Octopus Symbolism & Meaning-The Ultimate Guide

Octopus Symbolism & Meaning

Octopuses have been a subject of fantasy in many cultures and mythologies. It is a sea creature that dwells on the bottom of the ocean. A creature with no skeleton, an octopus moves swiftly and can escape from the tightest of places. 

Octopuses symbolize intelligence, wit, mischief, tact, fear, and anxiety.

Octopus symbolism in major cultures and mythologies has mostly been negative. Following are the symbolism of octopuses in various cultures and mythologies. Let’s find out some interesting facts about this creature.

Octopus Symbolism In Native America

According to the Native Americans, octopuses are clever and intelligent creatures who like tricking others. The tribes of the Pacific Northwest tell legends about the sea god named Kumugwe who had a vast kingdom under the sea that was guarded by octopuses.

According to the Haida, Nootka, Tlingit, and Tsimshian tribes you should not mess with octopuses.

There is a famous Native American tale about an octopus and a raven. According to the tale, the octopus was a woman with 8 braids. One day when she was digging for clams near the beach waters during a low tide, a man came up to her and started bothering her. 

This man with beautiful black hair was a Raven disguised as a human and kept pestering the woman with his questions. Though she ignored him, he still kept asking her what she was doing and kept repeating his question. As he was asking the questions, he started moving closer to the woman. When he came close enough, the octopus grabbed him using her braids and dragged him into the water.

The tide slowly started to rise and the waters started coming in. The octopus was fine since she could breathe in the water, but this was not the case with the Raven and it started drowning. The nearby villagers somehow rescued the man and the Raven was revived with the help of his cousin, the Crow.

However, the Raven was so terrified that it was long before the Raven went to the beach. Thus, the octopus was never bothered again.

Native American Athapaskan octopus smoking bags and octopus bags are quite popular in the market. These bags made by Plateau Indians are called so because of the 8 fringes at the bottom of the bags. 

In Hawaii, the god of healing, Kanaloa is the consort of the god of creation, Kane. Together these two represent a balance of power. Goddess Kanaloa takes the form of an octopus and is thus linked to the underworld that is connected to the ocean or sea. The eye of Kanaloa is a famous symbol in Hawaii. 

People believe that you can see this symbol if you look into the eyes of Kanaloa. The eye of Kanaloa is made up of 8 spokes that represent the infinite power of love to expand. These 8 spokes are often seen as a symbol of the tentacles of the octopus and the creature itself is a symbol of infinity.

Octopus symbolism In Celtic tradition

You can find quite some octopus symbolism among Celts and Scandinavians. In Scandinavian tradition, the octopuses have straight tentacles unlike the octopuses of Mycenaean tradition, which have curled tentacles. 

In many parts of Europe, the octopus is linked with the Swastika symbol and the zodiac sign – Cancer. Due to this it also symbolizes the depths of water and the summer solstice. It is also said to symbolize Pterocers, reproductive organs, mystery, and cowry. The Celts also believe that octopuses are an embodiment of Aphrodite and represent the God Mother.

According to a Polynesian myth, there was an octopus that emerged from primordial waters and gave birth to two children, water and fire. Octopuses at some time were also related to dragons. Celts believed that the God of Nine Rays was an octopus.

Celts also saw octopuses as malevolent creatures and according to a Celtic legend, octopuses can suck a knight in armor and devour it completely. They are also blamed for floods and other water disasters. Celts also portrayed octopuses as villains in folk tales and legends.

In one such tale, the Celtic Druid-god, Dagda slew an octopus, just like a hero would kill a dragon. The text says, 

“The Dagda came with his ‘mace of wrath’ in his hand, and plunged it down upon the octopus, and chanted these words: ‘Turn thy hollow head! Turn thy ravening body! Turn thy resorbent forehead! Avaunt! Begone!’ Then the magic sea retired with the octopus; and hence, maybe, the place was called Mag Muirthemne.”

Octopus Symbolism – Oceana

The octopus is viewed in a positive light in the islands of Oceana and is associated with many ocean gods. There is a famous tale about the octopus diety, Na Kika in the Gilbert Islands. It is said that the goddess helped Nareau, the spider deity, to create the universe. 

