Jellyfish symbolism and meanings include beauty, wake-up calls, being in flow, regeneration, immortality, and intuition. There are more than 2,000 species of jellyfishes and they are found in every ocean. So, wherever you go, people are familiar with these gorgeous gelatinous creatures. Indeed, many are intrigued with jellyfish and what they symbolize. In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of jellyfish meaning and symbolism, including jellyfish spiritual meanings and the jellyfish spirit animal, plus jellyfish mythology and folklore.
Table of Contents
- What does a jellyfish symbolize?
- Jellyfish Symbolism: Beauty
- Jellyfish Meaning: Wake-up Calls
- Being In Flow
- Regeneration and Immortality
- Jellyfish Symbolism: Intuition
- Jellyfish Mythology and Folklore
- Inuit Jellyfish Folklore
- Jellyfish Symbolism in Greek Mythology
- The Jellyfish in Celtic Mythology
- Jellyfish in Japan
- Jellyfish Folklore in Oceana
- Jellyfishes in Chinese Culture
- Jellyfish Spiritual Meanings
- Jellyfish Spirit Animal
- Jellyfish Power Animal
- Jellyfish Totem
- Jellyfish Dream Interpretations
- Jellyfish Tattoo Meaning
“Life is a beautiful magnificent thing, even to a jellyfish.”
– Charlie Chaplin
What does a jellyfish symbolize?
As mentioned above, here are some high level meanings that are associated with jellyfish. We’ll go into more detail on these throughout this post:
- Wake-up Calls
- Being In Flow
Jellyfish Symbolism: Beauty
As they gracelessly float in the ocean’s currents, jellyfish make their beauty look effortless. In addition, they are blessed with a natural bioluminescence that gives them a magical, otherworldly glow. As a result, jellyfish are symbols of beauty.
Of course, we can’t forget the fact that these gorgeous beings come with a nasty sting (well, only 70 species out of 2,000 do.)1. So, the jellyfish is a reminder that beauty doesn’t necessarily mean nice. They remind us that true beauty is a radiant glow that shines from within.
Jellyfish Meaning: Wake-up Calls
The jellyfish is a simple creature who can’t even boast having a brain. But that doesn’t stop them from knowing how to get your attention. Even if you’ve never been stung by a jellyfish, if you’re in the ocean of walking on the shore and you see one, alarm bells will probably go off in your head.
In fact, the jellyfish’s body is even shaped like a bell. So, if a jellyfish appears in your life, whether in real life, artwork, or the media, it can be a sign to wake up about an issue in your life. To some extent, we all live in a denial about something! The jellyfish spirit animal can be sending a little zinger of a warning to tell you to come out of your stupor regarding a matter.
Being In Flow
Jellyfish ambulate by way of the ocean’s currents and using their umbrella-shaped bodies to push water away from them. In fact, they are highly efficient swimmers.2
So, jellyfish meaning also includes the idea of being in flow. How do you know when you’re in flow? One sign is that you become oblivious to time passing. Another is that things simply work.
So, the jellyfish encourages you to pay attention to those activities and relationships where you are so in the moment that you forget about watching the clock. Like a surfer, you’re riding the wave instead of resisting it. Being in the flow is existing in a state of grace.
Regeneration and Immortality
Jellyfish are one of the rare animals that can regenerate themselves. And while animals like alligators and lizards can regrow a tail, jellyfish can completely regenerate themselves. If injured, they can shift their cellular structure and revert to an earlier stage of their development, which is a polyp. Then, they can begin the cycle again to become full-grown jellyfish.3
In this way, they are like the mythical phoenix bird who can perpetually regenerate.
In addition, jellyfish are one of only a few creatures who can adapt and survive in ocean dead zones – areas with pollution and little oxygen.4
Because of these unique attributes, the jellyfish is a symbol of immortality and regeneration. Thus, if a jellyfish appears in your life, it can be a positive symbol for rebuilding or renewing something in your life, whether it’s a relationship, your health, or even your finances.
Jellyfish Symbolism: Intuition
Jellyfish have managed to survive on Earth for 650 million years.5 They did this despite the fact that they don’t have a brain. So, you can say the jellyfish does everything by instinct.
In addition, as a water creature, the jellyfish is associated with the subconscious – or those experiences that exist beneath the surface of conscious awareness.
