No one is likely to ask why I chose the lion to represent Enneagram Eights. But little did I know when I began my research how uncannily similar they are!
The lion aura
The lion (Panthera leo), one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, is a magnificent animal that appears as a symbol of power, courage, and nobility on family crests, coats of arms and national flags in many civilizations.
Lions live for ten to fourteen years in the wild, while in captivity they can live longer than twenty years. In the wild, males seldom live longer than ten years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males greatly reduce their longevity. Although adult lions have no natural predators, evidence suggests that the majority die violently from humans or other lions. Lions often inflict serious injuries on each other, either members of different tribes encountering each other in territorial disputes, or members of the same tribe fighting at a kill.
Enneagram Commentary: Eights, like lions, have an aura, just in their very presence, even when they are not talking or roaring. And both are symbolic, often getting power and courage projected on them. Like most projection screens, lions and Eights give ample stimuli for these projections. But, they fight so much, they often have premature deaths. In Sandra Maitri’s book, she speaks to Eights having special issues with death – a fear of it and a sense of deadness inside them that gives fuel to their intense energy and over-aliveness.
Lions are apex and keystone predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows. Apex predators (also known as alpha, super-, top-level predators or top predators) are predators that have no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain. Keystone predators are ones that have a disproportionately large impact on their environment relative to their numbers. Their role in the ecology of their ecosystem is much like the keystone of the architectural arch. Even when the keystone arch is under the least pressure of any of the stones in the arch, the arch will collapse.
Enneagram Commentary: Here we find that lions are really important to their eco-systems, playing a key role in the existence of all. Are Eights the same way in the human eco-system? Are they the top of the food-chain? Are they the “keystone”? I think many Eights think of themselves this way: if you want something done, give it to them. What about the rest of us? You take your chances on its getting done well, right, and in a big way.
Size and intimidation
Weights for adult lions range between 150-250 kg (330-550 lb) for males and 120-182 kg (264-400 lb) for females.
The mane of the adult male lion, unique among cats, is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the species. It makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent intimidation display; this aids the lion during confrontations with other lions and with the species’ chief competitor in Africa, the spotted hyena. Females do not have manes. Not all male lions have manes, but most do! Females use strategic stalking to intimidate.
Enneagram Commentary: Like lions, Eights make themselves big. What is the Eight’s mane? The voice tone (big and bigger). The Eight’s body movement (forward, back, and powerfully still). Eights also use strategic stalking, perhaps not literally, but they are masters of political intrigue, influencing, and potent strategy.
Command and control
The lion is the only member of the cat family with a tasseled tail, which serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. It’s often used to signal to other members of the pride, with messages ranging from directional, “this way” commands to flirtatious, “come hither” invitations!
Enneagram Commentary: Although this is a short section, it just seemed too amusing not to have a place all its own. A lion uses its tail to command other lions, so what do Eight use? Eights use direct commanding language, but also body-energy and body language. When Eights want us to do something, it is very clear in their intensity, and when they are pleased or (as is more often the case) displeased, their body-based intensity also makes it clear. Do Eights use their “tail” to act in a flirtatious way? Lust is covered in the next section.
For the lion and lioness couple, it’s all about quantity, not quality. Though romps usually only last for 10 seconds, the process is repeated up to 40 times a day – now that’s stamina! When males take over a pride, they usually kill the cubs. The females come into estrus and the new males sire other cubs.
Talk about a glutton! A lion will eat around 40 pounds of meat in one sitting on average. It then follows up its meal with the ultimate food coma, as it snoozes post-gorge for up to 24 hours.
Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming, and defecating.
Enneagram Commentary: The Eight’s passion is lust, an excessive need for something as a way of denying whatever causes them anxiety, and this lust can be in the reproduction realm, but also other areas: sleep, work, exercise, shopping, and more. So it appears that lions and Eights share the same lustful quality.
Socio-political social system
Lions are predatory carnivores who manifest two types of social organization. Some are residents, living in groups, called prides. The pride usually consists of five or six related females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or two males (known as a coalition if more than one) who mate with the adult females (although extremely large prides, consisting of up to 30 individuals, have been observed). The number of adult males in a coalition is usually two, but may increase to four and decrease again over time. Male cubs are excluded from their maternal pride when they reach maturity.
The second organizational behaviour is labeled nomads, who range widely and move about sporadically, either singularly or in pairs. Pairs are more frequent among related males who have been excluded from their birth pride. Note that a lion may switch lifestyles; nomads may become residents and vice versa.
