Elephant – Spirit Animal, Totem, Symbolism and Meaning

Elephant, the Keeper of Memories, is an animal people admire since prehistoric and antique times. Great ancestors of modern day elephants, the mighty mammoths, were admired by our own ancestors from far past.

Paintings of those massive and impressive beings are to be found in caves and on stone walls dating millenniums ago.

Our bonds with these extraordinary giants are old and strong. Elephants are considered wise and sensitive giants.

People usually associate them with the idea of excellent memory, strong family relationships, luck, fortune, wealth and much more.

There is a common saying about elephant’s memory, popular all around the world. When a person has an excellent ability to remember and recall things that had happened a long time ago, we use to say: You remember things like an elephant. We also say: An elephant never forgets;

Elephants are great and amazing animals and people should care about their existence on Earth. There are many interesting facts about those creatures, amongst which are many reasons why people have been thinking of them as special, sacred and god-like beings, with great symbolical and spiritual significance.

Both African and Asian elephants have gained respect and admiration from people sharing their habitat.

Not only elephants share traits with humans (such as their ability to feel powerful emotions), but they are a vital link in a chain of biodiversity and natural sustainment of our planet.

Symbolically, elephants are associated with ideas and concepts people value the most. Lucky elephant brings us joy and harmony, peace with the world and within ourselves.

Elephants are honored and loved by different societies and cultures. The greatest source of elephant’s symbolism and spiritual meanings originates from Asian traditions, particularly Hindu and Buddhist.

Elephants in culture and tradition

In many cultures around the world elephants have prominent position as powerful and magical creature. God elephant Ganesha is probably one of the most popular mythological beings associated with these impressive animals.

White elephant from Buddhist tradition is also a significant example, as well as several other divine and sacred elephant depictions. Let us see what do elephants represent in different cultural conceptions.

Hindu tradition

Elephants are highly positioned in Hindu tradition; in India, elephants are considered sacred animals. We could freely say these animals are a national treasure for people in India.

Not only they use those benevolent giants for transportation and other purposes, but also they worship them and nurture them, being thankful for all the help elephants give them.

An elephant figurine or some other touristic trinket is probably one of the most popular Hindu souvenirs. You could probably find elephant motifs on garments, jewelry, home apparel and other stuff you could buy in a local Hindu shop in your own country.


Elephants are kind of a national treasure for Hindu people. They have many beliefs and legends about those animals and they pray to elephant gods, as well.

One of the most fortunate and benevolent Hindu deity is Ganesha, the god elephant of prosperity and wealth, who is often depicted as a fat man with a head of an elephant;

Ganesha’s tusk represents symbol of wisdom and higher knowledge. This powerful Hindu deity is popular as a god that crosses all the barriers and gets you fortune and wealth.

Hindu people praise elephant god for all the gifts and guidance he offers them. Ganesha is also known as Ganapati, Vinayaka or Binayak, the Remover of Obstacles.

This elephant god is one of the most loved and adored deities in Hindu tradition and wider. God elephant Ganesha is protector of artists and knowledge, and he also stands for intelligence and wisdom.

As a god associated with the concept of Beginning, Ganesha is usually honored at the beginning of Hindu rituals and ceremonial events.

Ganesha chase away evil, vanity, selfishness and loftiness. He is portrayed in different manners: as a dancing figure, sitting or standing, playing with his family members, fighting demons or else.

Ganesha’s head represents Ataman or human soul, which is believed to be the purest form of human existence, while his body represents Maya, the earthly existence of human beings.

His tusk is associated with magical Om, the sound that reflects cosmic reality, the highest spheres of the great magic of all life;

China and Feng Shui

Elephants are popular symbols in China, as well. Chinese associate these amazing animals with concepts of honor, strength, glory and nobility. They also believe elephants possess great wisdom and knowledge and use elephant motifs as symbols of noble leadership, morality and bravery.

Chinese art often features elephant depictions or elephant statues. Elephant statues and figurines are particularly valued in Feng Shui.

Chinese term for ‘an elephant’ is similar to the term they use for ’Prime minister’, so it is logical to associate this marvelous animal with some traits people like to find in their leaders, such as strength, honor, justice and wisdom;

In Feng Shui, elephants represent fortune and they are particularly associated with children and family.

It is believed elephants bring happiness in marriage and improve the probability of conceal. Elephant statues and figurines are commonly used in Feng Shui, in order to secure prosperous and happy marriage, full of children and family joy.

The best places to position elephant figurines for such purposes are beside couple’s bed or outside the bedroom door.

A couple of elephant statues with their tusk raised up should be positioned outside the house, a single figurine on each side of the entrance to your home. You could also place them inside, at both sides of the door, with tusks directed outwards. This is Feng Shui way to protect your home from misfortune and thieves;

Depending on particular purpose you want to achieve, you could place your elephant figurine at different spots in your home. In addition to mentioned above, for attracting luck and fortune, a figurine should be faced inwards.

Feng Shui elephant statues are often designed as an elephant surrounded with children or a baby elephant. These figurines bring joy and happiness to family life and make relations between parents and children stronger and deeper.

Elephant statues could attract career success and help persons on leading positions to achieve more, to be respected and honored for their work. The best spots for that purpose are sides of office door or office desk;

White elephant meaning

White elephant is another inspiring mythical portrayal of this marvelous animal. White animal is an important symbol in Buddhist tradition and it is associated with fortune.

The White elephant is one of the Buddhist eight sacred animals.

White elephant is sacred in Thailand, Burma, India and Buddhist tradition in general. In India, white elephants are considered divine and royal animals.

