Elephant symbolism has played a role in many cultures with elephants being considered majestic animals with complex emotions and routines rivaling those of humans. Because not only are these animals similar to humans, they can be some of our greatest teachers if we let them.
Most of us are unlikely to cross paths with an actual elephant, but that doesn’t mean they can’t appear to call our attention to things or make us consider our circumstances differently. After all, we can often see ourselves best when we step back and view things from a different angle.
You may encounter an elephant in a movie, a TV show, on a card from a friend or family member, or in a dream. It doesn’t really matter where you see the elephant. What matters is what it signifies and how that fits into your life.
What Does an Elephant Symbolize?
Elephant Totem Animal
The elephant totem animal could appear in your life when you’re facing obstacles as a sign of resilience, or a reminder to stay the course. Or you might choose to invite could invite this or other positive aspects of the elephant into your home or work environment.
There are some things to consider if you want to invoke elephant symbolism in your environment by adding an elephant totem.
If you are hoping to maneuver your way through obstacles, you should post an elephant totem with its trunk pointing downward. This is believed to be particularly potent for those seeking wisdom, fertility, or strength.
If, on the other hand, you are hoping to attract good fortune, you should post a photo, postcard, or other representation of an elephant with its trunk raised. This is because the elephant’s trunk is believed to rain positivity down onto the people in its presence.
Elephant Spirit Animal
If the elephant is your spirit animal, it means you identify with some of the traits of this majestic animal. Many cultures have developed belief systems around spirit or totemic animals.
They profess that your spirit animal is one that you relate to, favor, or identify with. But that doesn’t mean that you always make the right decisions.
Your spirit animal guides you and reminds you how to make the right choices throughout your life.
There are several things the elephant spirit animal appears to help and guide us with. The first of these is stability.
If you are uncertain, the elephant spirit animal reminds you to trust yourself and your judgment. You have within you all that you need to succeed; you only need to believe in yourself.
Elephant spirit animals also indicate wisdom. This is one of the things elephants are best known for, along with their memory.
They remind us to listen to our inner wisdom. We often know what is best for ourselves, but we get distracted by the wants and needs of others, the media, politics, and consumerism.
Elephant spirit animals remind us to follow our intuition rather than caving to societal pressures.
Pros of an Elephant Spirit Animal
- You are wise and intuitively understand things. Learning new things comes more easily to you than to others
- You are sensitive but not weak. It is easy for you to empathize with others, but you won’t stand for anyone being bullied
- You are loyal and fight for the underdog and everyone you love.
- You are confident and determined, completing every goal you set out to accomplish
Cons of an Elephant Spirit Animal
- Accepting defeat can be a challenge for people who identify with the elephant
- People who have elephant spirit animals tend to be proud, and that pride can sometimes complicate things
- Having a long memory, often seen as a good quality in having the elephant as your spirit animal, could result in holding grudges when things don’t go as planned
Are Elephants a Good Omen?
Elephants are believed to be a good omen in all cultures. Elephant symbolism appears in both African cultures and Asian cultures.
This isn’t surprising; elephants are part of the culture in both countries, and the locals revere them. In Asia, they signify wisdom and good luck; in Africa, they are associated with royalty and strength.
In Indian culture, the divine being Lord Ganesh has the head of an elephant. He is associated with abundance.
When elephants appear in your life, it could indicate you should expect some good in the future. But there are other things seeing an elephant could mean.
It could mean you need to take time to focus on yourself rather than tending to everyone else around you. It might also mean that you need to be strong to overcome the current obstacles in your life.
The good news is there’s an easy way to know whether or not you’ve interpreted the appearance of elephants in your life correctly.
If they stop appearing, you’ve learned what they were trying to teach you. If they continue to crop up, consider what else they might be trying to tell you.
Dead Elephant Symbolism
The appearance of a dead elephant in your life or dreams can have several meanings, but it always symbolizes something large and significant. While it does often represent the death of something big, that doesn’t have to be a person; it can also indicate an idea, a way of life, an era, or perhaps a period of your life or career that is coming to an end or should be.
But it also represents mourning and can mean the end of a long-term relationship or the death of a critical friend or family member.
It can also indicate the need to prepare for transformation. Two separate but equally important interpretations can be made in this case.
Either you need to be willing to let go of the past to move into the future, or you need to be wary of impending significant changes. Since these are divergent ideas, you need to consider what is happening in your life and make decisions accordingly if you are facing significant life changes and elephants have begun to appear.
Tattoos are deeply personal, but you can invoke elephant symbolism by adding an elephant tattoo. If you choose the elephant as your first or next tattoo, you might be trying to show the world that you are loyal, wise, resilient, or devoted to conservation.
