Seahorse meanings and symbolism appear in the legends and folklore of seafaring peoples in many parts pf the world. Indeed, stories about mythical creatures that resemble seahorses have captivated people for centuries. In this post, we’ll explore seahorse symbolism, meanings, and the seahorse spirit animal. Plus, we’ll take a look at seahorse mythology and folklore from cultures around the world.
Table of Contents
- What does the seahorse symbolize?
- Detailed Seahorse Symbolism and Meanings
- The Seahorse in Cultural Mythology
- Seahorse Symbolism in Mexico
- Manaia of Polynesia
- Seahorse in Greek and Roman Mythology
- The Phoenicians and Etruscans
- Seahorses in Celtic Mythology
- Seahorse Symbols in India and Hinduism
- Seahorse Meanings in Asia
- 3 Seahorse Spiritual Meanings
- Seahorse Spirit Animal
- Organizations that Protect Seahorses
What does the seahorse symbolize?
Here are some high-level seahorse meanings. We’ll go into more detail on these throughout this post.
- Loyalty and Devotion
- Balance and Reciprocity
- Mysticism and Intuition
Detailed Seahorse Symbolism and Meanings
The beautiful seahorse, with his curly tale and changing colors resembles both horse and sea creature. These beguiling attributes make the seahorse a symbol of charm, and with that – good luck and opportunity.
Like chameleons, seahorses can change colors. They do so for protection to blend in with their surroundings, as well as for putting on a vibrant display for their mates.1
When the seahorse is your spirit animal, you have the capacity to use your charisma and personality to make others feel comfortable with you while at the same time – charming them. You may not always feel this way, but the seahorse reminds you do indeed possess these gifts.
If you feel that good luck, opportunity, and even your soul mate are not materializing for you, let the seahorse be a reminder. You have the innate capability to be endearing and charming without being superficial. Like a brilliant aquamarine, the seahorse’s charm is genuine. Yours is too, so let it sparkle!
While seahorses have a tough exoskeleton that protects them from many predators, they are still extremely vulnerable. For every 1,000 seahorses who are born, only one will survive to reach maturity. Crabs are one of their natural predators, but humans are their bigger threat.2
Seahorses are not strong swimmers either, but they’re strong tails enable them to hold on to aquatic plants and other anchors to steady themselves.
The seahorse spirit reminds you that while people can appear to have tough shells, the fact is – we all have vulnerabilities. It’s important to recognize this reality in ourselves and in others.
Recognizing your own vulnerabilities and acknowledging them is a way to empower and protect yourself, as well as to grow as a human being.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize the vulnerabilities in others. You may have a family member, friend, or coworker who drives you up the wall. But when you recognize where their idiosyncrasies are coming from, you can view their personality in a more holistic way and even have more empathy for them. This can go a long way in making the relationship easier.
The gentle beauty of the seahorse spirit reminds you to recognize and even own your own vulnerabilities and to be considerate of the challenges that others face as you evolve on your life paths.
Loyalty and Devotion
In the seahorse world, the female is the more assertive partner as she enters the male seahorse’s territory where they court each other.3 And seahorses keep things fresh by courting and re-courting each other in an extravagant display (by seahorse standards, at least) on a daily basis.
Because if their devotion to their mates, the seahorse is a powerful symbol of commitment in love. Too often when we are unhappy about something we project that unhappiness on to our partners, thinking they are the source. When, in reality, the unhappiness has to do with something within ourselves or to specific circumstances.
Finding true love is a rare and precious event. It doesn’t come around very often, if at all. The seahorse spirit reminds you to treasure your partner and always keep top of mind those qualities you fell in love with.
If you are single and looking for your soul mate, the seahorse is the perfect totem for finding true love that will last. Visualize your ideal partner, and even more important – envision who you want to be in your ideal relationship.
Balance and Reciprocity
I remember seeing a childbirth class in a funny movie where the fathers were outfitted with huge, heavy fake bellies so they could empathize more with what it felt like to be pregnant. In the world of seahorses, that isn’t necessary because the male seahorse actually does carry the babies and give birth.4
The way seahorse pregnancies work is that the female transfers her eggs to the male, who fertilizes them in a pouch on his body. The male carries the fertilized eggs for 2-4 weeks and then gives birth.
