What Does an Eel Symbolize? Unraveling the Mystical Significance

Have you ever come across a slippery, slimy eel in the wild? They may not be the most attractive creatures, but did you know that they hold a significant symbolic meaning in many cultures around the world? The eel is an intriguing creature that carries different meanings depending on the culture and context in which it is found.

In Japan, the eel is considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity. They are commonly eaten during a summer festival called “Doyo no Ushi no Hi”, which is believed to provide strength and energy during the hot months of summer. The eel’s ability to slither and wiggle their way through tight spaces like water channels, also represents overcoming obstacles in life.

In Greek and Roman mythology, the eel is associated with healing powers and is considered sacred to Asclepius, the god of medicine. It is believed that the eel’s oily skin and flesh have medicinal properties that can heal various ailments. These ancient cultures also believed that the eel possessed the power to cure blindness. It was said that by putting a piece of eel on the eyes of a blind person, they would be able to see again.

Eel Symbolism in Different Cultures

The elusive and mysterious eel has long been a source of fascination for humans across various cultures, and its symbolism has taken on different meanings throughout history. Here, we explore some of the diverse interpretations of eel symbolism in various cultures around the world.

  • Japanese culture: In Japan, the eel (unagi in Japanese) is considered a symbol of stamina and vitality. This association stems from the eel’s ability to swim upstream against strong currents and its reputation as an aphrodisiac. Unagi is a popular dish in Japan, particularly during the summer months when it is believed to boost energy levels and fight off heat exhaustion.
  • Polynesian culture: In Polynesian mythology, the eel is a revered deity known as Tuna. According to legend, Tuna was one of the few creatures who survived the flood that destroyed the world. He was believed to possess immense power and was worshipped as a god of fertility and abundance. The Polynesians also believed that the eel could bring good luck and fortune to those who caught or ate it.
  • Native American culture: The eel is a significant symbol in Native American folklore, particularly among the tribes that live near rivers or lakes where the eel is abundant. The eel is seen as a powerful spiritual messenger that can bring warnings or news from the spirit world. It is also believed to have the power to heal and soothe wounds and sickness.

While these are just a few examples of the varied symbolism of eels across cultures, it is clear that the eel has played a significant role in human imagination for centuries. Whether viewed as a source of vitality and strength, a deity with immense power, or a spiritual messenger, the eel continues to fascinate and inspire people around the world.

Eel as a Spirit Animal

The eel is a fascinating spirit animal that has been revered and feared by various cultures around the world. It is a powerful symbol that represents transformation, adaptability, and intuition. Those who have the eel as their spirit animal are believed to have a deep connection to their subconscious, which allows them to tap into their intuition and adapt to any situation with ease.

  • Transformation: One of the key traits of the eel as a spirit animal is transformation. Eels are known for their ability to transform their bodies and surroundings to suit their needs. If you have the eel as your spirit animal, you are likely to be someone who is constantly evolving and seeking new experiences. You have the ability to adapt to any situation and thrive in any environment.
  • Adaptability: Eels are also known for their adaptability. They are able to live in both fresh and saltwater environments and can even move over land if necessary. If the eel is your spirit animal, you are likely someone who is able to adapt to any situation with ease. You are able to think on your feet and find solutions to any problem that comes your way.
  • Intuition: Finally, the eel is a symbol of intuition. Eels are known for their ability to sense changes in their environment and to anticipate danger before it arrives. If you have the eel as your spirit animal, you are likely someone who is in tune with your intuition. You trust your gut instincts and are able to make decisions based on your inner knowing.

In conclusion, the eel is a powerful spirit animal that represents transformation, adaptability, and intuition. Those who have the eel as their spirit animal are able to thrive in any situation and are in tune with their inner selves. By tapping into the energy of the eel, we can unlock our own abilities to transform ourselves and our surroundings, adapt to any situation, and trust our intuition to guide us on our journey through life.

For more information on spirit animals and their symbolism, check out our other articles on the subject!

Symbolism Description
Transformation The eel is a symbol of transformation, representing our ability to evolve and change to suit our needs.
Adaptability The eel is a symbol of adaptability, representing our ability to thrive in any environment and find solutions to any problem.
Intuition The eel is a symbol of intuition, representing our ability to trust our inner knowing and make decisions based on our instincts.

