TAQUKAQ as a totem or as ATKA (Guardian Spirit) animal is one of the most ancient worshiped animals.
Remains of bears have been found in many archeological sites in Europe especially, where bear bones and skulls were found together with human bones dating back to the Neanderthals. It is said that the Vikings would wear bear skins in times of war to scare off their enemies. They would appear as powerful as these wild animals.
Bears symbolize warrior spirit and courage to fight. The bear’s spirit would be invoked to help the warriors in the battle.
Native North American Indian minds held the bear as a symbol of freedom and a ritual rites of passage. Certain tribes understood the cycles of time and life. Ergo, the bear is a marker for such passage because of the females unique process of birthing. In a Native American light, the bear is symbolic of the potential power found in the concept of peace because this large, ferocious looking animal is actually quite peace-loving.In ancient hieroglyphs and cave markings, the bear is thought to be the liaison, or Great Communicator between earth and sky.
In Japanese Lore the bears and therefore bear tattoo symbolism represents wisdom, stoicism, patience, strength and benevolence. The bear was a sacred oracle to Ainu, who are an indigenous tribe of Japan. These people were animists, (similar to other aboriginal people like Native American Indians of North America) and so their perspective of bear symbolism is a valid one. Further, these people adopted ritualistic tattooing.
In Celtic Symbolism, the bear is considered for her lunar power. To the ancient Celtic mind the bear is associated with the moon, and thus carries a feminine theme with concepts such as: childbearing, mothering, and fiercly protective of family and young. The bear is associated with the Celtic goddess, Artio. Indeed, there is evidence of a powerful bear cult in which ancient Celts convened to honor and worship this magnificent creature. Interestingly, and in spite of it’s nurturing connotations the bear is also a symbol for warriors and military to the Celts.
In Chinese Symbolism the bear is associated with yang energy – masculinity, power, force, domination, authority. Chinese legend states that if a woman dreams of a bear while she is pregnant, she will give birth to a boy (a very big deal in China). She-bears are symbolic of maternal wisdom in Chinese symbolism.
In Scandinavian Legends the bear was an aspect of the god Odin, and Berserkers were known to wear bearskins to enhance their ferocity in battle. Such vicious looking warriors were insured a victory.
Bear meanings associated with the moon continue in Pueblo Lore in which the bear is connected to underground temples. Here the bear is said to oversee the movements of the night, and lives in time with the native indian cycles of the moon. In fact, many ancient peoples understood the connection of the moon and the bear because of the bear’s hibernation patterns. But more importantly, our nature-savvy ancestors recognized the dual nature of the bear.
In Greco-Roman Mythology the bear is represented by Diana/Artemis, goddess of the hunt and shares more affiliations with lunar symbolism. Ursa major and Ursa Minor are the constellations of the Great and Little bears in the heavens. These constellations represent Diana/Artemis, and also mark the seasons (more symbolic connections to the cycles of time and nature).
Alchemically, bear tattoo symbolism can mean prime matter – the foundation – the first building block alchemical symbolism. In alchemy, the bear is also duplicitous in its symbolism depending upon whether the bear is hibernating, or active. If hibernating, the bear is symbolic of the female, passive, dormant nature of potential (moon/quicksilver). If active, the bear represents assertive, male, confident domain (sun/gold).
The bear is showcased in countless cultures because it is undeniably dynamic in energy and stature.
These are just a few of the myriad of symbolic observations and bear meanings we can mine from this amazingly diverse animal.