Symbolic Penguin Facts and Meaning
Do you remember that Warner Bros. cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny and that cute little penguin bedecked in bowtie and top hat? Those of you who are old enough to remember what real cartoons were, might recall that episode called "8 Ball Bunny". The cutie-pie penguin implores Bugs to get him out of Brooklyn and back home. Resigned, Bugs agrees. Seemingly always prepared, Bugs cracks open a reference book to learn more about his new penguin pal. "Ooooh, I'm dyin!" just about sums up Bugs' shock at learning the little guy belongs in the South Pole. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I highly recommend watching this super-cute cartoon. You can view the cartoon here, if you like.
It's unfortunate the competing Tex Avery cartoon called "Chilly Willy" didn't do the research as Bugs Bunny had. Chilly Willy was featured in the North Pole hobnobbing with walruses and polar bears. This rendering of the penguin situated the species in an incorrect habitat. Thus launched the myth in young minds that all penguins hailed from the North rather than the Southern hemisphere. Nope. There are no penguins in the northern hemisphere.
Okay, you've got me. I'm a cartoon junkie. But I like the good ones of yesteryear. Not the insipid drivel on the tube these days. But I digress...back to symbolic penguin facts...
There are tons of little-known penguin facts that offer oodles of profound meaning.
For instance: The penguin is indeed a bird. It has feathers like any other bird. The main distinction from their feathered friends is that penguins cannot fly. Most of you already know this, but it's a keynote for symbolic meaning. This feature of the penguin implies two symbolic points: 1) Evolution and 2) Unconventionality.
Evolution: According to paleontological records, the penguin may have flown the friendly skies initially. But, after millions of years of evolution, the penguin's wings turned into fins as they adapted to watery environments. In this light, the penguin reminds us we can evolve too. And we don't have to wait millions of years to do it! The penguin's ability to adapt (over time and in its current environment) reminds us that we can adapt too. The penguin encourages us to do what we can to live, survive and find contentment in the world.
Unconventionalism: The penguin is a bird that does not fly. If that isn't unorthodox, I don't know what is. This is a symbolic touchstone. It's a metaphor that tells us we don't necessarily have to perform the way we are expected to. For example, I have a musician friend who finds himself swinging in a family tree of lawyers. For two generations, his family has been practicing law. He too was groomed for the legal scene. He even went to law school. But it just didn't sing to his soul. Music was his true calling. Although everyone expected him to be a lawyer, he chose a different path. Even though we may be tutored, nudged or expected to be one thing - we can chose the unconventional route if it suits our well-being. The penguin reminds us we don't have to comply with presumed or mandated behavior.
Another neat symbolic penguin fact that deals with adaptation is water consumption. Penguins can drink salt water. It has to do with a specialized gland that filters out salt. This is a metaphor encourging us to do the same. Penguin energy reminds us we can filter out impurities in our lives. This was a big penguin lesson for me. The penguin helped me learn how to ingest a negative event in my life. Then it taught me how to process it in a way that squeezed out the adversity yet still retain the benefit from the event. Perhaps the penguin can help you with that too.
Penguins are highly social and communicative creatures. Each penguin has a distinct call that identifies their mate or baby. It's like you or me calling out "Hey Ralph!". In other words, they communicate well within their social structure. They prefer to be in groups. This is partly for social connection, partly for survival, and partly for warmth. They huddle in groups to stay warm. In fact, they rotate their group formation, allowing the outer penguins inside the inner circle. That way, everybody gets a chance to be in the middle of the warm "group hug!". It doesn't take a symbologist to draw a parallel between social penguin behavior and our own. The penguin encourages teamwork, social connection, unity, and working for the good of the many rather than the needs of the few.
Symbolic penguin meanings are many and varied. Here's a quick list to keep in mind as you work with penguin energy...
