right now is just the trunk, or the leg, of the enormous Elephant.
If you choose to be patient, the situation may reveal itself to be quite different than what you initially perceived it as. This can be a reminder that perception is important and so is remaining open minded.
Elephants are famous for many things, one of these being their process of mourning as a community. Their grieving rituals are quite complex. Elephants will solemnly and silently touch the body of the departed. They will cover the body of the departed with leaves, in a makeshift burial. They will also remain close by for a significant amount of time, as if sitting in a vigil for their departed.
Is there an unresolved wound or loss that you need to attend to? If you’ve had to deal with grief and loss, Elephant can help nurture you through the process. Elephant can remind you that you may need to face the loss with reverence and courage rather than glossing over it or distracting yourself from it.
Elephant Symbolic Meanings Key
- Authority & Confidence
- Family Love
- Dreamtime and Dream Work
- Will and Intent
- Environmental Protection and Guardianship