lizard meaning

Spirit Animals: LIZARD MEANING

Lizard meaning is a global symbol, seeing that these tenacious and ancient creatures are found on all continents except Antarctica and in all environments expect deep ocean and extreme cold. The first ancestors of lizards arose on earth around 200 million years ago. There are an estimated 4,675 species of lizard around the world and they vary widely in shape, color and lifestyle.

The Lizard Brain

What all lizards have in common is the primal, reptilian brain. Lizards share this brain type with other reptiles such as alligators, snakes and turtles, but I include this characteristic here, because of the contemporary name for the reptilian brain – the “lizard brain”. This is the part of the brain that drives the instinct to survive including fight or flight, mating, and eating. It also sees to basic bodily functions such as breathing and coordination.

We all have a lizard brain, which is simply the collection of the brain stem, cerebellum, and basal ganglia at the back of our brains. This part of the brain gets quite a bad rap these days because of the reactive and compulsive actions it drives. The lizard brain does not process emotions, store and retrieve memories, or create complex thought. We have other brains for that, but lizard does not.

Lizard symbolism is closely tied to instinct and survival. Yes, we can put politicians down for operating from their lizard brains, but this does not mean we should forget the power of this ancient way of thinking. It is necessary no matter how smart we think we are. When left to it’s own devices, the lizard’s thought process keeps us safe and provides for our basic needs. It also helps us react quickly when needed.

When we say we need to “go back to basics” we are drawing on the power of lizard spirit animal and forgetting all the complex machinations of the mind that cause us to overthink. Now is a good time to evaluate how your emotional intelligence and reasoning mind may have gotten you in a bind. It may help to give all that up and trust your instincts for awhile.

What About Feelings?

For an animal without the part of the brain that processes emotions, lizard sure does have a ton of charisma. He just drips with enthusiasm as he darts here and there. He looks like he’s smiling. He seems content resting in the noonday sun. There is so much that is captivating about lizard spirit animal. Are we just projecting feelings onto a heartless beast? I sure hope not. Lizard spirit animal prompts us to think that maybe emotions can just happen, without us thinking and processing them. By simply letting our feelings just be without labels we are liberated.

There is something to be said for naivety, for living in the now, and not worrying about the future. Lizard spiritual meaning can call us into careless bliss, giving us a much needed break.

Lizard, like all reptiles, is cold-blooded. Rather than meaning he is vicious and cruel, this means he is active when it’s warm and he rests when it’s cold. In snowy climates he hibernates all winter. Lizard meaning is about moving with the mood in our environment.

What Sets Lizard Meaning Apart

Lizard is closely related to snake, but is set apart by his four legs, external ears (in most species), and excellent color vision. In lizard meaning, this speaks to an increased mobility, openness to hearing what others have to say, and an appreciation for the vibrancy and variation in the world around us.

Most lizard species, unlike snakes, also have eyelids. The lizard’s ability to open and close his eyes shows us that lizard symbolism relates to knowing the world behind our eyes, the world within. Lizard spirit animal connects us to the dreamtime and our inner vision.

Evasion in Lizard Symbolism

Different species of lizard have developed fantastic strategies to evade capture by predators. These tactics teach us about how we might respond in hostile situation.

The horny toad, found around my home in the American southwest, squirts blood from his eyes to scare and confuse predators. This dramatic display speaks of paying attention to the ways you create visible drama to avoid confrontation. Do you claim your feelings are too hurt to be able to see the other person’s perspective? Do you create a horrific display too overwhelm the other person and scare them away?

The Australian frilled lizard has an large frill of lose skin around his head he can raise up to make him look bigger and more intimidating. Aboriginal folklore about the frilled lizard warns against overreacting to being rejected or unrecognized.

The Gila monster, who is also found in the American southwest and Sonora, Mexico, protects himself via a venomous bite. He literally has to chew the venom into his prey. Does your resentment build up as you chew on something someone said? The Gila monster’s skin is bright orange and black, presumably to warn predators of the danger. Do you try to give people a head’s up that they are about to offend you?