Dreams, intuition and "liminality" are included due to the penguin's habitat. They live anywhere between 50-75% in the water, and the rest of the time is spent on land. Water is symbolic of dreams, emotion and intuitive insight. Taken a step further, the penguin's vision is better underwater than on land. This is symbolic of having psychic/intuitive vision. It implies a depth of insight that is uncommonly sharp. Penguin energy can help us hone our sixth sense. The penguin encourages us to see what's going on in the unknown, murky waters of life with enhanced, extrasensory perception. This vision may come through meditation, dreams, or precognition. Whatever the means of insight, the penguin is a great guide in this other-realm of obtaining knowledge.
I talk a lot about the concept of "liminality". This term describes a space that is neither here, nor there. It is the threshold, the razor's edge. An example of liminal space might be twilight. It is neither day, nor night. It is the in-between space. Because the penguin effectively straddles both land and water, it too is neither here nor there. Why is this a big deal? Ancient prophets, mages and shamans will tell you it's a huge deal. Being in the space "in-between" is the gateway to spectacular wisdom and vision. When you are in that space between black and white, you are in the gray, where anything can happen - anything can be revealed. All this talk of liminal space is simply another example of the penguin's ability to be a guide in the realm of spirit and intuition.
Most (not all) penguins chose a mate, and they keep that partner for life. This is a metaphor for faithfulness in a partnership. It might mean monogamy, or it could simply mean sticking with a good friend for the duration of a lifetime. No relationship is perfect. I'm quite certain penguin-partners have their fair share of squabbles. Nevertheless, penguins remind us long-term, solid partnerships can be achieved.
Speaking of mates, another aspect among the litany of neat penguin facts deals with childrearing. When it comes to their babies, the penguin goes outside convention again. How so? Well, the males sit on penguin eggs while the females go fishing for food. Furthermore, the male will not move from that nest - no matter what. In some cases (Emperor Penguin), that's about two months! It's not until the eggs hatch and the baby is born that the mother takes over the nurturing role. All this adds up to reinforce the theme of unconventionality in penguin symbolism. It also adds up to symbolic meanings of: Protection, Endurance, Care, and Gender roles. If you have an unconventional family structure, then the penguin gives you a high five...err...I mean, high fin. LOL. The penguin topples the idea of what "should be", and makes its own way to meet its needs and the needs of the group. Ergo, the penguin is a great guide to encourage us to do the same if it benefits our well-being.
Another check off the symbolic penguin facts list deals with coloring. They're black and white coloring is a type of camouflage called "countershading". It's quite ingenious really. This countershading masks the penguin from above and below. From above, predators often overlook penguins because their dark-colored backs blend in dark waters. From below, predators are confused as the penguin's white belly blends in with the reflective water's surface. How clever is that!? It's like penguin's have a built-in Invisibility Cloak. lol. This can be a metaphor for adaptation, resourcefulness and protection. It can also point to the symbolic concept of liminality I talked about earlier. Translated to our lives, the penguin's countershading might encourage us to blend in for protection. It may suggest a need to operate "under the radar" so that we can work, live, play without fear of outside threats.
The penguin is a beautiful symbol of renewal. Why? Because like most birds, the penguin molts. At certain times of the year, it loses its feathers only to grow them back. This has a very phoenix vibe to me. Symbolically, it speaks of renewal. It's a metaphor for dying to ourselves, letting go of fears, false beliefs, etc. Once released, we are able to grow new feathers of freedom, confidence, joy and hope. That new growth comes back stronger and more protective than ever.
I hope you have enjoyed these symbolic meanings and metaphors gained from penguin facts. I further hope this article might encourage you to tap into penguin energy for personal enhancement and insight. To be sure, this bird is a real helper and a true guide.
As always, thanks for reading. But don't stop here. There are fathoms more the penguin has to offer in metaphor and meaningful connections. Please do keep researching and meditating on this fascinating creature; especially if you feel a kinship to the penguin. You'll be glad you did.
If you liked this article on symbolic penguin facts, be sure to check the links at the end of this page for more symbolic frolic.
May all your penguin paths be revealing.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!