Because of this sharing of responsibilities, seahorses are symbols of balance and reciprocity. They are also symbols of gender equality and the nurturing power of male energy.
When the seahorse is your sprit guide, you are a natural giver, but not a pushover. You seek fairness and harmony in your relationships.
If a seahorse has suddenly come into your purview, it could be a sign that you need to find more balance in your relationships. This could be standing up for yourself more, as well as setting boundaries and sticking to them. Or it could also mean that you need to give more and do a better job of taking care of those you love.
When compared to other fish, seahorses are known to be poor swimmers. However, their extremely dexterous tails enable them to hold on to sea grasses, other aquatic plants, coral reefs, and even marine debris to stabilize themselves in rough waters.5 They will also wrap their tails around their mates so they can stick together in times of turbulence.
When the seahorse is your spirit animal, you have the capacity to stabilize yourself even when the waters of life get choppy. Yet, it’s important to remember that life is easier with the right partner. If you feel unmoored in your own life, it could be a sign that you should put more effort into finding partnerships that bring stability and security into your life. Likewise, if a seahorse had made themselves known to you, it could be a sign that you need to provide more stability and security for your loved ones.
Mysticism and Intuition
Seahorses have strong vision, with special eyes that can work independently. Thus, seahorses can look forward and backward at the same time. Because of their unique eyesight, seahorses symbolize intuition and the ability to see the past, present, and future at the same time.
Seahorse-like creatures appear in the folklore of many cultures of people who make their home near the water. I’ll describe some of these in more detail below. In every case, the mythical seahorse creatures have special powers, possessing a mystical awareness.
In general, water creatures, such as manatees, turtles, and dolphins, are symbols of psychic abilities and mysticism because water is allegorical for entering the subconscious and even the superconscious. As the seahorse resembles both a sea and land creature, they symbolize the ability to evolve spiritually, moving from the Earth (conscious) to the water (subconscious or super conscious.)
The Seahorse in Cultural Mythology
There are nearly 50 species of seahorses, and they can be found in tropical and temperate waters around the world.6 So, many seafaring cultures have legends and myths about the meanings of seahorses. Here are a few of them.
Seahorse Symbolism in Mexico
A long time ago, animals wore clothing and shoes. A seahorse lived on the island and he was plump and well dressed. Being somewhat greedy and a bit of trickster, the seahorse began to get on the nerves of the other animals.
Eventually, they became fed up with him, so they chased him towards the sea. To escape them, the seahorse tore off his clothes and shoes and dove into the waves and remained in the sea forever. This is why seahorses are skinny and look the way they do today.8
Manaia of Polynesia
The Māori People of Polynesia tell stories of a mythical creature called Manaia. In some depictions, Manaia is described as having the head of a bird, the body of a human, and the tail of a fish. However, in other depictions, Manaia resembles a lizard or a seahorse.
Like the hawk and the eagle, Manaia has the ability to travel between the earthly and heavenly worlds, serving as a messenger between mortals and spirits. Manaia9 also serves as a guardian and protector, as well as a giver if good luck.
Seahorse in Greek and Roman Mythology
In the ancient cultures that surrounded the Mediterranean Sea, the hippocampus symbol appeared in artwork and legends. “Hippocampus” is Latin for seahorse.
The Roman god Neptune, whose Greek equivalent is Poseidon, is often depicted on a chariot being pulled by giant seahorses, or hippocampi.
The seahorse is also associated with the astrological sign of Capricorn. While the symbol of Capricorn is depicted as half goat/half fish, some historians believe the symbol was inspired by seahorses.10
The Phoenicians and Etruscans
The Phoenicians and the Etruscans were ancient seafaring people who lived on the Mediterranean. Historians describe them a loose confederation of maritime traders rather than nation states.11
Hippocampi appear in the artwork of both of these cultures, from jewelry to the walls of burial tombs.12 Clearly these were cultures who believed in the seahorse spirit animal, as they thought seahorses were worthy of accompanying them to the afterlife.
