The albatross was first introduced to sailors in the north Atlantic and Mediterranean as a good omen. It was thought that this was due to their association with the Aesir tribe of Norse mythology, who was often depicted with albatrosses.
Many of Odin’s [the leader of the Aesir] allies possessed this bird as a symbol or on their clothing and armor. There are many interpretations of the meaning and symbolism of the albatross, which varies among cultures and countries.
In this article, we will explore the symbolism and spiritual meaning of these sea birds, and learn about their significance in different cultures of the world.
So, what does Albatross symbolizes? The albatrosses are symbolic of freedom, hope, strength, wanderlust, and navigation. In many cultures, it is believed that these birds possess magical properties that can be used in healing. In ancient myths, the albatross was believed to bring good luck to seafarers who spotted it.
Thousands of years ago new ships were outfitted with an albatross for a spiritual protector of the ship and the crew. The Albatross would search for land, if it became too tired it would rest on the mainmast.
The sailors made it part of their superstition that when the Albatross settled on the mast, they were to give thanks to God or the new albatross would become offended and leave their ship.
Let’s read about Albatross Symbolism and spiritual meaning in detail.
Albatross Symbolism and Meaning
The wings of the albatrosses are strong enough to keep them in flight without needing to land for years at a time. These birds are known for their oceanic existence and can glide for hours without having to flap their wings, which is why they’ve been given the nickname “unflappable”.
These birds can also fly at the speed of about 50 miles per hour. With that kind of speed and strength, it is nearly impossible for us to catch these birds. They’re, thus, free and unstoppable, spending their long lifespan however they please.
The albatrosses are known as the “Prince of the waves” for a good reason. Due to their tendency to fly across the sea, these birds have learned a lot about it and can, therefore, navigate it with their eyes closed. They’re not only skilled at navigation but are also able to predict the weather in the sea.
The sailors have practiced reading the behavior of the albatross for years to predict their journey. Since these birds avoid storms, if they change their route, the sailors realize that something might be wrong and follow suit. Because of their strong navigation capabilities, the sailors also associate these birds with good fortune and prosperity.
Albatross Symbolism in the Maori Culture
In the Maori culture, the albatrosses were held in high esteem. When one of these birds died, no part of their body would ever go to waste; their meat was cooked as food, while the fat from their body was preserved to be used as cooking oil. The bones and feathers in their body were used in the ceremonial garb of the chief of their tribes.
In some of the Maori myths, it was also mentioned that there was an albatross who was a demi-God and the ancestor of their tribe.
The chief of these tribes was given the title of a “Polynesian Chief”, which indicated that the sacred blood of the albatross ran in their vein, and they were capable of upholding the dignity of the tribe.
There is a famous Maori legend in which an albatross befriends a water monster and teaches him to fly.
The Story of Awarua and Rereroa
The story dates back to over a thousand years when there lived a water monster or a Taniwha on the harbor of Porirua, named Awarua.
Awarua had a heavy body with small wings, and although he was a fierce and skilled hunter, he couldn’t fly. Awarua had a friend named Rereroa, who was an albatross. Every day he would watch Rereroa flying high in the sky and would wish he could do the same.
Then one day, Awarua asked Rereroa if he would teach him to fly as well. Although Rereroa was hesitant at first, he couldn’t say “no” to his friend, and so they began their lessons.
Although it was challenging at first, with the dedication of the two friends, Awarua eventually learned to fly just as well as Rererua. Many people believe that the top of the Mana flattened during the course of their flying attempts.
Albatross Symbolism in the Native American Culture
The Albatrosses have a mixed symbolism in the Native American tribes. While some tribes consider them to be a symbol of perseverance, other tribes condemn them for their aggressiveness. There’s a popular Native American story that illustrates this belief.
The Story of Albatrosses and Whiskey Jacks
Once, some men from a Native American tribe moved closer to the water bodies in order to observe the birds that inhabited these areas. Two birds caught the attention of these men in particular; one of them was a Whiskey Jack, and the other was an Albatross.
At first, the men were bewitched by the albatross’s striking beauty and had almost ignored the little whiskey jacks. However, soon they noticed that while the albatrosses were beautiful, they were also loud and ill-tempered. On the other hand, the whiskey jacks were polite.
When these men went fishing for themselves, they gave the fish liver to the birds to eat. While the whiskey jacks ate silently and left, the albatrosses fought with each other over the food and were often rude to the humans. Not long after, they stopped feeding them and preferred the company of the little whiskey jacks.
The lesson we can learn from the story is that no matter how pretty you appear on the outside, you will not be liked by others if you’re ugly on the inside.
Dreaming of Albatross
It is not every day that the free spirit of the albatross visits you in your dream, is it? So, what does it mean to dream of these sea birds? Are they a good or a bad omen? We’ll find out below:
A flying albatross
A flying albatross is symbolic of your expanding creativity. If you dream of them, it means that you will be onboard on a project where you will have the opportunity to unleash the hidden talents that you’ve never used before. If the project goes well, you will have all the credit for its success.
Feeding an albatross
Dreaming of feeding an albatross is a sign that you might have to boost your partner’s ego a little if you want them to agree to what you have been planning.
