There is not really any such thing as a panther… Which is a bit of an intense starting point! They are any animal from the Panthera genus which has melanism. This means that they appear black. Those found in Asia and Africa are leopards and those found in the Americas are black jaguars. Despite their appearance, they still retain their spots and in the right light you can see them. Metaphorically, this is interesting as the markings on a jaguar are it’s rosettes, so a black jaguar is essentially hiding it’s prowess and medals.
I’m going to focus on the jaguar in this post as I think that’s what might be pictured but if leopard shouts out at you, go away and look into them as well.
So, what is this almost mythical creature like? Well, a bit of a paradox really. They are bold but reclusive, they are adaptable and good with change but prefer routine, they can be active in the day and also at night. They have bursts of intense energy but pay for it with rest afterwards.
Paradox Spirit Card
Interestingly, Paradox is one of the Spirit Cat cards which I’ve been drawing recently. For me, at the moment, this is all about being able to hold competing ideas, feelings etc. I mentioned it a bit in my post about the bear. The dualities of being aggressive and being nurturing as in the mother bear, of expansion and contraction, of wanting to explore and discover whilst also wanting to feel safe and cocooned. These competing energies need not be at odds with each other. Find your own balance, make space for both.
Returning to the panther, we don’t know as much as we do about other big cats. Probably partly because of the confusion about what a panther is or is not but also because they are loners. They prefer their own company and stalk quietly, getting very close to its prey before going in for the kill. They see the weak spot and they utilise it. If the panther was a person, we’d be looking at con artists, those people who find your vulnerabilities and manipulate the situation to their best advantage.
This enigma is a patient hunter, waiting for the precise moment to go in for the kill. And when they do leap into action, it is a calculated leap. It has weighed up the odds and decided this is something worth risking. According to some sources, Jaguar means “he who kills with one blow”. This is a cat which doesn’t rush, thinks things through and then goes for it in one clean swoop. Listen to your instincts, analyse a situation and then act swiftly.
They have a really strong jaw and kill their prey by crushing the skull. Their powerful build, muscular body and quick reflexes means there is no messing around when they decide to get something done. But these bursts of high energy leave them depleted and they must rest after. This may be a call to look at your own energy levels – are you stuck in a boom and bust cycle? Would pacing help you maintain a more even keel and actually get more done? Or do you need to accept that you need to schedule in rest following high energy events?
The panther is at home on land, in the water and up trees so it really is a variable creature with a multitude of skills. Again, this highlights their adaptability and they are excellent swimmers and climbers so they really get involved with their environment. There doesn’t seem to be any frittering around the edges with this creature – it really goes for whatever it does, even if that is sleep.
In terms of symbology, their colour and their night activity tie them to the moon, the darkness and the feminine. Because of the confusion around species, it can be hard to pin down which myths and beliefs are relevant to the panther. However, there are mentions of them as a god of the underworld, links with death and transformation. Also, as they weave between day and night, they are considered to be weaving through worlds, akin to shamans.
In some parts of the world it was believed to be bad luck to see a panther or hear one and they were linked with witchcraft – the ultimate black cat I guess! Talking of which, I think any superstitions etc surrounding the domestic black cat could be relevant here.
It’s not strange that they were seen as a bad omen – they are powerful hunters after all. But some cultures saw them as a creature which could lend them strength and protection. One approach seems more routed in fear of the unknown, fear of predators which ask humans to face our own predatory nature and the other approach coming from a place of respect and reverence. Perhaps this is a time to look at where your own beliefs and behaviours are coming from.