Often, the use of animal imagery seeks to depict generally negative qualities and instincts relevant to human nature; for example, killing a SERPENT signifies a taming of instincts. Animals reflect the basic instincts that motivate human behavior, such as reproduction and self-preservation. Jung says they stand for the non-human psyche, the world of unhuman instincts, and the unconscious areas of the mind. They are often included to depict the urges which man must overcome in order to enter the realm of spirituality. Animal symbol varies according to its position -- a 'tamed' animal can represent the reverse of the very same animal in a 'wild' environment. There is a hierarchy among animals ranging from the insect/reptile to the mammal, and often a victory by higher animal over a lower one is thought of as victory for higher life over lower instincts (Lion over Bull shows victory of day over night). Acquatic animals are associated with water, reptiles with earth, birds with air and mammals with fire.
Almost all symbols of animals can be related to three main ideas: the animal as a mount or mode of transportation, as an object of sacrifice, and as an inferior form of life.
Fabulous animals represent powerful instruments of psychological projection
-- sphinx, minotaur, unicorn, dragon. Their relation is closely tied to belief
in magic powers and of ABNORMALITY.
Up one level
Back to document index