Seahorses in Celtic Mythology
Celtic mythology tells tales of mystical horses, called kelpies, who emerged from rivers and lochs. While the kelpies act as normal horses on dry land, if you try to ride them, they might drag you under water and eat you.
The artwork of the Picts, a Celtic group of people who lived in the northern and eastern parts of Scotland, depicted kelpies in their artwork. These kelpies very much resemble the ancient Roman depictions of hippocampi.13
Seahorse Symbols in India and Hinduism
Across the world in India, Hindus depicted seahorse-like creatures in their mythology. The Hindu deity Makara resembles a seahorse-like creature and is associated with the sign of Capricorn.
Makara is the protector of gateways and thresholds, and is ridden by the river goddess Ganga, for whom the Ganges River is named.14
Seahorse Meanings in Asia
In Japanese, the word for seahorse – “tatsu-no-otoshigo” means “dragon’s bastard child.”15
Needless to say, seahorses were associated with dragons, which are known to possess omnipotent powers in Asian cultures. Seahorses are symbols of good luck, healing, and prosperity in Japan and other Asian cultures.
The downside to this belief in the special powers of seahorses is that they are often used in traditional Asian medicines, despite the lack of evidence that consuming seahorses has any benefits.16
3 Seahorse Spiritual Meanings
Here are some spiritual meanings associated with seahorses:
- Seahorses represent a deep devotion to faith. However, it’s open-minded faith vs. fundamentalist faith. On a spiritual level, the seahorse embodies the ideal to live and let live.
- As an aquatic animal, the seahorse represents going into one’s sub-conscious to connect with deeper spiritual truths. The seahorse is not about skimming the surface. They are about diving deep for greater wisdom and understanding.
- The seahorse also embodies the idea of letting feelings and intuition guide decision-making vs. overly analytical thinking. This is because intuitive guidance can come from a higher power.
Seahorse Spirit Animal
When the seahorse is your spirit guide, you’ve been blessed with a truly unique power animal. In Native American traditions, your spirit animal selects you. This might occur in a vision quest, a dream, or another powerful experience that affects the course or your life. A spirit animal may also be an animal with whom you feel an unexplainable kinship, something you may felt your entire life.
If a seahorse makes himself or herself known to you in a way that rivets your attention – pay attention; there are no coincidences. You may be lucky enough to see seahorses in the wild while snorkeling or diving or at an aquarium. Or you might experience them in films, art, or the media. Regardless of how the seahorse comes to you, if these special beings capture your attention, by all means, learn as much as you can about them. They can expand your awareness about life on Earth, why you are here, and what your purpose is for being here.
Seahorse people usually have the following qualities. You are:
- Devoted and loving, putting your mate first and foremost. You’re the kind who never lets them down.
- Someone whom others are draw to with a sort of curiosity and fascination.
- An easy going, go-with-the-flow person.
- A giver.
- The type of person who trusts their first impressions and who goes with their feelings about a matter.
If you already feel that the seahorse is one of your power animals, you may learn some new things in this post that further guide you on your life path. And if you’re curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take the spirit animal test in UniGuide’s post about spirit animals.
Organizations that Protect Seahorses
Human beings are the biggest threat to seahorses. For one, the traditional Chinese medicine market is responsible for killing a staggering 150 million seahorses every year. Not only are these seahorse killed, but they die an agonizing death as they are left in the sun to burn up and dry out. If anyone tells you that fish don’t feel pain, remind them that it has been scientifically proven that fish do, indeed, feel pain.17
Another one million seahorses are taken from the wild to be sold in the pet trade, and only a small fraction of those seahorses survive longer than one month. If you care about seahorses, do not support the market for seahorses used in so-called medicines or as pets in aquariums. Instead, please support organizations that are working day-in and day-out to protect seahorses and other fish, allowing them to live in their natural habitats. Here are some organizations that are doing that: