Do you ever find images and references of a particular animal keep popping up everywhere, even in your dreams? I do have a few creatures that I consider to be my permanent spirit animals, but sometimes someone else will jump in to teach me a particular lesson or to lend me their strength. This is what has happened recently to me with bears, so I thought I'd better find out a bit about them and the lessons they bring.
There are 8 distinct species of bear:
Black Bear, the most common bear in North America, the name is misleading as they can come in a variety of colours including black, brown, silvery-blue and cream. Found in Canada, Alaska, Central America and Mexico. There are 16 sub-species of Black bear.
Brown Bear, also known as the grizzly bear and found in Alaska, Western Canada, parts of Washington, Montana and Wyoming. Like the Black Bear, there are many sub-species
Polar Bear - The largest bear in the world, found in the Arctic, Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway
Asiatic black Bear, found in Afghanistan, Malaysia, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Russia and Taiwan
Andean Bear, also known as Spectacled bear, found in the Andes Mountains in South America
Giant Panda, - found in Western China and is rare and endangered
Sloth Bear, found in Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Sun Bear, Found in South east Asia, the smallest species of bear.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) lists 6 bear species as vulnerable or endangered, and even the least concern species, such as Brown Bear is at risk of extinction in certain countries.
The Polar bear is mostly carnivorous while the Giant Panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo, the remaining species have a varied diet and will eat anything from roots, leaves and berries to insects, carrion, fresh meat and fish. However, all bears will feed on any food source that becomes seasonally available.
Despite their size, adult bears can run up to 40mph, which is the same speed as a greyhound! Bears are also adept climbers and swimmers too and have an excellent sense of smell.
One of the main facts most people know about bears is that they hibernate. Actually, it is not a true hibernation that involves a drastic drop in body temperature, rather a long deep sleep during the cold winter when food is scarce. The bears body temperature does drop, but not drastically and they survive on their stored up fat. Mother bears will wake up to give birth during this semi-hibernation. Bears in warmer climates, where food is available all year round, do not hibernate at all.
With the exception of courting couples and mothers with their cubs, bears are typically solitary animals. Having a bear as a spirit animal can mean that you like your own company or need to spend more time on your own following solitary practises such as meditation and self-reflection.
Bears are powerful symbols of strength and courage and appear in many myths and folktales.
The Celts venerated the bear goddess, Artio, goddess of fertility and wild animals, especially bears, her name means 'Bear' and she is typically depicted in bear form.
The bear god Artaois is closely linked to King Arthur. With his legendary fighting skill and strength, Arthur's name and emblem both represent Bear.
It is said that Vikings would wear bear skins during battle to imbue themselves with the strength and fury of the bear. Known as berserkers, their name is derived from a Norse word meaning 'bear shirt'.
In Greek legend, Zeus seduced the nymph Callisto and she bore him a son, Arcas. In a jealous rage Hera transformed Callisto into a bear. Time passed and out hunting one day, Arcas tracked a bear, not realising that it was his mother. On seeing that her life was in danger, Zeus set her among the stars as the constellation Ursa Major ' The Great Bear' In another version Arcas is set beside her as Ursa Minor ' The Little Bear.'
For the Celts, the bear would represent the Sun, while in Greece and Rome the bear was associated with Artemis and Diana, goddesses of the hunt and the moon.
Bears figure prominently in the mythology of almost all Native American tribes, and is seen as symbolising strength, wisdom, healing and medicine. There are also many Native American Bear gods and spirits.
The bear is one of the earliest animals to be revered by our ancient ancestors. Evidence of a bear cult has been found dating back to the Palaeolithic (around 50,000 years ago)
The bear has several meanings that will inspire those working with this spirit animal:
. The primary meaning of the bear spirit animal is strength, courage and confidence, are these areas that you need to work on? (that sounds about right!)
. Bear spirit is a strong source of support in times of difficulty. It provides courage and a stable foundation to face challenges.
. Spirit of the bear may indicate that you need healing or encourage you to use your healing abilities to help others.
. Bear medicine emphasises the importance of solitude, quiet time and rest. Have you been overdoing it lately or burning yourself out? (guilty!)
. When bear shows up in your life it may be time to stand up for your beliefs and speak your truth.
If you dream of bears (or a bear) they symbolise power, strength and protection of yourself or your family. If the bear in the dream is hibernating, it may indicate a need for solitude. If a bear is chasing you, it may mean you are avoiding a situation in your life and it's time to take a stand and deal with it.
Grounding, protection, strength, courage, confidence, Inner knowledge, introspection, intuition, healing, sovereignty, moon and sun magic.
Animal Magic - Rachel Patterson
Animal Speak - Ted Andrews