The word "panther" is used to refer to a wide variety of large cats such as the cougar, the jaguar, the puma, the mountain lion, and the leopard, especially if the animal is dark or black in appearance. The panther is a symbol of Jesus Christ because he is the enemy of snakes and dragons which are popular symbols of Satan.
Writers of early bestiaries such as the Physiologus reported that the panther found it necessary to spend three days sleeping in its cave after every meal. Upon awakening, the panther was said to exit its cave with a roar which exuded a sweet fragrance. This aroma was so enticing that all the animals in the area were irresistibly attracted to its breath and became more or less intoxicated by it. Only the snake and the dragon (representing the Devil) were repulsed at this scent and fled to underground caverns, quaking with fear. These misbeliefs about the panther created a perfect allegory of Christ's Resurrection after spending three days in the tomb, having drunk the cup of His Crucifixion (John 18:11). The sweet breath of the risen panther was comparable to the fragrance of Christ which was the aroma of life to those willing to make peace with God and the odor of death to the instruments of Satan (2 Cor 2:14-16).
Early Egyptians were known to sacrifice panthers to various gods. The panther's skin was a symbol of strength and resurrection in Egyptian funerary rites. Throughout the ancient world mythological characters wore panther skins. Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of procreation and birth, rode on a panther. Some people believed that the panther once sacrificed himself so that he could give humankind the gift of spiritual awakening in the form of his skin.
The panther, especially the black panther, was considered a dangerous, cruel, and treacherous animal. His ferocity was associated with the wrath of God. In China, a pretty but aggressive or dangerous lady is called a "brightly colored panther."
The panther was believed to have hypnotic powers and to fear no creature except the hyena. However, its dread of the hyena was so great that its own fur would fall out when approached with a hyena skin. He was thought to be very fond of wine and to eat human feces to protect himself from a certain type of poisoning which he was thought to be subject to.
Panthers were thought to be one of the three chaste animals. In medieval times, artists occasionally hitched panthers, along with the unicorn and the elephant, to the chariot of Virginity personified.
See also Leopard.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotes are from the NKJV Bible.
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© 1998 by Suzetta Tucker
To cite this page:
Tucker, Suzetta. "ChristStory Panther Page." ChristStory Christian Bestiary. 1998. http://ww2.netnitco.net/users/legend01/panther.htm ().