“All the powers of God are winged in man, being
always eager and striving for the higher path,
which leads to the Father.”
Birds hold a sacred spiritual significance, like all animals. The sacred symbolism of birds is seen clearly through observation of the spiritual practices of early African tribes and in Egyptian civilization. These ancient tribes studied the sacred symbolism of birds because they were thought to express the divine will and expression of God.
The sacred symbolism of birds is interwoven into the mythology and spirituality of early African tribes. Early Egyptian gods were zoomorphic; they had animal characteristics. The Egyptian god Horus was known as the Sky God. He is usually shown with hawk’s head. The pronunciation of his name in the Egyptian hieroglyphs was Haru, meaning falcon, brother to the hawk. The Egyptian goddess Nekhbet was the protectress of the king and goddess of heaven. She is depicted as a woman with the head of a white vulture. Early African tribes worshiped these birdlike gods and honored their feathers as a means of sacred ritual.
Symbolism of Birds : Transcendence
Credo Mutwa, a South African Sangomas witch doctor, asserts that birds are the souls of humans who have reached a high state of perfection. They represent the process of opening to a higher wisdom and knowledge. Mutwa stated that when you are reincarnated seven times on earth as a human or animal, you reach the state of a bird. Birds have the ability to walk on earth, float on water and ascend into the air. This is thought to be the state of ultimate earthly freedom; to be a creature that is of the air, land and water.
Symbolism of Birds: The Meanings
In African Tribes, many birds embody the qualities of God’s. These birds are seen as symbols or signs of a sacred presence in nature. I’ve compiled a list that is by no means inclusive, as there are over 10,000 different bird species that have been identified today. The birds that follow are also not exclusive to Africa, but fly over every continent on earth 🙂
Hamerkop: a symbol of vanity and human futility.
Ostrich: the bringer of visions and dreams, a symbol of divine order, truth and justice.
Vulture: believed to be the original great earth mother and the ultimate symbol of fertility, The vulture is the bringer of truth and transmutes lower energies. Vultures are a sign of safety and purity, the elements necessary for life to begin.
Pigeons and Doves: symbols of deep peace and stillness.
Eagle: a symbol of swiftness, strength and labor. The eagle is generous, fearless and courageous. The eagle represents faith and nobility. The eagle has come to symbolize Christ and is often seen in Christian churches and on Haitian Voodoo flags.
Heron: the original pheonix, a symbol of death and rebirth.
Peacock: divine intelligence.
Owl: a symbol of wisdom and the ability to see and hear what others may miss. The owl is a messenger of secrets and omens and represents the soul of women.
Hummingbird: the joy, beauty, wonder and magic of everyday existence. The hummingbird is the national symbol of Jamaica.
Hawk: unifies the lower world with the higher world. The hawk represents the divine gifts of power within nature and man.
Crow/Raven: teaches us to know ourselves as divine, bringers of magic, carries the soul from one life to the next.
Swallow: symbols of regeneration, fertility, bringers of light.
Crane: long life, endurance and immortality.
Swan: teaches us to know the divine beauty of our bodies and to embrace grace.
Symbolism of Birds: Elements of Ritual
Modern voodoo ceremonies can bring the most insight into how to bring the sacred symbolism of birds into daily practice. The voodoo religion honors sacred elements of earth as portals to connect with God’s healing power. The voodoo religion honors the egg as a symbol for their god Danbala, who is worshiped along with the Catholic Saint Patrick. The egg is seen as the birthplace of the bird, and therefore honored and used to connect with the divine in ritual, it represents the universe to be. Voodoo rituals also use feathers in the same way that many other indigenous cultures used feathers in ritual for delivering wishes to the appropriate gods and freeing space of negative energy.
Want to Learn More?
I am just starting to learn about the sacred symbolism of birds, I feel as though it will be a lifelong journey 🙂 Here are a few of the books that I used to put this article together 🙂
Zulu Shaman: Dreams, Prophecies, and Mysteries (Song of the Stars)
Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt
The Faces of the Gods: Voodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti
Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small