Sea Lion Symbolism & Meaning & the Sea Lion Spirit Animal

Sea Lion Basking on a Rock

Sea lion symbolism and meanings include adaptability, community, curiosity, opportunity, spunk, playfulness, joy, and transformation. There are more than five species of sea lions in the world and they can be found in many of the world’s oceans, from the subarctic to the tropical seas. So, chances are wherever you go, people are familiar with these fun-loving marine mammals. As a result, sea lions appear in the mythology and folklore of many cultures around the world and they have important symbolic meanings.

In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of sea lion meaning and symbolism, including sea lion spiritual meanings and the sea lion spirit animal, plus sea lion mythology and folklore.

Sea Lion and Pup

What does a sea lion symbolize?

As mentioned above, here are some high-level meanings that are associated with sea lions. We’ll go into more detail on these throughout this post.

  • Adaptability
  • Community
  • Curiosity
  • Opportunity
  • Spunk
  • Playfulness
  • Joy
  • Transformation

Sea Lion Symbolism: Adaptability

Sea Lion on a Boat

If you’ve ever seen a sea lion lounging in the sun on a pier or a walkway in a marina, you know these wild creatures can be quite comfortable around humans. 

In fact, on a personal note, where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the sea lions are very vocal and have no problem making their presence known. Plus, they’re quite comfortable taking fish from local fishers.

In addition, sea lions are like dogs in that they’re opportunistic feeders. They’ll eat a variety of fish, including squid, anchovies, mackerel, rockfish, and sardines, as well as crustaceans, octopus, and clams.

Plus, they’re adept at moving in and out of the water, and they can thrive in a variety of marine environments. In addition, while they are mammals, the sea lion can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes when they’re diving for food.1

This versatility and the sea lion’s ability to coexist with humans is why the sea lion is a symbol of adaptability. It’s as if the sea lion is telling us, “Look, we can make anything work for us, and so should you!”

Even the sea lion’s wiggly body is a testament to not getting up tight about things.

So, the sea lion is a positive symbol for having a flexible and open-minded approach to life. View changes coming your way as positive and something that will serve your higher good. Also, the sea lion is a reminder to be willing to try new approaches if you want better outcomes.


Sea Lion Colony

Sea lions are quite social, living in large groups, which are called colonies. And they form close bonds with their families and community members. They also work together to raise and protect their pups.

In addition, sea lions coordinate when hunting, Plus, they groom each other and even help each other to haul out of the water.

So, on a symbolic level, sea lions embody the importance of community and cooperation. If a sea lion appears in your life, it can be a sign to not go it alone. Continue to build community around you and nurture supportive relationships. The sea lion reminds us of the adage, “All of us is greater than one of us.”

Sea Lion Meaning: Curiosity

Curious Sea Lion

Sea lion symbolism also includes curiosity. I happen to know this first hand because I have a dog who loves the water and loves to swim. It’s not an unusual sight when we’re playing fetch in the water to have a curious sea lion popping their head up out of the water to watch us. 

The sea lion’s curiosity is a testament to their being among some of the world’s most intelligent animals, up there with ravens, dogs, elephants, gorillas, and whales.

Thus, the sea lion represents the joy of discovery and being curious. In fact, there’s a saying that says, “Only boring people get bored.” Or, a more positive quote, by Freya Stark is, “Curiosity is the one thing invincible in nature.”

So, if a sea lion appears in your life and grabs your attention, it can be a sign to ask  yourself, ‘When was the last time I did something totally different and new?’

The sea lion spirit animal encourages you to explore some new ideas, activities, or places. Being curious brings more joy to life.


As mentioned earlier, the sea lion is an opportunistic feeder as they’re willing to eat a wide variety of foods. In fact, they’ll both hunt and scavenge for food. In addition, if they’re ready to take a break from being in the water, they have no problem hauling out in boat marinas and in some cases, even on boats.

As a result, the sea lion also symbolizes opportunity. They don’t get into analysis paralysis like many people do over decisions. Instead, they take opportunities as they come.

So, if you feel like you want to create more abundance in an area of your life, start training your mind to look at every situation as a positive opportunity. The more you do it, the more automatic it will become. Then, when a golden nugget of an opportunity comes your way, you’ll be primed and ready to take advantage of it. 

