Leopards

In many cultures the leopard is more feared and hence more highly regarded than the lion and as such has become a powerful symbol. In West Africa, many examples of leopard forms can be found in bronze metal statuary as well as leopard masks. Across the region, leopard skin is associated with sovereignty often according to strict rules of use. In the Beninese culture, the annual Igue festival, which renewed the king’s magical powers and allowed him to bestow blessing upon the land, occasionally involved the sacrifice of live leopards that were captured with great difficulty. A leopard was also commonly sacrificed upon the succession of a new king symbolising the transference of royal power. In Ancient Greece the leopard was most commonly associated with Dionysus. Dionysus represented a harmony with wild nature and as such is often depicted with, and occasionally riding, a pacified leopard or wearing a leopard skin.

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