The animal totem is a powerful symbol of ancestral identity and clan attributes – and the frog totem is one of the oldest and most magical, standing for metamorphosis, regeneration and new directions in life. Frog symbols abound in cultures all over the world, indeed just about everywhere you can find frogs.
For coastal tribes in North America, the frog is associated with water and the moon, and is a symbol of fecundity, prosperity and wealth. Frog Woman was the guardian of fresh water, and protected humans from flood or thirst by creating and manipulating a dam to control the waters for maximum benefit. Many Native American tribes call the frog ‘the Great Rain Maker’. Frog announced the end of winter. With the last snowfall of spring, the snowflakes touching the ground would turn into frogs announcing to the people that soon the salmon would be returning to the rivers.
The Haida – master carvers of totem poles on the west coast of Canada – carved the frog into their house posts to ‘keep the balance’. Literally, to keep the house from falling down, and for harmony in all relations. For shamans in animistic cultures, the frog often represented the magic of moving from one level of consciousness to another, from reality and the conscious world to the spirit world of the unconscious and its power was called upon in rituals and ceremonies. The frog was seen as a teacher, a guide to understanding higher powers and as a mentor.
It is said of the Iban in Borneo, that the Frog was the Creator of Men. And Keling, the most powerful of the Iban Gods, often transformed himself into a frog. For the Iban, a frog tattoo on the throat will protect a warrior from having his head taken in battle. And Iban ancestors will often return and reside in the body of a frog so that they may return and be close to their longhouses.
The natural characteristics of the Frog have inspired humankind to reverence. Its amphibious nature – able to live in water and on land – and its transformation from a tiny tadpole to the frog that can spawn thousands of new tadpole eggs – has made it a symbol of adaptability and wisdom from the earliest times.
The goddess of love and beauty – Aphrodite in Greece, Venus in Rome – considered the frog sacred. In ancient Egypt, the frog was the symbol of life and protector on the journey to the afterlife. As such, they were embalmed and placed in the tombs of royalty. Some Egyptian gods were depicted with the head of a frog – one such frog deity was Heket, goddess of birth.
In Creation myths of the ancient Tartars, the Frog brought the birch and stones from the Sacred Mountain, from which mankind was able to create fire.
In some regions of China, special temples were built in honour of the frog. The green frog was a minor deity, especially in river and lake regions. A frog with a coin in its mouth is still placed in Chinese homes as a symbol of prosperity in business. In Japan the frog is the symbol of energy and perseverance.
In Western cultures, the frog has not always been held in such high esteem. Its physical characteristics have often caused it to be associated with all things unpleasant, such as witches and the devil, plagues and disease, and it shows up in folk-lore as the product of evil spells, as in handsome princes being transformed into the ugliest of frogs. However, the frog emerged from time to time with his dignity intact, as the respected spirit of the well, keeping guard at the all-important water source. Frogs in gardens are considered good luck – probably for their propensity to eat insect pests – and many people put frog statues in their gardens for that very reason.
Get inspired by some great images and tattoos of many different types of frogs in our Frog Tattoo Gallery