Octopus In Greek mythology

Ancient Greeks were very much familiar with the sea and it can be seen in their art and mythologies. It is said that goddess Aphrodite was born from the sea and emerged through the white sea foam formed after Titan Cronus severed Uranus’s genitals. Since goddess Aphrodite was born from the sea she has been associated with many sea creatures including the octopus.

However, the Greeks don’t associate octopus with love and romance. Instead, the octopus is considered a dangerous animal and was feared by the Greeks. There are also some speculations about Medusa’s hair. Previously some people believed that Medusa’s hair was the tentacles of the octopus.

People also believe that Hydra, the monster snake with multiple heads was inspired by the octopus. Not only due to its multiple heads that resemble the tentacles of the octopus but also because he has the power of regeneration. Just like the octopus can regenerate its tentacles, Hydra can regenerate its heads. 

Octopus In Roman mythology

The symbolism of the octopus in Roman mythology is similar to that of Greek mythology. Romans believe that octopuses are dangerous creatures. Pliny the Elder, a 1st-century Roman natural history philosopher, and writer wrote about octopuses in one of his writings in 79 AD,

“No animal is more savage in causing the death of a man in the water, for it struggles with him by coiling round him and it swallows him with sucker-cups and drags him asunder.”

Octopus Eastern Symbolism

In China, the word Chinese octopus is related to politics. This is due to the words spoken in 1952, where Casey described China using an archetypal figure of speech. 

Casey said, “the Western allies were debating whether to hack at the tentacles or the head of the Chinese octopus”.

Here, the octopus was a representation of the fast-spreading communist state, dissent, and strangling of individuality. The Swastika symbol is also linked with octopus often. Panama’s Kuna people believe that the Swastika symbolizes the octopus who created this world. 

There is much artistic octopus symbolism in Japan. The Japanese art depicts the creature humorously. The octopus is portrayed with a surprised face and all its 8 limbs are tangled together. Octopus is an important food source for the Japanese and you can find many fishmongers on the streets of Japan selling octopus pre-boiled. It is a delicacy enjoyed by the Japanese in the form of many dishes like sushi. 

The octopus is also seen as a sex symbol in Japan that takes advantage of its tentacles to make sexual advances on eight diving females. Some folktales tell about octopi transforming into men to seduce women. The Octopus symbol is also used to cure whooping cough. An octopus with seven legs is drawn on paper and pasted on the earthen stove to cure the cough. 

The Ainu and Shinto people of Japan relay the tale of Akkorokamui, a kind spirit that is half-human and half-octopus. It is said that this huge creature roams in the waters of Funka Bay in Hokkaidō and just like any octopus has the power of regeneration. Due to this, the Ainu people thought that Akkorokamui had healing powers and if you make offerings to Akkorokamui, it can cure your wounded limbs. 

A long time ago, octopuses were seen as mystical creatures in myths and legends. They were big, slimy creatures that roamed under the dark waters of the sea. This was also the reason why they were connected to negativity and the underworld.

According to Fiji mythology, there was once an octopus goddess. She lived peacefully on her land and didn’t disturb anyone. One day there came a mighty shark god who wanted to take over the goddess’ territory. The goddess was brave and strong. She fought against the shark God and defeated him.

She wound her arms around the shark and crushed him so hard that he started crying for mercy. After hearing his cries, the Goddess finally agreed to release him but she had a condition. She asked the Shark God to protect the people from attacking sharks and to make sure that no one gets injured or dies due to shark attacks. The shark agreed and was soon released by the goddess.

Octopus In Various Religions

Most sea creatures are considered sacred in the Bible. This is because fish symbolizes Jesus Christ in Christian Art. However, the octopus is considered a nautical freak in the Bible. Despite this, for farmers, it was a sacred and divine creature because it disposed of the fishes in their nets. 

Octopus symbolizes mystery, fluidity, adaptability, fluidity, unpredictability, and flexibility. It is believed to be a lunar creature and gets affected by the waning and waxing of the moon and the tides.  

