Hyena Symbolism – Spirit, Power, Totem Animal

Hyenas have long been seen as mysterious and powerful animals, with many ancient societies viewing them as symbols of strength, courage, wisdom, and intelligence. No wonder they are held in high regard worldwide – they can hunt alone or in packs, think strategically and devise ingenious strategies to catch their prey. But there is more to hyena symbolism than physical strength; these animals represent a variety of themes depending on which culture we look at. From spirit guides and totems to symbols of power across African tribes, there are so many fascinating insights into hyena meaning.

What Does a Hyena Symbolize?

Hyenas have been associated with various cultural and spiritual meanings throughout history, often seen as symbols of strength, cunning, deceit, and even death. They embody the duality of life, having both good and bad connotations depending on their representation or context.

In many African cultures, hyenas symbolize fearlessness, cunning, and intelligence. The animal is often seen as a messenger from the spirit world, thought to possess special powers such as the ability to shape-shift or heal. In some cases, these animals are even viewed as protective spirits – aiding people in times of danger or distress.

In other cultures, hyenas are seen as symbols of strength. They’re thought to possess courage and immense physical power – traits that make them excellent hunters. For example, in some African tribes, warriors have been known to don hyena skins or masks during ceremonies to invoke the animal’s spirit and gain its strength.

Spotted Hyena Symbolism

The spotted hyena is particularly revered in African cultures, and its symbolism varies depending on the region.

spotted hyenas

In parts of southern Africa, these animals are seen as an omen of bad luck or death, while in other areas, they’re viewed more favorably – believed to offer protection from danger. The spotted hyena is also said to symbolize transformation, as it’s thought to be able to change into other animals.

In West Africa, the spotted hyena is seen as a symbol of leadership and power – often associated with warrior chiefs who are thought to have special spiritual powers. In some areas, these animals are also believed to possess magical healing abilities and can be used as guardians to ward off evil spirits.

Brown Hyena Symbolism

The brown hyena has a slightly different symbolism in African cultures, often associated with transformation and healing. In some parts of the continent, they’re seen as powerful medicine men – thought to possess special powers that can cure illnesses or protect people from harm.

brown hyenas

In other regions, they’re thought to be guides on the journey through life – showing people how to move through difficult times and embrace their true selves. In addition, brown hyenas are often seen as symbols of strength, resilience, and intelligence.

They’re known for their courage in taking on challenges that may seem too big to handle and their ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions.

Striped Hyena Symbolism

In many cultures, striped hyenas have been seen as guardians or protectors of people, animals, homes, and sacred places. It was considered a powerful animal with incredible strength and courage, perfect for representing protection in spiritual contexts.

striped hyenas

In some cultures, the striped hyena symbolizes wisdom and cunning. It was believed to have access to knowledge humans could not reach, so it was also seen as a teacher or guide in spiritual matters. People would go to shamans and use their insights from these animals for guidance and divination.

Aardwolf (Proteles Cristata) Symbolism

The aardwolf is often associated with strength, loyalty, and courage. This symbolism has been seen throughout different cultures throughout history. In ancient Greece, the Aardwolf symbolized victory and protection from harm.

The Romans believed that the Aardwolf could bring them luck in battle. In medieval Europe, the Aardwolf symbolized diligence and wisdom. It was also believed to be a guardian of the home and symbolized good luck for travelers.

The African Bushmen view the Aardwolf as a spirit animal that can bring them healing and protection from disease. The San people of Southern Africa use it as a totem to represent strength, courage, and power. The Zulu people in South Africa believe the Aardwolf can bring them good fortune and success on their journey.

In some cultures, the Aardwolf is seen as a symbol of luck and fertility. In others, it has been thought to be an omen of death or bad luck.

Laughing Hyena Symbolism

The laughing hyena is associated with joy and jubilance. Many cultures see it as a sign of good luck or fortune.

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The laughing hyena has long been used in traditional African art and folklore to bring smiles and laughter to those who view it. The sound of its laughter is believed to bring good health and prosperity to all who hear it.

