The Crane is a large, tall, heavy-billed bird with a golden-orange to white-colored plumage that typically keeps its head and neck upright in a majestic pose. As one of the longest-living birds known, they are monogamous and mate for life.
Cranes are very protective towards their young, and even though they have wings and the ability to fly, seldom leave their territories unless there is an immediate threat. But what do cranes symbolize to us? Let’s find out.
The Crane symbolizes beauty, harmony, and grace. It represents positive change as it has been associated with the New Year in various cultures. Crane symbolism focuses on the need for balance and living in harmony with others. Cranes teach us that if we want respect, we must learn to give it first.
The crane is an important figure in numerous cultures around the world, appearing in mythological tales, poetry, historical events, and artworks of all types. It is a bird with grace and an imposing posture, popularly referred to as “The King of Birds“ The bird forms part of many creation stories and it also has a strong association with rainbows – can it be a coincidence?
Below, we will discuss in-depth their symbolism and spiritual meaning, their significance in different cultures, and the meaning of their totems and spirit animals.
The symbolism of Cranes
Why are cranes so important in the world of symbolism? It’s because of the traits and qualities they stand for, which are listed below:
When you think of a crane, what colored bird comes to your mind? In most cases, it’s a white bird. Although they can be grey or brown in color as well, the color white is more common and widespread among them. And since white is a color of purity and divinity, these birds symbolize the same.
Have you ever seen cranes standing or flying? Don’t they appear poised? Elegance and grace come naturally to these birds. They needn’t work to appear graceful; they can just be themselves, going about their daily chores, and we would still find them to be equally elegant.
When it comes to love and partnership, cranes are one of the birds that display an unusual loyalty and faithfulness. When these birds mate, they mate for life, sticking by the side of the same partner as long as they live. And when one of them dies, the other experiences unbearable torment and agony, wishing to die. If that’s not loyalty, what else could be?
Focus and balance
Did you know that the cranes can stand on a single leg for hours in the water without moving, waiting patiently for the fish to come close so that they can catch them? These birds know that if they move too much, they might end up hungry and have, therefore, mastered the art focus and patience, the qualities that we could use in our lives.
Crane symbolism in the Japanese culture
There is a popular Japanese belief associated with the cranes, which says that if a person can fold a thousand origami cranes, the crane would grant them a wish. It is illustrated in the story of Sadako Sasaki as well.
The story of Sadako Sasaki
Sadako Sasaki was a young girl living in Hiroshima in 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped there. Sadako was merely one-year-old at that time. Ten years later, in 1955, she was diagnosed with Leukemia caused by the bombing and was admitted to a hospital.
Agonized at her disease and confinement, the young Sadako remembered the popular myth about the thousand paper cranes and began making them, hoping for her wish to be granted.
Paper was scarcely available in those days, but even this couldn’t deter Sadako; she used gift wrappers, candy wrappers, even the wrappers of the medicine bottles to make paper cranes. In the 14 months she spent in the hospital, Sadako had made about 1300 paper cranes.
Her wish was that she, along with all the other war victims, would get healed. However, before this dream could be realized, Sadako passed away at the tender age of 12.
All of Sadako’s friends and classmates were deeply moved by her effort and death and collected money to build a memorial for her. It took three years to build the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. Beneath the figure is a messaged engraved, which reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.”
The crane totem will enter your life when you’re in need of sophistication. Perhaps you’re good at your job but lack the elegance it takes to be noticed and appreciated. The crane totems know exactly how to achieve that and can teach you as well.
These totems can also appear in your life when you’ve gotten your heart broken too many times and keep falling for the wrong person. You clearly lack both patience and character judgment.
Their totem shows you that love is sacred and shouldn’t be wasted on people unworthy of it. They will teach you how the fruit of patience is sweet, and encourage you to be patient in life.
The symbolism of different Crane species
Apart from the general crane symbolism that we discussed above, some specific crane species have unique cultural significance. Let’s learn more about these species and their symbolism:
Also known as “Stanley Crane” and “Paradise Crane”, the Blue Cranes are a vulnerable crane species that are found in South Africa. These birds are symbolic of tenderness, sufficiency, and inner contemplation. Their spirit guides us to be gentle to others and ourselves and be satisfied with what we have.
