Starfish symbolism and meanings include security, sensitivity, manifestation, fertility, abundance, healing, and renewal. Because starfish, which are also called sea stars, inhabit every ocean on Earth, people around the world are familiar with these beautiful invertebrates. Thus, they appear in the mythologies and folklore of many cultures. In addition, many people are curious about what they symbolize. In this post, we’ll dive into all facets of starfish meanings and symbolism, including their spiritual meanings, the starfish spirit animal, starfish mythology, and more.
What do starfish symbolize?
Starfish Symbolism: Security
In addition to their beautiful colors, the starfish’s most notable trait is their multiple arms. The undersides of their arms are comprised of little tube feet that work like suction cups, enabling the starfish to cling onto rocks and hold onto prey. Because the starfish can hold onto rocks even amidst strong ocean currents, they are a symbol of security.
So, if a starfish appears in your life and captures your attention, it can be a sign to fortify those aspects of your life that give you security, whether it’s your relationships, your home life, your finances, or even your physical security.
Similarly, the starfish is a good luck talisman if you want to create more security for yourself or those you love. In this way, the starfish shares synergies with the root chakra, which is the energy center in your body that is the foundation of your personal security.
The tactile starfish is a sensitive creature. In fact, like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, starfish are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment. Thus, marine biologists and climate scientists look at some species of starfish, such as the Pisaster ochraceus, as a keystone species because their presence in their natural habitat has a disproportionately important impact on the health of the entire ecosystem.1
So, the starfish is also a symbol of sensitivity. If the starfish is one of your favorite animals or you consider them to be one of your spirit animals, you are likely a person who is sensitive to other people, animals, and your surroundings. You pick up on vibes that other people overlook and you have an intuitive sense of what others are thinking or feeling. You probably also sense things that are going to happen before they actually do.
Starfish Meaning: Manifestation
Like the multi-armed octopus or spider, the starfish is also a symbol of manifestation. They embody the idea that if you can envision something, you can make it a reality in the physical world.
Thus, the starfish is a helpful symbol for your vision board, serving as a reminder of your power to envision and make your dreams a reality.
As the starfish is a sign of a healthy natural ecosystem (at least in their native habitats), they are powerful symbols of fertility. In fact, as we’ll go into in more detail later in this post, the starfish has long been associated with fertility goddesses in cultures around the world.
So, the starfish is a good luck symbol if you want to conceive or grow your family in some way.
As they are symbols of fertility, the starfish is also a symbol of wealth and abundance. If you want to manifest more prosperity in your life or to make something take hold and grow, such as a business or creative endeavor, envision the positive energy of the sea star!
Sea Star Symbolism: Healing
One of the sea star’s most notable traits is their ability to regenerate an arm if they injure one or lose it to a predator. So, like the octopus or snake, they are also powerful symbols of healing and regeneration.
Just as they are symbols of healing, the starfish is also a symbol of regeneration and renewal. In addition to being able to regrow their limbs, sea stars can reproduce asexually!
Thus, the starfish is a reminder that you have within you the power to renew yourself and rebuild your life, no matter how hard or far you have fallen. The starfish reminds you that your physical body is hardwired to heal and that your spirit is indomitable.
Starfish Mythology and Folklore
Because starfish can be found in oceans around the world, they appear in the mythologies and folklore of many cultures. Here are some of those stories:
Native American Starfish Meanings
Tlingit and Haida
There are a few Native American tribes in whose stories the starfish appears. Two such tribes are Tlingit and Haida of British Columbia.
While the raven and the eagle are central characters in their cosmologies, the starfish appears as an important “sub-clan” animal, particularly for those families who are aligned with the eagle. For the tribes, their clan animals are protective spirits.
The Tlingit and Haida view the starfish as a symbol of strength because of their ability to open mussel shells. In addition, because the starfish can regenerate their limbs, they are also symbols of healing and immortality.2
Kwakiutl and Nuxalk
For the Kwakiutl and Nuxalk tribes, also of the Pacific Northwest, the starfish, or sea star, is associated with wealth and healing.
