Heading into a new year the last thing any of us wanted was another round of virus vexation. Most of us have done everything we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We’ve stayed home in our gardens (if we are lucky enough to have one), we’ve worn our masks, gotten our shots, and yet here we are still on the bumpy road of uncertainty, restrictions, and canceled plans.
If you are considering your options beyond the scientific realm with a subtle “knock wood, lucky rabbit’s foot, or fingers crossed” before heading out into the world, you join a long human tradition of attempting to ward off evil spirits and bad influences. Maybe you could add a Guardian Lion to your garden.
No less authority than Broadway and Disney have confirmed the Lion is King. A lion fears no other and is held in awe because of its power and strength.
Lions control all the land they survey and keep order overall lesser animals. For centuries stone-carved Guardian Lions or Fu Dogs as most English speakers referred to them have stood sentry to project a sense of power against all harms and threats from the world. Lions stand guard.
I’ve been slipping past these fearsome protectors at the gates of Chinese gardens without realizing these guardian lions exist to ward off evil spirits and bad influences. At a glance, they appear to be a matching pair, yet the lion on the right is the male, and his paw rests on an “embroidered ball,” representing the power over the world. The mate on the left has its paw on a lion cub, indicating the female nurturing role. For centuries guardian lions have stood prominent at garden entries, palaces, and grand homes symbolizing power and belief all will be safe who shelter inside.
This idea has been around so long and they are so familiar our local international market has a pair positioned at the entrance door, though not of carved stone but some type of resin.
Not to be outdone, this Asian-style lion influence inspired European royal protectors to create grand stone lions to stand guard outside palaces, government buildings, and great homes.
Stone lions, big and bold, stand guard in gardens far and wide. I’ve found them in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA happily adding to my collection of images. This pair at Hatley Castle, in Victoria, British Columbia is one of my favorites.
Stone carved security is less likely to be a part of our thinking today as we rely on security cameras, doorbell cameras, locks, and more for protection. We all want something to hold onto for feeling safe as we head into our gardens in this new year. Why settle for a tabby cat?
Perhaps a guardian lion can be the equivalent of knocking on wood or carrying a rabbit’s foot. No matter the icon, they are a reminder that life has always been uncertain, but it is certainly better in the garden.
I’ve always loved these words from Hellen Keller, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.” However, exposure now seems to be the actual danger.