The gecko is one among many species that is able detach his tail when a predator has ahold of it, thus escaping with his life. He is able to regenerate a new, albeit lesser, tail afterwards. Are you quick to concede a point and sacrifice a value of yours just to get out of the argument?

Lizard meaning points to the evasion strategies that give us a chance to get out of or diffuse a situation before it turns dangerous. Being cool, calm and collected in the face of controversy and not getting sucked into drama is the power lizard spirit animal brings.

The Spectrum of Perception

Lizard animal totem embodies the entire spectrum of experience beyond the polarities of light and dark or hot and cold. This is evidenced by lizard’s keen eye for color, the myriad of color patterns different species of lizard have, and most explicitly in the way the chameleon changes his color. Other lizard species can also change the color of their skin or flash a vibrant throat patch to make an impression.

Lizard cannot vocalize (there are a few rare exceptions), so communication happens via body language. Lizard meaning teaches us about reading subtlety as well as demonstrating outwardly what we have to share. Having an appreciation for all the colorful members of our tribe comes with lizard symbolism. Honoring the full spectrum of ways different people see the world brings a richness to life.



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Spirit Animals: TRUSTY TURTLE

The names tortoise, turtle and terrapin apply to different groups of turtles in the USA, but other countries either place them all in the same category or categorize them differently. All have the characteristic shell which is either made of bone or cartilage. There are over 250 species of turtles worldwide.

Eternal Life

Turtle spirit animal symbolizes longevity and immortality in many mythologies around the world. This may be due to the fact that turtle always looks old with her wrinkly, dry skin and belabored movement. Even freshly hatched out of the egg, she appears elderly.

The association with longevity could also be due to the fact that turtles live for a very, very, very long time. The oldest known tortoise passed away in 2006 at 250 years old, and a Galapagos tortoise named “Harriet” recently died 171 years after befriending Darwin.

Science is backing what mythology already teaches. Researchers have found that the internal organs of turtles do not age, which is a unique gift in the animal kingdom. The fountain of youth may very well be in the genome of the turtle.

Along with eternal life, or at least growing to be very old, the meaning of turtle is coupled with wisdom. The archetypes of the sage and crone parallel the medicine of turtle spirit animal. Does having a turtle spirit animal mean you’ll live a long life? It probably has no bearing on your lifespan, but how about your soul?

Turtle spirit animal reminds us that we are ageless. She points out the timeless quality of our soul and patiently prompts us to recall the broader picture of centuries rather than seconds, lifetimes versus break times. You are being called upon to develop your own inner sage to guide you along the path.


Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.


Slowing Down

Of course, turtle symbolism is about going slowly. That shell is heavy to carry and it limits the range of motion of turtle’s legs. We are all familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. However, this story is only one facet of the slow nature of turtle.

Turtle does not molt her entire skin at once like snakes do. She is always molting her skin in small pieces. Some members of the turtle family slough off the excess skin while others deposit it in layers as additional protective armor. This speaks of a gradual, continual and barely visible transformation. If you are hoping to wake up one morning and be a different person, turtle medicine suggests adjusting your expectations.

Turtle can stop the beating of her own heart, turning it on and off at will. Isn’t that amazing? The heart is often seen as a ticking clock, keeping time. We cannot escape the advance of time as our hearts must beat to keep us alive, but turtle spirit animal can teach us about how to slow down or even stop our perception of time. Ultimately, time is an illusion, a construct of the human mind.

Now is the time to let go of deadlines and forget schedules. Have you ever experienced one moment stretched over many? This is the meaning of turtle at work.


We all know the adage “slow and steady wins the race.” The meaning of turtle encompasses the amazing grace of patience. Patience is not simply suppressing restlessness or bearing annoyances, but settling into the “now” and embracing restfulness. Turtle spirit animal encourages you to check in on your capacity to be patient with others, yourself, and life, and she helps you further develop the grace of patience. Steady is not just about leisurely putting one foot in front of the other, but persevering in the face of obstacles that slow you down. The odds are against you on purpose so you slow down, develop an even temper, and practice diligent care.

