For us, and many of you, elephants hold a significant meaning in each of our lives. From their quirky personalities to their stories of healing and growth, they can represent something bigger than just their physical animal beings. For today’s EleFACT, we want to look at how elephants are symbolized and represented in other cultures.
The Asian elephant often plays a big role in different religious traditions and mythologies, sometimes deemed a deity who symbolizes strength and wisdom. The African elephant is seen as the wise chief who, in African fables, often settles disputes between other members of the animal kingdom. They are considered helpful and benevolent creatures, often portrayed as being wise and just. In the Ashanti tradition, elephants are seen as human chiefs from the past. In the Hindu belief, the Earth is supported and guarded by World Elephants and the deity Ganesha represents wisdom. The rare white elephant is believed to be sacred and symbolizes royalty, particularly in Hindu iconography.
In European history, it’s said that King Louis IX of France gave his cousin Henry III an elephant in 1255, which was housed in the menagerie in the Tower of London. The “trend” of elephants seemed to intensify when Queen Charlotte acquired eight Indian elephants in ten years which she kept at her home, Buckingham House.
Throughout history, elephants have been revered and idolized across cultures and continents. We can only hope that by providing sanctuary to elephants who have experienced life in captivity, we can play in the future of the elephant story with love and respect.
Photo of Rana