Their deity Kumugwe is the god of the sea. The Kwakiutl and Nuxalk refer to him as “the copper maker” or “the wealthy one” because his undersea world is filled with riches. The octopus is one of the guardians of his treasures.
The Kwakiutl and Nuxalk believe that Kumugwe brings wealth and healing.3 Thus, by association, the starfish also embodies these qualities.
In some Kwakiutl stories, starfish were once defiant women who didn’t go along with the requests of the trickster god Mink. In revenge, Mink turned them into starfish.4
Sea Star in Hawaiian Mythology
In Hawaiian mythology, the sea star, or starfish, was one of the first creatures to be created. According to Hawaiian tradition, the starfish was here long before humans, and like other living beings, it is a vessel for divine energy.5
For the Māori People of New Zealand, the starfish is associated with ancient wisdom. For example, they say the starfish can predict weather patterns. They observe that starfish will go into hiding before a storm.6
Starfish in Aboriginal Australian Mythology
For the Aboriginal Australians, the starfish is a clever trickster. According to one Aboriginal tale, there were once many animals who wanted to cross the sea. The whale had a giant canoe. However, he refused to let the others ride in it.
So, the starfish told the other animals that she would tell the whale stories and groom him of parasites to distract him. Then, they could take the canoe.
When the whale looked up to see that his canoe was gone, he threw the starfish against the rocks, and that’s why starfish have bumpy and coarse exteriors today.7
African Starfish Legends
It’s difficult to find African legends about starfish. However, there is one species of sea star that is found in the tropical waters off of East Africa that’s worth mentioning.
The choriaster sea star (or Choriaster granulatus) is a more “pudgy” variety of starfish boasting a plump body and arms. Affectionately called “the Doughboy Starfish”, choriaster is possibly the inspiration for many starfish cartoon characters.
Starfish Symbolism in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians associated the starfish with their goddesses Nut and Isis. Nut was a creator goddess who ruled the sky, the stars, and the sea – from which all life originated. Isis was one of her children, a loving and nurturing goddess of fertility, healing, and magic. Isis also protected sailors and those in need.
The Egyptians connected starfish with the actual stars in the sky. In fact, they closely associated them with the star Sirius, which was also sacred to Isis. Sirius appeared annually in the sky for the ancient Egyptians, and it was associated with the flooding of the Nile River. This was a time of crop growth, water, and renewal for the Egyptians and starfish symbolized this abundance.8
Starfish in Mesopotamian Mythology
Some historians theorize that the goddess Isis was an embodiment of the earlier Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, or Inanna. Fittingly, one of Ishtar’s symbols was a star. The Star of Ishtar was likely inspired by the planet Venus moving across the sky. The Mesopotamians, whose society flourished around 4000-3000 BCE, believed the planet Venus was their goddess Ishtar in the sky.
The Mesopotamians also worshiped another goddess who was associated with the sea: Tiamet. While Ishtar was more benign, as the goddess of love and fertility, Tiamet embodied the tempestuousness and unpredictability of the sea. While she might have been associated with starfish, sea serpents and dragons were more her speed.
Sea Stars, the Canaanites, and Phoenicians
In the Eastern Mediterranean around 1500 BC, the Canaanites (who lived in what is now modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan)9 and a subset of them, the Phoenicians (who lived along the coast) worshiped a female goddess whom they called Astarte. Historians theorize that she evolved from the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar.
Astarte was also a love and fertility goddess. Another version of her name is Athiratu Yammi, which translates to, “Great Lady Who Treads Upon The Sea.”10 She was also a protector of sailors, and like other sea goddesses, she was associated with sea creatures, including starfish.
