Resilient, adaptable, and timid animals, pigeons have manifested different meanings throughout centuries and across various religious, spiritual, and socio-political spaces. What then is the spiritual meaning of a pigeon?
While symbolizing various things across different cultures, pigeons typically symbolize love, compassion, adaptability, faith, and self-belief. Although most of these traits are positive, there are some meanings of pigeons associated with dirt and grime.
The various meanings attributed to pigeons from Western, Eastern, Mediterranean and indigenous communities across socio-political, spiritual, and religious spaces; will be discussed to decipher holistic meanings.
What Does A Pigeon Symbolize?
As highlighted above, pigeons symbolize various things across different cultures throughout the centuries; these will be individually explored to illustrate the cross-pollination of meaning attributed to pigeons.
Native American Pigeon Symbolism
Both doves and pigeons were important symbols across different Native American communities.
Because doves and pigeons are seen to mate for life, they came to symbolize monogamy and the importance of enduring love through strife and hardship. Consequently, pigeons and other birds were used in fertility magic.
Like Christian mythology (as will be discussed below), Native American communities came to recognize pigeons and doves as symbols of peace. Some communities believed pigeons to be the Great Spirit’s deliverance.
Symbols of motherhood and longevity were attributed to doves and pigeons. As domesticated animals, they were seen to live long lives and raise numerous broods over their lifetimes.
Due to their association as tame, meek, gentle, simple, innocent, and peaceful birds, doves and pigeons were chosen for sacrifice, while other birds were not.
Regarding specific clan traditions, the Pueblo and Mojave tribes recognized pigeons as clan animals due to their tendency to flock and work in cooperation.
At the same time, the Cherokee used to perform a pigeon dance to end an evening’s ritual activities.
Mediterranean Pigeon Symbolism
In Greek and Roman mythology, doves and pigeons came to be symbols of peace, love, and faith. Consequently, the Greeks associated pigeons and doves with the goddess of love, Aphrodite, while the Romans associated them with Venus.
For the Greeks, carvings and pigeons and doves on temples dedicated to Eirene (the goddess of peace) have also been discovered, as well as the use of pigeon blood to cleanse temples dedicated to Aphrodite during festivals and rituals.
For the Romans, while most of their religion and deities were adaptations of the Greek pantheon, pigeons were also associated with good fortune through their association with the goddess Fortuna.
Other ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean and Eurasia, such as the Mesopotamians and the Phoenicians, associated doves and pigeons with similar compassion and parental relations symbols.
Symbols of intimate relationships were extended to more nefarious spaces such as sexual, promiscuity, lust, political power, and war.
Similar to the Greeks and Romans, this was expressed through the association of pigeons and doves with deities such as Astarte for the Phoenicians and Inanna-Ishtar for the Mesopotamians.
In Islam, it was said that Muhammad used pigeons as a method by which to distract his foes while the prophet and his followers were on a pilgrimage from Mecca to Medina.
For this reason, some interpretations of the Koran have described the place where Muhammad rests until rebirth as a dwelling of doves or a dovecote.
Eastern Pigeon Symbolism
In Hindu mythology, pigeons are considered to be the embodiment of the God of Death, Yama. Unlike the depiction of death as frightening, sinister, and final, Hinduism focuses on death as the opportunity for freedom, redemption, and transformation.
Consequently, Yama is a highly regarded and worshipped figure in the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses.
In Sumerian mythology, the goddess of war, passion, and lust, Ishtar, was often portrayed as having a dove or pigeon as a familiar animal. It is believed this portrayal came as cross-pollination with Astarte from the Phoenicians.
For the Japanese, pigeons were used to deliver messages during wartime (which is a practice that continued into the 20th century, hence the association of the Royal Air Force with pigeons!)
This close association with wartime and using pigeons as messengers led the Japanese to recognize a close association with pigeons and the God of war, Hachiman.
For the Chinese, similar to Native American communities that domesticated pigeons, they were seen as symbols of compassion, long life, fidelity, the importance of monogamy, and loyalty.
Egyptian Pigeon Symbolism
Although birds hold great significance in Egyptian mythology, with both Ra and Horus sporting the heads of falcons, there appear to be fewer texts depicting pigeons and doves, as there are texts for birds of prey and mythological birds such as the phoenix.
However, it would appear that ancient Egyptians still identified pigeons and doves as being symbols of good fortune, fertility, and longevity.
Pigeons were also used as messengers to announce the rise of the pharaoh or as sacrifices during times of crisis are both well documented by Egyptians and third-party sources such as Roman mosaics.
Celtic Pigeon Symbolism
For Celtic communities, pigeons were believed to symbolize a connection between different planes of existence and were revered for their supposed healing characteristics.
In Ireland, one of the three patron saints, St. Columba, is referred to as the Church Dove. This connection between St Columba and the dove or pigeon is an example of the deep cross-pollination between Christian and Celtic mythologies.
As an oracle of God, and by extension sainthood, pigeons and doves have come to symbolize love, faith, and compassion, including the sainthood applied to Wales’ St. David.
This Welsh connection arose from the writings of Welsh poets and Christian religious leaders, which depicted doves and pigeons and lovers in their poetry in relation to the Great Flood Myth.
