Dove Symbolism (Meanings & Interpretations)

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Dove are gentle birds, widespread across many countries, and are one of the first birds to be domesticated by man. It’s no wonder they have symbolic meaning across many cultures. In this article we’ll give you insight regarding dove symbolism, dream meanings, spiritual relevance and more.

What Does a Dove Symbolize?

There are many species of doves across the world, and they include all members of the pigeon family. Perhaps the most famous dove in terms of symbolic meaning is the white dove. However doves are often all lumped together due to their similar mannerisms and sounds, despite having a variety of plumage. 

Some of the most well-known symbolic meanings of doves are:

  • Love
  • Peace
  • Sadness
  • Grace
  • Hope
  • Repentance and Forgiveness
  • Good Fortune
  • Purity and Innocence
  • Returning Home

Peace

Doves are quite gentle birds, especially when compared with hawks, eagles or even blue jays. Rather than a harsh squak or screech, their soft sounds of cooing are quite soothing. They also have the ability to become quite comfortable around humans, and have been kept as domesticated birds for thousands of years. Due to this nature doves are often associated with the spirit of peace, gentleness and good fortune.

Love and Devotion

Doves are generally monogamous birds that mate for life. In addition, they actually appear to display affection by grooming each other, cooing to each other and giving “love nips”. Mom and dad dove are very devoted parents, both sharing in incubating and feeding duties. Because of this they are often associated with love, nurturing and family devotion. 

Purity

The color white has historically been viewed as a color of purity. Pure white doves don’t occur often in nature, and most seen today are created through breeding programs. So seeing a rare, purely white dove must have been quite a sight to early people’s and likely inspired the idea that seeing one held a special message of purity and innocence. 

White-winged dove | credit: Susan Young

Hope

The famous story of a dove returning to Noah with the olive branch, a sign of land after the great flood, has sparked a long association with hope. It gave Noah hope of finally finding land for himself and his animals, and hope of God’s forgiveness. Because of this story doves are often associated with hope, rebirth/renewal, repentance and forgiveness. 

Returning Home

Many types of doves have an amazing ability to find their way back home over long distances. You may have heard of them as “mail pigeons” or “homing pigeons”. These birds are able to locate and return to their nests even if displaced over hundreds of miles. Domesticated varieties were once used to send messages between cities. In this way doves can symbolize the ability to navigate difficult situations, and finding your way in life even if you feel lost. No matter how far you have strayed, you can always find your way back home.

What Do Dreams About Doves Symbolize?

There are several ways to interpret your dreams about doves. These include giving purpose, healing relationships, and bringing transition and change. Let’s look at some common dove representations in dreams.

Messages From Loved Ones: if you’ve recently lost a loved one, a dream of a dove can mean they are reaching out to you to let you know they are now at peace.

Dove Following You: if the dove is following you, the interpretation is that you’re still in the process of searching for purpose in your life. If you’re pursuing some great objectives and need a sign that you’re on the right path, such a dream should bring the necessary assurance.

Dreaming of a Pair of Doves: the appearance of two doves in the subconscious means self-acceptance and healing. It signals time to cut off any toxic bonds and heal your relationships with friends and family as well as with your lover.

Dove Cooing: The sweet and gentle cooing of a dove in dreams symbolizes an inner voice. Stop silencing that inner reasoning and let it come out. 

Flying doves: freedom, peace and tranquility. The period of life you are entering will be relatively stress free. A group flying together may also symbolize success in your romantic relationship. 

Doves flying out of a building: a time of conflict at work or home will soon arise, but a peaceful compromise will be reached. 

Doves sitting on a wire: this can symbolize communication and that there is someone in your life you need to communicate more with. This could be the need to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Reconnect. 

Dove searching: if the dove in your dream appears to be searching, either for food or other doves, it may indicate that deep down you are searching for love.

Fighting Doves: you are feeling an internal conflict, perhaps a disagreement with your significant other or coworker. Spend some time meditating on a resolution and you will discover a peaceful outcome. 

Dove building a nest: this is an omen of a peaceful and harmonious home life

Symbolism in Visits or Encounters with Doves

Some people believe that seeing a dove in the wild holds a special meaning. While doves are fairly common birds and seeing one wouldn’t necessarily be a rare event, sometimes they seem to appear at a significant moment when something important is on your mind or happening in your life. 

