A panther tattoo makes a bold statement.
Panthers are often admired for their grace, cunning, and silky coats.
They have many traits that a human would wish to possess.
And they’ve become immortalized in myth and folklore as a result.
They’ve always been thought of as mysterious because of their dark coats and feather-light steps.
But they may be even more intriguing than you thought.
They are one of the only animals operating under a secret identity.
Panthers Aren’t Who You Think They Are
The interesting thing about a panther is that it doesn’t really exist.
At least not in the way we think about them.
A panther isn’t a specific species of big cat.
It is used, rather, to describe a big cat with melanism.
Melanism is the opposite of albinism, where an animal has a complete lack of pigment.
When looking at a black panther, you’re likely looking at a melanated jaguar, cougar or leopard.
In fact, when the light hits these spotted animals, their markings become apparent.
The word “panther” is simply taken from the Latin word “Panthera,” meaning cat.
The leopard, for example, is known in Latin as “Panthera Pardus.”
It’s unclear how people started misidentifying melanated big cats as panthers.
No one really knows where the term “black panther” came from either.
But that just adds to their allure.
For the purposes of this article and exploring mythology around melanated cats, we will use the term “panther” or “black panther.”
That is how they have come to be known, and that is how they are referred to in mythology.
Symbolism of Black Panthers
Black panthers have shown up in mythology throughout history.
They have become part of our modern legends as well.
Before we explore the history behind the symbolism, let’s discuss some key themes.
In nature, panthers are thought of as “ghosts of the forest.”
Under the cover of night, they can stalk their prey without being noticed.
Despite their large size, their steps are silent.
A panther can swim, climb, and leap over 20 feet.
They have superior eyesight and hearing, so there’s no getting past them.
In most myth and folklore, Black Panthers symbolize:
- Death and rebirth
When people get black panther tattoos, there’s often something in this set of qualities they want for themselves.
Let’s take a look at the history of myth and folklore around our friend the black panther.
Dionysus’s Panther Mythology
Dionysus has often been depicted riding a black panther.
People often use a black panther to symbolize someone with sexual prowess.
This is likely due to the creature’s slow slinky movement.
Dionysus is the Grecian god of wine, earthly desires, and divine ecstasy.
He is not seen as dirty or unlawful for his sexual appetite.
Rather, Dionysus awakens unspoken urges and desires.
To some, a black panther is seen as an agent of this awakening.
It helps you unfurl your kundalini energy- the sacred energy coiled at the base of your spine.
Mississippian Panther Mythology
In Mississippian culture, a complex grouping of Indigenous tribes in pre-colonial America, the panther was a powerful supernatural symbol.
It is still a part of many traditional Indigenous belief systems and cultures.
The panther is thought to rule the underworld.
It is in opposition to the Thunderbird, an intensely powerful sky deity.
The panther was referred to as the water panther.
Its battles with the sky deities were thought to cause storms on earth.
In this mythology, the panther symbolizes warfare, and rebirth.
The panther appeared on many coats of arms during the Medieval period.
In those days, there was a legend of the panther.
It spoke of the allure of the panther’s roar.
The roar could release a sweet-smelling vapor that attracted any creatures nearby.
The only creature who didn’t fall for this trap was the dragon, and all the other animals would be eaten by the great cat.
After eating such a feast, the panther would sleep in a cave for three days.
When it woke up, it would roar again to attract more food.
In this mythology, panthers may have been hungry and a little bit deceitful.
But they were also a Medieval symbol for unity and harmony in the animal kingdom.
Panthers have a confident air about them that gives them a regal reputation.
Old School Panther Tattoos
One of the old school tattoos that has remained a classic is the black panther.
A similar crawling panther design is also popular in retro home decor.
These tattoos are distinct and easy to identify, even from a great distance.
Often, people with old school panther tattoos want to show off their virility.
It can also mean this person isn’t to be messed with.
The dark color of the tattoo also makes it a good cover-up for botched designs.
Sometimes sailors would get a hasty design after having a few drinks.
A black panther could rescue them from a regrettable choice.
Modern Mythology: The Black Panther Franchise
In 1966, the comic book series Black Panther made its debut with Marvel.
The hero of the story, King T’Challa, was the first Black superhero in a comic book.
The comic book debuted around the same time as the civil rights group, but one did not inspire the other.
They did grow together, and the Black Panther comics dealt with political issues.
This even included battles with the KKK.
The Black Panther character embodies many of the traits in panther mythology.
He is confident, an aggressive fighter when necessary, and cares for his community. He is a leader.
Black Panther comic tattoos have risen in popularity since the 2018 film.
They will likely continue on that trend with a 2022 sequel in the works.
Black Panther (film) Tattoos
Main Themes in Panther Tattoos
Crawling Panther Tattoos
Panther Head Tattoos
Climbing Panther Tattoos
Panther Tattoo Designs
For tattoos of a black panther itself, the classic old school design is most popular.
Stylized portraits of the character have also become extremely popular.
A black panther tattoo in a 1970’s art style is a nod to the civil rights movements happening in the late 60’s/early 70’s.
Many of the issues brought up then are still on the table.
So drawing comparisons to that time can be a powerful visual statement.
For an animal that doesn’t exist, black panthers sure have made an impact.
They have become icons of power, stealth, and leadership.
Are you considering a black panther tattoo?
Check out our gallery for some roaring inspiration!
Neo-traditional Panther Tattoos
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Fine Line Panther Tattoo
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