Males defend the pride’s territory, which may include some 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) of grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands. These intimidating animals mark the area with urine, roar menacingly to warn intruders, and chase off animals that encroach on their turf.
The area a pride occupies is called a pride area, whereas that by a nomad is a range. The males associated with a pride tend to stay on the fringes, patrolling their territory. Why sociality – the most pronounced in any cat species – has developed in lionesses is the subject of much debate. Increased hunting success appears an obvious reason, but this is less than sure upon examination: coordinated hunting does allow for more successful predation, but also ensures that non-hunting members reduce per capita caloric intake, however, some take a role raising cubs, who may be left alone for extended periods of time.
The male or males associated with the pride must defend their relationship to the pride from outside males who attempt to take over their relationship with the pride. Females form the stable social unit in a pride and do not tolerate outside females;membership only changes with the births and deaths of lionesses,although some females do leave and become nomadic. Sub-adult males on the other hand, must leave the pride when they reach maturity at around 2-3 years of age.
Enneagram Commentary: Here the Eights operate so much like lions some Eights are more tribal (the social subtype Eights) and some are more solitary/nomadic (the self-preserving Eights), and all Eights form coalitions, especially among and between dominant Eights. Yes, some Eights are more dominant than other Eights, and they can easily sense this in one another. Are Eights territorial? If you think not, you may have never seen an Eight defend his or her territory, which is often as big as they can make it and still control it. Eights also determine who is inside and who is outside their territory and, thus, within their protection zone. Have you ever tried to get an Eight to change his or her mind about someone? While not impossible, it is improbable, particularly if the Eight thinks poorly of someone.
In typical hunts, each lioness has a favored position in the group, either stalking prey on the “wing” then attacking, or moving a smaller distance in the center of the group and capturing prey in flight from other lionesses. After the hunt, the group effort often degenerates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill, with cubs at the bottom of the pecking order.
Enneagram Commentary: For Eights, like lions, almost everything is a battle or a hunt. Enough said, except it is interesting that lions let their cubs feed last. I think Eight lionesses would let their cubs feed first, but this highly protective mothering behavior is described more in the next section!
Socialization and communication
Lionesses in a pride often synchronize their reproductive cycles so that they cooperate in the raising and suckling of the young (once the cubs are past the initial stage of isolation with their mother), who suckle indiscriminately from any or all of the nursing females in the pride. In addition to greater protection, the synchronization of births also has an advantage in that the cubs end up being roughly the same size, and thus have an equal chance of survival. If one lioness gives birth to a litter of cubs a couple of months after another lioness, for instance, then the younger cubs, being much smaller than their older brethren, are usually dominated by larger cubs at mealtimes – consequently, death by starvation is more common amongst the younger cubs.
When resting, lion socialization occurs through a number of behaviors, and the animal’s expressive movements are highly developed. The most common peaceful tactile gestures are head rubbing and social licking, which have been compared with grooming in primates. Head rubbing – nuzzling one’s forehead, face, and neck against another lion – appears to be a form of greeting, as it is seen often after an animal has been apart from others, or after a fight or confrontation. Males tend to rub other males, while cubs and females rub females. Social licking often occurs in tandem with head rubbing; it is generally mutual and the recipient appears to express pleasure. The head and neck are the most common parts of the body licked, which may have arisen out of utility, as a lion cannot lick these areas individually.
Lions have an array of facial expressions and body postures that serve as visual gestures. Their repertoire of vocalizations is also large; variations in intensity and pitch, rather than discrete signals, appear central to communication. Lion sounds include snarling, purring, hissing, coughing, meowing, woofing, and roaring. Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi), is used to advertise the animal’s presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.
Enneagram Commentary: Lions are extremely expressive and use a variety of forms, just like Eights. Lions look scary (like many Eights do to other people, thought this depends on the other), but they also appear to be pretty cuddly. When on safari, our guide told us a story of a man from Korea who thought the lions looked so sweet that he got out of the vehicle to have someone take his picture with the lions. They ate him immediately! Almost everyone on our safari had a similar reaction to the lions. We knew they were dangerous, but we all wanted to reach out and pet them. This would not have been a good idea.
Question: What does the lion say to his friends before they go out hunting for food?
Answer: Let us prey.
Enneagram Commentary: This is a bad joke, but a funny one. But it also describes the worldview of the Eight: Eat or be eaten!