Song of the Lost Clan Information and Resources on the Young Adult Novel

More than an Animal: Elephants in Symbolism

April 13, 2015 · By Angela Render

Humans have been fascinated and impressed by elephants since the stone age. Elephant imagery shows up in a wide variety of places from prehistoric cave paintings to medieval art; from Asian temples to American streets. These majestic creatures have come to symbolize a wide variety of noble traits to people of different cultures.

At its most revered, elephants are included in Asian religious beliefs. One of the most popular gods in the Hindu pantheon is Ganesha. Depicted as a man with the head of an elephant, Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, patron of the arts and sciences, and the deva of wisdom and intellect. Hindu traditions respect elephants as wise guardians. On maps, elephants guard the four cardinal directions.

Elephants are included in current South Asian religious practices. Temple elephants clad in ornate caparison participate in events and festivals. The Thai version of the Chinese zodiac uses the “Year of the Elephant” instead of the “Year of the Pig,” and symbolizes strength, wisdom, and perseverance. It’s considered lucky for a bride or groom to meet an elephant on their wedding day.

African fables depict elephants as wise mediators. They’ve been attributed with amazing memories in African and European writings. “An elephant never forgets.” It turns out that this attribute is completely accurate since elephants can remember for decades migratory routes and where water and food can be found during harsh weather. Africans have braided elephant hairs into necklaces and bracelets as charms against harm as well.

Intelligent, wise, strong, lucky guardians, humans have been captivated by elephants since the dawn of history.

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