Gifts: Grounding in emotional depth. Being fully submerged but still able to breathe. Intuition. Ferocity when needed.
Challenges: Stubbornness. Resistance to change. Hurting others by not knowing your own power.
Every year, more people are killed in Africa by hippos than by lions, crocodiles, or any other non-human animal. We don’t normally think of Hippopotamus as being aggressive or dangerous. And that is what gets people killed. Lions and crocodiles have a reputation of ferocity. Hippos are fat, slow, cute, and vegetarian. It is this underestimating of Hippopotamus power that gets people in trouble.
For you, with Hippopotamus as a spirit animal, this is both a gift and a “curse.” It’s not really a curse, but it can feel like one. It’s certainly a challenge. You can use people's underestimating you to your advantage. It is possible to exert more power and get more done when you surprise people, when they realize they had judged you wrongly. And yet, when Hippo is your spirit animal, you don’t actually want to take advantage. You don’t want to have to exertyour power. You don’t want to surprise people, much less hurt them. There is the challenge: Owning and expressing your power without hurting others.
You, being a human, are working with Hippopotamus powers on a metaphorical level, not a literal one. As such, you don’t really have to worry about hurting anyone. Your ferocity needs to come out to fight for your beliefs, your dreams, your passion. But that ferocity isn’t a literal tooth-and-nail fight. It consists of speaking your mind, standing your ground, defending your boundaries.
Hippo’s teeth may not be sharp, but your tongue can be. There is certainly the potential for harm when you speak your mind. The old adage about “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is such a lie. And Hippo knows it. That’s where you tend to surprise people—with your biting sarcasm or unexpected slaying with your words.
Physical hippos are surprisingly vocal. They can keep you awake all night when they are in a river just outside your safari tent! For you, this is a message to speak up, to express yourself. The more you hold it in, the more likely your words will hurt when they finally come out.
Hippos spend their days at home base in a body of water, leaving the water at night to feed on grass and other plants. The lesson for you is to establish a strong, nurturing home base, in a supportive community. Your ranging territory can be as big as you like it, as long as you return to the center, to your center, to refuel both body and soul.
You may also inadvertently hurt someone emotionally. Hippopotamus offers the gift of being at home in emotions. Between your thick skin and forgetting that not everyone is comfortable in the water, you can come across as insensitive, mistakingly believing that other people process their emotions as quickly as you do.
Physical hippos migrate up- and downstream with the rains. In contrast, when you get used to your home base and the status quo, it can be difficult for you to accept change. When that happens, reconnect with Hippo’s migratory urge, and make small changes.