Bird Symbolism and Folklore From Around the World

Throughout history, humans have evolved several myths, tales, and superstitions regarding birds. This makes a great deal more sense when you consider that flight-capable aircraft were not invented until a little more than a century ago.

Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, birds were among the few species that could soar among the clouds, causing many of our predecessors to view them as symbols of the connection between heaven and earth. Let’s examine the meaning of a bird flying into your home and other typical bird superstitions.

When Birds Intrude Indoors

While it is customary for individuals to keep birds as pets nowadays, many of our predecessors were horrified by the thought of bringing a bird inside. What does it mean when a bird enters your home? As with all symbology, it is highly subjective. Some tribes viewed it as an omen of imminent misfortune, while others merely interpreted it as a message.

Considering the havoc a trapped bird can wreak inside the average residence, it is reasonable to equate the circumstance with bad luck. Lucille Ball was one of the most well-known proponents of the idea that birds are innately adapted to live outside.

The I Love Lucy actress was so obsessive about birds that she refused to stay in any hotel that included even photographs of them. When she saw that birds were included into the pattern of her wallpaper, she was so horrified that she ripped it out of her home.

Lucy’s superstitions were likely a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder, as a bird came into her home on the day her father died when she was a child.

Birds as Divine Messengers

In numerous civilizations, birds are associated with divine communications. Our forefathers viewed their ability to defy gravity as somewhat of a superpower, as they equated the sky with the spiritual realm. Even today, many people tend to envision heaven as a concept that exists someplace in the clouds.

This explains why birds were long believed to possess mystical advantages not available to mortals. For ancient beings firmly rooted to the earth, birds seemed capable of nothing less than divine transcendence. Because birds can also land on their own own, many cultures thought they carried messages between the worlds of gods and humans.

Angels, who are also thought to be celestial messengers, have often been shown in artwork with bird wings. In Christianity, doves continue to be a prominent emblem of the Holy Spirit since they are intended to signify human access to the divine.

Doves are a sign of peace and healing in Judaism. This presumably dates back to the narrative of Noah, in which a dove delivered the word that the flood had finished to the ark.

Symbols of Various Bird Species

In numerous cultures, the particular species of bird in issue played a significant role in its significance. However, similar to any other symbol, individual bird species may have two distinct meanings depending on who you ask.
Consider the peacock as an example. According to an ancient Mediterranean belief, peacocks are unlucky because the markings on their feathers are believed to represent the eye of the wicked figure Lilith. In some civilizations, however, the same marks were seen as protective eyes.

Occasionally, the symbolism linked with particular birds had a significant impact on how individuals of various civilizations handled them. The albatross has been a symbol of good fortune for seafarers for ages. Unless, of course, you ventured to injure one, as depicted in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Both the Hawk and the Ibis were safeguarded in ancient Egypt, where they were regarded as extremely sacred. This was due to the belief that Egyptian gods had the ability to partially or entirely shift into particular animals. Horus was popularly linked with the Hawk, but the sacred bird of Thoth was the Ibis.

The Egyptians took these connections so seriously that the historian Herodotus said, “Whoever purposefully or unintentionally kills an ibis or a hawk shall die for it.”

Modern Bird Symbolism

Although it may be easy to view bird superstitions as a remnant of the past, we continue to identify several birds with various themes. Consider the eagle as an example. Eagles are commonly viewed as the strongest and most courageous of all birds, which is possibly why Native Americans used eagle traits as a symbol of honour. The bald eagle was chosen as the national symbol of the United States for identical reasons.

The owl is also usually connected with intelligence or knowledge. The genesis of the “smart owl” reputation presumably stems from the owl’s remarkable night vision, which enables it to see what others cannot. Since ancient times, when the owl was believed to be the holy animal of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, this talent has been recognised.

Swans also frequently evoke familiar associations. Since swans mate for life, they are widely connected with love and romance today. Swans are also commonly linked with grace and beauty, qualities that few would dispute they possess.

Blackbirds, whether Crows or Ravens, are another species of bird frequently utilised as emblems in literature. From Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem The Raven to contemporary television and film, blackbirds are frequently used to evoke uneasiness. This may be owing to the fact that their feathers allow them to blend in with the night and that they are carrion birds that feed on dead animals.

Throughout history, different species of birds have generated diverse beliefs and affiliations in numerous civilizations. What does it indicate if a bird enters your home? The answer is more likely to be found in your unique interpretation than in one of the several contradictory beliefs of the past.


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