Elephants also make an excellent choice of tattoo for expecting women, as elephants are known for their maternal instincts. Herds of elephants are led by the oldest female member, and young females remain with their elephant family long after the males have departed to learn from the older females’ wisdom.
What Does an Elephant Symbolize in the Bible?
Elephants are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible but are significant in many religions, including Christianity. In addition to the themes we’ve already discussed, the elephant represents patience, purity, and chastity in Christianity.
They also signify forgiveness, overlooking slights and misdeeds done to them, much as Christ did.
They appeared in several Christian stories, such as the one about Noah’s Ark. When Noah was fearful the ark would tip due to its imbalance, the two mice aboard the ship scared the elephants, who ran to the other side of the vessel, keeping it in balance and afloat.
The message to be gleaned from the elephant symbolism in this story is that seeking God’s wisdom can help us to overcome fears and move forward in uncertain times and circumstances.
What Does Seeing an Elephant in Your Dreams Mean?
Seeing an elephant in your dreams could have several meanings, but most experts agree it is a good sign. However, what it signifies personally depends on what is happening in your life and what happens in the dream.
If you’re about to start on a new adventure, dreaming of elephants could be a sign that you will be successful. They could also indicate that you are approaching a milestone in your life.
This interpretation should be evident if you are about to get married, have a child, or retire.
Seeing elephants in your dreams could also mean you are about to meet an important person or become one yourself. Whether the encounter will be positive or negative is essentially unknowable.
The elephant only indicates the size of that person’s impact on your life. Elephants might also suggest that you must self-reflect or are facing a coming battle.
How to Interpret an Elephant Encounter
Encountering an elephant can be a mystical but terrifying experience. They are enormous animals, and when facing one, if you don’t know what to expect, you could panic unnecessarily.
Like most animals, elephants can sense fear, which can worsen things. Knowing your audience, so to speak, can make things far less intimidating for both you and the elephant.
One important thing to note is that elephants hear through nerve endings on their feet, meaning an elephant lifting its foot in your vicinity doesn’t necessarily mean it is about to stomp on you.
Other things to consider when encountering an elephant include understanding its body language. A flapping tail is a sign of a happy elephant, and ear flapping usually just means these gentle giants are cooling themselves off.
If you’re lucky enough to hear it, rumbling means the elephants are communicating with one another. But if they’re trumpeting, it’s a sign they are distressed.
What Should You Do When You See an Elephant?
When you see an elephant, you should retreat, if possible. But if that’s not possible, remain calm and quiet. If the elephant senses you are afraid, it could escalate the situation.
Elephant Symbolism and Spirituality
Elephants are not just symbolic; they also have spiritual significance. For instance, they are known as the sign of the Buddha because seeing them reminds us to look not at our earthly surroundings but to the spiritual realm for enlightenment and answers to our most profound questions.
They also spiritually signify love and compassion, and universal wisdom. Seeing elephants indicates that you should tap into the greater wisdom you possess.
Many cultures and religions believe it is necessary to tap into higher wisdom to successfully journey through life. For this reason, many of them feature elephant symbolism.
Buddhists consider grey elephants to indicate unrest or instability in your life. But in most cases, elephants are revered in Buddhism. White elephants indicate mental strength and willpower.
In Hinduism, elephants are a sign of power and wisdom. They are believed to be a way to reach the heavenly plane.
In Christianity, the elephant has a negative connotation and represents the fall of man. But its tusks indicate purity and can also be seen as a sign of chastity.
Elephants have multiple meanings in feng shui, and their purposes can best be determined by how and where they are placed. Two elephants placed at either side of an entryway indicate protection.
They signify wisdom when they are on desks or tables in a study area. If their trunk is up, they bring good luck; if their trunks are down, they bring fertility.
In Asian culture, elephants symbolize power and wisdom. In China, they indicate good luck; in Thailand, they signify royalty and appear on the flag of the Royal Thai Navy.
In Africa, the elephant is a symbol of strength and power, and they are featured in the flags of both the Ivory Coast and South Africa. An elephant appears on the Coat of Arms for the Ivory Coast, while tusks are featured on the Coat of Arms for South Africa.
In folklore, they are believed to be the settlers of disputes.
The elephant also signifies power throughout Europe. This began with Alexander the Great’s defeat of King Porus of India. The elephants captured as a result were seen as a sign of triumph.
Napoleon Bonaparte continued the tradition, ordering an elephant fountain constructed from the guns seized after the battle of Friedland. And in Denmark, the Order of the Elephant is a meritorious award.