If you’ve been feeling anxious, doves can show up to remind you of peace and tranquility. Bring more mindfulness to your life and reconnect with your spiritual side to help combat excess worry. 

Doves are also sometimes seen as a reminder of love and support from your spirit guides or God during times of grief or trauma. The dove brings a message that you are surrounded with love and the sadness you are experiencing with soon pass. 

 In different parts of the world, you can find doves of various colors. Throughout history different meanings have been associated with each color as follows:

White Dove Meaning

A pure white dove, also known as the albino dove, occurs rarely in nature due to mutations. Most of the white doves seen today that are released during events such as weddings are specially bred by humans to produce this color. So encountering a purely white dove in the wild is rather rare, which is perhaps why they are seen as such special birds. 

Encountering one means you need protection and solace. It also means that you should be more compassionate to yourself and others. White doves are a common symbol of peace, purity, divinity, and love.

An encounter with a white pigeon means you have a high potential to act, a strict moral code and that your emotions are finely tuned. A white dove reflects inner beauty, peace, love, purity, and serenity.

Black Dove Meaning

Also called the black cuckoo-dove, a black dove will often appear when you are trying your best to make headway despite challenges. If you are in a difficult situation, start making major preparations because some big change is coming your way.

Gray Dove Meaning

Gray doves are directly associated with change. Encountering one means you are past the transition period and well into a phase of renewal. A psychic awakening is coming, so better be ready.

Brown Dove Meaning

Also known as the mourning dove, a brown dove is a sign of family change, motherhood, and fertility, and encountering one means that a life-altering event is about to happen to your family members. If something doesn’t happen in your life, it will happen to someone related by blood.

Red Dove Meaning

Contrary to popular belief, a red dove means something positive. Encountering a red turtle dove means that your life is currently stable or stability is about to set in.

Blue Dove Meaning

If you meet a blue dove, know that you have finally found anchorage and balance in your life at long last. The blue ground doves represent creativity, communication, and intuition which means you can sense some things and develop innovative ideas.

Emerald dove | image by Jason Thompson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Superstitions about Doves

  • The dove is believed to be a sign of long life in China. People in the Han dynasty would greet and gift older people with scepters adorned with doves which meant that the senior citizens would digest their meals as efficiently as pigeons could digest pure grain.
  • In medial Europe, a dove’s first call of the year would indicate how the year was going to go. If the sound came from above, the year bring good luck and prosperity, but if the call came from the ground, it mean bad luck and a year with many challenges. 
  • Releasing doves at weddings is seen as a good omen for the marriage

Spiritual Meaning of Doves

If you ascribe to Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, you may be familiar with dove symbolism in your religion. A dove represents the Holy Ghost and peace in Christianity and the Bible, protection in Islam, and compassion in Judaism. Here are more details;

Spiritual Meaning of Doves in Christianity and the Bible

Doves symbolize peace and hope in Christianity. From the story of Noah’s Ark, they signal a period of forgiveness and rebirth. Noah first sent a dove to scout for signs of life during the flood, but the bird couldn’t find somewhere to land and returned. He sent it a second time, and it returned carrying an olive branch which was a sign that the water had started to recede.

Augustine of Hippo, when writing On Christian Doctrine in the fifth century, said that an olive branch indicates peace because the dove came with one after Noah sent the dove to scout for dry land. A dove with an olive branch endures as a symbol of peace even today.

The dove in the Bible also appears in connection with the Holy Spirit, as seen in the baptism of Jesus. Matthew 3:16-17 says,” And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”

This is echoed in Luke 3:22, where the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, confirming that indeed Jesus was the beloved son of God.

Aside from representing peace and the Spirit, doves are mentioned poetically in many bible verses. They often portray purity and innocence. Doves also represent weakness, in that they are small, delicate and fairly helpless against predators. In this way they are used to represent man, who is weak without the salvation and protection of God. 

Meaning of Doves in Islam

The dove is sometimes considered a favored bird in Islam, representing divine protection. The final prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was aided by doves while hiding from his enemies. When seeking refuge in a cave, a pair of doves immediately built a nest and laid eggs near the entrance. Upon seeing this, his enemies believed that no one could be hiding in the cave, or else the doves would have been disturbed and not nested there. 

Meaning of Doves in Judaism

The Talmud compares the Spirit of God with a female dove hovering over her chicks, tending to them in gentleness and compassion. Find the references in Song of Songs Rabbah 2:14, Isa 29:4, and Zohar II: 8a–9a.