Eel in mythology and folklore

Eels have been a symbol in mythology and folklore for centuries, playing a significant role in many different cultures. From representations of fertility to reincarnation, eels have been assigned a range of symbolic meanings across various belief systems. Below are some of the most intriguing examples of eel symbolism in mythology and folklore:

  • Japanese mythology: Eels are viewed as a symbol of regeneration and endurance in Japanese folklore. According to legend, if you cut off an eel’s tail, it will regrow and become even stronger. Japanese mythology also features a powerful water deity, Unagi, who is often depicted as an eel and is associated with good fortune and protection.
  • Maori mythology: In Maori mythology, the eel is seen as a guardian and protector of the spiritual world. Known as Tuna, the eel is believed to guide the spirits of the deceased to their final resting place, protecting them from evil spirits along the way.
  • European folklore: Eels have often been linked to sexuality and fertility in European folklore, where they were believed to have a strong aphrodisiac effect. In medieval times, eels were sometimes cooked in dishes designed to increase fertility, and they were even mentioned in the writings of famous alchemists as a key ingredient in the creation of love potions.

These are just a few examples of the rich symbolic meanings that eels have held throughout history. Whether they represent regeneration, spiritual protection, or fertility, the eel’s place in mythology and folklore is a testament to its enduring mystique and cultural significance.

Eel as a Symbol of Transformation

Throughout history, the eel has been regarded as a symbol of transformation in various cultures and traditions. This is due to the eel’s remarkable life cycle and its ability to undergo a seemingly magical transformation.

  • One of the most prominent examples of the eel as a symbol of transformation can be found in ancient Japanese mythology. According to legend, the eel was able to transform itself into a dragon, which was a symbol of power and good fortune. Because of this, the eel was revered and considered a sacred animal.
  • In Celtic mythology, the eel was associated with transformation and rebirth. The Celts believed that the eel’s ability to move freely between water and land symbolized the link between the physical world and the spirit world.
  • In other cultures such as the Maori of New Zealand, the eel was considered a symbol of fertility and transformation as well. Maori tradition holds that the eel is a sacred creature that is a source of food and spiritual sustenance.

The eel’s life cycle is amazing in itself and serves as a perfect example of transformation. Eels begin their lives as tiny, transparent larvae, drifting in the ocean’s currents for months before reaching the coast. Upon reaching the shore, the eel transforms into a transparent glass eel, which then moves up streams and rivers. As the glass eel grows, it turns into a brown eel and eventually develops into a silver eel. At this point, they travel down the rivers and into the ocean to breed and complete their cycle of life.

Given the eel’s impressive life cycle and the many cultures that recognize it as a symbol of transformation, it is clear that the eel holds a significant place in the world’s mythology and spirituality.

If you are seeking change in your own life, perhaps the eel can serve as an inspiration to undergo your own transformation, just as the eel does throughout its life cycle.

Eel in Literature and Art

Throughout history, eels have been a subject of fascination and intrigue in literature and art. Here, we will explore some of the ways in which eels have been symbolized in these creative outlets.

  • Mythology: Eels have been featured in various mythologies around the world, often representing transformation or rebirth. In Greek mythology, the god Zeus transformed into an eel to evade his wife’s wrath. The Maori of New Zealand see the eel as a symbol of strength and perseverance. The Japanese believe that eels have the power to predict earthquakes and tremors.
  • Folklore: In European folklore, eels were often associated with the devil or witchcraft. It was believed that witches could transform into eels to travel through water undetected. In some areas of Europe, it was thought that eels could be used as a cure for various ailments, including asthma and rheumatism.
  • Literature: Throughout literature, eels have been used as symbols of various ideas and concepts. In Virginia Woolf’s novel “To the Lighthouse,” eels symbolize the passage of time and mortality. In “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, the character Mr. Toad consumes too many eels, leading to a hallucinatory experience that symbolizes excess and indulgence.

In art, eels have also been represented in a variety of ways. In traditional Japanese art, the eel is often depicted as a powerful and mystical creature. In the work of contemporary artist Sarah Lucas, eels are used as a metaphor for the female body.

Overall, eels have been a rich source of inspiration in literature and art, with their slimy, slippery bodies and mysterious habits lending themselves to a variety of creative interpretations.

Eel as a symbol of luck and prosperity

Eels have been revered in many cultures around the world for their association with good fortune and prosperity. Here, we’ll explore the significance of the eel as a symbol of luck and prosperity.