Because of these qualities, jellyfish symbolism includes intuition. The jellyfish reminds us that using your analytical mind for every decision may not always be the best approach. Going with gut feelings and what your emotions are telling you can be a way to find your flow.
Jellyfish Mythology and Folklore
Jellyfish appear in the mythologies and folklore of many seafaring cultures. Here are some of those stories:
Inuit Jellyfish Folklore
The Danish explorer, Knud Rasmussen (1879–1933), was the son of a missionary who grew up in western Greenland among the Kalaallit People, an Inuit tribe. Rasmussen recorded their stories, one of which was called “The Boy from the Bottom of the Sea.”
According to the tale, there was once a woman who was married to an abusive man who beat her regularly. Finally, the woman had enough and she ran away.
Realizing that she was pregnant, she went to a villager’s house and begged to be taken in so she could have her baby safely. However, the villager refused her. And so did the other villagers.
Heartbroken, the woman threw herself into the sea, hoping to drown. She sunk like a stone to the bottom of the sea. However, once there, she realized she was still alive. So, she built a house.
When the baby arrived, he was a little boy. However, we wasn’t the average little boy. His big eyes were made of jellyfish and his hair was seaweed. Furthermore, his mouth looked like a mussel.
The two lived happily under the sea until the boy grew up and became more curious. He begged his mother to allow him to go to the surface of the ocean.
His mother finally relented and told her son when he got to the surface to go to the village. She then told him to look as scary as he could if people saw him. So, the boy did. And the villagers were so terrified of him that they died of fright.6
Jellyfish Symbolism in Greek Mythology
There aren’t any known Greek myths about jellyfish. However, this hasn’t stopped modern science from making such an association. A full-grown, jellyfish is called a medusa. The inspiration for this could be that the jellyfish’s tentacles look like the monster Medusa’s snake hair. However, there is a deeper association.
Only those familiar with the story of Medusa know that she was actually once a beautiful woman who served in the temple of the virgin goddess Athena. In fact, Medusa was so beautiful that she tempted the gods, including Poseidon.
However, when Medusa became pregnant with Poseidon’s child (since the gods always get their way), Athena became enraged, as she was the pregnancy was defilement of her temple. So, she turned Medusa into a hideous monster.
The jellyfish has some similarities with poor Medusa. They are beautiful to look at but their sting makes some people view them as monsters.7
The Jellyfish in Celtic Mythology
Either way, the fuath is a malevolent spirit. Adding to their mystery, the have the ability to shapeshift.
According to one story, a fuath who lived in a nearby stream began haunting an old mill. So, a brave villager set out to destroy it. When he caught it, he stabbed it with a steel awl. However, once he did, the fuath shapeshifted into a jellyfish and got away.8
Jellyfish in Japan
In Japan, jellyfish are associated with the Shinto deity Ebisu.
According to Japanese legends, Ebisu was the child of two gods: Izanami and Izanagi. However, he was born without any bones, so his parents threw him into the sea.
Once in the sea, though, the boy didn’t drown. Instead, he gained power and became a powerful and jolly ocean god who commands the sea’s creatures, including jellyfish.9
How the Jellyfish Lost His Bones
In another Japanese story, the dragon god of the sea, named Ryūjin, had a craving to eat a monkey’s heart. So, he commanded his servants – sea turtles, fish, and jellyfish – to go find a monkey’s heart for him to eat.
The jellyfish was the only one who agreed to help his master. So, he left the ocean and ventured into the forest to find a monkey.
When the monkey met the jellyfish, he had a sense that a jellyfish on land was up to no good. So, the monkey told the jellyfish that he kept his heart in a jar deeper in the forest.
The jellyfish went and fetched the jar and brought it back to his master.
When Ryūjin peered into the jar and saw no monkey’s heart, he became enraged. Incensed that the jellyfish fell for the monkey’s trick, Ryūjin beat him until his bones were broken. And that’s why the jellyfish doesn’t have any bones.10
Jellyfish Folklore in Oceana
Locals from the Papuan village of Mawata have another tale about jellyfish. According to local lore, there is a giant jellyfish goddess named Erumía who lives on a reef called Tére-múba-mádja near Gésovamúba Point.
