Bears are more than just cute toys in stores around the world. Native American shamans believed that bears were the link to the spirit world, and so they performed many rituals in their honor. In Norse culture, the god Odin was usually depicted as a bear. Early humans used the skin and bones of bears, believing that they could absorb some of their physical and spiritual powers. Also, for a long time, bears have been associated with Native Americans. They considered these animals great warriors, since they showed incredible strength, courage and power against their opponent.
In the Sioux Nation, the bear is associated with healing and medicine. Legend has it that a sick bear was cured after eating the leaves of a sequoia plant. She was so pleased with her rapid change in health that she told her sisters from the Sioux Nation of the healing benefits this plant had given her.
The Meanings Behind Bear Tattoos
For many, bears have different meanings for the wearer, and represent different traits of their personality. Most of the time, these designs symbolize:
- Strenght and courage
- Protection and Power
- Spirituality and a deep connection with nature
- Resurgence (since these animals appear in spring after a long period of inactivity)
- Other meanings: The 60 Tattoos with the greatest symbolism
Variants of Bear Tattoo Designs
From the vibrant hues of Haida tattoos, to the difficult patterns inspired by Japanese designs, bear tattoos feature many different cultural elements. The most popular designs include:
1. Stuffed animals
It’s hard to imagine today’s world without this adorable toy. We also know them as Teddy bears thanks to US President Theodore Roosevelt. And it is that, the president did not want to kill a black bear cub during a hunting expedition. And, as soon as that was known, they named these toys. Likewise, as fate would have it, two companies working independently on opposite sides of the Atlantic created this toy. It was the American brand Morris Michtom and the German Steiffs. Thus, the teddy bear tattoo symbolizes love, affection, and innocence. In addition, they are the symbol of childhood par excellence.
2. Claw or paw
Hip Hop singer Eve is known for the striking bear paw tattoo that she has on her chest. Bear paw and claw tattoos are believed to symbolize good luck, stability, power and mobility.
3. Tribal style
Tribal designs have a different spiritual meaning depending on the religion they come from. The exact meaning of each tribal symbol has been lost over time, but these designs generally represent spirituality and a deep connection to nature and Native American culture.
4. Celtic style
Celtic influenced bear tattoos are deeply connected to spirituality and paganism. Typically, wearing a Celtic bear tattoo symbolizes your connection to the elements of nature, your strong ties to Irish traditions, and your spiritual side.
5. Haida bears
Haida bear tattoos come from the oldest indigenous tribe in North America: the Haida. This tribe lived in British Columbia, Canada and Alaska. According to their traditions, the bear represented motherhood, protection, spirituality and wisdom. In fact, they usually associated the animal with a relative who was older or elderly. Haida bear designs can be red, green, or black.
6. The Grateful Dead Bear
The Grateful Dead design was created by Bob Thomas as the back cover for the band’s album History of the Grateful Dead: Volume One (Bear’s Choice). Released in 1973, Bear’s Choice reached position 60 on the Billboard top 200 chart. The design pays homage to Owsley “Bear” Stanley, who wrote and produced the album. Many people often refer to them as the “Dancing Bears,” but don’t tell Owsley. “The bears on the album cover aren’t really ‘dancing’. I don’t know why people think they are; their positions are obviously those of a high level march”.
7. Panda bears
Panda bears are some of the strangest and most famous bears on the planet. Panda bear tattoos signify good luck, harmony and balance. In Chinese legends, pandas have long been associated with the Ying-Yang symbol due to their characteristic colors: black and white.
8. Black or brown bears
Black bears and brown bears have a lot in common. In particular, the impressing fear that they cause both animals and people. If you wear any of these designs, you feel very identified with the power and warrior spirit of the bear.
9. Polar bear
Polar bears have great cultural and spiritual significance to the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. In Inuit culture, the polar bear is the earthly incarnation of the Great Spirit Tuurngasuk. The Eskimos revere these animals for their superb hunting skills. Similarly, the Nenets of Siberia believe that wearing a polar bear tusk protects them from harm. The Eskimo and Inuit tribes have innumerable folklore legends that speak of the love and devotion of polar bears towards their young. This is one of the reasons why Coca-Cola has used a polar bear in some of its Christmas ads.
10. California bears
The California bear was included on the state flag in 1846, after a group of American settlers took control of the Mexican garrison Sonoma. At the start of the Mexican-American War, settlers proudly raised a crudely handcrafted flag depicting a California bear, a star, and the words “California Republic.” This design began to mean freedom and independence in honor of the settlers.
11. Koala bears
Koalas are friendly animals that “go at their own pace”. In fact, we know them mainly for their calm demeanor and teddy bear-like appearance. In Aboriginal folklore, koalas were the keepers of Earth’s memories. They came out of the depths to bring wisdom to humans and then climbed into the trees to watch over them. Koala bear tattoos symbolize a connection to the Earth, tranquility, wisdom, and protection.
Most of these tattoos are a representation of childhood days. Normally, they are character designs that we are fans of. For example, gummy bears, Yogi bear or, of course, the adorable Winnie the Pooh. Really, these tattoos are for the nostalgic.
13. Gloomy Bear
Gloomy Bear is a popular Japanese character created by Mori Chax. Gloomy often attacks his friend Pitty and almost everyone who gets in his way. Also, he always appears covered in blood.