Sea Lion Symbolism: Spunk

One of the sea lion’s most notable characteristics is their unmistakable sea lion bark. In fact, researchers claim that they even mimic people and dogs.2

Another researcher at the Pinniped Cognition & Sensory Systems Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory taught a sea lion to bob his head to different musical beats.3

(On another personal note, I started out as a marine biology major in college and I actually did an internship with the same sea lion cognition project when I was in school. I will say that the researchers loved the sea lions and treated them like gold.) 

Because of the sea lion’s curios and interactive personality, they are also symbols of spunk. Not to mention, with their big puppy dog eyes, they have no trouble melting people’s hearts.

So, the sea lion spirit animal may be asking you – “When was the last time you let your inner child come out to play?” While it’s good to be responsible, if we don’t get into a little bit of mischief every now and then, what’s the point? 

The sea lion says – Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be expressive and show a little spunk and humor. We all have it in us!


Sea Lion and Dolphin

Sea lions are known for their playful nature. So, they also symbolize the importance of play in our lives. Life can be full of stressors and challenges. Thus, it’s extra important that we don’t lose our ability to let loose, have fun, and simply enjoy the moment. 

The spirit of the sea lion is to not take life, or yourself, too seriously. In fact, a friend of mine once told me a story about a great aunt she had who always made sure she had something fun planned on her calendar every two weeks. This is very much in the spirit of the sea lion.


Like dolphins, sea lions love to frolic in the waves. Their energetic and curious nature, along with their lively vocalizations and expressive faces, exude a sense of joy and fun.

So, along with spunk and playfulness, sea lion symbolism also includes joy. The sea lion never feels guilty about being happy or worried that their joy might soon go away. they simply revel in the moment and their right to be happy.

You also have a right to be happy. So, if a sea lion appears in your life, it can be a sign to keep this essential fact in mind. Some people live their lives with mantras such as, “Life is hard,” or “Life is about struggling.” The sea lion says, “Life is for living. So be happy.”


Sea Lions Underwater

Sea lion meaning also includes the quality of transformation. While all life on Earth originated in the water, some animals evolved to walk on land. Then, of those species, a few made the choice to return to the water.

Some of these animals include turtles, frogs, and marine mammals, such as otters, manatees, dolphins, whales, and sea lions. Because of this remarkable example of evolution, these special animals are all symbols of transformation.

Thus, as a symbol of transformation, the sea lion reminds you that you have the power to transform your life in extraordinary ways. No matter how deep you dive, you’ll be able to hold your breath and survive the down times, then resurface and be more powerful than before.

The sea lion spirit animal says to envision what you want and how you want to be, and start building from there. Personal transformation begins in the mind. Authors and self-improvement gurus like Tony Robbins, Rhonda Byrne, and Joe Dispenza all teach about our extraordinary potential to transform our lives for the better. The joyful sea lion says – Believe in yourself.

Sea Lion Mythology and Folklore

The sea lion appears in the myths and folklore of many cultures around the world. Here are some of those stories:

Native American Sea Lion Meanings

For the Native Americans of coastal North America, the sea lion represents abundance and prosperity. For example the Unangan (or Aleut) and the Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples of the Pacific Northwest rely on the sea lion as a source of food and clothing.4 

Also, in Nuu-chah-nulth cosmology, the sea lion is an earthdiver. The creation myth of the earthdiver is shared among a number of Native American tribes.

According to these legends, the world was once being covered by water (which scientists theorize is true.5) Certain animals, including the turtle and the sea lion, were responsible for bringing mud up from the bottom of the endless sea, which helped to build the land that people eventually lived on.

The Sea Lion in Intuit Culture

Sea Goddess Sedna
Sea goddess Sedna, National Museum of Finland. Photo: Saiko.

For the Inuit People of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia, the sea lion is associated with their sea goddess, Sedna. 

