Stereotypically, the dove is portrayed as white and gentle, sweet and loving. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Christian iconography. Some iconographers show Mary being blessed by a dove at the moment of Annunciation, and Jesus was blessed by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove at his baptism. The dove is said to be so pure that it is the one form into which Satan cannot transform himself. Doves and pigeons were the only birds suitable for sacrifice by the Hebrews, as stated in Leviticus 1:14.
The dove appears as a symbol of purity on the Holy Grail in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. In Muslim lore, a dove murmured the words of God into the ear of Muhammad. Today the dove is a symbol of peace, often portrayed with an olive branch in its mouth. This iconography is taken from the story of Noah releasing the bird to bring back proof that there was land again somewhere and that the floodwaters were receding.
The dove is also seen as representing love; it was a symbol of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and of Venus, her Roman counterpart. Lovers are said to “bill and coo” like doves. The dove is a monogamous bird, which may be the source of its connection with romantic and eternal love. In Slavic folklore, doves were believed to conduct the souls of the dead to heaven. For the Celts, the mournful call of a dove meant the peaceful passing of someone.
Omens and divinatory meaning: Doves call you to regain your serenity. Do you feel off balance, or out of step with the world? Are you harried or frazzled? The dove reminds you to take a deep breath and release all your tension and stress.
The dove also urges you to look at your relationships with your partner(s), romantic, work related, or otherwise. Are you in harmony with them? Is there friction? Reach out and smooth over any rough spots. Seeing a dove may be an omen of a new relationship, or a shift in an existing one.
Doves are also associated with purity and innocence. Do you feel as if life has jaded you? Try to recapture a sense of innocence, of wonder and love for the world around you.
Operating constantly with a cynical worldview is exhausting. In a situation that is frustrating or upsetting to you, a dove may be encouraging you to wipe the slate clean and start again. As a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the dove is associated with the mystical fifth element of spirit. Let your sighting of a dove remind you to reconnect with the spiritual aspect of your life; accept it as a blessing.
Excerpted from Birds: Explore the Symbology and Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers (Adams Media, a division of F+W Media, Inc.; January 2012), by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
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