Erumía is the mother of all the smaller jellyfish and she is also the patron saint of the village. When Erumía is happy, there are plenty of fish to eat and she bestows good luck and blessings on the people. But when she is unhappy, she will sting anyone who comes her way to death.11
Jellyfishes in Chinese Culture
In modern-day Chinese culture, they tell tales of the Qing Xian Flying Jellyfish, which exists in the air. In fact, on October 19, 1998, a Chinese Air Force pilot and 140 ground officials reported seeing a giant jellyfish-like creature in the sky. Some believe the Qing Xian Flying Jellyfish is a UFO.12
Jellyfish Spiritual Meanings
Jellyfish are not mentioned in the Bible, the Quran, or the Bhagavad Gita. However, they still have important spiritual meanings for many people. Devout Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus might describe a person who wavers in their spiritual faith as a jellyfish. However, jellyfish also have some positive spiritual meanings.
For example, some Hindus and Buddhists view jellyfish as sentient beings. Even though they are simple creatures who lack a brain, the fact that they are alive and have existed for so long makes them sentient and worthy of life. Furthermore, some Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus view jellyfish as yet another miracle of God’s creation.
In addition, because jellyfish can regenerate and are symbols of immortality, they are associated with the eternal nature of the human soul, as well as the idea of reincarnation.
Jellyfish Spirit Animal
If a jellyfish makes themselves known to you in real life, art, literature, the media, or elsewhere – pay attention. There are no coincidences. Your spirit animal serves as a guide, bringing you messages from the Universe to help guide you on your soul’s journey.
While they are simple creatures compared to a wolf, bear, or dolphin, the jellyfish spirit animal is a special guide to have on your side. When the jellyfish is your spirit animal, you are a person who has the capacity to constantly reinvent yourself and begin anew.
In addition, jellyfish people are viewed by others as beautiful and easy going. You are the type of person who doesn’t like to make waves. You prefer to go with the flow.
Furthermore, jellyfish people are highly sensitive and intuitive. You let your feelings and emotions guide you, especially when it comes to important life decisions.
If you’re curious about other sea creatures who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s sea creature personality quiz.
Jellyfish Power Animal
As the name implies, a power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. For example, you can summon the jellyfish power animal when you:
- Want to feel like you are more in flow with life, whether it be creatively, at work, or in your relationships.
- Would like to create more beauty in the world.
- Want to reinvent yourself.
- Need a wake-up call in order to face reality about a situation.
- Want to hone your intuitive skills.
An animal totem is a helpful talisman that embodies the positive attributes of the animal that it represents. It can also serve as a protective symbol.
So, the jellyfish totem animal can be a helpful symbol for reminding yourself to go with the flow instead of resisting things you can’t control.
In addition, the jellyfish totem is helpful when you want to be more in tune with the messages from your spirit guides.
Jellyfish Dream Interpretations
If a jellyfish enters your dreams and you wonder what the dream means, consider the emotions you felt in your dream. Dreams are personal to each dreamer, so a jellyfish dream to one person may be interpreted very differently from one that another person has.
However, delving into the emotions you felt in your dream in context to how you view jellyfish can provide better insights into what your subconscious is trying to tell you. One thing we all have in common is that our subconscious emotions don’t lie to us.
Based on jellyfish symbolism and meanings, here are a couple of ideas:
- A jellyfish stinging you in your dream can mean that your sub-conscious is trying to alert you to something that you’re ignoring or avoiding in your wakeful life that you need to address.
- Dreaming that you’re floating in the sea with jellyfish around you but you don’t feel threatened can mean that you are subconsciously feeling good about a decision and you should go for it.
Hopefully understanding more about jellyfish symbolism and meanings will bring new insights into what your dream is telling you.
Jellyfish Tattoo Meaning
A jellyfish tattoo is a powerful symbol that shows the world you are a person who values beauty and serenity. You are not a person who enjoys conflict for conflict’s sake, though you’ll stick up for your convictions with a zinger of an opinion if pushed.
A jellyfish tattoo can also convey that you are a highly intuitive person who lets your emotions and gut feelings be the guide.
Of course, tattoos are very personal to each individual, but hopefully understanding more about jellyfish symbols and mythology will bring even deeper meaning to your tattoo.
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