There are perhaps few creatures both so small and so capable of instilling fear as the scorpion. But this little critter also has much to teach us.
Throughout history, the scorpion has been used to represent different ideas and lessons. We’re going to take a look at scorpion symbolism across different cultures. And we’ll find out what it might mean if you’ve had a scorpion encounter that felt significant.
So if you’re ready, step this way to learn more …
Table of Contents
- what does scorpion mean?
- The Scorpion Kings
- Scorpion Goddesses
- Scorpion Men
- The Scorpio in the Stars
- The Scorpion in Greek Mythology
- Scorpions in Ancient Rome
- Scorpions in Native American Tradition
- Recognizing the Scorpion as a Spirit Animal
- The Spiritual Message of the Scorpion
- The Varied Symbolism of Scorpions
what does scorpion mean?
The Scorpion Kings
One of the earliest and most intriguing appearances of the scorpion in human iconography comes in ancient Egypt. A king known as Scorpion I is believed to be the first ruler to have controlled the whole of Upper Egypt.
This was in around 3,250 BC. But unsurprisingly, given its distant history, very few details of Scorpion survive.
His tomb was found in the ancient royal cemetery at Abydos, and a graffito bearing his symbol was found in 1990. This depicted Scorpion’s victory in battle, possibly over a king of Naqada.
A second king named Scorpion also appears to have ruled Upper Egypt around 50 to 100 years later.
Egyptologists disagree over whether Scorpion II is the same person as the king known as Narmer. It’s possible that the Scorpion symbol was a second name. It could even be a title, perhaps harking back to the first Scorpion.
With so little information, it’s hard to be clear about the links between Egyptian kingship and scorpions in the Protodynastic period. But one possibility is that the scorpion was seen as the protector of kings.
One species of scorpion found in Egypt, the aptly named Deathstalker, also has a bite that’s fatal. So the symbolism may also be intended to portray the power of the king – and the danger of crossing him.
Scorpions weren’t just associated with royalty in ancient Egypt. The earliest depictions of the goddess Serket, dating from Egypt’s Old Kingdom, took the form of a scorpion. Sometimes she was shown as the animal itself, and sometimes as a woman with a scorpion’s head.
As a venomous creature herself, she had the power to neutralize the bites or stings of other animals. Her name reflects this dual role. Serket in hieroglyphics can be read either as “the one who tightens the throat” or “the one who causes the throat to breathe”.
She was also associated with fertility, animals, nature, magic and medicine. And she was the enemy of Apep, the demon who took the form of a snake. Serket is sometimes shown standing guard over Apep when he is captured.
A second Egyptian goddess, Hedetet, was also depicted as a scorpion. She is sometimes shown with a scorpion’s head, cradling a baby.
Scorpions were also associated with deities far beyond Egypt. The Mesopotamian goddess of love, Ishara, had the scorpion as her symbol. Scorpions at that time were considered to represent marriage.
Similar to Serket’s dual association with poison, Ishara was associated with both disease and healing.
In Aztec mythology, Malinalxochitl was a goddess with dominion over scorpions as well as snakes and desert insects.
And the Hindu goddess Chelamma is a scorpion goddess who again has the power to protect against the creature’s bite.
Interestingly, while there are plenty of scorpion deities, they are all goddesses rather than gods. But the ancient world did have some male incarnations of the scorpion.
The Akkadian Empire existed in Mesopotamia between around 2334 to 2154 BC. And Akkadian legend features several stories of the Scorpion Men.
These strange creatures were said to have the bodies of scorpions but the limbs and heads of men. They were created by Tiamat, the goddess of the sea, to wage war on her enemies.
It is the Scorpion Men who open and close the doors of the land of darkness, known as Kurnugi. Each day, they open the doors for Shamash, the Sun God, to leave Kurnugi. They close the doors behind him, then open them again to admit him when the sun sets.
In this myth, then, the Scorpion Men have great power. It is they who release the sun every day to warm the earth.
The Scorpio in the Stars
Perhaps one of the best known aspects of the scorpion’s symbolism comes in western astrology. The star sign Scorpio is assigned to those born between around October 20th and November 20th. (The dates change slightly every year.) It is represented by the scorpion.
Each of the astrological signs is associated with one of the four primal elements of earth, air, fire and water. Scorpio is a water sign, and it’s connected with feminine energy.
Scorpios are said to be powerful. And like the various scorpion goddesses, they understand that poison and cure are closely related. They are brave, determined, loyal – and they comprehend the power of evil.
That means they can sometimes appear over-cautious. They may occasionally need to be prompted to lighten up!
And once started on something, they won’t let go until it’s finished. That means they’re often careful about where they invest their energy in the first place.
Their curious and analytical natures are said to make them well suited to careers as psychologists, researchers, chemists and detectives.
But they also have an intuitive understanding of the connection between mind and body, and are natural healers. That also makes them excellent medics and even massage therapists.
The Scorpion in Greek Mythology
The origins of our western horoscope lie in Greek mythology. So how did the constellation Scorpio find its place in the heavens?
There are various different versions of the legend, but all include the hunter, Orion.
In one, Orion was said to be the most handsome mortal on the earth. He went on hunting trips with the goddess Artemis, but this angered Artemis’s brother, Apollo. (Another version of the story has Apollo getting cross because Orion boasted that he was a better hunter than Artemis.)
Whatever the reason for Apollo’s wrath, the result was the same. He despatched a scorpion to kill Orion. That’s a lesson never to annoy either the gods or your friend’s brother!
Zeus immortalized both Orion and the scorpion by giving them a place in the stars. But he decreed that they would never be visible at the same time.
In another version of the myth, Orion is boasting again. This time he says that he will hunt down and kill all the animals of the world.
In this case, it is Artemis herself, together with her mother, Leto, who take action. They send a scorpion to take down Orion, signifying the power ascribed to scorpions. The scorpion wins the battle with Orion, and Zeus rewards it with a place in the stars.
Scorpions in Ancient Rome
For the ancient Romans, the scorpion was also a creature to be feared. Its image was used on the shields of the Praetorian Guard, the emperor’s personal bodyguard. And one of the Romans’ weapons of war was also given the name Scorpion.
The Scorpion was a siege machine, a weapon designed to breach a city’s defences.
There were two different kinds, one and two-armed. They weren’t particularly successful, however. Their construction was complicated and very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. They nevertheless survived in varying forms right up to the Middle Ages.
Here again, we see the dual nature of the scorpion. It was both feared by the Romans, and used to inspire fear in their enemies.
Scorpions in Native American Tradition
Scorpions are also referenced in the folklore of many Native American peoples. They are used as totem animals, signifying the key characteristics of tribes and clans. The scorpion is believed to represent risk, danger and change.
The frog at first refuses, telling the scorpion that he fears he will sting him. “But if I did that,” the scorpion replies, “we would both die!”
The frog eventually relents and allows the scorpion to climb onto his back. But halfway across the river, just as the frog feared, the scorpion stings him. The dying frog asks why he did such a thing, since now they will both drown. “It is in my nature,” says the scorpion.
The rather pessimistic moral of the tale is that some people cannot help themselves. They will hurt other people, even when it is to their own detriment.
Recognizing the Scorpion as a Spirit Animal
In some cultures, spirit animals are believed to act as guardians and protectors. So how do you know if you have a spirit animal? And what does it mean if your spirit animal is a scorpion?
You may find your spirit animal appears at times when you need advice or guidance. Perhaps you’re facing a problem you’re unsure how to solve. Or perhaps you need to take a decision, but aren’t sure which way to go.
Seeing a particular animal at a time that feels significant to you might indicate that it has a spiritual message. The circumstances of the encounter might seem strange in some way. And you might find that you have an unexpectedly powerful emotional response.
You may also find that you keep seeing the same kind of animal in different contexts. That might mean they pop up in different locations. Or it might mean that you see a photograph, read a story or listen to a song in which the animal features.
Repeated encounters of this kind suggest that the animal has a particular meaning for you. So what does it mean if that animal is a scorpion?
The Spiritual Message of the Scorpion
As we’ve seen, scorpions are associated with danger, risk and change. But they can also be linked with healing.
The appearance of a scorpion could therefore have a number of different meanings. The first step to narrowing down the right interpretation is to ask yourself what the scorpion means to you. That personal meaning will be at the core of whatever message it holds.
It can also help to meditate on the circumstances of the encounter. Were you thinking about a particular problem at the time? If so, the appearance of the scorpion might well relate to that.
The location in which you saw it can also be significant. A scorpion near your car could mean that the message relates to travel – either literally, or in the sense of your spiritual direction. If you saw it at your place of work, it could relate to your job.
As you start to make these connections, consider the different meanings of the scorpion.
It could signify that change is on the horizon. Perhaps that change feels worrying, but the scorpion is a reminder that it’s also a necessary part of life. Only by one thing ending can something new take its place.
It could also be making you aware of some kind of danger in your environment. That might relate to a situation or to other people.
A scorpion warning of danger also acts as a reminder for you to respond with caution. This is a creature that never goes on the attack unless it is provoked. The message here is to observe what is happening around you carefully before you decide how to proceed.
The Varied Symbolism of Scorpions
That brings us to the end of our look at scorpion symbolism.
The power of the scorpion bite has seen it play an important role in human belief systems for millennia. Whether as kings, goddesses, or governing human matters through the stars, scorpions have been both feared and worshipped.
Its message relates to danger and risk, but also to change and healing. It teaches us that ends are also beginnings, and to look before we leap. In difficult situations, the scorpion reminds to take the time to analyze what’s happening before we respond.
Whether you’re a Scorpio, have a scorpion as a spirit animal, or are just interested in scorpion symbolism, we hope you’ve enjoyed our review. We wish you well in interpreting the message of the scorpion for your own personal circumstances.
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