Bear tattoo designs by
Tattoo Designs & Symbols

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Tattoo designs - B >> Bears

Bear tattoosBear Tattoo Meanings - The bear is an extremely popular symbol in many cultures around the world, appearing in European, North American and Asian myths and legends. This is due not only to the wide range of the bear, but also because of the unique characteristics of the animal. Bears, omnivores like ourselves, occupied the same ecological niche as humans, foraging for roots, nuts and berries, honey, grasses and birds' eggs and hunting fish, and game, both small and large. When bears competed for shelter in caves and overhangs, it must have been difficult for early man not to be struck with the similarities we had to bears. When threatened or aggressive, the bear even stood up on its hind legs like a man.

Early man strongly identified with the bear for numerous other reasons. From the days when men were hunter-gatherers, men have had a healthy respect for the bear as a predator, its power, strength and ferocity. The bear was both feared and admired, and in many instances, worshipped. In many indigenous stories, bears are humans transformed and bears are often seen as close intimates of humans. A female bear's protection of her cubs was seen as an admirable virtue and one to be emulated.

The bear is a powerful animal totem, or spirit in shamanistic and animist belief systems. Bears in dreams were thought to be spirit guides. Bear claws and bear teeth are frequently used as amulets, talismans and decoration, all in an effort to evoke the powers of the bear for the wearer. Bear tattoo designs serve a similar function.

Bears inspire tattoo designs

For the Lakota Sioux, the bear is a symbol of wisdom. For the Chippewa the grizzly is believed to be the Spirit Keeper of the West, and symbolizes introspection and strength. Ferocity and diplomacy in equal measure have been attributed to the bear, along with a belief in its healing powers. The Haida treat the bear as an Elder Kinsman and when a bear is killed it is treated as a high-ranking guest. A legend shared by many tribes of the Pacific Northwest of America tells of a chief's daughter abducted by a bear; she subsequently married the bear and gave birth to twin cubs. This legend is often depicted in both prints and carvings.

Bear tattoosFamous for hibernating, the bear has gained status as a creature that gains wisdom through its winter-long incubation. Shamanic people in both Europe and America took the bear as a symbol of 'awakening the power of the unconscious'. Strong, swift, quiet and extremely protective of family, the bear has become a symbol of maternal protection.

As a powerful animal totem (or spirit) in shamanistic belief systems, the bear acts as protector and source of wisdom and inspiration. Bears in dreams were thought to be spirit guides.

For the Celt, the bear was the great warrior. Legends tell of two goddesses who shape-shifted into bears, and of the association of the male bear with King Arthur. Like the Native Americans, ancient Celts considered the bear as a symbol of intuition and instinct, standing for primal power. Other qualities that the bear projects are strength in the face of adversity, bravery, solitude, and attention to the practical side of life.

Some early peoples believed the bear was a human clad in bearskin. Others believed that it understood human speech. Bear cults in some polar regions projected supernatural status onto their favourite beast. A North Korean myth tells of the bear being granted a wish to be human if it could avoid sunlight for a hundred days. The indigenous people of Japan - the Ainu - have a myth about descending from the polar bear.

In European heraldry, bears symbolize integrity of character, strength and bravery and are often in the arms of names that sound somewhat like the animal itself, such as Baring and Barnes. The bear is often muzzled in heraldic designs, symbolizing great power under control, but not always. Bears' paws, with claws prominently displayed, are often found as crests or symbols on shields.

Bear Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!See also: Animal Tattoos Index

Get inspired by some really amazing images and photos in our Bear Inspiration Gallery

Choose your own bear tattoo design from Find and buy the bear tattoo design that is perfect for you.

bear tattoo designs from

Choose your own Bear Tattoo Design by the world's top tattoo artists to buy the perfect bear design for you.

Get great Bear tattoo design ideas here!

Tattoo designs - B >> Bears

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Celeb Tattoos | Facts & Stats | Designs & Symbols | History | Culture | Links | Tattoo Galleries | Contact

Copyright © 1999- All rights reserved.