Celtic Animal Symbolism According to the Celtic Ogham
This page on Celtic Animal Symbols is based on the Ogham system of symbolic language.
I love looking to the Druidic Ogham for inspiration and symbolic meaning because it's implications are vast.
The Ogham is rooted in the symbolic wisdom of trees. If you've ever taken a walk in the woods, and been in total rapture by the pervasive power of trees, then you've held energetic hands with Druid-kind. You've tapped into the same profound esoteric wisdom our Celtic kin utilized for astounding insight.
The ancient Celts struck symbolic gold when they mined nature's energetic matrix for divinatory wisdom. There is nothing that is beyond the reach of trees. Nothing. All of life is touched by tree- branch-hands, or tree-root-feet. Druids knew this intimately. They could feel waves of life radiating from trees, and understood their connection was infinite.
Celtic animal symbols are an easy extension of that connection. The animals symbols below are closely affiliated with each tree featured in the Celtic Ogham.
Associations are derived from Celtic myth, lore and ritual but mostly I chose these animals because they made sense from a naturalist point of view.
What do I mean by that? Our forefathers and mothers observed life and its grandiose, theatrical performances with spiritual eyes. They recognized certain animals favored certain trees. Whether these animals preferred the scent, fruit, shade, or shelter - there is no denying animals have preferences just as humans do.
And so, these preferences are how Celtic animal symbols and their Ogham associations are determined.
Bear in mind, each tree will have more than just one animal associated with it.
Eagle (Ogham = The Birch Tree)
Eagles as Celtic animal symbols cry out to us for social connections, and strengthening our community. This takes a highly developed spirit, and so the Eagle is also a Celtic symbol of maturity and growth. Eagles are also quite fearless, and so when this regal birds flies into your skies, it may be time to make a bold move.
Quail (Ogham = The Rowan)
Quails have an intricate system of communication, and much of is revolves around avoiding danger. Quails have an uncanny sense of their surroundings, and are masters at eluding predators. They stay grounded, preferring the comfort of tall grasses over open skies. This reminds us to keep ourselves protected. When Quail comes to call, be smart, communicate your hesitation clearly and be mindful to stay out of harm's way.
Fox (Ogham = The Alder Tree)
The ancient Celts observed every nuance of their animals for meaning. The fire-red fur of the fox symbolized passion, play and action. When the fox comes darting into your view, it's time to act on your passions. If you've ever watched a fox run, they're bodies move like a pointed arrow. We can translate this in our own lives by driving toward the goals that ignite our passion with laser-like aim. Fox asks us to hit the target of your dreams!
Deer (Ogham = The Willow Tree)
Be kind, be aware, and be tender with yourself and others. Deer as Celtic animal symbols walk gingerly and gracefully into our consciousness to bestow a quality of gentle reassurance. The deer, particularly does are reminders of spiritual evolution, and the patience required to allow our spiritual unfolding (at our own pace). If you've ever encountered the deer, you know they'll wait for an eternity until they are quite sure it's safe to make the next move. The deer asks you to do this same in your spiritual walk.
Butterfly (Ogham = The Ash Tree)
Much, like the deer, butterfly Celtic animal symbols beckon us to take life at the pace most suitable for our growth. The butterfly does not unfurl from her cocoon in response to an alarm clock - she emerges in her refinery at the perfect hour, fully developed and ready to receive the waiting winds for her first flight. Recall this kind of imagery if you are being pressured. Remember your inner evolution is like the path of the butterfly. Call upon her elegant rhythm and pure intuition. Further, when the butterfly comes to you, thank her for her natural poise and recognize the strength in her delicate ways.
Owl (Ogham = The Hawthorn)
When the owl screeches out to your consciousness, it's a safe bet. Owls have enchanted both ancient Celts and modern humankind alike. I often wonder if myth delegated the watchful owl to the realm of underworlds because the owl is so mysterious and cannot be defined - just like the underworld. Admittedly, the owl has some unusual mannerisms and behaviors. But, to be sure, she is a magnificent creature with vast attributes for our consideration. To wit, consider her hunting ability. Owls know how to get what they want (and often do so using curious methods). When the owl brushes your thoughts, begin to consider ways to get what you want, but not by using linear methods. Claw out of the usual, and fly into more unusual methods to accomplish your goals.
Horse (Ogham = The Oak Tree)
Among one of the most honored Celtic animal symbols, the horse is a vehicle for some amazing transcendental experiences. Hop on the back of a horse, and take a free ride into the groves of your mind. With the horse as your guide, you will encounter themes of stability, honor, trust, intelligence and strength. Utilize the powerful energy of the horse to invoke courage in situations that otherwise leave you a little shaky. The horse is noble blood to the Celtic mind, unquestioning in its authority. Take on that same persona when you need to charge into a situation with confidence.
Badger (Ogham = Holly)
The badger does a lot of digging, and in esoteric symbolism this links the animal to the earth - a very grounded, nurturing, foundational energy. Furthermore, the burrowing badger is a symbol of magic, because this act is symbolic of returning to the Source. Burrowing into the earth is also akin to returning to the womb in metaphorical symbolism. This connects with the Holly because it is a hearty plant in one of the most brutal seasons - Winter. Holly is the winter king to the Celts, and the badger is equally regal in fierce will to survive (even under the most brutal circumstances). Holly and badger are symbols for survivors and strong will.
