People who collect teddy bears are called “arctophiles,” from the Greek root words for “bear” and “lover.” Since I am an arctophile and practice arctolatry (defined below) I would like to share from fascinating details about bears.
I was surprised to learn that Teddy Bears were not invented until 1902. They were developed simultaneously and independently by toymakers in two different countries.
In Germany Richard Steiff produced a stuffed bear which was shown at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903. Early teddy bears were made to look like real bears, with extended snouts, shoe-button or glass eyes, mohair fur, and jointed hips, necks, and shoulders. These bears were commonly called “bruins”.
In the United States, the name “teddy bear” came from a cartoon about President Theodore Roosevelt. While Roosevelt was on in bear hunting trip in Mississippi. Most of the other competitors had killed a bear, but Roosevelt still had not so a few of his attendants tied a black bear to a tree, then invited Roosevelt to shoot it. Roosevelt refused because it was unsportsmanlike. Clifford Berryman created a political cartoon of the incident which was published in The Washington Post. When Morris Michtom saw the cartoon, he created a little stuffed bear that was put in his shop window with a sign that read “Teddy’s bear”. This bear became such a success that Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.
By 1906 teddy bears had become a cultural craze. Seymour Eaton wrote a children’s book series called The Roosevelt Bears. In 1907 John Walter Bratton wrote a musical piece called “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”. Jimmy Kennedy added words to it in 1932. Since then, many character bears have been created, including Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington Bear, Big Teddy and Little Teddy, Yogi and Boo-Boo, Smokey the Bear, and Sesame Street’s Fozzie.
After World War 2, Wendy Boston created the first unjointed, fully washable bear. Modern teddy bears tend to look more baby-like than the original bears with larger eyes and foreheads, smaller noses, and plush synthetic fur. Mass-produced teddy bears are predominantly made as toys for children but other bears are created for the collectible market. Some antique bears are sold at auction for huge sums of money. Today there are many teddy bear manufacturers and one can even create their own teddy at Build-A-Bear Workshop and Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
Psychologists say that a relationship with the teddy bear is transitional, helping a child to increase independence. I say, our relationships with teddy bears last a lifetime and provide a constant and loyal companion, especially in times when teddy may be the only source of companionship.
One reason that bears may be so endearing to us is that they share many characteristics with us humans such as the ability to stand upright and to hug. Bears are sometimes called the “clowns of the woods” because they dance, sit on their haunches, and roll head over hind paws.
Bear medicine is very powerful. Bears not only embody the masculine warrior spirit but also the feminine healing spirit. The bear spirit animal is very connected to the shamanic tradition.
Like shamans, bears walk in multiple worlds. In the outer world they are:
Stand with courage against adversity; and stand with confidence for beliefs and truth.
- A source of strength, groundedness, and leadership.
- Support for emotional, physical, and spiritual healing of self and others.
In the inner world they are require:
- A need for solitary hibernation to rest, reflection, retrospection, renewal, and rejuvenation.
- Much introspection and self-inquiry while following a spiritual path.
The hibernating bear is symbolic of the female, passive, dormant nature of potential, and the moon. The active bear represents assertive, male, confident nature, and the sun.
In Chinese culture, the bear is associated with yang energy: masculinity, power, force, domination, authority.
In Celtic culture, the bear is associated with yin energy. Its cave is the womb of Mother Earth. Spending the winter in hibernation affords the bear plenty of dreamtime, which fosters communication with the unconscious, intuition, and mystical prophesy.
Bear worship as a form of spirituality is called “arctolatry”. Archaeologists believe that the bear is the oldest European deity. Some indigenous people regard the Bear Mother as their ancestress. About 110,000 years ago, Neanderthal hunters collected skulls of a large brown bear in a shrine where the Cult of the Bear worshiped for over 50,000 years.
In Yavapai mythology, Bear was the first great shaman. The black bear is considered the guardian of the West by many Native American tribes and is reverently addressed as Grandfather. Bears are also symbols of gender mixing for Native American tribes.
Viking warriors often wore a bear skin shirt for strength, stamina, and power and as a dedication to the Goddess Ursel, the She-Bear. These warriors would go into a state of frenzy in battle. Thus the word “berserk”, from bear-sark (bear shirt), was created.
The naming of the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor is derived from Greek mythology stories where Callisto and her son, Arcas, are turned into bear constellations. The Druids associated the Pole Star of Ursa Major to King Arthur (whose name means Bear). Bears legends depict them with a special relationship to the moon. Mother Bears fiercely protect their offspring from harm or threats. In the Celtic tradition the Primal Mother is the Bear goddess, Artio, a fierce protector.
Bear is also slang for a subculture in the gay community. Bear describes a physical type of man that has a heavy-set or muscular, hairy body, facial hair, and a working-class masculine identity in grooming and appearance.
There are four specific days of the year you can celebrate your Teddy Bear:
TEDDY BEAR GALLERY
Copyright © 2015 Drake Bear Stephen. Except where acknowledged. www.DrakeInnerprizes.com