King Of Beasts; Lion Tattoo Meaning
Lion Tattoo Meaning
Few animals capture the spirit of ferocity and sheer power like the lion does. Lions are the second largest cats in the world, and the only ones who live in large family groups (called prides). Male lions in particular, with their epic furry manes, are common in imagery and symbolism throughout the entire world. So what does a lion represent? We’re here to give you a bit more insight on the various badass meanings of lion tattoos.
The Lion in Religion
The spiritual meaning of lions stretches back to Paleolithic times, which images of hunting lionesses present even in Chauvet Cave in southern France, which is the earliest example of cave paintings known to man. Lion features were used to help represent gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt (i.e. the Sphinx, among others), and they were also present in Greek/Roman mythology and Christianity as well.
In Christianity, the meaning of lions can vary. Perhaps the most common imagery is that of the Lion and the Lamb (discussed in greater detail below). Lions in Christianity can also refer to overcoming danger or obstacles and having faith in the power of God, such as when Daniel was thrown into the den of lions in Daniel 6. Mark the evangelist, the author of the second Gospel, is represented by a lion, and the lion is considered the symbol of the tribe of Judah. Seeing a lion with a crown tattoo often is taken to mean Christ as King. And from a Christian perspective, a roaring lion tattoo can mean strength and boldness, but it is a double-edged sword, as Satan is described as a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8.
A lion head tattoo of a dakini (or Simhamuka, a spiritual figure in Tibetan Buddhism) has been described as the female embodiment of enlightened energy. In Celtic mythology, the rampant lion (usually display rearing back on its hind legs mid-roar) is a potent symbol of the strength of youth, as well as the wisdom of the elderly, and is the Royal Standard of Scotland.
The meaning of a lion can also be related to the astrological symbol of Leo, a sign known for their fiery personalities, fierce loyalty, and passion.
The Lion and the Lamb Tattoo Meaning
The Lion and the Lamb is a classical pairing for Christian symbolism. The two animals are representative of the different attributes of God. God is either wrathful, powerful, and terrifying (the Lion) or loving, forgiving, and merciful (the Lamb). The duality also exists in the personality of Christ, who is both the reigning King (the lion) and the Sacrificial Lamb, sent to atone for the sins of humankind. When speaking specifically about scripture, God the Father (in the Holy Trinity of the Christian religion) is referred to almost exclusively as the lion, and Jesus Christ primarily as the Lamb.
The Lion and the Lamb are often cited in reference to Isaiah 11:6, which concerns a prophecy of the Golden Age following Christ’s resurrection and return to earth (this would take place after the events of Revelations). Essentially, Millennial Christians believe that Christ will return to rule on earth for 1000 years, and in this era exists the vision of the Lion (predator) and the Lamb (prey) in harmony together symbolizes a time of ultimate peace and coexistence between natural enemies.
[However, the passage in Isaiah is often misquoted; though both a lamb and a lion are mentioned in the passage, the quote “and the lion laid down with the lamb” does not actually exist there. The only true passage in the Bible that references both the Lion and the Lamb as the same person is in Revelation 5:5-6, where Christ is compared to both creatures.] Nevertheless, the image of the Lion and the Lamb remains classic Christian symbolism which continues to be widely used both in the tattooing world and in other arm forms as well.
Cultural Lion Tattoos
Outside of religion, lion tattoos can also have different associations based on the culture of their origin. A Japanese lion tattoo (or foo-dog lion tattoo) often looks like a cross between a dog and a lion. Foo-dogs are protective and strong, and are said to keep away evil; oftentimes a foo-dog tattoo has the meaning of a courageous or heroic person.
A Chinese Lion Tattoo meaning is similar to that of the Japanese. In China, foo-dogs are meant to be a pair, since they symbolize yin and yang as well as protection against evil. It is important to place the two foo-dogs facing each other, with the male on the left and the female on the right.
Other Values Associated with Lions
So what else does a lion symbolize? Royalty is one of the most common values people associate with lions, especially since they are often called “The King of the Jungle” or “King of Beasts.” From that branches the imagery for dominion, authority, and strength. The immense physically prowess of the lion conjures thoughts of ferocity and power. Lions are also related to pride and nobility.
Lioness Tattoo Meaning
Though tattoos of male lions are more common, a lioness tattoo can be related to feminism, since lionesses technically do all of the work in a pride. The males are there to mate and to fight potential usurpers; the females hunt, work as a team, and raise the young. Because of this, lionesses are often symbols of female empowerment and sisterhood. A lioness is also a great symbol for Motherhood, as a lioness will defend her cub(s) to the death.
Lions are very strong icons and make an excellent choice for your next tattoo. Stylistically, tribal lion tattoos were exceptionally popular in the 90’s and are still fairly common today, though there is no particular significance to getting a lion done in a tribal style vs. any other tattooing style. Personal preference is what matters. They look epic in most any art style they are drawn in, and have a universal appeal.
To sum up our answer to what a lion tattoo means, here’s a quick list:
• In Christianity: St. Mark, Christ as King, faith in God, the attributes of God, the tribe/ kingdom of Judah
• Strength in overcoming obstacles
• In Buddhism, the female embodiment of enlightened energy
• In Egypt, gods or goddesses of war
• The astrological sign Leo
• In Chinese and Japanese mythology: protection against evil, courage, and heroism
• Dominion and Authority
• Motherhood (lioness)
• Female empowerment and sisterhood (lioness)