Updated: Jun 2, 2022
The lunar new year is the beginning of the calendar year based on the lunisolar calendar (as opposed to the widely used solar Gregorian calendar) that is marked by the cycles of the moon and is observed by a large portion of the population in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This calendar is most widely used by the Chinese with February 1st marking the lunar or Chinese New Year! Even those who are not familiar with the Chinese New Year, have more than likely at least seen images or videos of the festivities that take place, particularly the dance of the dragons. Dragons are a symbol of luck and prosperity and are among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each lunar year is represented by one of these animals with the cycle repeating every 12 years, as well as one of the 5 elements to make a combination. 2022 is the Year of the (Water) Tiger, the third animal in the 12 Chinese zodiacal signs.
Tiger symbolism throughout various cultures
In Chinese culture, tigers pervade every aspect, they are the king of the beasts, and symbols of braveness, fierceness, authority and prowess; emperors and kings are even referred to as tigers. The Chinese god of wealth, Caishen, rides a tiger guarding a money chest. They are the yin current of geometric feng shui that runs through the land. White tigers are depicted to represent Luna (the moon) and illumination both physically and spiritually, particularly in her new moon phase as the light escapes from the darkness (Chinese New Year begins at the new moon). So revered are they, that tigers guard graves from evil spirits, as well as the gates of heaven. In Taoism, they helped defeat the King of the demons. It is this protective nature that has earned them the title of patron deity of children and parents. Sadly though, tigers are farmed and poached in China as consumption of various tiger body parts continues to be a staple in Traditional Chinese Medicine while their skins are a status of wealth.
In the Hindi faith, they also represent unbridled passion and strength, it is for this reason that Durga, the destroyer, rides a tiger into battle when slaying demons. Buddhism holds that they are one of the three senseless creatures; they represent anger, and their striped coat symbolizes the transformation of anger into wisdom. In Tibet, the tiger is the key to eternal life, and Koreans believe that tigers vanquish evil spirits. Throughout the history of man, tigers have been worshiped as gods themselves, this worship still persists in areas of the world today, particularly in parts of India.
Universal Tiger Symbolism
Our fascination and fear of these majestic creatures continues to this day. Just take a look around you at all of the brands, companies, and even sports teams that employ the symbol of a tiger. Even one of the most popular breakfast cereals on the market, Frosted Flakes (my favorite cereal), uses Tony the tiger to appeal to children, and nearly a century’s worth of children have grown up with the rambunctious Tigger the tiger. Somehow, tigers manage to resonate a raw earthiness yet mysterious, magical and perhaps even supernatural quality. There is something about their regal stride, vivid colors, alluring gaze, and the sheer raw intenseness of their power that draws you in. They are both reality and myth.
11 Lessons from the Tiger Spirit Animal
The wisdom that a particular animal has for us, often referred to as “Spirit Animal”, comes from the characteristics and behaviors of a particular animal. So to better understand the lessons and wisdom that the spirit of the tiger has for us this year and anytime it shows up in our life, we have to first look at where their unique characteristics and strengths lie.
FACT 1. Despite their large size and unique coat, tigers tend to choose prey that are colorblind, use the reeds to their advantage to blend in naturally with their hunting grounds, and are nearly silent when lying in wait.
WISDOM: When you are after something, particularly something big, it’s best to keep your head down, keep quiet and blend in with the crowd. With big rewards comes big risks, especially if others have their eyes on you.
FACT 2. They are incredibly careful, deliberate and patient when hunting. They have been observed traveling great distances, as well as standing, crouching and sitting as still as a statue for extended hours on end.
WISDOM : When you set your eyes on a goal, be mindful and realistic in what it takes to attain it; go out and actively seek opportunities that will help you realize your goal; plan carefully and accordingly; and be patient. Good things come to those that wait for the right timing.
FACT 3. Being the largest of the big cats and often much slower than their prey, they have learned to only strike at the most opportune moment with the greatest chance of success.
WISDOM: Not everything is worth your time and energy, know what is right for you rather than right in front of you, and when the most opportune time to take action is. Follow your gut.
FACT 4. They also take extended breaks between hunts to recuperate their energy to its fullest before attempting to hunt again.
