Bear

The main characteristics of the bear are their large body, power and solitary way of life. Most of them are omnivorous, so, besides the image of the bear eating honey, there is another image of a cruel killer and carnivore.

In Europe the bear is a lunar symbol, related to obscurity and shadows. In Alchemy it represents the blackness of the primal matter. In Greek mythology the bear accompanies Artemis, lunar divinity of cruel rituals. As a lunar symbol, it has the relation to the instinct. Jung proposes the bear as the symbol dangerous aspect of unconsciousness.  It’s a primal force which is powerful, violent and brutal. In different traditions, during the bear hunting, women have to follow a number of prohibitions. That serves as a protective magic because women can easily be assailed by the spirit of the beast. 

In Hindu tradition the constellation of the  Great Bear symbolizes wisdom and primordial tradition.  It’s the house of Immortals and the center where the traditional knowledge is conserved.

In Medieval Bestiary the bear is born as a shapeless matter and the mother forms the appropriate shape by licking it. Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville mention the strength of it’s legs and arms but they resume that it’s head is weak and it’s brains even contain poison (if someone drinks it, instantly becomes bear-mad). In the Reynard cycle  the Bear participates among other animals. In the Roman de Renart written by Pierre de Saint de Cloud around 1170, Bruin is pictured as a gourmand anthropomorphic animal which likes honey and is the victim of the fox.

One of the literary works which contains the dark and cruel side of the bear is “Lokis” by Prosper Merimée (1869). Lokis is Lithuanian word for “bear”.  The Sanskrit researcher comes to Lithuania and stays in the palace of one local nobleman. During the hunt his mother was assailed by the bear and after that she became mad. She gave birth to her son nine months later and called him “the beast”. The nobleman was interested in psychology and philosophy, he read a lot of books concerning the subject of the dual personality (human-animal). The author evoked paganism and forest life in his novel. This corresponds with the primal matter of human evolution and traditions, including cruel rituals when humans were sacrificed to Gods. The dual personality of the nobleman is the expression of human duality: on the one hand we contain in ourselves animal instincts, but on the other hand, we have brains. The duality is the fight of instinct against intellect.