Crocodile symbolism and meanings include primordial wisdom, efficiency, stealth, and other powerful associations. Because crocodiles exist throughout the world, including the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia, they are the subject of mythology and folklore in many of these regions’ cultures. In addition, the crocodile spirit animal is present in s number of these cultures’ spiritual belief systems.
In this post, you’ll learn about common crocodile symbols, as well as the meanings associated with them in the mythology of various cultures. Plus, you’ll learn about the crocodile spirit animal and totem. To go a specific section in this post, simply click on the links in the table of contents below. If you’re curious about alligators (who are in the same zoological order as crocodiles, but who are slightly different), pleases visit my post on alligator symbolism, meanings, and the alligator spirit animal.
What do crocodiles symbolize?
Sovereignty and Power
Table of Contents
- Detailed Crocodile Symbols and Meanings
- Native American Crocodile Meanings
- Crocodile Totem
- Crocodiles in Aztec and Mayan Mythology
- Australian Aboriginal Crocodile Legends
- African Crocodile Proverbs
- Symbols of Crocodiles in Ancient Egypt
- Crocodile Symbolism in Greek Mythology
- Crocodile Symbolism in the Bible
- Chinese Crocodile Meanings
- Southeast Asian Crocodile Myth
- Crocodile Symbols in India and Hinduism
- Crocodile Spirit Animal and Power Animal
- Crocodile Dream Meaning
- Crocodile Tattoo Meanings
- Organizations that Protect Crocodiles
Detailed Crocodile Symbols and Meanings
Crocodiles have inhabited the Earth for over 80 million years, and they have changed very little over that time period. They also have long lifespans, with some living beyond 100 years of age. For these reasons, like snakes and dragonflies, crocodiles are symbols of ancient wisdom. They have a sense of the Earth before human time began.
As ambush hunters, crocodiles quietly sneak up on their prey. They have excellent nighttime vision, which gives them an extra advantage. Plus, they can detect pressure changes in the water, which enables them to more easily locate their prey. Thus, crocodiles are symbols of stealth, discretion, and the surprise attack.
Unlike alligators, who are mainly found in freshwater, the crocodile has special glands that enable them to exist in both fresh and saltwater environments. In addition, they live on land. So, these skillful hunters can find food in both land and water environments. And, when they catch their prey, they barely chew it, often swallowing their prey whole.
Thus, crocodiles are important symbols of efficiently going after what you want – and getting it.
Crocodiles are considered to be far more aggressive than their alligator cousins. While an alligator may attack if they’re hungry or threatened, crocodiles are known to attack even when they’re not provoked.
The crocodile is therefore a symbol of not only fearlessness, but aggressive ferocity.
It’s not as easy to see an alligator’s teeth. When their mouth is closed, only their top teeth are exposed. This is not the case with crocodiles. Even when their mouth is shut, their big sharp teeth – both the top and bottom rows – stick out over their lips.
Unlike wolves, who are extremely social and reliant on their packs, crocodiles are solitary hunters. They may bask on a bank in the sunshine with other crocodiles, but they lead independent lives. Because of this, crocodiles are symbols of rugged individualism and independence.
You may have heard psychologists talk about the “lizard brain” when describing the part of the human brain that’s focused only on survival functions: breathing, eating, sleeping, sex, and fight or flight. The crocodile personifies the “lizard brain.” They don’t display the level of emotional intelligence that elephants, dolphins, or your cat companion do. Instead, crocodiles symbolize our gut, or basic, instincts. The crocodile doesn’t get into analysis paralysis about anything. They go for the jugular.
Crocodiles have eyes on the tops of their heads, so they can see happenings on land even when their bodies are submerged in water. In addition, they have the capacity to go into a state called unihemispheric sleep, in which one part of their brain goes to sleep, while the other is still awake. On top of this, they can sleep with one eye closed and the other open and alert.
These special traits are why crocodiles are symbols of a hyper or psychic awareness. In addition, like turtles, crocodiles are creatures of both water and land environments. In mystical symbolism, land represents your conscious awareness, while water represents your subconscious or superconscious awareness. Thus, crocodiles are symbols of supernatural or psychic awareness.
Crocodile Symbols and Meanings in Cultural Mythology and Folklore
Crocodiles have lived on Earth for over 80 million years, thus they are subjects in the mythology and folklore of many cultures around the world. Here are some examples of crocodile symbolism:
Native American Crocodile Meanings
Native Americans revere nature and animals. They view the crocodile as a powerful being who is also feared.