There are various legends about Sedna. However, a common thread to the stories is that Sedna’s father didn’t want her as a baby, so he threw her into the sea, thinking she would drown. But the sea creatures took her as their own and made her the goddess of the sea.6

In one version of the story, Sedna was a giant and the daughter of the creator deity, Anguta. Sedna was a wild baby and attacked her parents. So, Anguta took her out to sea in his kayak and threw her overboard.

When she tried to grab onto the side of the kayak, her father chopped off her fingers and she sank into the underworld. Her giant fingers became the sea lions, seals, and walruses of the sea.7

Needless to say, Sedna became an angry and vengeful goddess. The Inuit believe she must be placated or she will cause havoc for people when they venture into the ocean.

Sea Lions in Moche Culture

Moche Sea Lion Bottle
Moche bottle depicting a sea lion hunt. Ca 6th–7th century. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

The ancient Moche People of Peru also relied on sea lions as a source of food and clothing. When the Moche hunted them, the sea lions would often cough up pebbles they had swallowed. The Moche would try to capture the pebbles because they believed the pebbles had powerful healing qualities. So, they would grind them up and use them in medicines.8

The Sea Lion in Australian Aboriginal Culture

For the Aboriginal People of Australia, the sea lion is also an important source of food and other items. They use the oil from sea lion blubber in cooking and they mix it with ochre to make paint for their artwork. 

For the Wirangu People of western and southern Australia, the sea lion is an important totem animal, or protector spirit.9

Sea Lion Symbolism in Greek and Roman Mythology

In Greek and Roman mythology, the sea lion was a helper to powerful sea deities. They were also seen as protectors of sailors. 

For instance, the great sea gods, Poseidon (Greek) and Neptune (Roman) are sometimes depicted as riding chariots pulled by giant sea lions or seahorses (also called hippocampi.)

Poseidon’s son Triton is another sea god. He is sometimes described as having the upper body of a man and lower body of a sea lion.

The Sea Lion in Celtic Mythology

The Selkie
The Selkie. Print by Brownie Man

The Irish and Scots have long told stories about sea lion-like creatures who come to shore to enchant people. Called selkies, the creatures could shapeshift from sea lions (or seals) into beautiful women by removing their fur when they came to shore.

The selkies are said to possess feminine wiles that are so seductive that they have the power to enchant and overwhelm men. In fact, in many selkie tales, the man is so smitten with the selkie in her human form that he tries to convince her to remain on land with him. 

In some versions of the tales, the man will use underhanded means to trick her into staying on land, such as stealing her fur so that she can’t transform back into a sea lion and return to the sea. However, the man can never tame the selkie, as her heart eternally belongs to the sea.10

Norse Sea Lion Mythology

In Norse mythology, the sea lion appears in a story about an epic battle between the trickster god Loki and Heimdall, who was the watchman for the gods.

In the story, Loki sneaks into the goddess Freya’s palace to steal a magical necklace. Heimdall pursues him to save Freya and the necklace. 

In what turns about to be an epic battle ripe with shapeshifting, both gods transform into sea lions. In the end, it is Heimdall who prevails and saves the necklace.11

So, even in ancient Norse mythology, the sea lion was associated with transformation.

Sea Lion in European Heraldry

Sea Lion Coat of Arms
Sea lion in heraldry. Ca. 1909. Source: A Complete Guide to Heraldry by Charles Fox-Davies (1871–1928).

In European heraldry, which is the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, or coats of arms, the sea lion appears in some interesting ways.

Sometimes called a morse, which was a legendary sea creature, the sea lion was often depicted as a creature that had the head and upper body of a lion and a lower body with scales and a fish tail. In addition, the creature might be displayed as a winged lion with a fish tail.12

Thus, the sea lion symbolized fierceness, power, and nautical might in heraldry.

Sea Lions in Japan

In Japanese mythology, the yōkai are supernatural entities that possess special powers, including shapeshifting into different forms.

In one story, there is a group of aquatic yōkai called arie, which possess the gift of prophecy. The arie have bulbous bodies and scales and they resemble sea lions. In addition, they are boisterous and love to sing. They also deliver prophecies and drive away spirits that cause disease.13

Thus, in Japanese mythology, the sea lion is associated with protection and healing.

