Symbolic Starfish Meaning
Once upon a time, I attended art classes in New York. One of our assignments was to pencil-sketch a starfish. Now, I'm not a shabby artist, but I'm very cerebral - so the process of sketching posed a challenge. Initially, my brain got in the way of rendering that starfish. I was beleaguered by the technical details. I labored over technique and method. So as I first approached the assignment, it was all about sketch, erase, sketch, erase, sketch, erase, erase, erase...just a mass of 'do-over's'. Grrr! I just didn't trust the process.
My art instructor suggested I take a few moments to just contemplate the starfish itself - not the assignment. I did, and became enchanted. Suddenly, that starfish was no longer an object; it was a mysterious creature of delicate beauty. The starfish pulled my mind into the depths of wonder so my heart could render quite a lovely starfish sketch. I'd post it here, but the drawing is too big to scan.
There's a point to my story. Starfish are exclusively sensory creatures. They have nerves that run through their center to the tips of each of their limbs. This is in lieu of brains. Now, don't let the brainless status of the starfish give you the impression they're without intelligence. Hardly.
Back to my story...I rather think that meditative session with the starfish allowed me to detach from my analytical brain and got me to switch on my sensory faculties. In other words, the starfish facilitates feeling. I could not have accomplished that stellar sketch in my initial cerebral state. Nope. I needed to tap into the touchy-feely vibe of the starfish to feel my way into the drawing.
Sensory perception is just the tip of the limb when it comes to symbolic starfish meaning. Here's a quick list of symbolic highlights to give you an idea of this sea creature's diverse offerings:
These creatures have been mesmerizing sea farers and beach combers for as long as they've graced the oceans. It's no wonder. How cool to witness a star in the sea? When I think of stars in the sea, I'm reminded of that awesome phrase by alchemist and philosopher, Hermes Trismegistus. He said: "As above, so below." This is a metaphysical concept. He's saying that what happens on an energetic, cosmic level - that action is mimicked on a mundane/earthy level. The concept of "law of attraction" illustrates this. What happens in the mind ('above' or energetic realm) is manifested in the physical ('below' or earthly realm).
So, in my way of thinking, the starfish is a great representative for this concept. They are the stars below, mimicking the stars above. Their remarkable ability to sense, move, regenerate - all that good stuff is available to us humans on earth.
Am I saying we can re-grow an arm if we lose one like the starfish can? Well..that's a stretch. But I will say we can regenerate our attitudes, our beliefs, our mind-sets. We can grow knew limbs of thought that take us to higher levels of experience. We can lop off parts of our belief systems that no longer serve us. We can replace these phantom limbs with higher-minded ideals. We can cut off our bad habits, and regenerate good ones. You get my point.
The starfish's ability to re-grow their bits and pieces is also symbolic of healing and renewal. This also ties in with water symbolism. Water is symbolic of healing, purification, cleansing. Water is also symbolic of emotion and intuition which ties in with the starfish meaning of sensory perception.
In terms of healing, the starfish can be a grand ally in your journey of renewal. If you're struggling with emotional or health challenges...consider the power of the starfish. Consider Hermes' statement: "As above, so below" (and vice versa). If the starfish can heal and re-grow...so can we as humans. Our regeneration might look a little different. But, through neuro-network patterns (retraining pathways in the brain) we can certainly regenerate new avenues thought that facilitate healing.
In cultural myth and legend, starfish meaning ranges from symbolism of love to superior strength. Take a look...
In Christian symbolism the starfish represents the Virgin Mary (Stella Maris which means Star of the Sea) who lovingly creates safe travel over troubled waters and is also seen as an emblem of salvation during trying times. The star as well as the starfish are seen as celestial symbols and as such, they represent infinite divine love. In addition to love, the starfish also holds characteristics such as guidance, vigilance, inspiration, brilliance and intuition.
In Egyptian legend, starfish meaning is connected to the goddess Isis. Isis is a mother goddess who had a Salvation Army motto: "Befriending the friendless". In other words, Isis is the mother and friend to slaves, the impoverished and those in dire need. Her connection with the starfish deals with being a guardian to troubled seafarers on the Red Sea and abroad. Isis and her sacred starfish are also associated with Sirius. Sirius is sacred to Isis because it appeared annually at the rising of the Nile - which was a time of abundance and renewal for the Egyptians. See the symbolic themes of the starfish flowing together?
In Roman mythology, the starfish is a symbol of the love goddess Venus. She was born from the foaming tides of the Adriatic sea. Some paintings depict her with a shell in her hand - others with a starfish. Venus shares a connection with the starfish because she is a sensory goddess, and so too is the starfish. Like the waters she is born from, Venus is a goddess of feeling and emotion. She is also a goddess who governs tactile, physical attributes. The five-pointed starfish is a symbol of two arms, two legs and the top limb as the head (think Vitruvian man). Venus and the starfish make a symbolic duo of love, sensitivity, emotion, and physical wholeness.
Tsimshian is an order of Native Americans who hail from the Northwest Coast of North America. This order is comprised of Tlingit and Haida, of which are divided into two factions: Ravens and Eagles, respectively. Within the Haida-Eagle faction, there is a sub-clan. The starfish clan. In fact, starfish are sometimes carved into Haida totem poles to mark the lineage of this branch. Haida picked the starfish as an emblem because they observed it to be super-strong. Its ability to crack into a mussel shell proved great strength. Haida also connected longevity with starfish meaning. They observed the starfish ability to regenerate, and deemed the starfish to be immortal.
Many of you might be familiar with the story of an old man coming to the starfish's rescue. He encountered countless starfish stranded on the beach. He tirelessly set to work, tossing each one back into the sea. A young man saw this guy flailing about, trying to save all the starfish, and said: "Hey, old geezer...what's the point? You can't possibly save them all!" To which the old man responded, "Maybe not. But I can save this one, and that makes all the difference."
With that, I'd like to encourage you to dive into starfish meaning with that kind of mentality. How can this sea creature make a difference to you? What's one thing about the starfish that you can adopt to make a difference in your life? Better yet, what symbolic attribute about the starfish can you employ to make a difference in someone else's life? Just food for thought.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on symbolic starfish meaning. Be sure to check out the links at the end of this page for more related articles.
As always, thanks for reading. May all your starfish encounters be stellar and rejuvenating.
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!