  • Number 6: In Chinese culture, the number 6 is associated with success, wealth, and good luck. The Chinese word for “eel” is a homonym for “smooth”, which is considered a lucky trait. This connection has led to the tradition of serving eels during special occasions, such as weddings, as a symbol of good fortune. In Japan, eel is also considered a delicacy and is consumed during summer months for its energy-boosting properties.
  • Longevity: In some cultures, eels represent longevity and resilience. In ancient Greek mythology, the goddess Aphrodite transformed herself into an eel to escape danger, highlighting the eel’s ability to adapt and survive. This association with longevity and resilience has led some cultures to consider the eel a symbol of good luck and fortune.
  • Harvest: Eels were traditionally associated with the bounty of the sea and the harvest. In many coastal communities, eels were an important source of food and income, making them a symbol of prosperity. This tradition continues today in places like the Netherlands, where harvested eels are considered a delicacy, and in Maine, where eel fishing is an important industry.

When we look at the eel as a symbol of luck and prosperity, we see how its perceived qualities and characteristics have made it an important part of many cultures around the world. From associations with wealth and success to longevity and resilience, the eel has inspired admiration and reverence for generations.

Next, we’ll explore the spiritual and mythical significance of the eel in various cultures.

Eel as a symbol of spirituality and myth




Eel as a symbol of transformation





Eel in Native American cultures

The eel has a significant role in many Native American cultures. Being one of the oldest creatures on earth, eels are believed to have healing powers and the ability to provide abundance and prosperity. Here are some of the subtopics related to the symbolism of eels in Native American cultures:

The Number 7

The number 7 is significant in many Native American cultures, including the Cherokee and Iroquois. It represents the seven Cherokee clans, the seven doors of the Iroquois longhouse, and the seven directions (north, south, east, west, up, down, and center) in many Native American belief systems. The eel is also associated with the number 7, as it has seven small holes near its eyes that resemble the seven doors of the Iroquois longhouse.

Clan Symbol
Wild Potato Bear
Wolf Wolf
Panther Panther
Deer Deer
Bird Pigeon
Longhair Wildcat
Paint Moose

The eel’s ability to live in both freshwater and saltwater also reflects the duality of nature and the balance of opposites that many Native American cultures believe in. This duality is seen in many other aspects of Native American culture, such as the balance between male and female energies and the balance between humans and nature.

Eel in Japanese culture and cuisine

The eel, also known as unagi, has been a significant symbol in Japanese culture for centuries. It appears in many different areas of Japanese life, including literature, art, and cuisine. Japanese people believe that eating eel helps them to withstand the heat and humidity of the summer.

In Japanese mythology, the eel is known as Unagi no Nedoko and is believed to have the power to control rainfall. The Japanese also believed that the eel has healing powers and consuming it can help cure illnesses.

  • In Japanese cuisine, eel is typically served grilled or barbequed, topped with a sweet soy sauce glaze. It is often served as a sushi delicacy and is considered a luxurious food.
  • Eel is also an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, often used in traditional dishes like kabayaki, which is grilled eel on top of a bed of rice.
  • In Japanese cuisine, eel is also used for its medicinal properties. It is believed to help strengthen the body, boost energy levels, and improve blood circulation.

The number 8 holds significant meaning in Japanese culture, and eel plays an essential role in the celebration of this number. The eighth day of the eighth month is known as “Doyo no Ushi no Hi” in Japan, and it is believed that consuming eel on this day will provide the body with stamina and endurance to withstand the heat of summer.

Japanese Name Meaning
Unagi Eel
Kabayaki Grilled eel on top of a bed of rice, served with a sweet soy sauce glaze
Doyo no Ushi no Hi The eighth day of the eighth month, a day where eating eel is believed to provide the body with stamina and endurance to withstand the heat of summer

Overall, eel holds a prominent place in Japanese culture and cuisine. With its rich history and cultural significance, it is no surprise that this fish remains a popular food item in Japan to this day.

Eel in European cuisine and tradition

Eel has been part of European cuisine and tradition for centuries. They have been caught and eaten since ancient times by people who lived near rivers and streams. Eel was initially considered food for the poor and was neglected by the aristocracy. However, over time, its taste became popular, and it became a delicacy that was enjoyed by all.

One interesting traditional dish that includes eel in Europe is the Dutch ‘paling’, which is a smoked eel that is often served on bread. Despite the fact that eels can be found in many European countries, they are commonly associated with Dutch cuisine.

Throughout history, eel was considered a symbol of prosperity, wealth, and long life. In ancient times, it was believed that eels could live up to 100 years and were therefore thought to be a symbol of immortality. Today, eels are still considered a symbol of prosperity in Japan, where they are served at celebrations and special occasions.

  • The eel became a symbol of power and energy in Norse mythology. The god Thor is depicted holding an eel in one hand and a hammer in the other.
  • The Celts also associated eel with magic and believed that it had healing powers.
  • In medieval Europe, eel was one of the most popular foods among the wealthy classes, who often dined on elaborate eel dishes.