Outside of the British Isles, Germanic artists used to depict the goddess of the underworld, Nantosuelta, with a pigeon peering over her shoulder.
It was also said that an encounter with a nesting pigeon at your home or during a wedding was seen as a good omen for peace, harmony, and devotion.
Christian Pigeon Symbolism
Pigeons and doves are of particular significance for Christians, both with regard to Old Testament creation myths and New Testament messages of peace, love, and reincarnation.
In the Old Testament, Noah used a dove or pigeon to send a message to God to determine if there was land in which man could settle after the Great Flood.
Having returned with an olive branch, Noah was aware that there was a land where mankind could settle and that God had forgiven humankind for their transgresses. Hence pigeons and doves are depicted as symbols of forgiveness and salvation.
In the New Testament, doves and pigeons were used as familiars to Joseph to underline his purity and commitment as the father of Jesus and husband of the Virgin Mary.
What Does A Pigeon’s Animal Symbolism Mean?
Over and above third-party observations and interpretations of pigeons are their inherent animalistic symbolism in the form of spirit, power, and totem animals.
Animalistic symbolism is considered a cross-culture interpretation from the physical world into the metaphysical world.
This is achieved by looking at the physical characteristics of plants and animals while looking to determine what meanings in spiritual/unknown spaces gave rise to these observable characteristics.
Pigeon Spirit Animal Meaning
Those who encounter pigeon spirit may feel underwhelmed due to the blandness and unimportance usually placed on pigeons as a result of our modern way of living (e.g., seeing them as pests and associating this with pigeon spirit).
However, this seemingly unremarkable perception is one of pigeon spirits greatest strengths, as therein lay its power to surprise and impress while being quietly confident and humble in its abilities.
As such, pigeon spirit teaches us that being underestimated by others is not a weakness but rather a method by which you can engage with those that undermine you and change their opinions through your inherent strength and confidence.
This internal strength and the desire to showcase your abilities in the face of doubt means that pigeon spirit has strong social skills wherein they find interacting with people from all different walks in life both easy and enjoyable.
However, while pigeon spirit may find it easy to express themselves to make friends, there is a tendency for this spirit animal to feel upset when not in the presence of others or when attempts at friendship fail.
The pigeon spirit is known for its adaptability, as is illustrated in the real world as to how pigeons are found in various environments, not just merely surviving but thriving!
This imbues pigeon spirit with the knowledge and strength to overcome challenges with ease, as well as to set goals and achieve them with confidence and a great sense of direction (akin to the role of pigeons as messengers through the centuries).
Pigeon spirit is also closely linked to other bird spirits, but notably doves. This means they exhibit the traits of other bird spirits, such as being very compassionate, empathetic, and willing to forgive others for past transgressions (including yourself!)
Finally, while there is a misconception that the pigeon spirit may be docile and naïve, it actually has a remarkable sense of protection and observation. This means that the pigeon spirit can sense danger and help you to avoid it.
Furthermore, these powers of perception, when coupled with the innate nature of compassion, help pigeon spirit to identify and ease the suffering of those that may be stressed, anxious, or sad.
Pigeon Totem Animal Meaning
Those who encounter or are born under pigeon totem are generallyloving, compassionate, driven, and yearn for a sense of freedom and community.
Because of this understanding of others and to openly express empathy, pigeon totem people often make loyal companions and feel comfortable in roles that require an understanding of others, such as diplomats or mediators.
However, this level of understanding and empathy can sometimes come at a great price, whereby pigeon totem people over-exert themselves for the benefit of others. While not inherently negative, caution must be taken to keep sacrifices in check.
Another example of the importance of balance is although pigeon totem people are highly adaptable and seemingly fit into any environment with ease, they also need to take time to establish a foothold and a homely space wherever they may be.
Failure to do so can lead to people feeling lost, distressed, and/or disorientated, as they do not exhibit the control needed over their new environment and to adapt to the changes.
When establishing a homely space, the pigeon totem has been seen to relate with nature particularly well. Consequently, connection with the earth, nature and the freedoms associated with it means that pigeon totem should seek out these spaces over others.
A final instance of the importance of balance is although pigeon totem carries their positive emotions and protective spirit onto others, they also shift negative emotions onto others, as well as instances of overprotectiveness (especially with their family).
As a result of this, it may be necessary to pay close attention to emotion regulation and to ensure your actions over others remain protective but do not extend to extremes whereby it becomes controlling.
Pigeon Power Animal Meaning
As a shamanistic power animal that anyone can call when needing guidance, the pigeon should be invoked when one is looking for love or peace.
This is particularly important for people that are looking to repair or improve their relationships with friends, family, and partners. Consequently, this is not a power animal that will help you find love when real connections have not first been made.
With this power, change is not automatic. Instead, pigeon spirit helps guide people as to how to repair and improve relationships, whereby it is up to the individual to put this advice into practice. At times, this may require patience and sacrifice.
While it is difficult to paint a holistic picture of the pigeon’s spiritual meanings, looking at a cross-section of cultures and experiences suggests an entity that symbolizes love, compassion, friendship, loyalty, and adaptability.