Octopus: symbolic and spiritual qualities

This sea creature owns a series of incredibly symbolic and spiritual qualities. Including the Chutulu myth in Lovecraft works or the dreadful Kraken.

The ability to hide in a black ink cloud, the strength of its tentacles that look like voracious mouths, not to mention the ability to escape predators thanks to its flexible body without bones, made the octopus an animal with somewhat demoniac features, closely tied, symbolically speaking, to the world of the afterlife.

The giant squid
Inevitably, this animal has always been linked to the abyss, to the unknown and mysterious sense that awakens in the mind. The class of the Cephalopoda which includes other terrifying members of the family with an equal iconographic value, including the giant squid, another animal that generated in history an endless number of legends and created the ultimate archetype of the marine monster. Over the centuries, meeting such an animal in the sea (giant squids can reach 20 meters in length!) was a very bad experience for sailors…

Steve Moore, Get Moore Tattoos, Vancouver Island, Canada
Steve Moore, Get Moore Tattoos, Vancouver Island, Canada

Is the Kraken real?
The most famous and popular legend is certainly that of the Scandinavian Kraken (sometimes called Hafgufe or Soekrabbe), a sea monster that has a lot to do with the description of the giant squid and that popular culture explained as “big as an island and able to create whirlpools in the sea to sink ships and crush them with its tentacles”. This legend, is not just a fantasy of easily frightened sailors. Kraken appeared in the middle of the ‘700 in different biology and zoology books and especially in the ‘Natural History Of Norway, (1752), of the bishop of Bergem Erik Pontoppidam, who stated that certain islands wrongly marked on maps where just giant Kraken which were laying still on the sea bed, surrounded by thousands of fish which eat their excrements.

The H.P. Lovecraft point of view
We must mention how the symbol of the octopus (or the giant squid, the two animals often interchangeable symbolically speaking) was largely used by the American author Howard P. Lovecraft in the representation of the god Chutulu, main character of his mythological-literary pantheon, described as having a human body and octopus head, with an immense secret knowledge and able to defeat death with its enchantments that keep the Great Old Ones in a state of life suspended in the abyssal city of R’lyeh, waiting to come back to life, which was possible only after a certain cosmic conjunction. The human-animal image of Chutulu inspired the demonic character of Davy Jones in the lucky movie series of the ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ starring Johnny Depp.

Alan Ferioli, Stay Gold Tattoo, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Alan Ferioli, Stay Gold Tattoo, Reggio Emilia, Italy

A symbol of female sexuality
Cephalopoda is also a symbol of what exists between different worlds, especially between the human and divine world. In many cultures, octopuses and squid represented an ancient form of life that reminds us of our distant origins. Their tentacles were considered a symbol of female sexuality, generating superstitions that were important for the creations of the misogynist waves of the Middle Ages in Europe, when many people were convinced that the octopus’s tentacles could even transmit syphilis. The tradition of the octopus as a symbol of female power is also supported by the myths of the ancient Sumerian-Babylonians, who identified the Goddess Mummu Tiamat in this animal. She makes war upon the deities and is killed by the God Marduk. So the heavens and the earth are formed from her divided body.

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