The number 9 holds a special significance in European eel lore. It is believed that eels return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die after a life cycle that lasts for nine years. This cycle was first recorded by Aristotle in his work ‘The History of Animals’ and has been a part of European eel mythology ever since.

Country Dish
Netherlands Paling – smoked eel
Italy Capesante e anguilla – scallops and eel
Spain Angulas – baby eels cooked in olive oil and garlic

In conclusion, eel has played an important role in European cuisine and tradition for centuries. It has been considered a symbol of prosperity, magic, power, and longevity and has been used in various traditional dishes across Europe. Whether you enjoy smoked eel on a slice of bread or a fancy eel dish at a high-end restaurant, eel continues to be a delicacy that is enjoyed by many today.

Eel as a symbol of resilience and adaptation.

The eel has been a symbol of resilience and adaptation for centuries. Despite its appearance as an unremarkable snake-like fish, the eel has proven to be resourceful, overcoming a wide range of challenges. This has earned it a reputation as a creature that is hardy enough to thrive in harsh environments and strong enough to survive even when the odds are against it.

One of the most interesting aspects of the eel is its ability to adapt to new environments. The eel is found in many different locations, from freshwater rivers to deep-sea trenches. This adaptability has allowed them to live in all sorts of environments, from tropical rivers to cold, deep ocean trenches.

  • One example of the eel’s resilience is its life cycle. Eels are born in the ocean and then travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to freshwater rivers where they mature. Once they have matured, they then return to the ocean to spawn and die. This journey is fraught with danger, yet eels are known for their determination and resilience, often overcoming obstacles such as dams and other barriers to reach their destination.
  • Another example of the eel’s adaptability is its diet. Eels are known to eat a wide range of organisms, including crustaceans, small fish, and even insects. This flexibility in their diet allows them to thrive in a range of environments, and adapt to changing food sources when necessary.
  • The eel’s long, thin shape is also a testament to its ability to adapt. Its body allows it to squeeze through tight spaces, helping it avoid predators and navigate through challenging environments.

The eel’s resilience and adaptability have also made it a prominent symbol in many cultures. In Japan, for example, the eel is celebrated for its ability to survive in difficult conditions. During the midsummer months, it is traditional to eat eel, as it is believed to provide strength and vitality.

Overall, the eel is an impressive creature that has proven time and time again that it can adapt and thrive in almost any environment. Its remarkable resilience has made it a symbol of strength and perseverance, inspiring people to overcome their own challenges and adapt to new situations.

Resilience Adaptability
Overcoming obstacles and persevering through challenges. Ability to live and thrive in a range of environments and adapt to changing circumstances.
Determined and strong-willed, even in the face of adversity. Flexible and resourceful, able to find new ways of surviving and thriving.
An inspiration for people to overcome their own challenges and persevere through difficult times. A symbol of strength and resilience that has become a prominent part of many cultures.

What Does an Eel Symbolize? FAQs

1. What does an eel represent in Japanese culture?

In Japanese culture, the eel is considered a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and long life. It is also associated with the summer season and is a popular dish during hot months.

2. What is the spiritual meaning of an eel?

Spiritually, an eel is believed to represent transformation, rebirth, and the ability to navigate through life’s challenges with grace and ease.

3. What does it mean to dream about an eel?

Dreaming about an eel can signify a sense of power, creativity, and hidden potential within oneself. Alternatively, it can represent a person or situation that is slippery or hard to catch.

4. What does an eel tattoo symbolize?

An eel tattoo can represent a number of things, including resilience, adaptability, and the ability to overcome obstacles. It can also symbolize strength, power, and a connection to the ocean and its mysteries.

5. What do eels symbolize in Native American mythology?

In Native American mythology, eels are associated with transformation, magic, and healing. They are believed to possess powerful curative properties and are sometimes used in tribal ceremonies.

6. What does an eel symbolize in literature?

In literature, eels are often used as symbols of mystery, danger, and hidden knowledge. They can represent the unknown or the subconscious mind, as well as the depths of the ocean and its secrets.

7. What does it mean to see an eel in nature?

Seeing an eel in nature can be a sign of adaptability and resilience. Eels are able to survive in a variety of environments and can navigate through obstacles to reach their destination. It can also be a reminder to embrace change and go with the flow.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to learn about what an eel symbolizes. Whether you encounter an eel in nature, in a dream, or in literature, it can hold a variety of meanings that are worth exploring. Remember to stay curious and open to the mysteries that these fascinating creatures represent, and come back to our site for more interesting articles.