Earth’s Creation

Turtle is more ancient than alligator, crocodile and snake. She knows a thing or two about the beginning of time. Her egg was buried in the sand or mud by her mother and she was born out of the Earth. Stories from North America to China speak of turtle’s shell making up the Earth. Turtle is a key player in countless creation stories and the symbolism of turtle is synonymous with the Earth itself. Thus, spirit animal turtle carries the qualities of the Goddess, the feminine, earth and water.

The Hindu god Vishnu transformed himself into a turtle to re-create the world after the great flood that occurs every four billion years. The turtle carried an elephant which, in turn, supported the world. Scientists have discovered that turtle likely communicates using subsonic sound, in the exact way that elephants do. Elephants also live long lives and are heavy and strong creatures. One is a mammal and the other a reptile, but there is a strange sisterhood here that is worth contemplating.

Home Wherever You Go

Turtle’s shell is made of around 60 bones, some of which are actually the ribs and backbone. The bones are then covered by a skin of horny scales. Dome shaped shells successfully prevent predators from getting a firm bite around the shield. Other shells of aquatic turtles are streamlined for swimming.

Turtle cannot crawl out of her shell. She caries her home wherever she goes. Whenever danger threatens, she retreats inside this effective shelter. Spirit animal turtle beckons us to recognize our own inner sanctuary as well as our home, Mother Earth.

If turtle has meandered into your life, consider reflecting on what “home” is to you and how that idea has evolved over time. Then take some time to offer gratitude to the places on the outer and the inner that provide you with the safety and security of home.

There is no need to hurry, no need to seek shelter elsewhere… It is a time when you are ready to let go of any expectation you have had about yourself or other people… There is not need to do anything but rest in the fullness of who you are right now… Savor this quality of slowing down, of coming to rest and recognizing that you are already at home.” – Osho in the Osho Zen Tarot

Learn more about the science of turtles:


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snake symbolism

Spirit Animals: SUPREME SNAKE

Every single culture of man has more than one myth about a snake and most societies have a creation myth including a snake. Snakes and us, we go way back. Few animals reign supreme like the snake in man’s psyche. To complicate things further, there are nearly 3,000 species of snakes in the world. They live in a wide variety of habitats from jungle to desert and can offer helpful pest control and carry deadly venom. The symbolism of snake is considerably different depending on the species.

If you’ve done any research at all about snake symbolism, your mind is likely twisted up in knots. One reference will call the snake spirit animal a bearer of good luck, rain, fertility, intense power, and abundance. The next will warn against bad fortune, liars, sin, and great suffering.

The reverence of serpent is universal. No culture remains untouched.
– Jessica Dawn Palmer in Animal Wisdom

Snake Symbolism & Transmutation

Everyone agrees on one thing, snake symbolism is the embodiment of transmutation. This is best exemplified by the shedding of a snake’s skin. Depending on the age of the snake, this happens one to four times a year, and serves to renew the scales and remove lice. When we say, “I’m going to crawl out of my skin” we are tapping into the intelligence of snake medicine.

Many people feel an overall energetic tingling in their bodies, just under their skin, during a time when they are ready to shed an identity. Aligning with snake spirit animal will help ease the discomfort and antsy-ness that accompanies this transition. Snakes rub up against rocks, bushes, gravel, or whatever they can find to help remove the skin. It comes off in one long piece, like a sock turned inside out. Now may be a good time for a massage or movement such as dance or yoga. Shedding one’s skin is an active process enacted through the friction of rubbing up against events. Conflict and contradiction can be helpful allies.

Initiation of the Venomous Snake

Approximately one-tenth of all snake species are venomous and a smaller portion of those are deadly to man. When considering what does snake mean for you, you will need to at least determine if the snake spirit animal you are working with is venomous or not. If not, the snake will act as a benevolent companion for you teaching you about the origins of life and the cycle of death and rebirth. Also, consider the meaning of snake symbolism in relation to healing and medicine.