A flock of albatrosses
If you encounter a flock of albatrosses in your dream, it is a good sign. Such a dream indicates that you will make friends with people who are well-respected in society and have powerful business connections. Befriending them could prove to be very profitable for your professional life.
Killing an albatross
Dreaming of killing an albatross has a negative interpretation. Such a dream suggests that you will be surrounded with struggles and challenges in the near future, which will make you miserable. Perhaps these problems are the consequences of some wrong decision you had made in your past. You will need a lot of patience to get through this phase of your life.
Becoming an albatross
If in your dream, you see yourself becoming an albatross, it is a good sign. Such a dream is related to your love life. If you’re single, take this dream as a message that you will soon find a perfect partner for yourself. However, if you’re already married or are in a relationship with someone, this dream would mean that your partner is planning a surprise holiday for you, a trip that you will enjoy thoroughly.
An albatross on a boat
If you dream of an albatross perched on a boat or even a dock, it has a positive interpretation. Such a dream indicates that the coming months of your life are going to be free of ups and downs. In these months, you will experience a perfect calm.
Hearing an albatross
If you hear an albatross’s voice in your dream but the bird itself is nowhere to be found, it indicates that there is someone around you who is lying to you. It could either be your friend or a colleague at work.
A dead albatross
A dead albatross is symbolic of your vulnerability. Therefore, dreaming of them has a negative interpretation. You should be extremely careful about making any friend or acquaintance in the near future, for these people could take advantage of your vulnerability. This is also a bad time for any new beginning, so if you’re planning to start a new venture, you should try to postpone it for a while.
Known for their navigation skills, the albatross totems enter your life when you seem to have lost your way. Their totem lends you faith and courage so that you can trust in the powers above and keep walking on the path as it unfolds before you.
They teach us that we can’t always keep waiting for someone to show us the right path in life; sometimes, we must make our own path. While there is no guarantee of success on this path, it is worth taking the risk.
The totem of the albatross can also appear in your life when you have far too many attachments that keep holding you down. While having attachments is only human, at times these attachments can be too overwhelming, becoming an obstacle on your path to self-discovery.
The albatross totem doesn’t ask you to sever all your attachments; they merely guide you to draw some boundaries so that your personal space isn’t hindered.
Albatross Symbolism: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is the longest as well as one of the most praised works of the English Poet and Critic, S.T. Coleridge. Published in the first edition of the “Lyrical Ballads”, this poem tells a story of a sailor who shot an albatross following their ship on the voyage and unleashed the wrath of the Almighty on them.
In the poem, the shipmates of the Mariner hang the corpse of the dead albatross around his neck as a symbol of his guilt and penance. Therefore, the symbolism of the albatross has been used in the poem as a metaphor for a burden that is not physical but mental or psychological in nature.
Albatross Spirit Animal
If you are someone who leads a life ruled by their wanderlust, the spirit of the albatross might be governing you. While most people think of liberty as their secondary requirement, it is a basic necessity for these people. They crave true independence from an early age, and once they’ve achieved it, there is no going back for them.
Such people might have difficulty finding an ideal workplace because, to perform their best, they need a supportive work environment where their opinions are respected and given their own space. You might see them switching jobs at the beginning of their career, but once they’ve found a place where they can belong, you will see them thrive.
These people take boundaries very seriously, not just in their professional life but also in their personal lives. They clearly define the boundaries of all their relationships, even with their parents or siblings. While they’re affectionate and caring, having others tell them what to do can make them very uncomfortable.
Being in love with these people can be challenging. Guided by the free spirit of the albatross, they’re not very fond of commitments. To give up their independence and decide to settle with you, they must really love you.
Albatross symbolism in the African culture
Albatross is the bird of the sea, and since most of Africa is covered in desert, they are a rare sight in these regions. This is why the mention of the albatrosses is very scarce in African myth and folklore.
However, occasionally, when these birds are found dead or stranded on the African lands, they are sold in the markets for medicinal purposes. It is a common African belief that these birds have certain magical powers, and they are thus used in healing rituals.
Albatross Tattoo Meaning
Out of all the seabird tattoos out there, albatross tattoos are quite popular among people. Let’s learn what these tattoos could mean for their bearers:
- Albatrosses wander over the seas and oceans all their lives, rarely stopping to rest on the land. That kind of wanderlust is the dream of many who wish to travel all their lives. These people consider the tattoo of a flying albatross to be symbolic of their thirst to explore the world.
- The albatross tattoo is also popular among the sailors because for them, these birds stand for success and good fortune.
- Many people get the tattoo of an albatross with a rope hung around its neck, which symbolizes their guilt or penance. This tattoo is also common among literary scholars who are inspired by the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Conclusion: Albatross Symbolism and Spiritual Meaning
The whole purpose of an albatross’s life is to keep flying; unlike the other birds, they don’t tether themselves to any kind of earthly connection and lead an independent life. While it might not be everybody’s idea of happiness, it certainly works for them.
We can learn from these birds not to pay attention to other’s opinion of you. Your goal should be to achieve the things that are important to you, even if other people don’t see it as an achievement. In the end, you’re responsible for your own happiness, and that’s the responsibility you should take most seriously.