Loving animals is easy for most people. When we look at animals, we see the natural order, perfect symmetry of form and function, beauty, strangeness, and the long-dormant wild part of ourselves that many long to reconnect to. We became separate from animals and the natural world at some point, moving down from the trees to the grass, and slowly along the evolutionary path to where we are today.
Though modern science and luxuries keep human beings alive longer and give our lives comfort, most of us will never be as free or self-assured as, say, the little birds who visit our backyards.
Cultures around the world include animal symbolism in their religions and systems of belief. In Haitian Voudou, they practice snake worship. Damballa is a serpent and is seen as the creator of all life. Hindus worship the cow in recognition of all the animal offers society. The ancient Egyptians revered cats, and many gods took on the appearance of animals. The list goes on and on; however, most relevant to us are animals associated with witchcraft. These are animals such as cats, birds, bats, toads, and other creatures that get a bad rap. Today, I’d like to share with you some animal associations you can use in spells, divination, talismans, altar-making, and just simple invocations to bring the power of each of these animals into your practice. I’ve only focused on a few animals, so if you need something more specific for your intentions, believe me, all you have to do is do a little digging — there is a perfect animal symbol out there for any need you have!
To some, the bat is a symbol of evil and death and fear for this animal runs deep. To others, the bat is a symbol of the night and all the hidden mysteries one can learn if they open their eyes while everyone else is asleep. Thanks to echolocation, the bat finds its way through the night with ease. Invoke the bat’s power before a night out by drawing a small bat somewhere hidden on your body to keep your wits about you when the sun goes down. If you’re struggling during a time of confusion in your life, invest in a bat talisman — any little bat figurine you can carry with you — to help find your way in the darkness.
The bear is a warrior. The name Artemis, goddess of the hunt, comes from the root word “artos” which means bear. This animal fittingly represents earth, and in European cultures predating Christianity, where lions are absent, the bear takes its symbolic place as a powerful king of the land it roams. Interestingly, Artemis is sometimes shown with a bear and both have ties to the moon.
Ursa Major and Minor are the constellations associated with this goddess as well — the Great Bear and the Little Bear, respectively. The bear should be summoned when you need strength. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor can be seen year-round, so make a trip outside under the full moon and find these constellations. Draw a bear print on the sole of your right foot or on the palm of your right hand, and light a white candle. Ask for the strength to face obstacles or overcome overwhelming odds. And when the time comes, show no fear!
The symbolism surrounding the bee could fill a book. They are industrious, hard-workers and their symmetrical honeycombs are symbols of perfection and the harmony achieved when a group works as one. They also have mystical links to gods and spirits. Honeybees create honey, a sacred food of the gods, from sunlight and fruits of the earth, and therefore have ties to transmutation and the divine. In literature, you may recognize the name Dumbledore from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. This word comes from the Old English form of the word bumblebee and unlike honeybees, these bees spend their time joyfully “bumbling” from flower to flower.
Though they look very soft and fuzzy, bees can sting if provoked and so they are a symbol of mothers protecting their families. Although there are several ways to invoke the bee in magic, I think their most admirable attribute is their singular focus and work ethic, and so if you’re having difficulty staying motivated on a project — especially involving others — use the symbol of the bee as a talisman to remind you hard work pays off. Wear yellow. Light yellow candles. Sweeten your tea or toast with honey. Keep the spirit of the bee close at hand when working on any project to stay “buzzed” about it!
Often quite beautiful and less driven than its fellow flower-lover the bee, the butterfly is a symbol of gentleness and innocence. The greek word for butterfly is psyche, and so we therefore associate it with the soul in many cultures. To others, the butterfly is a communicator between us on earth and the spiritual realm.
The butterfly goes through a striking metamorphosis, changing from a squirming caterpillar to a breathtaking, jewel-bright creature that takes flight! Changing one’s life is no easy task, but the butterfly reminds us that just because something seems impossible doesn’t mean it is. Draw an image of a butterfly in black and white and hang it somewhere near your altar. Every time you actively make a change for the better, color in a little part of the image and take a moment to reflect on your progress. Take in the whole image instead of just one small piece; see the big picture to stay motivated. Bit by bit and day by day, work at transforming the black-and-white image to one that’s brilliant and bold. It may not be a quick process, but you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with perseverance and a state-of-mind metamorphosis.
In ancient Egypt, Bast was the cat goddess, and cats in general were revered. Other religions and beliefs look upon them less favorably, especially black cats, which are seen as unlucky despite their nine lives. Where the dog is man’s best friend, a loyal and obedient sidekick, the cat is picky and will leave a home that doesn’t live up to their lofty standards.
Despite being domesticated 4,000 years ago, cats maintain a feral wildness we’ve bred out of other pets and farm animals. They roam. They can live quite happily without us. Cats are inquisitive, sleek creatures that move where they want and choose who they want. And by all accounts, across many cultures, the cat has chosen the witch. The black cat is a staple of the traditional caricature of a witch, as much as the pointy hat or broom. Like the witch, the cat is mysterious, elusive, and seen as a threat by many a superstitious person. There are many ways you could call upon the cat in your magic, but I suggest channeling their ability to relax and make every space their own. When you are overwhelmed with life, call on the witch’s companion. Things always look better after a good night’s sleep.