Ancient Native Americans who lived in what is now the Ohio River basin in the 1st and 2nd centuries told stories of a fierce underwater panther who ate people. The underwater panther, whom the Ojibwe called Mishibijiw, was considered a supernatural being. He governed the water in the way the Thunderbird governed the air.
Archaeologists and anthropologists surmise that the underwater panther was most likely based on a crocodile.
In fact, there is a mound in Granville, Ohio that was built by Native Americans sometime between 800 to 1200 AD. It’s referred to as the Crocodile Effigy Mound, or similar names. Some historians believe this mound was built in honor of the underwater panther.
The crocodile totem represents fierceness, authority, and the power of the water element. As described in the section on the Crocodile Power Animal below, the crocodile totem is emblematic of confidence, protection, and sovereignty over your domain.
Crocodile Symbolism in Aztec and Mayan Mythology
Tlaltecuhtli, the Earth Monster
The northern Native Americans, as well as the Aztecs and the Mayans, believed that the Earth was formed by a giant crocodile, turtle, or other reptilian creature who floated on an endless sea. For the Aztec and Mayans, this creature was a monster with crocodile skin and teeth. They called it Tlaltecuhtli. While the creature was neither male nor female, she is often described as a fearsome fertility goddess.
The problem was, she was insatiably hungry and even had extra mouths on her elbows and knees. Naturally, she also demanded sacrifice.
Fearing her power, the two gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl transformed themselves into giant serpents to battle her. In the battle, they split her in two, throwing half of her body into the cosmos. They used the other half to create the Earth.
The other gods and goddesses were appalled at what Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl had done. So, they insisted that all life on Earth should thus spring from Tlaltecuhtli’s body, including the rivers, flowers, grass, and more.
Australian Aboriginal Crocodile Stories
The Aboriginal People of Australia tell the tale of why the crocodile rolls.
There was once a grouchy woman named Min-na-wee who complained incessantly. One day, one of the men in the village got sick of her complaining, so he tried to restrain her. The two got into a big fight and fell to the ground. Min-na-wee was so incensed about being controlled that she shapeshifted into a crocodile. She then began to roll and roll to subdue the man. This is how Min-na-wee won the fight and this is why crocodiles roll to this day when they capture their prey.
African Crocodile Proverbs
In Africa, the elders tell a tale about how the crocodile got his rough, scaly skin.
There was once a crocodile who had beautiful smooth golden skin. His routine was to stay in the river all day and only come out to the river bank at night. One evening, he fell asleep on the river bank and was still there by the morning. As the other animals came down to the river to drink, they saw the beautiful crocodile in the sunlight and admired his beautiful golden skin.
Enjoying the admiration, the crocodile began to come out of the river more often during the day. More and more animals came to compliment him on his beautiful golden skin. The crocodile couldn’t get enough of the compliments, so he stayed on the river bank longer and longer.
Eventually, the hot African sun began to take its toll on the crocodile’s skin, which grew tougher with each passing day. As the crocodile’s skin became hard and covered in scales, the other animals became less interested. And so, the crocodile returned more often to the river. (This is also a proverb about wearing your sunscreen. :o)
Ancient Egyptian Crocodile Symbols
The ancient Egyptians revered animals, including cats and snakes. They also had great respect for the crocodiles who lived along the Nile River. The Egyptians held crocodiles in such high regard that they even had a crocodile deity named Sobek.
Equipped with a crocodile head, Sobek was one of the Egyptians’ oldest deities. He was not only the lord of crocodiles, he was also the creator order in the Universe. In addition, Sobek was a fertility god who also protected the military.
It shouldn’t be surprising that archaeologists have found numerous mummies of crocodiles of all ages buried in ancient Egyptian tombs. In addition, there was an ancient Egyptian crocodile cult and crocodiles were allowed to roam freely in their temples.
Crocodiles in Greek Mythology
Based on the Egyptian deity Sobek, the Greeks had their own crocodile god, whom they called Suchos. The ancient Greeks kept a large crocodile named Petsuchos, whose name meant “He Who Belongs to Suchos,” in a temple dedicated to the god in Fayyūm province. The Greeks considered Petsuchos to be an incarnation of Suchos.
Crocodile Symbolism in the Bible
In the Bible, crocodiles symbolized the reign of the Pharaohs of Egypt, which God would destroy. In Ezekiel 32, God says, “You consider yourself a young lion among the nations, but you are like the sea monster! You thrash about in your rivers, you roil the waters with your feet, and you muddy your rivers…”
Then, God goes on to say how he will “bring an end to Egypt’s pride.”
Chinese Crocodile Meaning
The Chinese tell the story of a mythical creature named Jiaolong. Shaped like a dragon, Jiaolong was unique in that he lived in the water. Thus, many historians believe that dragons are based on crocodiles and alligators.
