NatureWatching takes on different meanings within cultures and contexts. With NatureWatch Worldviews, we explore the symbolism of natural entities, and how they enrich the human experience with a special natural connection.
Elephants are a sacred symbol in Hindu and Buddhist religions, representing loyalty, power, wisdom, and fertility. Elephants are associated with water and rainfalls, and the shape, size, and color of their bodies are said to be symbols of clouds. In many forms of artwork from these religions, elephants are portrayed as being worshipped, or with a deity or god that is being worshipped.
Ganesha, The Elephant God, is the most widely worshipped deity in the Hindu religion. He is an elephant-headed god who represents "perfect wisdom." He is said to be the remover of obstacles and "bestower of prosperity." Also referred to as Ganapati (Ga - knowledge, Na - Salvation, Pati - Lord), Ganesha's purpose is to remove the obstacles that obstruct the path of those who are attempting to start a new venture in life.
The salmon is very important to Native American subsistence cultures. In Native American myths where the fish is a local staple, salmon are portrayed as willingly giving themselves to humans as sustenance. Because of this, salmon are honored and respected - especially among Northwestern Native Americans - and are celebrated with special ceremonies during the beginning of the salmon fishing season. They are seen as a symbol of determination, renewal, and prosperity.
On the Summer Solstice, the ancient Chinese would gather together and participate in a ceremony which included a ritual to honor the earth, femininity, and Yin, the force of light. The summer was welcomed by all with bonfires, which is still a tradition in many other countries throughout the world. These traditions and rituals are practiced to compliment the winter solstice rituals, which honor the heavens, masculinity, and Yang, the power of darkness. Much like the Yin and Yang symbol pictured to the left, these ceremonies represent spiritual and natural equilibrium.
Many Native American groups throughout the northern and southern hemispheres practice centuries-old Summer Solstice rituals. The Sioux wear symbolic colors and perform a sun dance around a tree, while the Quechua host week-long festivals filled with continuous dances and songs dedicated to Pachamama (Mother Earth). Specific arrangement of stones aligns with the solstice sunrise and sunset, and is the focal point of some celebrations.
Wolves are a very common prominent figure in the myths of almost every Native American tribe. In most of these cultures, the wolf is considered a medicine. It is associated with strength, loyalty, and courage. Many North American tribes relate wolves very closely to humans with tribes describing their ancestors as being transformed from wolves to humans.
Butterflies symbolize different things in different locations. In the state of Louisiana, if a butterfly flies into your home and around you, it's a sign of good luck to come. However, in Maryland, it means quite the opposite, and is an omen of death.
To some people, the caterpillar hatching is synonymous to human birth. It is the lowly stage of life, the "worm" awaiting its beautiful transformation, much like many people believe in a reward in the afterlife. A caterpillar wrapping itself in a cocoon is a natural symbol of protection.
To one Sumatran tribe, the butterfly represents "The Creator." This tribe claims to have descended from the eggs laid by a butterfly. A myth from the North American Pima Indians suggests that their creator "Chiowotmahki" took the form of a butterfly and flew across the world, searching for a suitable place for humankind to live.