Bird Folklore and Symbolism from Around the World

Throughout history, humans have created numerous myths, tales, and superstitions about birds. When you consider that mankind first constructed aeroplanes capable of flight only a little over a century ago, this makes a lot more sense.

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Birds were some of the only creatures capable of flying through the clouds before to the early twentieth century, causing many of our forefathers to regard them as emblems of the link between heaven and earth. Let’s take a look at what it implies when a bird flies into your house, as well as some other classic bird superstitions.

When Birds Invade Your Home

While it is now customary for individuals to own pet birds, many of our forefathers were terrified of bringing a bird inside. “What does a bird flying into your house mean?” It depends on who you question, as with all symbology. Some civilizations interpreted it as a harbinger of approaching bad luck, while others just saw it as a message.

However, given the chaos that a trapped bird can create inside the average home, the assumption that the circumstance is associated with bad luck is reasonable. Lucille Ball was one of the most renowned believers in the idea that birds are only supposed to live outside.

The I Love Lucy star was so afraid of birds that she would refuse to stay in any hotel that had even a few images of them on the walls. She once went so far as to take the wallpaper out of her house after discovering, to her dismay, that the design included birds.

Lucy’s superstitions, on the other hand, were most likely a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a bird flew into her house the day her father died when she was a child.

Divine Messengers: Birds

Birds have long been associated with heavenly messengers in many cultures. Our forefathers saw their capacity to defy gravity as a kind of superpower, as the sky was associated with the spiritual realm. Many people today believe that heaven exists someplace in the clouds.

This explains why birds have traditionally been thought to have magical abilities that mortals lack. Birds appeared to ancient humans firmly planted on the earth to be capable of nothing less than divine transcendence. Many cultures thought that because birds may land at will, they delivered messages between the worlds of the gods and men.

This may explain why angels, who are also thought to be divine messengers, have traditionally been shown in art with bird-like wings. Doves, which are meant to signify human access to the divine, are still a prominent emblem of the Holy Spirit in Christianity today.

Doves are a sign of peace and healing in Judaism. This is most likely related to Noah’s tale, in which a dove carried news to the ark that the flood had finally ended.

Symbols of Different Bird Types

The precise sort of bird in question was important in the symbolism of many cultures. Specific sorts of birds, like any sign, might mean two distinct things depending on who you ask.

Take, for example, the peacock. Peacocks are considered to be bad luck in an old Mediterranean superstition because the marks on their feathers are said to symbolise the eye of an evil entity known as Lilith. In some civilizations, however, the same patterns were thought to be protective eyes.

The symbolism linked with individual birds has influenced how people from various cultures viewed them in the past. The albatross has been a symbol of good fortune for sailors at sea for ages. Unless, as illustrated in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, you ventured to harm one.

In ancient Egypt, the Hawk and the Ibis were both safeguarded because they were regarded extremely sacred. This was because Egyptian gods were thought to have the ability to shift into animals, either partially or totally. Horus was often connected with the Hawk, while the Ibis was Thoth’s sacred bird.

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

Symbolism of Modern Birds

While it’s tempting to dismiss bird superstitions as a remnant of the past, numerous birds are still associated with diverse meanings today. Take, for example, the eagle. Because the eagle is frequently regarded as the fiercest and bravest of all birds, eagle traits were likely used as a symbol of honour among Native Americans. The bald eagle was chosen as the national symbol of the United States for identical reasons.

The owl, on the other hand, is still connected with wisdom and learning. The owl’s acute night vision, which allows it to see what others cannot, is most likely the foundation of the “smart owl” cliché. Since ancient times, when the owl was considered the sacred animal of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, this capacity has been recognised.

Swans are also associated with familiar things. Because swans mate for life, they are now widely linked with love and passion. Swans are also connected with grace and beauty, which are qualities that few could dispute they possess.

Blackbirds, whether crows or ravens, are another bird that is frequently utilised as a symbol in legends. Blackbirds are frequently utilised to evoke feelings of discomfort, from Edgar Allen Poe’s iconic poem The Raven to modern TV series and movies.

This is likely owing to their feathers’ ability to blend in with the night and the fact that they are carrion birds who feed on other dead animals.

As you can see, different birds have inspired varied superstitions and associations throughout history among many nations. So, if a bird flies into your house, what does that mean? The answer is most likely to be found in your personal interpretation rather than one of the numerous contradictory superstitions from the past.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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