Throughout the ages, aquatic creatures have been revered as gods, feared as monsters of the deep and hunted for their flesh, skin, bones, shells and eggs. Their symbolism is intimately bound to their abodes–the seas, the rivers and the lakes. Their world has collided with ours and ours with theirs.
As their natural abode is related to water, the symbolism of our aquatic neighbours has strong links with birth, creativity and the receptivity of the Moon.
When it comes to aquatic creatures, the interpretive symbolism has varied greatly depending on the culture that was interpreting them. For us to get acquainted with these creatures, we either had to venture out into their terrain or allow them to get washed up on our shores.
In a way, then, aquatic creatures represent chance encounters over which we have no control, but whose wisdom we must learn to navigate–come what may. The sea has always frightened us because we have centuries of explorers and seafarers who have told stories of what the sea took from them as well as what it gave them.
To know our aquatic neighbours required us to surrender to what comes, but also to what leaves and never returns. The Sea has always reminded us to go after our dreams, but to pay attention for one never knows what might lay ahead.
Despite the ocean’s highly feminine attributes, even the sea gives birth to animals that are viewed as highly masculine. While some of our aquatic friends were easy to catch, others did put up a fight and were capable of killing us.
Masculine Sea Symbols
The shark is symbolic of hunting prowess as well as ferocity. In some cultures, it represented the male initiation ceremony and is prominently featured as an Ancestral Totem in Oceania and Australia.
An animal closely related to male sexuality is the eel which is widely regarded as a phallic symbol. The Chinese, in particular, associate the eel with carnal love and pleasure. It is the eel, with its slippery and wet ways, that served as both a warning and an invitation as to what may lay ahead after a sexual encounter.
In China and Japan, the carp symbolises courage and endurance as it swims against the river’s flow. It represents childhood and adolescence. On Boys’ Day in Japan, the carp is seen flying high everywhere for it represents academic achievement, business acumen and is a symbol of good luck.
The seahorse is a symbol long associated with fatherhood as it is one of the few species on the earth where the male gives birth. The seahorse was a popular emblem among seafarers and in heraldry. In Greek mythology, it is the seahorse that pulls Poseidon’s chariot across the ocean.
The sea, due to its inherent unpredictability, has both terrified us as well as allured us. The symbolism of the masculine with the sea is one that is not conventionally made but as a citizen of many island nations, it is the sea that I have looked to whenever I have wondered what is next.
And when it comes to the sea, it seems we will never truly ever know.