Starfish in Greek and Roman Mythology
In Greek mythology, starfish were most often associated with female deities and spirits. For example, the Greeks associated sea stars with the Nereids, who were beautiful sea nymphs. In some stories, the Nereids resembled mermaids as they had fishtails instead of legs. They were considered to be protective spirits of sailors. In addition, the Nereids lived in harmony with other sea creatures, including seahorses, dolphins, and of course, starfish.
The Greeks also associated starfish with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and pleasure. As the story goes, Aphrodite was born from the sea, a product of sea foam from the god Uranus’ testicles.11
Aphrodite’s Roman equivalent was the goddess Venus, with whom starfish are also associated. As a love and fertility goddess, Venus embodied sensory experiences and emotions. Thus, the starfish, also symbols of sensitivity and sensory experience, are associated with her.
Starfish in Celtic Mythology
As in Greek mythology, in Celtic mythology the starfish is associated with sea goddesses. In this case, the goddesses Nehalennia and Clíodhna.
Norse Starfish Mythology
In Norse mythology, starfish are sometimes associated with the goddess Freya. Some depictions portray Freya, who was the goddess of fertility, love, war, and death, wearing a necklace or breastplate with a five-pointed star or sea star. In fact, an order of sea stars called Brisingida is named for Freya’s mythical necklace.12
Starfish Symbolism in Judaism, Christianity, and the Bible
Starfish are not mentioned directly in the Bible. However, they have spiritual significance for some modern-day Jews and Christians.
The Star of David
While most species of starfish have five arms, there are some that have six arms or more. The six-legged starfish has been associated with the symbol the Star of David. An ancient symbol that was used in both Muslim and Kabbalistic artwork, the Star of David became a symbol of the Jewish People around the 17th century.13
The Virgin Mary and Sea Stars
In Christian traditions, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also associated with starfish. Some believe that Mary is an incarnation of earlier fertility goddesses.
In addition, her name, according to some interpretations, means “drop of the sea” or stilla maris in Latin. This name has sometimes been translated into “Star of the Sea.”14
Sea Star Meaning in Laos
In Laos, starfish are said to be shooting stars that have fallen to the ground. There is a Laotian story about a king and a queen that mentions sea stars.
Once there was a queen who loved stargazing. So she asked her husband if he would get her a star of her own. The king replied that the stars were in heaven, so they were out of his reach.
Over time, the queen became despondent about the prospect of never having a star of her own. Her sadness caused her husband to lose sleep. So, he pondered how he could get her a star, and he prayed to the gods to help him.
One morning, after a sleepless night, the king asked the queen to take a walk with him on the beach. As they were walking, they saw a beautiful object in the sand that they had never seen before. The king bent down and picked it up. It was a dried up starfish. He believed it must have been the gift he had asked for from the gods. It was a shooting star that had fallen to the ground. So, he gave it to his wife and was content to see a smile on her face again.15
Starfish in Hindu Mythology
Hindus associate their goddess Lakshmi with starfish. In addition to being the goddess of wealth and good fortune, Lakshmi is said to have originated from the sea. Thus, Hindus associate her with sea stars, which they view as symbols of purity, protection, and good luck.
For Hindus, a starfish in an aquarium or a dried starfish is said to ward off the evil eye and welcome positive energy into a space.
Starfish Symbolism in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the starfish represents purity and simplicity. There is a Buddhist story that has been repurposed as a fable many times. The story goes that an old man was walking on a beach when he noticed a young girl pick up a starfish and toss it into the ocean. The old man asked her, “Why are you throwing the starfish into the ocean?” The girl responded, “So, he doesn’t dry up in the hot sand.”
“But there are dozens and dozens of starfish that have washed ashore,” the old man said. “How can throwing one back into the sea make a difference?”
The girl replied, “It has made a world of difference to the one starfish.”16
3 Starfish Spiritual Meanings
In conjunction with what was referenced earlier, the starfish has some poignant spiritual meanings. Here are three:
1. Heaven – As they are earthly representations of the stars in the sky, starfish remind us of the ultimate destination of our souls, which is Heaven or Nirvana.