Hyena Facts

  1. Hyenas are the fourth largest carnivore on land after lions, tigers, and jaguars
  2. There are four different hyena species – the spotted hyena, brown hyena, striped hyena, and aardwolf
  3. Hyenas have powerful jaws and sharp claws, which they use to hunt their prey
  4. Hyenas can be found in grasslands and deserts across Africa and parts of Asia
  5. Unlike most other animals, female hyenas dominate over males
  6. Spotted hyenas live in large clans with up to 80 individuals
  7. The spotted hyena is an accomplished scavenger but also hunts its food like gazelles or impala
  8. When hunting together as a clan, spotted hyenas coordinate their movements very effectively, as wolves do
  9. StripedHyenas usually live alone or in pairs rather than in big groups like spotted ones do
  10. Aardwolves eat mainly insects such as termites

What Does It Mean When You See a Hyena?

In many spiritual and cultural traditions, hyenas have long been seen as a symbol of protection, wisdom, and transformation.

They are typically regarded as powerful omens that can bring good luck and positive change.

Some cultures believe that coming across a hyena indicates upcoming challenges for which you will need to be prepared.

It warns of the possibility that you might have to make difficult decisions or face difficult situations.

It also serves as a reminder that you have the strength and resilience to handle whatever comes your way.

Hyena Symbolism - Spirit, Power, Totem Anima

What Do Hyenas Symbolize in Arts and Literature?

Hyenas are often depicted as cunning creatures whose mischievous nature is matched by their intelligence. In literature and folklore, hyenas represent trickery and deceit, with their clever-looking faces suggestive of the ability to outwit even the most skillful humans.

Hyena with book

Some cultures view hyenas as a symbol of inspiration that allows humans to power through any challenges they face. Hyenas also represent chaos and resilience, representing how far individuals must go to overcome difficult times.

The most famous example of hyena symbolism in literature can be found in Disney’s The Lion King. The hyenas represent chaos and disruption, symbolizing how powerful forces can often interrupt even the most remarkable plans. As a whole, this has allowed us to see that hyenas are much more than just menacing creatures.

Hyena Spirit Animal

Hyena spirit animals are renowned for their powerful personalities and fierce independence. As a symbolic spirit animal, hyenas embody the strength of solitude and social connection that is at once comforting and awesome.

hyena spirit animal

They represent intelligence, the ability to learn quickly and adapt to changing circumstances to survive.

Hyena spirit animal people tend to be highly sensitive, with strong intuition and a sharp sense of humor; they honor their primal wisdom even as they carve out their unique pathways.

With their uninhibited willingness to boldly explore the unknown, hyenas send the message that life can be both challenging and rewarding – best embraced with courage, resilience, and a determined sense of purposefulness.

The hyena is an iconic symbol of nature’s power, resilience, and strength. Their presence inspires us to be true to our unique identity and never forget that life is full of adventure and joy when we open ourselves up to new possibilities.

Hyenas remind us that even the darkest times can bring about positive change – if we only dare to take action. Whenever you come across a hyena, trust in its message and tap into its power to help you embrace life’s ever-changing circumstances with grace and confidence.

Hyena Power Animal

Often seen as a trickster character in African folklore and myths, the hyena is a highly intelligent animal that employs strategic planning to get what it wants – qualities that make its power animal role so popular amongst those looking for guidance.

hyena spirit animal

Hyena energy can help us regain our self-confidence and sharpen our awareness within any environment, allowing us to evaluate situations clearly and assert ourselves if necessary.

Hyena Totem Animal

Hyenas have been misunderstood throughout history, often viewed as the villains of animal tales. However, they have much more to offer than their reputation implies. Those who strongly identify with a Hyena totem are instilled with confidence and determination that cannot be shaken.

hyena totem animal

The Hyena’s howl is also considered an important ritual for those with this totem animal. Hyenas are incredibly adaptive animals – something these individuals can relate to as they strive for success in a constantly changing world.

