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Seahorses: Folklore, Symbolism and More

Seahorses are certainly a unique aquatic animal of the oceans and has fascinating unique qualities that make them really stand out. I have always enjoyed watching these beautiful marine animals and even have one tattooed as a part of my left sleeve dedicated to the sea. What molts people may not know is that there are 57 species of Seahorses, including seadragons and pipefish. Also Seahorses can be found in mythology and folklore around the world anywhere there is land meeting the oceans. They also can be one’s spirit animal and have amazing symbolism which I will cover as well in this post.

Until you see one for yourself, it’s easy to believe that seahorses are pure make-believe. So curious, so magical, they seem to have wandered straight out of a book of fairy tales. Even a dead, dried seahorse washed up on a beach keeps its otherworldly shape, encased in its enduring bony armour, waiting for someone to come along, pick it up and wonder what it might be. A miniature dragon? An enchanted serpent? It’s no wonder seahorses have been puzzling people around the world for centuries, inspiring them to tell stories, pass on myths and legends, and find mystical uses for these most charming sea creatures.

Some of the oldest seahorse stories tell of the Greek sea god Poseidon galloping through the oceans on a golden chariot pulled by hippocampus, the beast that was half horse and half fish (today, the seahorses’ scientific name also happens to be Hippocampus). It’s thought ancient Greek fishermen believed the real seahorses they sometimes found tangled in their nets were the offspring of Poseidon’s mighty steeds.

All sorts of ancient Mediterranean art and objects depict the hippocampus. Phoenicians and Etruscans often painted these watery horses on the walls of burial chambers, accompanying the dead on their voyage across the seas and into the afterlife. There’s even a single hippocampus from ancient Egypt painted on a mummy’s coffin.

Many other legends tell stories of watery spirits that take the form of horses. Scottish lochs are said to be haunted by “kelpies”. They come onto dry land and graze with other, normal horses but if you mount and ride one you’ll be dragged underwater as your steed tries to drown and eat you. Similar malevolent beasts were called “tangies” in the Orkney Isles and “shoopiltrees” in the Shetlands. Scandinavian legends tell of the “havhest”, a huge sea serpent, half horse and half fish like hippocampus, that could breathe fire and sink ships. Continue reading HERE.

Absolutely captivating creatures, seahorses seem like a product of myth and imagination rather than of nature. They are small, elusive, and are named for their heads, which are shaped like miniature ponies with tiny snouts. They swim slowly upright by rapidly fanning their delicate dorsal fin, coil their tails to anchor themselves in a drift, and spend days in a dancing courtship. Afterward, it is the male who carries the female’s eggs in his pouch and hatches the young. Seahorses are found worldwide, and they are highly sensitive to environmental destruction and disturbance, making them the flagship species for shallow-water habitat conservation. They are as ecologically important as they are beautiful.

Seahorses celebrates the remarkable variety of seahorse species as well as their exquisiteness. 57 species, including seadragons and pipefish, are presented in lush, life-size photographs alongside descriptive drawings, and each entry includes detailed and up-to-date information on natural history and conservation. Sara Lourie, a foremost expert on seahorse taxonomy, presents captivating stories of species that range from less than an inch to over a foot in height, while highlighting recent discoveries and ecological concerns. Accessibly written, but comprehensive in scope, this book will be a stunning and invaluable reference on seahorse evolution, biology, habitat, and behavior.

Masters of camouflage and rarely seen, seahorses continue to be a fascinating subject of active research. This visually rich and informative book is certain to become the authoritative guide to these charming and unusual wonders of the sea, beloved at aquariums the world over.

In Roman mythology, seahorses were the steeds of Neptune, deity of the Upper Waters. As attributes of Neptune, they represented cosmic forces and the rhythm of the waves. They were also the steeds of Poseidon, a Greek sea god. Daily, Poseidon rode through the ocean on a chariot pulled by seahorses.

Seahorses represented the lunar and humid element of the sea and chaos. Seahorses also carried the dead safely to the underworld. Because of their unique form, the Chinese regarded seahorses as the lesser sons of dragons. In Norse myth, they symbolized the power of water. SOURCE

These animals aren’t like any other living creatures on Earth, they look like they came from some other planet. Biologically speaking, they are quite different from all other terrestrial beings, which has put them in the spotlight a long time ago. At the same time, they look very funny, especially when dancing in the water. The offspring of these creatures are born not by females, as usual, but by males, which sets them apart from all other terrestrial beings. The smallest species of these creatures are only 2 centimeters long, and the largest are up to 30. Their body is covered with spikes. They serve both as camouflage and protection from predators because they don’t know how to defend themselves.

Seahorse Spirit Animal

The Seahorse teaches balance in parenting, how to get in touch with the Masculine Divine, and to get through difficult periods with greater ease. Delve deeply in Seahorse symbolism and meaning to find out how this animal spirit guide can support, assist, and inspire you.

Many ancient cultures connected the Seahorse with various Divine beings.

In Rome and Greece, for example, the Seahorse was sacred to Poseidon and Neptune, potent sea gods. As a result, one of the keynote meanings for Seahorse is one of power and authority, particularly in matters of emotion and intuition because of the Water Element involved.

A rather lovely story from Greco-Roman times indicates that the Seahorse is a guide to drown sailors.

This creature safely guides them through the spiritual vortex until they reach their ordained fate in the afterlife (is it any wonder that sailors used seahorse images as luck charms?). SOURCE

Seahorse Symbolism

  • Water Elemental
  • The Afterlife
  • Power
  • Luck
  • Alchemy
  • Safety
  • Kindness
  • Perception
  • Kindness
  • Manners
  • Pacing
  • Tenacity
  • Progress
  • Ingenuity
  • Stealth
  • Authority
  • Fatherhood
  • Partnership
Frederick Stuart Church’s The Mermaid, 1887

Further Resources:

10 Seahorse Symbolism Facts & Meaning: A Totem, Spirit & Power Animal

Seahorses in Myth, Legend & Art

What are the links between seahorses, folklore and Newcastle upon Tyne?

Seahorse Symbolism & Meaning & the Seahorse Spirit Animal

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