A sturdy, powerful, and stoic animal, buffalos have manifested different meanings throughout centuries and across cultures in various religious, spiritual, and socio-political spaces. What then is the spiritual meaning of a buffalo?
While symbolizing various things across different cultures, buffalos typically symbolize resilience, strength, confidence, wisdom, and abundance in Native American communities, while Eastern communities see buffalos as a symbol of hard work, humility, and hope.
A result of the various meanings attributed to buffalos from Western, Middle Eastern, Eastern, and indigenous communities across socio-political, spiritual, and religious spaces will be discussed in detail to decipher holistic meanings.
What Does A Buffalo Symbolize?
As highlighted above, buffalos symbolize various things across different cultures throughout the centuries; these will be individually explored to illustrate the cross-pollination of meaning attributed to buffalos.
Native American Buffalo Symbolism
Buffalos or bison hold particular significance for Native American communities in the United States and Canada. Most notably for communities in plains regions, buffalos are spoken frequently in legends, lore, and oral tradition.
Some general meanings attributed to buffalos include power, safety, strength, life’s sacredness, and durability. Many legends speak of buffalo spirits being responsible for the wisdom of medicine and the use of the Peace Pipe.
The Peace Pipe is an important artifact of ritual and spiritual ceremonies, primarily in the Lakota tribe that was blessed upon them by the White Buffalo Calf Women. The pipe is believed to grant the used knowledge of universal teachings and truths.
Furthermore, the abundance of buffalos on the plains before the arrival of settlers made them a symbol of abundance and prosperity, with the hunting of buffalos being intrinsic to the symbiotic relationship of tribes with their environment.
The most significant imagery of buffalos relates to the presence of a white buffalo; this is because only one of every 10 million buffalo born are white, making their sightings extremely rare.
Consequently, for many Native American communities, the folklore and mythology of white buffalos extend to the imparting of greater wisdom and knowledge. In turn, a sighting of a white buffalo is often prophetic, being a sign of hope and a symbol of good times to come.
The color of buffalos changing as they age, with the interpretive assistance of a holy man, often presents various meanings over and above the usual meaning of strength, resilience, and prosperity associated with buffalos.
For example, black buffalos may be an indication that the observer should allow greater flexibility in their life to achieve their goals. Actions should be taken to promote the elimination of poor routines that are failing.
Consequently, this can be seen in tandem with the Lakota belief that one should not have to struggle to survive if the correct action is joined by the right prayer.
The reverence paid to buffalos in Native American communities has extended into the greater North American consciousness through the official recognition of the buffalo as the national mammal of the United States of America in 2016.
This acknowledgment is as a result of the buffalos’ connection to indigenous communities and to recognize the resilience of the buffalo in recovering from near extinction and how this serves as a reminder to people that teamwork and tenacity are needed to overcome the collective challenges facing communities.
For purposes of truth and reconciliation among indigenous people and settler communities in Canada, the buffalo has become an important symbol of bridging cultural, historical, and socio-economic divisions.
African Buffalo Symbolism
As one of the “Big Five,” buffalos hold particular reverence in African communities throughout the continent. The use of buffalo waste as a source of fertilizer for crops led to the depiction of buffalos as symbols of fertility, nutrition, and growth.
Further to their waste, particular importance has been placed on the healing properties of various parts of buffalos, further highlighting their presence as a source of regeneration and healing, not unlike Native American tribes that understand the buffalo imparting the wisdom of medicine and healing upon them.
Eastern Buffalo Symbolism
Unlike the wild buffalo found in the plains of North America and the savannahs of Africa, buffalos in Asia generally take the form of domesticated carabaos, which are often used for plowing agricultural land.
Consequently, buffalos in Eastern symbolism typically represent the importance of hard work, hope, renewal, abundance, and growth.
Buffalos are also central to the imagery of Taoism, as the founder of Taoism Lao Tsu, having found to be distraught by man’s greed, was said to have left China on the back of a water buffalo to try and find a method for harmonious living with nature.
What Does A Buffalo’s Animal Symbolism Mean?
Over and above third-party observations and interpretations of buffalos lie their inherent animalistic symbolism in the form of spirit, power, and totem animals.
Buffalo Spirit Animal Meaning
The buffalo or bison spirit must be seen in the context of the areas in which it appears to people; namely, it could be a regal spirit exhibiting leadership skills and wisdom or a servant promoting resilience, hard work, and humility.
A primary message from most buffalo spirits speaks to their inherent resilience and courage, resulting from the various harsh landscapes they can inhabit and their ability to have survived hunters and predators, that being the importance of making clear and resounding decisions from which you should not be swayed.
Buffalo Totem Animal Meaning
Those that encounter an elk totem are often imparted with a sense of freedom and the importance of self-expression; this stems from the plans in which buffalos have been known to roam and thrive.
Buffalo Power Animal Meaning
As a shamanistic power animal that anyone can utilize, the buffalo should be invoked by those looking to achieve greater conviction on an issue.
The buffalo assists the user by understanding the importance of confidence and self-care when taking on challenges in their lives; this helps the user to confront both external and external issues with renewed vigor and resilience.
While it is difficult to paint a holistic picture of buffalos’ spiritual meanings, looking at a cross-section of cultures and experiences suggests an entity that symbolizes resilience, hard work, wisdom, strength, and confidence.