Symbolism of the Octopus

Written by avenefica on January 19th, 2008



I recently had an email from a woman, whom after a great many years, discovered the octopus was her totem or guide.  She asked for the symbolism of the octopus, and I respond:

Dear Cuttley: 

Identifying the symbolism of the octopus can be daunting  & not for reasons you’d think.  

Namely because the octopus participates in the universe on many different levels.  As such, it’s symbolism is vast and related discussions could potentially last forever.

As if the massive depth of the symbolism wasn’t overwhelming enough - try to getting past the visual effect the octopus has on us. 

We look at the octopus and it draws us in wholly.  Mesmerizing & chilling, it’s motions are hypnotizing.  So I’ll start there, the symbolism of the octopus born from it’s sheer physical presence.  The more ethereal symbolism’s deserve an entire book for room to expound, but I have written more about this amazing creature here.

 Of its many aspects, here are just a few symbolic meanings of the octopus:

  • Complexity
  • Diversity
  • Variability
  • Intelligence
  • Insight
  • Vision
  • Mystery
  • Illusion

With eight arms, the octopus shares some symbolic meanings with the spider as well as the meanings of number eight. 

Observed these eight arms circle out in motion – calling to mind the concept of spiral - this forms a symbolic bond between the octopus and the meanings of the spiral or whirlpool.

Being a creature of the sea, the octopus also shares commonalities with and symbolic meaning of fish.

Adornments like octopus medallions were worn by sailors to ward off evil.  Seamen understood the eerie magic of the octopus.  It’s black ink-jet expulsions and other-worldly appearance struck awe (and terror) in the observer.  Hence, it makes an incredibly powerful totem, carrying great status – a symbol of protection and good luck.

Minoan art depicts the octopus (particularly on bowls or vases) unfurling.  This is thought to be symbolic of the creating and the expanding of the universe.

Other associations of the octopus include:

As a side-note, the octopus is also associated with the Priestess and Moon card in the Tarot deck.

Take the time to research more about the octopus – it will be worth the investment of your time.  Meditate upon the octopus – focus your awareness on this amazing creature.  You will find it an empowering agent for your growth.  Consider yourself blessed.

Access more information on the Symbolism of Octopus:

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8 Comments so far ↓

  1. mark says:

    I make jewelry and I use silver, primarily wire, and have fashioned, years ago, ala Calder… animals. Recently I was useing the leftover/mistaken silver to make charms, balling it up with a hot torch and attaching closures for hanging. I was free forming the metal and adding wire here and there..suddenly I realised that there was a form there . I twisted the extentions from the center and POOF, it WAS an OCTOPUS…With eight arms complete with an arm above it’s head for hanging .
    I paint as well and have had some things come out that are not from me but this…making a sculpture or a piece of jewelry takes some planning, this seemed to have just occured, with out me there.
    So, of course I had to try it on. As I do with everything I make.
    When i saw myself in it it was Scarry Good. I felt as though it would never go without notice. That it was friendly and fiercesome, with it’s arms extending for an embraceful warning.
    Do octopus send mixed signals?…Where do these Muses come from? Why me? I do enjoy and understand the symbolism though.

    —Mark

  2. avenefica says:

    Hi Mark,

    Fascinating! What a marvelous expression.

    And such is the way of the octopus – it chooses to reveal itself to us in its own unique methods.

    Does the octopus send mixed signals? This creature is diverse, complex and immense in its variations of meaning – but I don’t know if its signals are mixed, or if we as humans mix up the meanings she is conveying.

    Thank you for sharing this experience…it has prompted me to elaborate on the symbolism of the octopus here.

    I hope after reading this additional information you are able to more precisely fit the symbolism of the octopus into your philosophical puzzling.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight.

  3. margareth says:

    Well, I am also having an exchange with the octopus world…
    A few days ago I felt a very strong feeling I had to eat grilled octopus, something beyond my control. I left work and walked to a restaurant I thought would serve it – or used to do so. I sat down asked for it and unfortunately it wasn’t available any longer. I left the place. I walked thinking about options on where to go… after awhile I decided to go to a place on Washington Street. I decided to seat there and just let it be since there was no grilled octopus on the menu. The waiter came for me to place the order. He crouched and said: Before I would like to tell you the specials for tonight – GRILLED OCTOPUS ON A BED OF GREENS- I was paralyzed of joy… That octopus took me over as if it were occupying my entire body… last night having dinner with friends- We saw at a distance a couple having a romantic moment- sharing one octupus’ arm… and kissing after- I have to understand this…

  4. avenefica says:

    Hi Margarth,

    Have you read my other page on the Symbolism of the Octopus here? The thoughts and ideas I’ve listed on that page may help you further glean meaning from your experience.

    I understand what you are saying here:

    “That octopus took me over as if it were occupying my entire body.”

    This will happen when we consume the body of an animal (or a plant, for that matter).

    Our ancestors knew it – they knew that energy patterns are inscribed in physical matter. This principle is why the whale liver is eaten by the Inuit, why the buffalo heart is eaten by the Plains’ tribes, why the jaguar blood is drunk by the Mayan.

    Matter holds within itself energy patterns that are reminiscent of its original form.

    The octopus is wholly consuming in its nature, ergo, I’m not surprised it reciprocated in this fashion with your consumption of it.

    I’d say the octopus is certainly making an effort to get your attention. It’s message is your responsibility to decode. Animal communications are unique to each of us.

    Enjoy the journey of discovering the meanings intended for you.

    Namaste,
    A.

  5. margareth says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    energy patterns are inscribed in physical matter— yes

    Interesting- seeing the video, it made me recall, I used to carry in my writing box a cutout from a magazine with the image of an octopus, I was around 12 years old…

    Will let you know if something special comes across…
    Best,
    M.

  6. Sabrarose says:

    Someone from the future or something from above gave me a vision of the “template of my mind.” the first part was an octopus with dark gray/black clouds, the second part was a brillant sun; then with white clouds, the third part was a fire and white/gray smoke breathing dragon covered in scales with a tiny rainbow in each scale. Octopus!

  7. sluggorian says:

    This is fun! I have a symbolic meaning too.

    The MIND is like an octopus. mysterious, multidimensional, variable, unpredictable, primordial, unfathomable

  8. Linda J. says:

    I had a vision of an octopus underwater early this morning. It was quick but I beheld this amazing sea creature. This is my first dream of seeing an Octopus.