The Blue Crane is the national bird of South Africa and is also culturally significant to the people of the country. In the Nguni ethnic group of Xhosa, these birds are referred to as “Indwe”.
Their feathers are used to decorate the people who have proved their courage and strength, often on the battlefield. The ceremony of honoring such people with their feathers is known as “Ukundzabela”.
All these honored men are together known as “the men of ugaba”, and are expected to reinstate peace in their community in times of trouble.
In another Nguni group of the Zulu people, the feathers of the Blue Cranes are used in the headdresses of the warriors and the King.
Found in the eastern and southern parts of Africa, the Grey-crowned Cranes are known by many different names such as “Golden-crested Crane”, “South African Crane”, and “African Crowned Crane”.
The IUCN has declared them to an endangered species, with their population on a steady decline. Being the national bird of Uganda, the Grey-crowned Cranes are symbolic of elegance and prosperity.
Found in parts of Australia, India, and Southeast Asia, the Sarus Cranes are known for being the tallest among all flying birds. This vulnerable species is significant to the Indian culture.
In the Indian ethnic group of the Gondi, these birds are considered to be sacred and their meat taboo. It is widely believed that they mate for life, which is why in the state of Gujarat, a newly-wed couple is taken to see a pair of Sarus Cranes as a custom.
In the legend of the Ramayana, it is believed the Valmiki, its poet, was inspired to write the epic right after he cursed a hunter for killing a Sarus Crane. The NAL Saras, the first Indian civilian propeller aircraft, has also been named after them.
Also referred to as the “Manchurian Crane” and “Japanese Crane”, the Red-crowned Cranes are one of the world’s rarest crane species. These large cranes are found in East Asia and have been declared to be an endangered species by the IUCN.
In Japan, these cranes are called “Tanchozuru” and are believed to be symbolic of loyalty and strength. They’re also used in the international logo of Japan Airlines. There is a popular myth in the country which says that these birds live for over a thousand years.
The Koreans call the Red-crowned Cranes “Hak” or “Durumi” and associate them with peace, purity, and longevity. They’re the symbol of Incheon city and are also seen on a 500 won coin in South Korea. The Seonbi, who were the ancient scholars of Korea, admired these birds for their constancy.
Crane symbolism in Islam
The cranes have a sacred symbolism in Islam. In pre-Islamic South Arabia, it was believed that there were three chief goddesses of Mecca: Manat, Uzza, and Allat. These three were also referred to as the “three exalted cranes”.
Crane spirit animal
If someone is guided by the spirit of the cranes, it is apparent in the way they speak, move, and work: such people are a picture of grace and elegance, and it sets them apart from everyone around them.
They are refined, sophisticated, self-assured, tasteful, and remarkably cultivated. Anyone who meets them has a high opinion of them. In some cases, the people are themselves unaware of their charisma.
Although these people are smart and hardworking, they’re far from workaholics. For them, there are many things in life that are more important than work, such as their friends and family. Such people are very outgoing and have several friend circles, participating in all of them actively.
However, at home, they’re a completely different person. They love their family members a little too much and are willing to go to any lengths to make them happy. They’re also fiercely protective of them, particularly the ones who are younger than them.
One thing that these people stay away from is casual dating. They lead a pretty full life and don’t believe in fooling around with random people. At heart, they’re true romantics and believe that they will one day meet their one true love. And for that kind of love, they don’t mind waiting.
Dreaming of Cranes
Seeing a crane in all its elegance is a sight to behold. However, what does it mean to dream of these birds? Following are some common crane dreams along with their interpretations:
A flying crane
Dreaming of a crane flying in the sky is a good sign and symbolizes prosperity. If you dream of it, it means that you’re soon about to experience growth in your professional life, which will lead to both financial gain and the elevation of your social standing.
A crane falling from the sky
It is unnatural for a crane to fall downwards while flying unless they are hurt or wounded. As you might have guessed, such a dream has a negative symbolism. It is a warning that some unexpected event might befall you soon, and you should be prepared for it.
If you see a crane’s feathers in your dream but can’t spot the crane itself, it is symbolic of courage. It indicates the problems you are about to face in your life can only be solved if you face them head-on instead of cowering from them.
A Crane standing in the water
Cranes can stand in the water for a long period of time at once, especially when they’re hunting for fish. If you dream of such a thing, it indicates that the coming months of your life will test your patience. And if you pass them successfully, you will achieve everything you’ve ever wanted.
Crane symbolism in Native American culture
The crane symbolism was used extensively in Native America. Most of the Native American tribes associated these birds with good fortune. Among the fishers of these tribes, a crane sighting was widely regarded as a good omen and indicated that they would catch a lot of fish that day.
In some popular folklore, the cranes were said to play a peacemaker role in any quarrel or conflict and were, thus, symbolic of justice and righteousness.
To the people of the Anishinabe tribes, the cranes stood for elocution and leadership qualities, while the Cheyennes believed them to the harbingers of rain and lightning. The tribes of Chumash and Creeks included a Crane Dance in their traditional tribal dance.
Moreover, the following clans used cranes as their clan animals:
- The Zuni, with the crane clan name: Kalokta-kwe
- The Chippewa, with the crane clan name: Ajijaak or Basweenazhi
- The Hopi and the Menominee, with the crane clan name: Atokngyam
Crane symbolism in Greek and Roman mythologies
Although the cranes were generally considered symbolic of joy and celebration in the Greek and Roman mythologies, at times, they were also regarded as ominous birds. Their supposed ominous nature finds its roots in the story of Ibycus and the thieves.
The story of Ibycus and the thieves
Once upon a time, there live a skilled poet named Ibycus, who was blessed in song by God Apollo himself. Ibycus had once participated in a chariot race, and as he was making his way to the race, two thieves attacked him out of nowhere, robbing him of all his belongings and leaving him for dead.
As Ibycus lay there, taking his final breaths, he saw several cranes flying overhead. Before he died, he begged these cranes to remember how he had been wronged and seek justice for him.
The cranes had sworn vengeance on the thieves who had murdered Ibycus and found them in a theatre one day, enjoying a show.
They began to loom over the thieves, threatening them until they were terrorized, and shouted “behold the avengers of Ibycus!” The thieves then confessed to committing Ibycus’ murder and were punished appropriately.
The meaning of Crane tattoos
If we have learned anything so far, it is that the cranes are phenomenal birds with powerful symbolism. Similarly, their tattoos could deliver powerful messages as well. Let’s explore what a crane tattoo could mean for the bearer:
1. In Christianity, the cranes are associated with purity and grace. This is because in the Bible, the snake is the devil incarnate, and since cranes hunt them, they are naturally displayed in a positive light. If you can relate to the attributes of grace, elegance, or piousness, these tattoos are perfect for you.
2. In other parts of Asia, cranes are symbolic of good fortune and longevity. Their tattoos can, thus, work as a good luck charm.
3. In some cultures, the cranes are said to live for a thousand years and are symbolic of eternal youth. For someone who believes in the idea of eternal youth, of the mind and soul if not of the body, they can get their tattoos.
4. The paper crane tattoos are very popular, especially in the Asian culture, where they’re associated with Sadako Sasaki’s story and are symbolic of the innocent victims of the war. The crane origami tattoo stands for the remembrance of their pain and the hope for their healing and happiness.
5. In the South African tribes, the cranes are associated with strength and courage. If you believe in the strength and courage of these birds and aspire to become like them, you might as well get them inked on your skin.
6. Because the cranes are believed to mate for life, they represent love and loyalty. The tattoo of a crane pair is common among lovers.
Just as the cranes are elegant without even trying, we must strive to practice being calm, composed, and patient in our lives as well. If we can adopt their gentle and unaggressive attitude, their focus on the task at hand, and their ability to balance things, we can achieve anything we put our minds to.
Most importantly, the spirit of the cranes can teach the value of family, the importance of blood ties, and the unconditional love and support it offers in our lives.