The bear, in our history and as part of nature has a lot of symbolism. First of all, there are many different types of bears such as the polar bear, black bear, and the grizzly – among many others. Each of these bears have very different personality patterns and habits – that when depicted in a tattoo can present very different meanings. As far as symbolism is concerned, bears rank pretty high on the food chain – literally! Native Americans believe that a bear is considered very special, endowed with special powers. Some of the tribes even revered it as sacred having the power to heal.
On the contrary, the bear is symbolically a gentle and noble creature which can turn fierce when it feels endangered. When weighing the symbolic value of a bear tattoo you may need to consider both of these aspects. Due to the duality of these beliefs the bear has been viewed with awe as well as fear. For example the Europeans and Celts considered the bear to be a fierce symbol of war. Some Christians also endowed the bear with the quality of being cruel.
Some Native American tribes associated the bear with the ability to locate things effectively. The bear for Sioux Indians, signifies the air – an essential part of life. Thereby it is associated with whirlwinds which are supposed to mislead and confuse foes thus helping them win the fight. For many a tribe the bear was about self analysis and pondering the deeper truths within while sitting in silence. Plus the bear was attributed with both female and male qualities. The manly qualities attributed to the bear include bravery, strength, indestructibility and keen observation. The womanly qualities were earthiness and the ability to create.
With so many breeds of bear being there, a person from a certain place may get a tattoo of the bear breed from that particular region as a means of expressing the fact that they belong to that region. Plus having a symbol of the region tattooed on your body allows you to feel that part of that place is always with you.