Hindu mythology tells king of all gods, the almighty Indr,a rides a flying white elephant that has six pairs of tusks and six trunks. The name of this mythical creature is Airavata; Airavata is able to produce rain and thunder carrying Indra to the battle;

White elephant is linked to concepts of royalty, majesty and glory in Buddhist beliefs. According to legends, Maya, mother of future famous prophet Gautama Buddha, actually conceived a child after a dream of having an intercourse with a white elephant!

This is one of the reasons white elephants are honored and adored in Buddhism.


Let us just mention Asian’s elephant grandiose African cousin. African elephant is bigger and more intimidating and this magnificent animal is not so attached to humans. However, African people honor elephants for their incredible strength, size and longevity.

They also believe elephants are intelligent and wise beings, keepers of higher knowledge and deep memories. They associate elephants with loyalty, family, nurture and care, spirituality and clairvoyance.

A Yoruba people proverb says you do not need to ask if something had just passed by, after an elephant crosses your path.

This saying, of course, means there are things so big and obvious that do not require any words spoken to prove them;

Elephant symbolism and spiritual meaning

What do elephants symbolize in general? Well, we have seen how important they are for people, particularly in symbolical sense.

Elephant symbolism is abundant in meanings, which are mostly positive. There are not much negative things you could say about elephants. In spiritual sense, elephant symbolism is mostly based upon Asian interpretations.

We have African elephant, of course, but since this savannah king is much more aggressive and unfriendly to humans, we usually stick to stories about Asian elephants. Here are the main traits and ideas associated with these amazing giants.

Strength and power – Elephants are strong animals and people admire them for this trait. People use elephants’ strength in many ways. Ancient kings would ride to their battles sitting on elephants’ backs, for example. There are several notable historical examples of armies featuring these massive, durable and strong animals;

Indian king Porus and famed Carthage military commander Hannibal are the two most widely known. Elephants have been associated with power, leadership, royalty and strength since ancient times.

Elephants are naturally equipped to keep away predators and other enemies. They have thick skin, massive bodies, strong tusks and legs and a powerful roar that would scare away even the bravest creature. Elephants do not have many natural enemies.

We could say that elephants’ only enemy is the being that worship it – the human being. Elephant trophy hunt is one of the bloodiest and the most notorious actions people had been practicing.

Protection and loyalty – Elephants are always associated with family joy and harmony of the home. They are social and caring animals. You have probably heard there are elephants’ cemeteries; the thing is these animals would often return to places where some of their relatives had passed.

It suggests elephants do remember things and have emotions pretty much similar to our own. They are protective of their kind and they express great love and affection towards one another. Thus, elephants represent parental care, friendship, community and loyalty.

They are considered some of the most honorable and honest creatures in the world of symbols and spirituality. Elephant motifs stand for harmony and peace, great love and devotion.

Tenderness and care – Elephants are gentle creatures, no matter they are so big. Elephants are generally of a calm nature. They are not aggressive and they would never attack another living being without a cause. When provoked and in fear for their loved ones, especially their little ones, they become very defensive and show their strength.

They are extremely nurturing and caring parents, gentle amongst themselves.

Knowledge and wisdom – Elephants are known for their excellent memory. They are associated with higher or deeper knowledge, wisdom and clairvoyance. They are known to be intelligent animals. These animals have always been considered powerful symbols of wisdom and learning.

For example, Feng Shui elephant motifs are often used to improve someone’s learning skills. If a student has trouble learning it is good to place an elephant figurine in his or hers room or place somewhere near learning space, such as desk.

Elephant as totem and spirit animal

Lucky elephant brings joy, serenity, peace and harmony to its protégé. People born under the totem of Elephant are extraordinary individuals with much knowledge about the world.

They are quiet and steady, calm, relaxed and very strong. Their only weakness is their love for their friends and family.

They are not easily annoyed or frightened, but they could get vulnerable when their emotions towards others are in question. These are main traits of Elephant people.

  • Calm and relaxed
  • Affectionate and caring
  • Extremely emotional
  • Intelligent and wise

Elephant people are of a calm nature. They never seek for a quarrel or fight and they do not like such behavior. They tend to keep to their own cause, but they love to listen to other people and hear their opinion.

However, they would use their great knowledge when it comes to big decisions. Elephant people love to learn. They are naturally intelligent so the find it easy to study and to dedicate their time and patience to things they are interested into. They are amazing teachers and guides.

Other people always value what an Elephant person has to say and often seek for their advice.

Elephant individuals are caring and loving parents, affectionate lovers and loyal friends. They are emotionally vulnerable if those relations come in question.

They have great empathy and they understand other peoples’ troubles. Elephant people socialize easily and make new friends and connections and they like to help others. It does not burden them.

However, they are wise enough not get deceived or exploited by others.

  • Helpful and reliable
  • Fortunate and successful
  • Kind and gentle
  • Amazing parents and friends

Lucky elephant brings you, well, luck! Elephant people are usually successful in life. Not that they do not have to work hard or overcome obstacles, but they have a little help from their lucky guide.

Elephants are associated with wealth, abundance and prosperity, so Elephant people usually do well in these areas of life. They are extremely family oriented and they would work hard in order to ensure their loved ones are happy and satisfied. Elephant people value others and respect them and that karma returns to them.

They are kind and gentle towards others, so other do not want to hurt them. They would rarely provoke or annoy other people.

Their friends and people who meet them always find out how relaxed and content they feel in an Elephant person’s presence.

These extraordinary individuals easily win others love and respect. They are honored for their achievements, respected for their great wisdom and knowledge about different subjects. In short, these are uniquely rich personalities.

Elephant people know their strengths and limits. They would always stand their ground and nurture their emotions.

Although they are known for their extremely polished memory, they rarely tend to be vengeful persons. They rather use their memories in order to build experience and learn a good lesson about life.

They rarely make the same mistake again.