Doves have long been used as symbols of peace and love since the dawn of man. It’s for very good reason that Dove Symbolism carries such importance within religion, art, and culture today. Some associate it with an earnest desire to maintain a state of harmony and tolerance among their peers while others see it as a depiction of a soul longing to regain its lost sense of purity.
If dove symbolism resonates with you, it may be time to look deeper at your spirituality and find out which of these spiritual meanings of the dove symbol fits you best.
Doves are a symbol of peace, forgiveness, and harmony, as depicted in Christianity. These birds are known to have a pure and sacred spirit and teach us to inculcate these qualities within ourselves. Due to their representation in the ancient Greek and Roman mythologies and other cultures, they’re also symbolic of love and desire. Dreaming of these birds often has a positive interpretation, unless they’re injured or dead. People who have the dove spirit watching over them are kind, gentle, innocent, and peace-loving, just like their spirit guides.
In this article, we are going to learn in-depth about the spiritual meaning and symbolism of doves. We’ll also discuss their significance in different cultures and mythologies in the world and the interpretations of their dreams.
All of you must be familiar with the symbol of a dove holding an olive branch in its beak. Although the symbol has originated from Christianity (we will talk about the story behind it later in the article), it has been accepted globally as a symbol of peace. It is for this reason that doves are symbolic of peace.
These birds are also symbolic of innocence and purity, which can be attributed to their inherent nature and lifestyle. Although doves are omnivores, a majority of their diet consists of seeds and fruits; they’re rarely seen killing or eating other creatures. They lead a simple yet fulfilling lifestyle, never hurting or bullying other, smaller birds.
Lastly, but most importantly, the doves are symbolic of love, faith, and devotion. These birds mate for life, which is quite rare in the avian world. They’re deeply attached to their partners and do everything together, be it migrating or building nests. The love and devotion they share with each other sets an example for us all.
Mourning Dove symbolism
Also referred to as “rain dove” or “turtle dove”, the Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) are among the most widespread dove species in entire North America. Unlike the stark white plumage of most dove species, these birds have a muted, dull brown plumage with bold black spots scattered on their wings. The calls of these doves sound very mournful, which is how they’ve received their name.
The symbolism associated with the mourning doves is similar to that of their white-plumaged cousins; like all other doves, these birdies are also symbolic of love and peace. However, there’s more the symbolism of mourning doves than this.
Because of their name as well as their duller appearance, the mourning doves were believed to be symbolic of sorrow and suffering.
The people who are going through difficult times can identify with their sorrowful calls. But these birds also signify hope; their spirit delivers the message that there is hope even in the darkest of times. And as long as you hold on to hope, you’re capable of getting through the worst challenges that life throws at you.
Besides spiritualism, the mourning doves have also found representation in literature. Many established poets have talked about these birds in their works, such as Lorine Niedecker, Charles Wright, Jared Carter, and Robert Bly.
Moreover, Christine Quintasket, a Native American author renowned for her novel “Cogewea, the Halfblood”, published many of her works under the pseudonym of “Mourning Dove”.
Fun fact: Did you know that the Eastern Mourning Doves are the state bird of peace in Michigan? In addition to that, these birds are also the official symbol of peace in Wisconsin.
What does it mean to dream of Doves?
Since doves are the kind of birds you might often see in your neighborhood or on your way to work, it isn’t surprising to see them in your dreams either. But is dreaming of them simply a coincidence, or do these dreams have a deeper meaning, some kind of message for you? It depends on the specific details of your dove-related dream.
Dreaming of doves building a nest is the most common dove dream that most people have. If you’ve dreamt of it, too, we have good news for you. Such a dream usually signifies the loyalty and comfort you feel around the people in your life; your closest friends or loved ones.
Just like doves build their nest together, ready to share their home with their partners, you’re also fortunate to have people with whom you can share all your joys and sorrows.
If you have dreamt of a dove perched on your roof, it has a positive interpretation as well. The perched dove in your dream is indicative of unexpected good news for your family, often in financial matters.
A flying dove is symbolic of growth; so, if you dream of it, it could mean that your career is going to flourish in the near future. Maybe you’re up for a promotion at your workplace, or a new and exciting job opportunity might just be around the corner.
Flying doves are also a symbol of freedom, which means dreaming of them could also mean that it is time for you to become independent and self-reliant.
However, if the dove in your dream is flying away from you, it is not a good sign. Such a dream is usually indicative of a loss; this loss could either be financial or emotional. This applies to all kinds of dreams where the doves seem to be departing.
Dreaming of both an injured or a dead dove has a negative interpretation. While the former indicates the ill-health or death of a loved one, the latter represents your dying soul. Such a dream is a sign that you’re soon going to have a heart-breaking experience (a broken friendship or relationship). This experience will weigh heavy on your heart, dragging you down along with it until you make an effort to rise above it.
Did you see a walking dove in your sleep and are wondering what this unusual dream could mean? Such a peculiar dream indicates that something peculiar might happen to you in the waking world, something you weren’t expecting. Whether this surprise would be good or bad for you is yet to be known.
As we’ve already discussed earlier, not all dove species have a pure white plumage. Some dove species are also colored like pigeons in shades of grey. Did you dream of a grey dove? When they appear in your dreams, grey doves are often indicative of your own conflicted feelings. Such a dream could mean that you might soon find yourself at crossroads and would have difficulty in making a choice or a decision.
While black dove species are very rare in the world, their arrival in your dream world could only mean trouble. Dreaming of a black dove can mean that your future appears to be troublesome, and if you’re not careful and act unthinkingly, you might suffer terribly for it.
What do Doves symbolize in Christianity?
In the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark, the dove plays a crucial role. After the Great Flood, Noah wanted to find out if the water had receded and the lands were inhabitable again. In order to find that out, he sent a raven forth. But the raven simply kept flying back and forth until all the water had dried up, never returning.
Then, Noah sent a dove to see if there was any dry land. The first time, the dove returned empty-handed. However, after a week, when the dove was sent again, it returned with an olive branch in its beak, which indicated that God had forgiven man.
To Noah, this was the first sign of life on Earth. In this story, the raven symbolizes eternal struggle, while the dove, on the contrary, is the symbol of peace and fruition.
Significance of doves in different cultures
Now that we’ve learned all about the significance of doves in Christianity, let’s take a look at what these birds represent in the other cultures of the world:
In Aztec culture
The divine symbolism of the doves in the Aztec culture comes from their association with Xochiquetzal, the all-powerful goddess of beauty, love, desire, as well as household arts. In addition to all these contributions, the Aztecs also believe that the goddess gifted them the art of speech and language, which has given birth to humanity.
In the ancient Aztec texts, it is mentioned that when Xochiquetzal arrived on the Earth for the first time after the Great Flood, she had taken the form of a dove. This means that doves are symbolic of all the qualities of Xochiquetzal to the people who follow the Aztec culture.
In Celtic culture
The followers of the Celtic culture associate the doves with something pious and holy. To them, these birds are divine creatures that have the powers to heal and grow. The Celts are so influenced by the positive energy of doves that they call St. Columba, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, the “Church Dove”.
In Native American culture
Doves have a significant place in the Native American culture. Since doves (and pigeons) nurture their younger ones with their milk, unlike most birds, they are symbolic of fertility and regeneration to the Native Americans. Besides, doves and pigeons were also the first birds that were domesticated by the tribals, which is why they share a special bond with them.
Doves and pigeons also happen to have a much longer lifespan in captivity than most birds their size (about 17-18 years), which makes them symbolic of longevity.
Moreover, these birds are gentle, innocent, and harmless, never inflicting pain on other creatures. All these qualities make the doves so pure that they’re the first choice of Native Americans when it comes to sacrifice.
Representation of Doves in mythology
You might’ve noticed how, out of all the birds in the world, doves are chosen to symbolize love and romance. Well, it’s not a mere coincidence; the association of doves with love throughout different mythologies has played a key role in it.
In Greek mythology
In ancient Greek mythology, the role of Aphrodite is irreplaceable. She’s the goddess of love, pleasure, passion, and beauty. Known by different names such as “Cypris” and “Cytherea”, Aphrodite is a part of almost all the ancient Greek texts and folklore. While some claimed her to be the goddess of war, others worshipped her as the patron of prostitution.
Aphrodite is associated with many symbols; some of the major symbols are roses, myrtles, sparrows, swans, and doves.
Despite being one of the few birds that are symbolic of the goddess, doves had the most popular representation in Greek culture. In most of her descriptions, this little white bird is often shown flying around her or resting on her hands.
In fact, it is also believed that during Aphrodisia, an annual festival of the goddess, the dove’s blood was sacrificed to please her.
In Roman mythology
As you might already know, many of the ancient Greek and Romans gods had similar powers and characteristics, only different names.
Aphrodite is no different; in Roman mythology, the goddess of love, beauty, desire, fertility, and prosperity was named Venus. Venus is believed to be the ancestress of the Roman people because of her son, who was involved in the Trojan War and fled to Italy.
Just like Aphrodite, Venus, too, had doves fluttering around her, often acting as her messengers.
In Japanese mythology
In Japanese mythology, doves are associated with the spirit of Hachiman, a divine protector of Japan and a tutelary god of war and warriors.
In Hindu mythology, Kamadeva (also known as “Madana” and “Anatu”) is worshipped as the God of love and desire. And while some ancient texts describe Kamadeva to be riding on an airborne chariot driven by parrots, in other descriptions, it has been mentioned that doves are his ride. This could be another reason why doves are associated with love and desire.
Both doves and pigeons are held in high esteem in the Islamic culture because of the role they had played in helping Prophet Muhammad.
According to a story in the Quran, Muhammad was once being followed by his enemies and had to hide in the cave of Thaw’r to protect himself.
In order to distract Muhammad’s enemies from the cave, a couple of doves (or pigeons) built a nest and laid their eggs in it. The nest made the enemies think the cave was uninhabitable, and they moved on, and Muhammad’s life was saved.
What do Doves symbolize in Paganism?
Since doves have a special symbolism in all the myths and cultures we’ve talked about above, it is natural for them to find a representation in the Pagan culture.
In the Canaanite religion, the doves were symbolic of mother goddess Asherah, a deity who has been mentioned by different names in different ancient cultures, ranging from ancient Egyptian culture to Judaism.
Doves played a significant role in Mesopotamian culture as well. These birds were the animal symbol of the great goddess, Inanna-Ishtar, who is associated with love, sex, beauty, war, and justice.
The dove totem enters your life when you’re struggling and have lost touch with your inner peace. They come to remind you that while hard work and consistency are all great attributes if you’re pushing yourself far too much, you will achieve success at the price of your peace. And your inner peace is worth more than anything you will trade it for.
The dove totem asks you to be gentle with yourself first because you can only be kind and gentle to others when you treat yourself in that manner. With their deep spirituality, these totems teach you how to connect with your inner self to attain true peace.
Dove totems also come to you when you suffer for your innocence. They’re here to tell you that sufferings are only temporary, no matter how terrible they might seem now. Your innocence is your biggest strength, don’t mistake it for a weakness, for it is a true virtue that will guide you to the path of righteousness.
Dove spirit animal
If you’re someone who is gentle to a fault, you’re governed by the spirit of doves. The dove spirit stands for peace and harmony and would never think or do ill to others, and you’ve taken after them.
Although being kind and gentle in a world where these virtues are steadily disappearing is not easy, you make it happen somehow. You’re easy-going and social and can connect with others deeply in a seemingly short time. You’re also very close to your family and selective friends; they love you and look after you, which makes your life much easier.
The spirit of doves are also admirers of freedom, which is exactly what you’re looking for in life. Although you’re subtle about it, you care about your personal space a lot.
It might also be the reason why you’re cautious about committing to a romantic relationship; you’re all for adjustments but can’t stand to be suffocated by someone.
As a life partner, people who have a dove’s spirit are an ideal choice for anyone. These people are capable of infinite love but would always respect boundaries, both their own as well as yours. They believe that respect and love are equally necessary for any successful relationship and are not afraid to work on it.
Doves are one of the most peace-loving and gentle birds in the avian world. They’re true believers of community and are always seen flocking together. These birds are humble and innocent, which is why we enjoy being in their company as well.
When it comes to love, these birds go all out. They believe in the concept of soulmates and mate for life. Faith, devotion, and loyalty are engraved into their personality, making them all the more admirable to us. If you can relate to the free yet gentle spirit, you can call on them for guidance.