WISDOM: Life is hard work. You have to take time to adequately rest and recharge or you’ll run yourself into the ground and subsequently miss better opportunities that come around simply because you are burnt out.
FACT 5: If an attempted kill is unsuccessful, they move as far away from that spot in their territory as possible knowing that the chances of a successful hunt in that area are now nearly nonexistent for the time being.
WISDOM: Just because something was unsuccessful or not as successful as expected, doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of being successful. Don’t give up. Reevaluate the situation, find more conducive conditions and try again with better precision.
FACT 6. They are known to be particularly adept at shifting strategies as their situation changes; especially as it relates to hunting, weather conditions, and human civilization encroachment. Their willpower and determination sees that they survive and even thrive.
WISDOM: We can’t control life, things are going to happen that are entirely out of our hands but somehow manage to impact every part of our being. Rather than fighting these things or slinking away, shift gears, change your strategy and keep going. There are a lot of things the world can try and take from you, your willpower shouldn't be one of them. Resilience is an innate ability, it can be learned and developed by anyone.
FACT 7. Tigers are solitary animals that, with the exception of a mother and her cub(s), are not part of packs or families.
WISDOM: You don’t have to be a part of the crowd nor a family that is not conducive to your state of wellbeing; a solitary life does not have to equate to an unfulfilled life. Know when to pull back, separate yourself and even when to go within. Freedom is in the breakaway.
FACT 8. Compared to other large cats, they have smaller territories and are quite adaptable to their surroundings.
WISDOM: Learn to use what you have to your advantage, more is not always better. If you can’t take advantage of what you already have right now, then how exactly are you going to benefit from adding more of what you aren’t already utilizing?
FACT 9. Unlike a lot of other large cats, tigers tend to stay hidden, they are rather shy and elusive.
WISDOM: Being in the spotlight, especially if you are unique, makes you a target. Remember that.
FACT 10. Contrary to popular myth and depictions, tigers avoid fighting unless they deem it absolutely necessary.
WISDOM: Not all fights are worth fighting. There is wisdom in knowing what fight is not yours or when to just walk away.
FACT 11. Unlike other cats, they love water and swimming just for the fun of it.
WISDOM: Know how to have fun and when to let yourself live in the moment, not everything has to be serious all of the time.
You never know how the tigers' symbolism and wisdom can help bring understanding to your life, to your circumstances, and even to your future. So as we move into the Year of the Tiger who’s symbolism and profound wisdom brings us closer to our true nature and living in harmony with Universal knowledge, bookmark this post and revisit it when you find yourself needing guidance and wisdom.
Tigers need your help. These once revered creatures are now endangered (some species are critically endangered while others have gone extinct) as their habitats and population have been decimated over the past few hundred years, particularly since the Industrial Revolution and man's need to conquer beast out of sport. As we have alienated ourselves from the cycles of mother nature, their ancient sacredness has been replaced with materialism. Tiger skins and taxidermy mounts are a lucrative market despite conservation efforts, and talismans and potions are still highly sought after. India is home to 70% of the world tiger population, yet the US has more tigers in captivity than the total population in the wild world wide. In December of 2020, thanks to the spotlight shone on the tiger trade in the US depicted in “Tiger King”, the US House of Representatives passed the “Big Cat Public Safety Act” which prevents individuals from owning large cats as pets; though as with anything else, the black market will only be strengthened.
Below you will find reputable conservation efforts to save these incredible creatures. Please consider donating to one of these groups or with your time in raising awareness.
Conservation Efforts - GET INVOLVED
“Tigers are some of the most vital and beloved animals on Earth. With our partners at WWF, my Foundation has supported major efforts to double the number of tigers in the wild. I am optimistic about what can be achieved when governments, communities, conservationists and private foundations like ours come together to tackle global challenges.”
SaveTigersNow.org - DiCaprio's organization spearheaded with WorldWideLife.org
Tigers have been my favorite animal since I was a child, a good portion of this was written with knowledge I have collected through the years. The following resources were also used:
LIFE Magazine "Tigers: The World's Most Incredible Animals"
© Brandy Rachelle
Uncredited images from my personal collection or within the public domain