Exploring Symbolic Chimera Meaning
This article comes from someone who aske me a question about chimera. Here is what Tina, from Pennsylvania wrote to me:
“Hi Avia, can you share about the symbolic meaning of the chimera? I don’t know much about this mythological creature, but after studying over a few art books, I’m curious. It felt like the chimera really moved me while I was looking in those books of prints. Thanks, Tina”
Avia’s Response to
“Symbolic Chimera Meaning”
Thank you for sharing your encounter with the Chimera.
I’ll let you research the mythology of the Chimera on your own. I’ll start you out by telling you Chimera is a child of Typhon and Echidna.
What I’m more interested in is the symbolic Chimera meaning (and I think that’s what you’re keyed in on too). So here we go…
I typically take a positive approach to symbolic meanings. However, a little research reveals the Chimera has got a pretty bad reputation. Nevertheless, I shall not be daunted. There are some silver linings to symbolic Chimera meaning, and I’m going to highlight those overlooked nuggets.
First, a look at chimera’s physiology. Let’s break it down:
♦ Body of a Goat
♦ Head of a Lion
These creatures who form the Chimera’s body give us a slew of symbolic fodder from which to feed.
Symbolic Meaning of the Chimera Body:
We’ll start with the goat. Unpredictable, Stubborn, Voracious (with the ability to eat practically anything with no worries about indigestion). Sure, these aren’t the most likeable qualities, but the goat is also a major source of care and provision. Consider goat’s milk, from which goat’s fudge is made (my drool-drool favorite). Not to mention goat’s have been used in helping farmers with field work for centuries. Goats have thousands of uses, and humans have depended upon their sacrifice for provision.
What about the lion? Instinctive, Prideful, Ferocious. I don’t see these as nefarious qualities.
And the Serpent (or Dragon)? Also unpredictable. Mysterious, Stealthy, Sleek. Here again – I’ve got no qualms about these symbolic traits. The serpent is closely connected with mother Earth. Consider…she spends her whole life slithering her belly upon the body of the Earth. That makes her uber-sensitive to the Earth’s movement and mood.
Now…having said all that…there’s something curious about a creature who has all these diverse parts smooshed together.
According to The Penguin’s Dictionary of Symbols, the shadowy, dour qualities of these three creatures put together in one “monster” (their word, not mine), is symbolic of animalistic behavior that is untamed and writhing just under the surface of every human. I understand this…we all have a tendency for behaving badly, but I’m not sure the Chimera should be the scape-goat for all potentially wicked behavior.
Rather, I like to look at the diversity of these animals in relation to the symbolic meaning of Chimera. Each have their merit. Each creature is part of Mother Nature. Wild, yes. Unpredictable, sure. But still beautiful and valuable to the perfect harmony of Nature.
Image above is the Chimera of Arezzo, a prominent symbol of Tuscany, Italy. It is considered one of the finest masterpieces of Etruscan bronze-casting art. The original is displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, Italy.
Consider the belligerent goat. We could see this as a deficit…but also an asset. If not for stubbornness…there would be no free thinkers in this world. Goats (and Chimera by association) symbolize independence…a fierce drive to be free and have things a certain way.
Consider the volatility of the lion. Most times the lion is ferocious due to protecting pride (family) or territory. Nothing wrong with that in my book.
And the serpent. I weep at how maligned this creature has become in mass consciousness. Myth, culture, media…they’ve all given the snake a very bad reputation. Snakes might weep too. Why? Because they are extraordinarily sensitive. I mean…smelling with their tongues!?! Holy cow, that’s impressive. A unique, and very accurate way of sniffing out danger in the environment. As mentioned, they sidle up to Mother Earth – that means they are the first responders to ill health in the Earth (earthquakes, etc). Interestingly, the snake is a symbol of health in the medical industry. See some symbolic meanings about the Caduceous here (a serpent who is a symbol for healing in myth).
In the end, Tina, you’ll have to be your own best judge of character regarding the symbolic Chimera meaning. This can be the very best of creatures, or the very worst. As with all symbolic meaning – it’s up to interpretation.
Bright Chimera blessings to you,
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