The dragon, like most animals on this list, will mean different things to different cultures. In the East, the dragon means royalty and the word “dragon” can be used instead of emperor. In the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is the fifth sign and aligns perfectly with Leo — the lion being another symbol for kings and queens. The dragon can be fearsome or something marvelous, depending on your point of view, and in stories will often guard over a great treasure or secret.
The dragon is versatile, but one thing is not up for debate: The dragon represents power. While the bear is a warrior, lashing out fiercely at foes, the dragon’s mere presence is enough to instill fear. Keep a dragon symbol over your bed for prophetic dreams and place the dragon’s image on jewelry boxes and other treasures to ward against thieves. Draw or print out an image of a dragon and wrap it around a red candle during protection spells or use in curses to strike fear into your enemies. If you have a secret, no animal will guard it like the dragon.
In stories, the fox is the trickster, the cunning one who uses charm and sly words to achieve goals. In mythology, the fox is a seducer, and in Christianity, the fox is linked to the Devil. So naturally, women described as “foxy” are not just attractive, but devious, ready to lure innocent men to their doom. Misogyny aside, the fox’s ability to outwit its foes with a smile on its face and bushy tail high, make it a symbol of guile and craftiness — the perfect creature to invoke when you need help solving a problem or getting out of a sticky situation. Use the fox’s image covertly — drawing it underneath altars, on the bottoms of candles, or on the reverse side of sigils — when performing spells to add an extra element of cunning.
It’s no surprise that an animal so closely linked to mankind’s success will be spiritually significant to us. Where would we be if we hadn’t had the horse to carry us? On one hand, the horse is tied to the sun, pulling the chariot of Apollo. On the other, the horse is a symbol of the moon and water — just ask Poseidon, the god of the sea and the horse. This animal can stand for gods and goddesses alike, good and evil, life and death. Perhaps this then is the true symbolism of the horse: Usefulness. No matter in which context you see this animal, you’ll see it being put to good use. After all, without the horse, humans wouldn’t have gotten very far. In your magic, invoke the horse when you’re traveling by coupling its image with Raido, the rune for travel, or the Chariot tarot card. Do this before a long trip to ensure safe passage.
It will delight you to learn that Strix is a genus of owls, and another word for witch. They share many symbolic attributes with witches, like working alone at night under the moon and having mystical knowledge. Hekate, the queen of witches, has an owl companion. Some say owls are bad omens foretelling death, while others claim owls are clairvoyant — and know when you’re about to die!
Owls are skilled hunters and unlike other birds, their large eyes are positioned on the front of their heads instead of on the side. They can also swivel their necks to see behind them. This gives them complete vision, and so it’s no wonder owls are associated with knowledge and prophecy — they literally see all. Like other nocturnal animals, they are linked with occult wisdom, having access to the secrets only available in the cover of night. Cultures across the globe believe the owl is a traveler between the realms of life and death. Invoke the owl during any kind of divination to help you “see.” Carry an owl talisman for wisdom, and whenever you hear a hooting owl, make sure you ask it to take any bad luck away from you on its flight.
Here is a shocking fact: The average human IQ is 100 and the raven, relatively compared, has an IQ of 138 . They make tools and solve puzzles. They can recognize people by their faces, and they can learn and even understand different languages. For this reason, ravens are symbols of intelligence. Ravens enjoy a rich mythology and have a reputation for protecting mankind, whispering to shamans about what’s to come. However, ravens are also seen as death omens and their haunting calls feature in many horror films. This may be attributed to the fact they are often seen after battle, feasting on the dead. I choose to see ravens for what they are: incredibly intelligent. So, they are an obvious talisman for those seeking wisdom, like students. Keep an image of a raven near blue candles and light them every Monday to help you on tests, mental challenges, or to outwit a foe.
This much maligned animal strikes fear in the hearts of many. Perhaps this is a vestigial fear from our primate days when venturing down into the grass meant dealing with this poisonous threat. Maybe the “snake eyes” are what creeps people out. Maybe it’s their size (pythons can reach 25 feet!) or the way they shed skin or their “forked tongues” now synonymous with one who cannot be trusted. Ouroboros is the image of a snake eating its own tail, symbolizing life and rebirth forever.
In the bible, a serpent convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and learned of good and evil. The lore of snakes is closely associated with that of dragons, though snakes carry more sinister connotations. But ask any snake charmer or a person who keeps snakes as pets and they will tell you these animals are as gentle to hold as kittens. Invoke the snake when you’re being bullied or someone is actively working against you. Draw a snake on several pale stone and place them in a circle near your front door, then sprinkle black pepper and eggshells into this circle whenever you leave your home. You can also bring this circle inside and spread it so you can sit within it while working spells for protection or against your enemies to ensure no repercussions come your way.
Who hasn’t heard the tale about men turning into a wolf under the full moon, only to turn back when dawn breaks? Or Little Red Riding Hood, who was nearly eaten by the wolf wearing her grandmother’s clothing? Or the boy who cried wolf? Or Peter and the Wolf? Though wild wolves try to avoid people, the image of a wolf as a danger is an old one. These stories are not really about dangerous animals; they are allegories for dangerous situations and people. The wolf is the animal in stories that represents the dangerous side of human nature, and acts as a warning.
 The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols Paperback – March 1, 2009, Adele Nozedar