2. Spiritual Rebirth – As they are symbols of regeneration, starfish also represent our own ability to learn and grow and to experience spiritual rebirth.
3. Faith – The strength and dexterity of the starfish is a reminder to keep the faith and hold the belief that the Universe is working in your favor.
Starfish Spirit Animal
If a starfish makes themselves known to you, whether in real life, art, the media, or elsewhere, pay attention. There are no coincidences. The starfish has important messages for you. Your spirit animal serves as a guide, bringing you messages from the Universe to help guide you on your soul’s journey.
When the starfish is your spirit animal, you have a beautiful and special guardian on your side. Just as the sea star absorbs information from the ocean’s currents, starfish people are sensitive souls who pick up on the subtle vibrations and energy around them.
While to others you might appear like you have a tough exterior, you are actually a very sensitive person. Because of this, the starfish spirit animal reminds you that you may need to engage in some spiritual protection practices to guard against negative energy.
Starfish people are also dreamers. Like the stars in the sky, you can see the big picture and you like to dream big. Remember that you have the power to manifest your dreams in the material world. If you aren’t already, work on honing your manifestation skills.
Starfish Power Animal
A power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, consider the attributes that the power animal represents. For example, you can meditate on the starfish power animal in a situation where you:
- Feel you need to heal or renew an aspect of your life, whether it’s a relationship, your career, your health, or some other area that is important to you.
- Want to create more security for yourself or those you love, such as financial or emotional security.
- Would like to hone your skills at manifesting and turning your hopes and dreams into something tangible in the material world.
Starfish Totem Animal
An animal totem embodies the protective powers of the animal it represents. Thus, the starfish totem animal is a good luck symbol for creating more security in your life. It’s also a helpful symbol if you want to conceive or grow your family.
In addition, the starfish totem animal is a good luck talisman for manifesting abundance and prosperity or for rejuvenating an area of your life.
Starfish Dream Meaning
What does it mean if you dream of a starfish? Dreams can have a whole range of meanings, so there isn’t one cut and dry answer as to what a starfish dream means. However, how you perceive starfish and the emotions you felt in your dream can give you clues.
Dreams can be your subconscious mind’s way of grabbing your attention so that you address something in your wakeful state that you’ve been avoiding or not giving enough attention to. This is especially the case with scary or stressful dreams. Sometimes your subconscious is simply trying to give you a wake-up call.
Dreams can also also be messages from your spirit guides or other information that you pick up metaphysically from the spirit world. A starfish dream could mean you are being called upon to get in touch with the divine feminine aspects of your spirit, as the starfish is an embodiment of goddess energy. It could also mean that you are being called upon to help with ocean conservation in some capacity.
Dream meanings are personal to the dreamer. However, hopefully learning more about starfish and what they symbolize can bring you deeper insights into what your dream is telling you.
Starfish Tattoo Meaning
A starfish makes a beautiful design for a tattoo because they can be portrayed in both simple and complex ways. While tattoos are personal to the person whose skin they adorn, a starfish tattoo has beautiful and compelling associations. For example, it can show the world that you are a person who has rebuilt your life after setbacks and that you have faith that you will always be able to heal and renew yourself.
A starfish tattoo can also mean that you believe in your ability to manifest and to make your dreams a reality.
Hopefully learning more about the symbolism and mythologies of sea stars can bring even deeper meanings to your tattoo.
How You Can Help Starfish
With ocean temperatures rising as a result of climate change, sea stars around the world are in trouble. In addition, many species are dying from a disease called Starfish Wasting Syndrome, which is a result of a pathogen in the environment. Some species, such as the sunflower sea star, are at risk of going extinct.17 If you care about starfish, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working on sea star conservation:
- Coral Reef Alliance
- Center for Biological Diversity
- The Nature Conservancy
- World Wildlife Fund
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