If the snake spirit animal you are encountering is venomous, the snake will be a galvanizing guide through a fierce remaking of your life. Venom is meant to inflict pain and you may now very well be enduring a painful process. This is an initiation meant to wake up the primal life force within you and help you learn your mettle. You will need to dig deep to find the power to transmute this suffering into a blessing.

Often the suffering is not induced from the outside, but is internal. Anger and resentment fostered over time create an unhealthy buildup of venom in our systems. As Buddha says, “Being angry with another person is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” If you are hearing the warning “hiss” of a venomous spirit animal snake in your ear, turn your efforts to transmuting the poison in your words and in your mind. Prayer can be incredibly helpful during this time as forgiveness is a holy power we need assistance with.

Healing, Death, & Rebirth

In one myth about Asclepius, the Greek God of healing, he learned how to bring the dead back to life from a snake. He killed a snake and watched a companion snake bring herbs that brought the dead snake back to life. Temples built to Asclepius were hospitals that hosted non-venoumous snakes that traveled the floors among the infirm.

The Rod of Asclepius is still used as a sign of the medical profession. The symbol of a snake entwined around a staff is an earlier image first seen with the protective Egyptian goddess Wadjet and later referenced in the bible when Moses raised the brass/brazen serpent in the wilderness. Anyone bit by a fiery serpent for speaking against God would live by looking upon Moses’s brass serpent. Blood from the left side of a Gorgon, a Greek monster with a head made of serpents, is lethal, and blood from the right side restores the dead to life.

We find that snake symbolism reminds us that the carrier of death is also the one to deliver cure. This is a very homeopathic viewpoint in that “like cures like.” It may look like a misfortune is simply meant to cause you harm, but the cure is included in the misfortune. This is where we see the true nature of the cycle of death and rebirth as a hallmark of snake symbolism. The snake eats its own tail.

Insight from Snake Adaptations

Real-life snakes have poor vision and no external ears, so they sense a lot in their environment by picking up scent molecules on their tongues and pulling them into their mouths to “taste” the world around them. This is why they slither about flicking their tongues. Taste is connected to nourishment. Snake spirit animal helps us determine which environments are most nourishing for us and helps us seek out that which “feeds” us.

Snake fangs are oriented backwards and their jaws are unfused so they can swallow their prey whole. This means they can eat fewer, larger meals. Snake symbolism signals a time in your life when you come into a time of abundance, more than you think you can take in at once, that will be followed by a long digestion period.

Cool, calm and collected, this cold-blooded animal helps us distance from the drama of life.

Instead of eyelids, snakes have transparent “spectacle” scales, which always protect and cover their eyes. Snakes have no way to close their eyes. Eyeglasses are about putting things into perspective. With the help of snake spirit animal, we can learn to protect our perspective and always keep our eyes open. This speaks of not falling prey to illusion or being caught unaware.


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She slips slowly off the shore entering the water without a sound or splash. The ripples of her wake split away from her tough scales. She is cool, calm, calculated, but not without care. Underwater she is graceful, tucking her legs back and moving forward via the propulsion of her big, thick tail. She climbs back to the surface of the marsh to let her eyes and nose rest on the barrier of the water. This has been her life since she can remember and the life of her kind for millennia.

The meaning of alligator relates directly to how primitive these creatures are. Alligators as a species originated approximately 150 million years ago and they are believed to have changed little since surviving the catastrophe that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This combined with the fact that alligators are some of, if not the, most attentive and nurturing mothers in the reptile world, makes alligator the “original mother”.

Alligator the Original Mother

Alligator is a symbol of death given her status as a frightening ambush predator. Not only is she the harbinger of death, but also as life. She helps dig her young out of their buried nest after diligently guarding the nest for the 2 month incubation period. She then ferries them to the water in her mouth. The baby alligators stay with their mother for two years, which is a rare kinship in the reptile world.

If you are considering the alligator spirit animal, you will want to look at how you conceive, incubate, birth and nurture creative ideas in your life. She is telling you to be protective of your ideas or new projects but not over bearing. The mother does not sit on her eggs to keep them warm as she’d crush them. The mother alligator instead buries the eggs in a mix of leaves, twigs, and mud and allows the warmth generated by the decaying materials to incubate the eggs. This shows a great trust that the process of death and decay turns into birth.

There may be some old idea or project that it is time to bury and let go back into the earth. With releasing the old, you not only make room for the new, but you actually provide the energy needed for your new endeavor. The mother alligator guards the general area of the nest without trampling it, letting nature take its course.

The young cry from the nest as they begin to hatch and the mother helps dig them out. Be on alert for the right timing for this new project, the signs or omens will speak to you and then you may have to go through some degree of effort to unearth them. Once unearthed, she carries the young to the water in her mouth. The mouth is directly related to communication, so once your project is out in the open, you’ll be responsible for communicating its importance to others. Just like the mother crocodile, you will likely stay with this project longer than others might do.

Another interesting tid-bit about alligator reproduction is that the sex of the young is determined by the temperature of the nest. Below 86F the young are all females and above 93F, all males. In between, and there is a mix of the two. This relates to the masculine principle as “active” and “hot” whereas the feminine is considered “receptive” and “cool”. Consider your associations with both ways of being and how the environment you are raising your project up in will influence the style you use to bring it out into the world.

Alligator is also a mother for other animals in the swamp. During droughts, she (and the males of her kind) dig “gator holes” with their bodies. These holes fill with water and provide a life-giving oasis to animals in need.

Cold-Blooded and Detached

The alligator has a tough skin of scales and is cold-blooded. When we say someone is cold-blooded we say she is detached. We automatically give this a negative connotation, but in Buddhism detachment from illusion is a key element of enlightenment. To be cold-blooded means that her body temperature will match the surrounding environment as will her pacing. If it is warm she will be active and cold she’ll be inactive. There is nothing bad about this way of being. In fact, great wisdom comes from the ability to mirror our surroundings and pace ourselves accordingly.

Alligators vs. Crocodiles

There are only two species of alligator in the world, one in North America and one in China. Crocodiles are much more prolific world-wide, although we don’t have any crocodiles in North America. What sets the alligator apart is her broad snout. This broad snout is adapted for crushing shells like those that cover turtles in the marsh. This would speak of an ability to crack into a resource that others might not have access to.

Crocodiles have a functional salt gland that allows them to inhabit estuaries and venture out into salt water. Alligators do not have this ability and are limited to fresh water. The meaning of alligator, is thus about the tie to a more specialized habitat and a need to stick to specific paths or streams of thought. Now is likely not a good time to venture out.

Take a Bite Out of Life

Alligators have an upper jaw bigger than the lower jaw whereas crocodiles have the exact opposite configuration. With the alligator, this would speak of an ability to bite off more than you can chew – “over – bite”. Both alligators and crocodiles lack the ability to chew. They tear off parts of animals by holding on with their powerful jaws and twisting their bodies to pry loose a chunk of flesh. If you are contemplating a big decision right now, it is advisable to not spend too much time mulling things over, but to instead take the process in big chunks.

The Alligator has up to 80 teeth at any given time, and since new teeth regrow to replace those that are broken or lost she can have between 2,000 and 3,000 teeth over the course of her lifetime. Teeth are directly related to the quality of our words and dreams about losing your teeth can relate to loosing track of your words. Alligator does not fear losing control of what she needs to say because there is always another tooth, another word, coming it to take its place. This teaches us that with the ancient knowing of alligator comes the confidence to always know what to say.


Alligator symbolism is closely related to the ability to integrate different teachings or experience. This is evidenced by how alligator thrives in murky waters. Life is said to have come from the mud which is her medium. The meaning of alligator reiterates the idea that life’s messy situations sometimes yield the greatest results.

Alligator move slowly on land, so in your outward life the progress of integrating change may be slow. But she is quick and graceful in the water, the realm of emotions and subconscious. This indicates that your processing internally or below the surface will likely be more fluid but invisible to others.

Alligator navigates the border between land and water which also corresponds to transitions, or a transitionary phase. She is never too far from shore, although, which points to a readiness to dive back into the depths. Are you willing right now to delve into the depths or do you find yourself clinging to shore? Now is the time to slip back easily into the water without fear. Mother alligator owns this marsh and has nothing to fear her because she rules the swamp. Do not fear change or decisions. Take charge of your life and be willing to do so without the need for others to take notice. Alligator is with you each step along the path helping you integrate the experience so that you too can take on a great, ancient wisdom tested by the trials of time.

PHOTO CREDIT thanks to David Anton! David is a fantastic nature and animal photographer based out of Durango, CO.


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She is in the world but not of it. She senses the shifting tide of her emotions and that of her brothers and sisters singing in the marsh. She is in her feelings but not of them. She embraces the song while it refuses to define her. Water still clings to her porous flesh creating a sheen on her persona. She wiggles her toes through the dry mud on the shore. The Earth satisfies her too. She contemplates the lily pad floating by and the dry stone just a few leaps away. All of this is available to her. She must choose between being at home and answering the call. In the end, her choice has no consequence. What she needs will always be available. What she feels will always be in her experience.

Many are inexplicably drawn to the cleansing, healing power of frog spirit animal. The mystery our minds can’t solve is that frogs are creatures of the emotional realm and many of us have forgotten how emotions can heal. We are of the land, of the concrete world, and we attach our emotions to our stories, our drama, and our woundings. We surrender to the deception that we have to heal the story to heal the emotion. Frog does not have these illusions. She lives in the boarder between the concrete physical world and the watery world of emotion. She has come from the water as a polliwog, so to her the feeling comes before the happening. For us the happening causes the feeling and we try to prevent the feeling.

The lesson of frog symbolism is that in preventing the feeling we are preventing the experience of life. Frog reminds us to allow the emotions to flow through us, to boldly go as far as swimming in our emotion. It is love. It is necessary. Call on frog spirit animal to help you suspend your judgement of your feelings rather than suspending the feelings themselves. Without feeling we cannot be in the world. With feeling we are not of it. When we allow our emotions to flow like water rather than cling to them, we are healed. Using the mind to justify our hurt, our pain and our joy causes us to be stuck in the past and not live in the present.

Frogs are incredibly sensitive to environmental toxins and many cannot go too long without contact with some form of moisture be it dew, rain or stream. They have been the early warning beacons sacrificing their lives to warn humans of toxic waters. Frogs have helped call people to action on behalf of Mother Earth and helped spawn legislation to protect and clean up our waterways. When looking at frog symbolism in your life, ask yourself these questions: What warning signs are your emotions giving you about your environment right now? Are you feeling especially fearful or sad? What emotions are you avoiding? What in your life is causing you to cling or avoid your feelings? How can you shift your life so that you can flow with your heart regardless of the circumstances?

The frog princess reminds us of how to hold our emotions as both unassuming and royal. We must revere them as a pivotal aspect of our being while not identifying with them. Just as she refuses to choose the marsh, stream, or pond over the shore, mud or bank, we too must learn how to live in the space between attachment and neglect of our feelings. It is this practice that is cleansing. The ability to wash oneself clean in one moment and sink our feet into the mud the next is truly liberating because it puts us in touch with the creative life forces within ourselves and frees us from our story. So, spend a day with the princess of the marsh and learn what it means to feel.

Frog spirit animals are associated with the west on the medicine wheel. They reside in the realm of the unknown, in the void of creation. Emotions can’t be known. If they were they’d be thoughts. Allow your emotions to be without words and find the divine in the infinite experience of feeling.


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