As far back as pagan times, man has been fascinated by birds and by flight. Birds were believed to be vehicles for the soul and to have the ability to carry the soul to heaven. As a result, birds were very often invested with magical and mystical powers. Birds have come to represent the Soul – both its dark and its enlightened side.
Psychological / Emotional Perspective:
Psychologically, man often needs to project human qualities onto objects outside himself, and because birds’conduct is entirely instinctive, they can be used in dreams to understand man’s behaviour. Different breeds of birds have various meanings in dreams as follows:
- Albatross – as one of the world’s largest birds it can represent a burden or dead weight, but also self-sufficiency and tenacity.
- Buzzard – consult the entry for Vulture in this section.
- Chicken – the imagination is being used to serve a practical function. There is potential for growth, though this may also come about through belonging to a group. The chicken can also represent stupidity and cowardice.
- Cock – the cock is the symbol of a new day and of vigilance or watchfulness. It represents the masculine principle and thus the need to be more upfront and courageous.
- Crow – dreaming of a crow can have two meanings. Traditionally the crow warns of death, although today it is more likely to mean great change. It may also represent wisdom and deviousness.
- Cuckoo– the meaning of the cuckoo is rather ambivalent. It can represent deviousness or unrequited love, yet as the herald of spring it indicates a change from old, stale energy to newness and freshness.
- Dove – as the bringer of calm after the storm, in dreams the dove depicts the Soul and the peaceful side of man’s nature. It is also a representation of the Anima.
- Duck – in a dream a duck denote some kind of superficiality or childishness.
- Eagle – as a bird of prey, in dreams an eagle signifies domination and supremacy. It can also mean perceptiveness and awareness as well as farsightedness and objectivity. If you can identify with or have sympathy for the eagle, your own wish to dominate is becoming apparent, though there may be some difficulty in reconciling other parts of your nature. If you feel threatened, somebody around you may be threatening the status quo.
- Falcon – the falcon shares much of the symbolism of the eagle. As a bird of prey, it typifies freedom and hope for those who are being restricted in any way. It can represent victory over lust.
- Geese / Goose – the goose is said to represent watchfulness and love. Like the swan it can denote the dawn or new life. A flock of geese is often taken to represent the powers of intuition and to give warning of misfortune. The wild goose can represent the soul and often depicts the more nature-oriented side of our personality. Geese, in common with cats, are considered to be witches’familiars.
- Hen – the hen denotes providence, maternal care and procreation. When a hen crows in a dream it is taken to represent feminine domination.
- Ibis – the ibis, sometimes taken to be the stork, is the symbol of perseverance and of aspiration.
- Jackdaw – consult the entry for Magpie in this section.
- Kingfisher – to dream of a kingfisher is to dream of dignity and calmness.
- Lark – a lark traditionally represents the transcendence of the mundane, overcoming the everyday problems to reach a wider viewpoint.
- Magpie – there is an ancient belief that magpies and jackdaws are thieves, so to dream of one indicates we believe someone will take away, or we may lose, something we value. On a more positive note, the magpie can signify good news.
- Ostrich – dreaming of an ostrich indicates that we are attempting to run away from responsibility.
- Owl – sacred to Athena, goddess of strategy and wisdom, in a dream the owl shares these qualities. Because it is also associated with the night-time and, therefore, the underworld, it can sometimes represent death and messages from the hidden realms.
- Peacock – to see a peacock in a dream indicates a growth of understanding from the plain and unadorned to the beauty of the fully plumed bird. Like the phoenix, it represents rebirth and resurrection.
- Pelican – there are two meanings to the symbolism of the pelican. One is sacrifice and devotion and the other is careful and maternal love.
- Penguin – the penguin is thought to represent adaptability, although it can also indicate stupidity or, perhaps more accurately, unwise behaviour.
- Pheasant – to dream of pheasants generally foretells prosperity and good fortune to come.
- Phoenix – the phoenix is a universal symbol of rebirth, resurrection and immortality (dying in order to live).
- Quail – the quail represents amorousness, sometimes courage and often good luck. In its negative form it can also represent witchcraft and sorcery.
- Raven – the raven can be a symbol of sin. However, if it is seen to be talking it often represents prophecy. Its meaning can be ambivalent since it can represent evil, but also wisdom.
- Seagull – the seagull is a symbol of freedom and power.
- Sparrow – the sparrow represents business, industry and hard graft.
- Stork – the stork is a symbol of new life and new beginnings.
- Swallow – the swallow seen in a dream represents hope and the coming of spring, a time of new beginnings and fecundity.
- Swan – as the soul of man, the swan is often taken to be the divine bird. It can sometimes denote a peaceful death or ending as in ‘swansong’– at one time swans were believed to sing only at the point of death.
- Turkey – the turkey is today a food for celebrations and festivals. Dreaming of one can, therefore, denote that there may be good times ahead.
- Vulture – as scavengers, vultures and buzzards have an association with the feminine aspect in its destructive persona.
- Woodpecker – the woodpecker is a guardian of both kings and trees in mythology. It is also reputed to have magical powers.
Everyday Material Aspects:
Birds in dreams usually represent freedom, imagination, thoughts and ideas which, by their nature, need freedom to be able to become evident. Dreaming of them in particular scenarios has the following meanings:
A caged bird can indicate restraint or entrapment.
A bird flying freely represents aspirations and desires and possibly the spirit soaring towards the Divine.
A display of plumage indicates our facade – the way we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to the outside world.
A flock of birds containing both winged and plucked birds indicates confusion over bodily or material considerations, as opposed to spiritual aspirations. Birds can sometimes denote the feminine, free side of the being.
The golden-winged bird has the same significance as fire and, therefore, indicates spiritual aspirations. A high-flying bird indicates spiritual awareness or that part in us that seeks knowledge.
Black / White birds – the two aspects of the Anima or Self may be represented as two opposites; the black bird signifies the dark, neglected or shadowy side; the white the open, clear, free side.
A pet bird – personal circumstances, experiences and emotions can have a profound effect on our self-image / expression, and remembered happiness can be experienced in dreams about pet birds.
Gender / Specific Meanings:
In a man’s dream, a bird can represent the Anima. In a woman’s dream, it suggests the Self, in the sense of the spiritual self.
Consult the Introduction for further information on the Anima and Self.