There is a story in Buddhism linked to octopus. There is a Buddist temple in Kyoto known as Tako Yakushi. According to a legend from the temple, there was a monk named Zenko who lived in the temple during the 13th century. Zenko’s mother was very ill and despite all the troubles he went through to cure her, his mother didn’t show any signs of improvement. He even brought his mother to the temple so that he can take better care of her.

One day, his mother told him that she really wanted to eat octopus meat that she ate when she was a little girl. She liked it so much that she believed if she ate it again she would be cured. However, Zenko was troubled by this because being a monk he cannot kill a sentient being and go against his teachings. 

After struggling for quite some time, the worry for his mother surpassed his conscience and he went to the market to get some octopus meat. As he walked back to the temple carrying the meat in hand, the villagers looked at him disparagingly and criticized him for eating octopus meat despite being a monk.

Hearing the words of the people, the monk felt extremely guilty and prayed for help to deal with his internal struggle. After the monk got back to his mother. He opened the box containing the octopus. However, to the surprise of Zenko and his mother, instead of the octopus the box was filled with 8 sutra scrolls. 

As they stared at the box in amazement the scrolls turned back into the octopus that crawled out of the box and jumped into a pond in the temple garden. In the pond, the octopus transformed into Buddha surrounded by glowing green light. When this light touched the monk’s mother she was healed and since then the temple has been called the Octopus temple.

Though there is no particular octopus God in Hinduism, like some animal gods, we can still see some octopus symbolism in Hinduism. Many times Hindu deities are shown with multiple hands and heads. This form of Hindu gods is linked with the tentacles of an octopus. This form of the deities usually appears when they are fighting powerful cosmic forces and demonstrates enormous power.

Octopus African symbolism

Octopuses were used in African art to convey a sense of persistence, slow motion, and determination. Octopuses in a way also symbolize the sun, since the sun is portrayed with three legs sprouting in different directions. In his book, An Introduction to African Legal Philosophy, John Murungi used the octopus to explain racism.

According to Murungi,” Racism is a symbol of oppression which is like the octopus. It is hard to tell which of the eight arms has the tightest stranglehold”. 

Octopus motifs were also used on coins in Egypt. It is also believed that the Mycenaean spiral and volute in a way represent octopuses.

Mycenaean decorative art and Minoan paintings portray the spirals as a life-giving symbol. Volute was used on Egyptian scarabs and to decorate the Thracian statuette of the nude Goddess. There are also crude idols from the Neolithic phase that symbolize octopus. It is also seen that the octopus was the symbol of water fertilization and the ocean.

Octopus In Dreams Meaning

Octopus symbolism in dreams depends on how you interpret your dreams. If you feel anxious or fearful after dreaming about the octopus, it means that there are unresolved issues in your life that you should resolve as soon as possible. You might feel weak and helpless. 

The appearance of the octopus in your dream also symbolizes that you are two spread out that is you are involved in too many things at the same time and couldn’t give proper attention to any task. You can delay the completion of all your tasks in this way, causing uncertainty in life. 

If an octopus appears in your dream, it is a sign that you are holding too tight onto things and need to let go. You need to become more courageous and confident and conquer your insecurities and fears. If you see an octopus attacking in your dream it means that you are being pulled into your dream by your unconscious mind.

Dreaming about octopuses can also be a symbol of infidelity. Though the dream symbolism of the octopus is usually negative in the end it depends on you how you perceive the meaning.

Conclusion-Octopus Symbolism & Meaning

The number eight is considered lucky by many people as it symbolizes eternal life, abundance, commitment, and fortitude. Octopuses also symbolize creativity and encourage you to always move towards your goal with a unique and creative approach. It advises you to let go of your excess physical and emotional baggage. 


"Smith is an outdoor enthusiast and Just loves everything about binoculars. Since his childhood he has been a fan of optical gadgets & going into the Jungle with his uncle was his favorite pastime. Besides, He loves watching & studying birds & animals. He is a mechanical engineering graduate and New Jersey Resident. He loves to review binoculars and related optical Instruments and loves testing each one of them." When he is not fiddling with one of his binoculars, you can find him playing his favorite sport Pickleball."

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