Post-biblical Judaism represents the spirit of the dead using doves (Bahir 119). The concept is drawn from the Biblical quotation in Isa.29:4 that spirits of the dead “chirp.” It also represents peace among the people of Israel as repeatedly written in Midrash and Song of Songs Rabbah 2:14

Hand-feeding pigeons

Doves as Spirit Animals & Totems

This is what it means to a dove as your totem, spirit, or power animal;

Dove Spirit Animal

Having a dove as a spirit animal means different things. First, it tells you to show kindness and help others in any way you can. The dove spirit animal gives you a peek into the future, indicating that you will go through deep spiritual renewal.

If you see a dove as your spirit animal, it is time to take care of yourself, focus on self, stay home and draw pleasure from your domestic side. Do you feel distraught, anxious, worried, or troubled? Call on the dove spirit animal for relief. This spirit animal should also help if you’re anxious about your spouse’s love for you.

People who have dove spirit animals tend to be calm, beautiful, and always focus on the positive side. They are trustworthy people, reliable in relationships, have trusted partners to whom they are bound for life. Despite being male or female, they have strong maternal instincts and love pursuing domestic goals at home.

Dove Power Animal

The dove power animal is good to seek out when you need help brining the spirit of peace and love to a tough situation. The dove power animal can aid in your communication with others, defusing anger and promoting understanding rather than wounding. 

Doves are also associated with home and family, and are good to call upon when building your own home and having children. The dove power animal can aid in fertility and nurturing while promoting positive energy, love, comfort and support. 

Dove Totem Animal

People born under the dove totem are highly compassionate. You seek serenity in your environment and are known to be a nurturer to others. The phrase ” a lover, not a fighter” often applies to the dove totem. Just be sure that your deep love and caring does not allow others to manipulate you and take advantage of your good nature. 

Native American Dove Symbolism

The dove is a representation of a meeting point between spiritual worlds and the earth realm. By extension, the cooing of a dove is a message with different meanings among the native American tribes. It is a signal for one to let go of the past, which may be holding them down, and allow the peace of the dove to settle in their hearts to move forward.

In the Blackfoot tribe, war leaders would often carry dove feathers as talismans to help them bring their warriors back home safely. Thus they viewed doves as symbols of protection and safety. 

Aztecs and Mexican Indian tribes often saw the dove as a symbol of love, and they were depicted on wedding ornaments. 

Doves in Ancient Mythology

Ancient Greeks placed doves on a high pedestal to symbolize love, immortality, and rebirth. More importantly, doves would bring food and drink to the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. Images of the Greek goddess Aphrodite often have doves surrounding her.

In ancient Mesopotamia one of the most important goddesses Inanna / Ishtar, goddess of sexual love and warfare, was often associated with doves. Her temples depict lead dove figurines. More interestingly, it was believed that the dove was a physical incarnation of the goddess of love, with an image on one temple depicting a dove coming from a palm tree.

The bird is also associated with goddess Aphrodite who represents love and beauty. Venus and Fortuna, Roman goddesses of love and luck, also have dove representations.

Dove Tattoo Symbolism

While each person has their own reasons for choosing a cardinal for a tattoo, some of the most common meanings are:

  • Peace
  • Love
  • A pair of doves often symbolizes romantic partnership, devotion and faithfulness
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Gods love
  • Innocence and Purity
  • A symbol of a cherished loved one who has passed away
  • Victory and Success
  • Commitment to Family 
  • Rebirth and Renewal

Are Doves Good Luck?

Pigeons or doves are generally considered as signs of good luck or good omens. Because they are monogamous, encountering one means some good will happen to your love life. They represent or indicate luck in love.

A dove is a bearer of good news in romantic partnerships. For example, the bird signals new romantic escapades or the start of new relationships.

Conclusion

A dove symbolizes many positive things in life. It is a sign of peace, tranquility, new beginnings, and forgiveness. Additionally, the dove represents purity and serves different purposes of serenity, nurturing, family devotion and peace-making in mythology, totems, and spirit animals. Generally, a dove signifies divinity, love, and peace. Because of these qualities, doves tend to have very positive symbolism and omens associated with them, and always bring good fortune. 

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About Mary Richardson

Mary is an outdoor enthusiast, nature lover, and amateur birdwatcher that enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with others.