I don’t really like lions. This is hilarious for two reasons and understandable for the third:
1) I draw some hefty parallels between the behavior and physiology of the extinct-in-the-wild Barbary/Atlas lion and myself. I don’t consider the Barbary lion to be totemic—it’s not an external entity to me—but I do find it to be a disconcertingly accurate mirror into my own instincts, intuition, internalized sense of self, and social patterns (or lack thereof). If you stuffed a baby Barbary lion into a human suit and raised it as a person, it might turn out a lot like I have. This is both a sorta-cool thing and a frequent disadvantage in normal human life. :)
2) Two of my gods, Sekhmet and Ma’ahes, are leonine deities. I never see either of Them as purely human; They always appear as animal-headed people or full lions, often wreathed in flame (Sekhmet) or magma-skinned (Ma’ahes). The traditional symbolism of the African lion (power, nobility, dominance/lordship, the sun) and African lioness (ferocity, motherhood, the tribe, the sun) is very intense in Them and reflects a large part of Their characters.
3) I freaking love spotted hyenas. African lions are pretty much meh in comparison. I also think they’re kinda over-hyped, and as I am secretly a hipster, I tend to stray away from anything “too” mainstream. I prefer investigating the obscure and exploring the little corners, rather than strolling down the big ole well-trodden pathways.
A large part of the disconnect between me and the African lion is not just thanks to my adoration of hyenas or my elemental-lion impressions from my Netjeru—it’s due to the drastic differences between Barbary lions, with which I identify, and the African lions that everyone’s familiar with. Barbaries weren’t pride animals; they lived alone or in hunting pairs. While males and females were still sexually dimorphic in terms of size and mane, they didn’t serve different social or gender roles; each Barbary still had to hunt, claim and defend territory, and find a mate. And, speaking of territory, Barbaries lived in the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa, where the terrain was, well, mountainous, and the climate was semi-seasonal instead of the hot savanna’s whomping dry-wet cycles.
So the lions I grok are not the lions everyone refers to when they say “lion,” and while I am appreciative of the uniqueness of African lion social structure and other facets of their physiology and behavioral patterns, I just don’t admire and geek out over them like I do other animals like hyenas, scorpions, and snakes. The physical reality of the animal doesn’t win me over, even as I can respect the power that the lion wields in mythology and symbolism. Even with Barbary lions, my reaction is more “welp, that’s me” instead of “HOLY CRAP THEY ROCK.”
That said, I still love lion gods:
Last year’s first L post was on magical language.