Dominance, Teacher/Parent, Competence, Strength, Protection

About the meaning: As I did with all the other cards, before I developed my own slant on the Bear I had a good look at the commonly used interpretations. I soon found that in the case of the Bear the common denominator, the primary source of its meanings, seemed to be the vision of a powerful mother bear fiercely protecting her cubs. My own interpretations are a bit more elaborate than the common ones but I stick to the same source - the vision of a powerful mother bear is the archetypical background for my interpretations, too.

Parent / leader (boss) / teacher: While the source of my interpretations is the vision of a powerful mother bear I don't interpret the card as "mother" only (which many traditional readers do) - I interpret the Bear as a parent or parental figure, not matter of what gender. If someone's parents present a very united front I might even let the Bear represent them both as one entity. Now, the role a mother bear plays for her young is not just a nurturing and protective one. She also leads her cubs, and she teaches them all they need to know. This is why I often see the Bear as a warm-blooded leader, boss, or supervisor, or as a personally invested teacher - the latter not necessarily in the sense of an actual teacher at school but as a person who can (and does) teach us important life lessons repeatedly. Put in slightly different words, the Bear represents those people in our life who protect us, guide us, teach us - and boss us around.

Power / dominance / influence: Parents, teachers, and leaders, are powerful - they wield power over us in manifold ways, and to varying degrees, because of the dominant roles they play in our life. This is why one of the most important meanings of the Bear is power, especially in the form of dominance. This dominance can show itself in the form of a dominant personality, or as dominating behaviour. But on a more abstract level, the Bear represents anything that has a dominant influence on our life - no matter whether this influence is exerted by a person, a world view, or a certain habit etc. By itself, out of context, this exertion of influence can be seen as neutral - it could be either good or bad. But in my experience, more often than not it is adequate to take the Bear as the suggestion to break free from the influence of something which dominates us too much. Especially when this something is a someone, for example a parent, the Bear often seems to tell us that we need to hold our ground against the other person's over-assertiveness, against their attempts to influence our decisions.

Strength / assertiveness / bullying: I've mentioned above that the Bear can represent a dominant personality. From a lightly different perspective the Bear also represents physical strength, or strength of character - assertiveness. Taken as advice the Bear suggests to try and take charge, to assert ourselves, to stand our ground. These are all positive things. But in addition to that the Bear can mean that someone is not just warm-blooded, but overbearing, choleric, short-tempered. Here, the Bear can be understood as a warning. It then suggests to try and be a bit more low key, so that other, more gentle people, are not constantly overwhelmed. It warns us of a bully or asks us to stop being a bully to others.

Competence / practical knowledge: At least in comparison with their charges a good parent, leader, or teacher, has many capabilities, is extremely competent. In the long run we only trust and accept someone's guidance if they have proved themselves to be more capable, more competent than us. Good parents and leaders have much life experience and many skills - plenty of practical knowledge which they are willing to pass down. So when the Bear turns up in a reading, the card could mean that competence and practical knowledge are either already there, or that we should hurry to acquire them. The Bear can suggest that we go and look for someone who is competent regarding our concern; that we should look for someone whose capabilities surpass our own so that we may learn from them and become more competent ourselves.

Protection / possessiveness / personal property: A personally invested, warm-blooded parent, teacher, or boss, is likely to be very protective of their charges. They care for their charges' well-being, provide for their needs, fend off attackers. So the Bear is a great representative of a strong protector, of protectiveness, a representative of a provider, or provision in general. So whenever I ask about how I could keep something or someone safe, or what provision I should make, the Bear is one of the cards I look at first. Taken too far, though, protectiveness can turn into over-protectiveness, or, when there is a high level of dominance, too, even possessiveness. Along this line of thought the Bear can for example represent an aggressively jealous, controlling spouse.
Lastly, traditionally the Bear is often associated with the querent's personal finances, e.g. with their income, their cash flow, or investments. Because I don't really see a connection between personal finances and the Bear's other meanings I don't use this interpretation. But I sometimes interpret the Bear as someone's personal property, or, more general, as ownership. These, I feel, fit in very well with the protective-possessive tendencies mentioned above.

See also the annakblogs article >> So, is the Bear a positive or negative card?

About the Image: When I researched the animal bear as a prelude to painting the card, I found that in the wild male bears are solitary creatures, loners. Apart from mating times, they either stay away from other bears or try to attack them. It's only the female bears who ever spend prolonged periods of time with other bears: when they are raising their young. The mother travels with their cubs for many, many months, depending on the type of bear, sometimes even years. She teaches them everything they need to know in order to survive by themselves, and she protects them fiercely both from predators and other (male) bears. So in order for the Bear card to represent leadership or parental behaviour I felt it made much more sense to depict a female bear with cubs than a lone and possibly male bear who would never actually lead, teach, or provide for anyone.
Also included in the image is a beehive in a tree, and some honeycomb in the foreground, a bush full of berries, and freshly caught salmon. They are to symbolise both possessions or provision (when eaten, they'll turn into fat reserves which will get the bears over the winter), and practical knowledge about life and survival.  
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