From a solar big cat to a lunar big cat.
And a warn of warning, it’s a long post, grab a cuppa and settle in!
The tiger is the largest of the cat family, with the largest subspecies reaching almost four metres long. They have muscular bodies with powerful forelimbs, large heads and long tails and are striped with orange and black. This colouring may seem a bit strange for camouflage, it feels counterintuitive, especially when you seen photos of their brilliant, vibrant markings but it works – any number of documentaries will show you!
The tiger on the card appears to be white and black which may be an artistic choice or may be showing us the white tiger. This is the result of a recessive gene and is only expressed in Bengal tigers.
White Bengal Tigers
- The white bengal is larger than the none white version and grows faster as well.
- For a white Bengal tiger to be born, both parents must carry the recessive gene, meaning white tigers are born only about once in 10,000 births. Naturally that is, us humans did go through a big phase of breeding for white tigers which also resulted in genetic defects such as crossed eyes.
- White tigers have blue eyes rather than the green or yellow coloured eyes.
- Their colouring means they find it harder to camouflage.
But given that their behaviour etc are much the same as the orange tigers, we shan’t differentiate here.
More about tigers
Adults are “solitary but social” which seems a bit of a contradiction…
Solitary-but-social animals forage separately, but some individuals sleep in the same location or share nests. The home ranges of females usually overlap, whereas those of males do not. Males usually do not associate with other males, and male offspring are usually evicted upon maturity – Wikipedia
Continuing with the sex aspect, female tigers are only in heat for a few days at a time although mating can happen at any time during the year. Male tigers must be patient when they are wooing a female but if successful they will enjoy sex up to 50 times in one day apparently… I’m not sure how we know… did we count scratch marks on a nearby tree? They can have several partners over their lifetime and once the sex is over, it’s down to mum to raise the cubs. There are normally two or three and they are born blind and helpless so spend the first few weeks of their lives in a cave or den. The tiger mother is a protective guardian who uses her sharp teeth and powerful bite to carefully and gently pick up her cubs.
Males, but not dad, will kill cubs in order to get the female in the mood for mating and thus pass on his own genes and kick out the future competition… Only when they reach 2- 2 1/2 years old will the cubs separate from mum.
Tigers are powerful predators but they aren’t above a bit of scavenging or opportunistic feeding if the circumstances arise. In terms of hunting, they are patient and can seem to appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. Their hunting technique is learnt through play whilst they are cubs and is aided by the excellent eyesight, great sense of smell and their silent stealth.
In terms of dangers to the tigers, sadly the main risk is humans. Tigers have been hunted for the prestige of hunting them, for trophys, for their fur, because they are feared and for use in traditional medicine. As the tiger is a powerful and virile animal, their bones and male tiger penises are used to treat erectile dysfunction and create aphrodisiacs for insecure men… This may be served as tiger penis soup… Because of our destructive and greedy natures, tigers are an endangered species.
As I mentioned above, this card is very much one of lunar energy. The tiger is thought to hunt mostly at night, although in areas away from humans they will also hunt during the day. As we’ve seen before, this links us to the unknown, to mystery, to…
Interestingly, the water element is associated with the moon (as we’ll see in more detail when we get to that suit) and, like the jaguar, the tiger enjoys swimming. They have webbing between their claws which make them strong swimmers.
Yin and Yang
Something I read likened the tiger to the Chinese idea of yin and yang. I haven’t been able to find the reference again but the idea was that the tiger embodied both; their light and dark stripes, their love of water and land, their link with water and fire. We also have their aggression and intensity with their deliberate and observant nature.
When I looked into it a bit more, we find that the tiger and the dragon are used together to symbolise balance. The tiger is the yin because of its courage, patience, loyalty and it’s feminine nature. The yang of the dragon is down to it’s outgoing nature and masculine energy.
There is a lot more about this online and I have only touched the surface in terms of understanding but the idea of balance and contradictory energies keeps coming up for me at the moment so I’ll definitely be looking into it at some point.
Despite hunting them to crisis point, these regal animals have featured in our culture for a very long time.
They are one of the Chinese zodiac animals and people who are born under the tiger are considered to be leaders, courageous, fighters, confident and in a hurry. In Chinese art, they are depicted as a rival to the dragon. Relevant to the discussion about colouring above, the White Tiger is one of the four symbols of the Chinese constellations. In Chinese culture, the tiger is the king of the beasts and when it reached 500 years old, its tail would turn white. According to legend, the white tiger would only appear when the emperor ruled with absolute virtue, or if there was peace throughout the world. Wikipedia suggests it’s the old age and turning white that meant the white tiger became considered a mythical creature… Personally I’m not so sure that it isn’t because no one can really imagine, let alone bring about, worldwide peace…
Tiger gods are found in a number of cultures:
- In Buddhism, the tiger is one of the Three Senseless Creatures, symbolising anger, with the monkey representing greed and the deer lovesickness.
- The Tungusic peoples considered the Siberian tiger a near-deity and often referred to it as “Grandfather” or “Old man”.
- The Udege and Nanai called it “Amba”.
- The Manchu considered the Siberian tiger as Hu Lin, the king.
- In Hinduism, the god Shiva wears and sits on tiger skin. The ten-armed warrior goddess Durga rides the tigress Damon into battle and in southern India the god Ayyappan was associated with a tiger.
- In Korea, the tiger stars in a folktale about how the sun and moon were made.
Tigers are the national animal of a number of countries, are mascots for many sports teams and feature highly in imagery around conservation. There is clearly a great drive to harness this magnificent beasts strength, majesty and beauty throughout the world.
And that’s all without touching on the tiger in modern literature such as the adorably Tigger in Winnie the Pooh and Shere Khan from Kipling’s Jungle Book.
The Wild Unknown Tarot
This regal creature features on the High Priestess card in the Wild Unknown Tarot deck. Again, this card ties us to the moon and the realm of the unconscious. She is intuitive and spiritual. She is a card of non-action. Pause. Listen. Just be.
If you’ve reached this far, give yourself a pat on the back for dedication! There is still so much that I’m leaving unsaid about the tiger so do go forth and read if you feel this card is important to you!