The 5 Poisonous Creatures

In symbolism, those with positive meanings tend to enjoy more popularity than those with negative meanings.

In fact, a lot of people might not knowingly recognize bad luck symbols because they just don’t want to know them. Yet they can come across them all the time.

Remember that there is good only when there is evil. If there is no evil, then how can something be judged as good?

One of the most infamous negative symbols is a grouping called the 5 poisonous creatures (五毒), or 5 noxious creatures. It is a reference to 5 of the most deadly creatures whose venom can commonly cause death.

These 5 animals are the centipede, snake (viper), scorpion, lizard (gecko), and toad.

Depiction of the quintet is usually accompanied by other symbolic items and objects to convey the meaning of protection from danger. Especially for children as they are more vulnerable.

Some of these protection symbols include the tiger, the Chinese character 王, mugwort, ZhongKui, cockerel, etc. In the absence of other symbols, the use of them is still meant to call for protection rather then a suicidal call to be poisoned.

The appearance of 5 poisonous creature motifs is most prominent on the 5th day of the 5th month which is the summer solstice. This date is most often noted as duan wu jie. This is the day in which energy starts shifting from yang to yin.

Motifs of this group can often be found on clothing, hats, shoes, bed linen, etc. The designs can even make it into food items such as pastries and cakes.

In other mystical practices, it was said that evil wizards would put the 5 creatures into a jar and leave them to duke it out between themselves. When they open the container some time later, the last remaining creature would have consumed the poison of the other 4 and now has all all 5 poisons in it’s system. It is then used for spells and rituals to bring harm onto others.

Depending on context, wu du (五毒) can sometimes be a reference to 5 evils rather than the 5 animals.

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