Hyena Dream Meanings

Dreaming of a hyena can signify feeling threatened in your waking life. When humans experience a sense of threat, they often interpret this danger symbolically in their dreams to alert them and allow them to confront the issue in real life.

sleeping woman dreaming about hyena spirit animal

The hyena is a characteristically opportunistic and cunning animal, so dreaming of one could tell you to use these qualities to navigate difficult times and be wary of others trying to take advantage of you.

Hyena Witchcraft

The Mbugwe believe that witches use their hyenas to perform various malicious acts, such as causing sickness and death in people and animals.

When one of these night cattle is seen prowling around a village at night, it is assumed that a witch is present, and the villagers will take steps to protect themselves from any potential harm.

As with many superstitions, the Mbugwe believe that certain methods can be used to ward off the power of a witch’s hyena.

Hyena Meaning in the Bible And Christianity

In the Bible, hyenas are often seen as unclean animals and a symbol of idolatry. In books like Isaiah and Ezekiel, God often warns people against eating hyena meat because it can lead to spiritual corruption or idolatry.

This is a warning that if you indulge in something unholy, you will be doomed to sin and destruction. Hyena meat is used as a metaphor to represent anything against God’s teachings, such as greed, materialism, and corruption.

Hyena Mythology, Folklore, and Symbolism in Different Cultures


African mythology and folklore have long seen the hyena as a symbol of cunning, trickery, and conflict.

In East African legend, hyenas symbolize chaos and discord, while in West African lore, they represent the trickster figure. In some communities, hyenas are associated with evil and witchcraft.

east africa culture style hyena

Middle Eastern

In Middle Eastern cultures, the hyena is seen as a symbol of gluttony and rapaciousness. Legends such as that of Abu Zayd al-Balkhi in the 10th century portray hyenas as having greedy, menacing personalities.

In other Middle Eastern societies, hyena folklore warns children against being taken away by evil forces.

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, the hyena was a symbol of royal power and prestige. Pharaohs were often depicted with hyenas as symbols of their authority, strength, and domination over the wild.

Certain gods, such as Anubis or Horus, were also sometimes associated with the hyena. The animal was sometimes seen as a protector against dangerous spirits and evil forces.

Middle East

In the Middle East, hyenas are seen as symbols of envy and gluttony. They are often associated with the devil in Islamic culture and have been used as metaphors for those who seek power and wealth at the expense of others.

Hyenas are also thought to be symbols of destruction, chaos, and anarchy in some cultures.


In Asian mythology, hyenas often represent the forces of chaos and destruction. They are believed to be harbingers of bad luck, and their presence is thought to portend doom.

asian culture style hyena

Hyenas are sometimes seen as scavengers who bring death and ruin to their victims. In some cultures, they are associated with sorcery and witchcraft.

Greek and Roman

In Ancient Greek and Roman culture, hyenas were seen as creatures associated with superstition and evil.

The parts of a hyena’s body were believed to ward off evil and ensure love and fertility effectively. Hyenas were also thought to have magical powers that could help defeat enemies.

Final Words – Hyena Symbolism

Hyenas have long been seen as symbols of cunning, trickery, and conflict in many cultures worldwide.

In African mythology, they are often associated with chaos and discord, while in Middle Eastern societies, hyena folklore warns against evil forces taking children away.

Hyenas are also thought to be symbols of destruction, gluttony, envy, bad luck, and witchcraft.

These animals evoke strong feelings across different civilizations – from fear to admiration – making them an interesting subject for further study into our collective cultural beliefs about this powerful creature.

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Christina Johnson

About the Author

My name is Christina, and I am the founder of centerspirited. Being a physiotherapist for several years I have found that many people, including myself, don’t achieve well-being only from a physical point of view. I’ve always viewed a person’s body, soul, and emotions as a whole construct of beauty. Always being a yoga enthusiast, I finally became an instructor myself. On a secret mission to capture spirituality in all of her beautiful shapes, I found myself being guided on a way through ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle. Through this platform, I will hopefully be able to help other beautiful souls out there find their inner peace and bond with their spiritual selves.

Discover simple steps to unlock inner peace and live a life aligned with your true self.
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