Salmon (Ogham = Hazel)
I know, it's odd to have a fish among the Celtic animal symbols associated with the trees of the Ogham, but the salmon wins its place on this list because of its mystical powers, which it shares with the hazel tree. In the legends of Fionn, the salmon lives in a fathomless well of wisdom where it swirls up ripples of knowledge from which the righteous may drink. There are hazel trees surrounding that well, and the savvy salmon would eat the hazel nuts that dropped into the well. So what does that mean to you? Dive deep within your own inner well and swirl around in the inherent depth of wisdom that is at your core. Furthermore, the salmon asks you to eat of the fruit of fine wisdom. Let your mind only consume that which augers well-being, and discount all the rest (like nay saying, negativity, etc).
Wren (Ogham = The Apple Tree)
Homemakers are particularly honored with these Celtic animal symbols because the wren is a harbinger of a happy home. When the wren comes gaily into our experience, it's time to focus on hearth, home and families. Make a joyful noise with your kinsmen and women, and ease their burdens by helping out around the house. Contribute to the common good, and be part of solutions (not problems). Wrens also ask us to turn the other cheek. If someone incites your ire, turn the tables on them and be kind. This reverse-psychology tactic will totally throw your foe off-course. And, in so doing will make your heart just as the wren prefers it- light and happy.
Swan (Ogham = The Vine)
One look at these Celtic animal symbols gives a full visual explanation of swan symbolism. Each movement of the swan is delicately choreographed, as if she is always being filmed before an admiring audience. And so, when the swan comes into your life's production, it's time to do the same. Make a fuss over your appearance, take time for self-grooming, and behave in a manner that shows how classy you are. Flaunt your feathers a little, make a conscious effort to exude beauty, grace and style. Be sure to keep it honest, clean and pure (the white swan asks us to be honest in our intent for beauty).
Swallow (Ogham = The Ivy)
Swallows speak to us about partnership. Swallow pair monogamously (having only one partner). And so when the swallow wings its way into our thoughts it's time to focus on our relationships. Swallows ask us what we have we done for our partner lately. Pay a compliment, run an errand (out of kindness, not obligation) or offer assistance without being told. As Celtic animal symbols, the swallow also bends common gender roles. The males are the one to start the nest and they sing lovely songs to woo their mate into their freshly made roost. We can take the same cue from the swallow by going outside of our conditioned gender roles.
Goose (Ogham = The Reed)
For sure, home is where the heart is, but sometimes the act of going back to our psychological/energetic birthplaces offers tremendous healing and insight. Geese, as Celtic animal symbols, remind us we can navigate back to our origins with the purpose of renewal. With healing and love as our "true north" we move with the heart's compass. This is the message of the goose. The goose also encourages us to be at home within ourselves, and make friends with all the various houseguests we may have (i.e., bad habits, self-defeating thoughts, etc). This may sound counterproductive, but it's not. The goose knows that healing begins with acceptance first.
Bee (Ogham = Blackthorn)
There's a reason bees are classified as busy, because they are! These creatures are tireless in their productivity. More importantly, it's their drive to contribute to the common good of the community that is noteworthy. Everyone does their part to see to the wellbeing of the commonwealth. Bees know that when one fails, the hive fails. That's why bees are fantastic Celtic animal symbols of industry, humanitarianism ( er, bee-itarianism, rather) and compassion. Bees have an innate and intricate sense of fellowship. I think bees are some of the most powerful symbols for psychic perception available to us in the animal world. See if you can be like the bee, and "sense" the need of your fellow man and provide - all without speaking a word. Learn more about symbolic bee meaning here.
Crow (Ogham = The Elder Tree)
I love crows and ravens for their attitude. They do what they want, when they want and they'll tell you to "stow it" if you don't like it. You've got to admire that kind of gumption. As Celtic animal symbols, the crow stands for individuality with blazon disregard to what others think. Further, the crow is deeply honored by the Celts as an augury oracle. Crows carry big secrets stuffed betwixt their black feathers. Celts knew this, and were wise to let them have their way (indeed, killing a crow was a felony under Druidic rule). What kind of secret powers do you have? And, are you too concerned about what everybody else thinks to even entertain the idea of exploring your powers? If you get flak from others about your uniqueness, make like a crow, and tell them to stow it.
Sparrow (Ogham = Fir Tree)
On the other end of the attitude spectrum from the crow, the sparrow encourages us to be more polite in our dealings. Sparrows as Celtic animal symbols are representatives of simplicity, honesty and diligence. Like the wren, she is a bright omen to the home, and promises cheer and harmony within the family. Sparrows recognize safety in numbers, and when she flies into your sight, she may tell you to reconnect with friends and family. She may also prompt you to seek additional support in your projects. When the sparrow flies to me, I'm always reminded of my carbon footprints. Sparrows require so little, and leave nothing to waste. They ask me to do the same and limit needless consumption with a mindfulness to care for mother nature.
Rabbit (Ogham = Gorse)
As Celtic Animal Symbols, rabbits are connected with the moon and so they run full circle with her cycles. They also share connections of femininity and fertility - which are also lunar-based attributes. When the hare hops into your awareness, it's time to set your mind of matters of reproduction. