In most traditions, birds have a predominantly positive connotation. Said St. Hildegard of Bingen in her Liber de Subtilitatum, "Birds symbolize the power that helps people to speak reflectively and leads them to think out many things in advance before they take action. Just as birds are lifted up into the air by their FEATHERS and can remain wherever they wish, the soul in the body is elevated by thought and spreads its wings everywhere." They represent the human desire to escape gravity, to reach the level of the angel. The bird is often the disembodied human soul, free of its physical constrictions. In Egypt, birds with human heads are dominant characters and they are seen leaving the mouths of the dying.

In FAIRY TALES, those who understand the language of the bird are often able to attain special knowledge, and people are often transformed into birds. They are thought and imagination, transcendence and divinity, freedom from materialism. May also stand for the metamorphosis of a lover. When connected with the TREE, shares something of the Phoenix: the male tree, in which the burning female nests. Natural enemies with the SERPENT and the tortoise (haste versus slowness). Flocks of birds may be negative.

(Related entry: ANIMALS, BUZZARD).

Up one level
Back to document index