Crocodile Symbolism in Southeast Asia
The Indonesians tell the story of a great battle between a crocodile and shark, who were the strongest and most powerful of all the animals. The two beasts battled so fiercely that they eventually called a truce. They agreed that the shark would inhabit the water and the crocodile the land. However, one day, the shark entered a river estuary to hunt. This infuriated the crocodile, who believe that rivers were part of his land territory. So, he drove away the shark. This is why crocodiles patrol rivers to this day.
A crocodile and a shark are symbols for the city Surabaya in Indonesia. The name Surabaya is derived from the words “suro,” which means shark, and “boyo,” which means crocodile.
Symbols of Crocodiles in India and Hinduism
In Hinduism, there is a crocodile-like deity named Mahara. Not only is Mahara the guardian of gateways and thresholds, he also carries the river goddess Ganga on his back.
The Hindus also tell the tale of an elephant king named Ganjendra. One day Ganjendra leads his herd of female elephants to the river to bathe. A crocodile in the river is annoyed by the intrusion, so he bites Ganjendra’s leg and doesn’t let go. Crying in pain, Ganjendra prays to Vishnu to come and help him. Vishnu answers his request and kills the great crocodile.
Crocodile Spirit Animal
If a crocodile rivets your attention, whether in real life, art, literature, or the media – pay attention. There are no coincidences. The crocodile spirit animal could have special messages for you.
According to Native American traditions, you don’t necessarily choose your spirit animal. Rather, they choose you during a vision quest or another powerful experience that changes the course of your life. In Native American and other spiritual beliefs, your spirit animal serves as a guide who can help you as you navigate your soul’s journey.
If the crocodile captures your attention in a powerful way, you could be remembering a past life experience. Or it could mean that you should embody some crocodile traits in order to more successfully handle life’s challenges. When you understand crocodiles and what they symbolize, you can summon that powerful energy.
Only you can truly know if the crocodile is one of your power animals. You may have been intrigued with crocodiles your whole life. Or you may be someone who never thought much about them until suddenly one captured your attention in a powerful way. It crocodiles intrigue you, by all means explore what these fierce reptiles can to teach you!
Crocodile Power Animal
As an apex predator, the crocodile possesses enormous power. They are confident, skillful, and strong. Thus, the crocodile power animal can be a helpful symbol to meditate on in situations where you need more courage and skill.
Meditate on the Crocodile Power Animal when you:
- Are going into a negotiation, court case, business deal, or competition and you need to have all of your wits and skills about you, but without appearing too obvious.
- Feel that someone is overstepping your boundaries.
- Are being overly emotional or too sensitive in a situation and it’s not serving you, so you need to toughen your skin to deal with it.
- Have an overwhelming amount of work on your plate and you need to be super-efficient and effective about getting it all done.
- Need to summon the powers of your instincts and intuition to make a decision.
- Should pretend you’re enjoying someone’s cooking, even though you don’t. :o)
Crocodile Dream Meaning
Crocodile dream meanings can be interpreted in a number of ways, and the answer is unique for everyone. What’s important is to consider the emotions you felt in your dream.
Crocodile are frightening symbols to many people. So, if the dominant emotion you felt in your dream was fear, it could mean you need to face some conscious or subconscious fears in your life. In a way, you must become the crocodile – facing fears, threats, or insecurities with confidence and fierceness.
The emotions you feel in the dream can guide you into understanding what your subconscious is grappling with. Then, your conscious mind can help you to make sense of it. Once you identify your feelings in the dream, consider the different meanings applied to crocodiles. Hopefully, this will provide you with insights into how to approach an issue in your life.
Crocodile Tattoo Meanings
A crocodile tattoo can be a very empowering symbol because of the potent abilities of these primeval reptiles. After all, like sharks, these animals have changed very little from how they were tens of millions of years ago. Essentially, when they were created, the mold was broken.
A crocodile tattoo shows the world that you have primordial wisdom, you go by your instincts, and you have a fiercely independent nature. If you are pondering a crocodile tattoo, hopefully what you havelearned in this post will imbue it with even more significance in your life.
Organizations that Protect Crocodiles
While crocodiles look like they can protect themselves, they are actually threatened. Some species are listed as vulnerable while others are critically endangered. Because they are apex predators, human beings often feel threatened by them, so they hunt and kill them.
Crocodiles are also exploited for their skin, so people can make shoes and accessories out of it. Habitat loss that impacts wetlands and rivers is one of their biggest threats. If you care about crocodiles and the ecosystems they support, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are doing so: