LionessThe lion (Panthera leo) is a mammal of the family Felidae and one of four "big cats" in the genus Panthera. The lion is the second largest feline species, after the tiger. The male lion, easily recognized by his mane, weighs between 330–500 lb. Females range 260–330 lb. In the wild, lions live for around 10–14 years, while in captivity they can live over 20 years. In relatively recent times the habitat of lions spanned the southern parts of Eurasia, ranging from Greece to India, and most of Africa except the central rainforest-zone and the Sahara desert. The last lions in Europe died out in historic times. In the Caucasus, their last European outpost, a population of the Asiatic lion survived until the 10th century. Nowadays wild lions are only found in Africa and a few isolated populations in India.

Lions are predatory carnivores who have two types of social organization. Some are residents, living in groups called prides. The pride consists of related females, their cubs of both sexes, and a group of one to four males known as a coalition who mate with the adult females. Others are nomads, ranging widely, either singularly or in pairs. Hunting is done almost exclusively by the females because they are faster and more agile than the males, who instead patrol the territory and protect the pride. When resting, lions seem to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking and purring. But when it comes to food, each lion looks out for itself. Squabbling and fighting are common, with adult males usually eating first, followed by the females and then the cubs. Both sexes will defend the pride from intruders.

Lions do not mate at any specific time of year. Female lions can go into heat several times a year, and each of their cubs can potentially be fathered by a different male. Gestation lasts between one hundred and one hundred twenty days, and the female gives birth to a litter of one to four cubs. The females in a pride will synchronize their reproductive cycles so that they cooperate in the raising and suckling of the young, who suckle indiscriminately from any or all of the nursing females in the pride. Cubs are weaned after six to seven months.

The lion has been symbolic of a variety of energies through the years. It is a symbol of the sun and of gold. A young lion often symbolized a rising sun and everything a rising sun meant.

The Egyptians believed that a lion presided over the annual floods of the Nile. Their lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, associated with war and retribution, represented the destructive force of the sun. She was said to use arrows to pierce her enemies with fire, her breath being the hot desert wind as her body took on the glare of the midday sun.

In Hinduism, Durga is often depicted riding a lion or tiger named Dawon. Dawon originated from Tibetan legend but was later adapted to Hindu mythology. In the later myth, it was offered by gods to serve Durga as mount for rewarding her victory over the demons. As Durga fought with ten weapons wielded on her arms, Dawon supported its master and attacked the foes with its claws and fangs.

The original image of the unicorn is made up of the elephant, rhinoceros, deer, horse, and lion. The unicorn representative of the five-season solar year of the Boibel-Loth calendar -- two solstices, two equinoxes, and the day after the winter solstice (day without a day). The tail of the unicorn is that of the lion, representing the fiery season of the solar year.

Lion - Wikipedia
Animal Speak - Ted Andrews
Sehkmet - Caroline Seawright
Durga - Wikipedia
The White Goddess(p 410) - Robert Graves

Research submitted by Heather Cole, High Priestess of The Apple Branch - A Dianic Tradition