Sea Lion Spiritual Meanings

Sea lions are not mentioned in the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Quran. However, on a spiritual level, they represent some important ideals. Here are some examples:

1. Community – Sea lions remind us that we are not meant to journey alone, and that the support and guidance of others can aid in our spiritual growth. The spirit of the sea lion encourages us to build and nurture relationships with others and to find support and belonging in our community.

2. Curiosity – Sea lions represent the importance of being curious and open to new experiences. This includes other perspectives as we navigate our spiritual journey.

They also remind us to approach the unknown with a sense of wonder and openness, and to be curious about the mysteries of the Universe.

3. Transformation – Sea lions represent the power of transformation on our spiritual journey. They remind us that we are all going through a spiritual transformation just as we are in the physical world. Ultimately, we are all on the path to spiritual enlightenment.

Sea Lion Spirit Animal

Sea Lion Spirit Animal

When the sea lion is your spirit animal, you are likely a person who has a playful and curious nature. Sea lion people are cute and fun and, like jellyfish people, you know how to go with the flow. You also value your close ties with friends, family, and community.

When the sea lion is your spirit animal, you are also a person who has the potential for great transformation. And not only that, you make these positive changes seem fluid and effortless. 

You are also likely the type of person who, when faced with challenges, can figure out how to take a deep breath and swim a little harder until you catch the next wave. 

In short, the sea lion spirit animal is a wonderful guide to have on your side.

If you’re curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal test in my overview post about spirit animals.

Sea Lion Power Animal

As the name implies, a power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. 

So, when you meditate on the sea lion power animal, you can tap into their most dynamic traits and use them as your own. For example, you can meditate on the sea lion power animal in situations where you:

  • Hope to adapt to new situations and environments with a level of ease and grace.
  • Want to strengthen your personal relationships and build community.
  • Would like to explore some new ideas and different perspectives.
  • Need to have a little more fun.
  • Are in a phase where you are focused on personal growth and transforming an area of your life. 

Sea Lion Totem Animal

An animal totem embodies the protective powers of the animal it represents. Thus, the sea lion totem animal serves as a helpful symbol to bring more joy and fun into your life.  

In addition, the sea lion totem is a positive symbol for communities that want to foster curiosity, play, and joy. 

Finally, the sea lion totem animal is a good luck symbol when you want to transform your life and adapt to changes with ease.  

Sea Lion Dream Meaning

If a sea lion enters your dreams and you wonder what the dream meant, consider the emotions you felt in your dream. Dreams are personal to each dreamer, so a sea lion dream for 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 sea lions in general 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.

If you are still wondering what your sea lion dream may mean, here are some additional ideas: 

  • You might be going through some life changes. The sea lion can be a sign that, with a positive attitude, you will be able to manifest good outcomes and come out on the other end a new and better person.
  • Dreaming of a group of sea lions can mean that you need to strengthen ties with your community or rely more on the people in your life who love you and have your best interests at heart. 
  • A dream about a curious or playful sea lion can be a sign to make sure you’re having enough fun and enjoying your life. 

In addition, dreams that have a lasting or powerful effect on us are often said to be connections with the spirit realm. So, your dream could mean you connected with a loved one who has passed.

Furthermore, a number of psychics say that, like wolves, marine mammals have psychic abilities. Thus, dreaming about a sea lion or sea lions could mean that you connected with one or more of these animals on the astral plane.

Also, dreaming of a sea lion in distress could mean you are being called upon to do work in sea lion protection and conservation.

Hopefully understanding more about sea lion symbolism and meanings will bring new insights into what your dream is telling you.

Sea Lion Tattoo Meaning

Sea Lion Tattoo

A sea lion tattoo can show the world that you are a playful and spunky person who knows how to enjoy life and go with the flow. It can also mean that you are curious by nature and open-minded about new opportunities coming your way. 

The sea lion is also a wonderful symbol of joy and transformation. So, your sea lion tattoo can show the world that you are a person who is going through a process of personal transformation all the while with a smile on your face and a sense of wonder. 

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Kristen M. Stanton

Hello. Thanks for visiting UniGuide. My name is Kristen and I started UniGuide as a tribute to nature, animals, and spiritual exploration. I hope you enjoy your experience here!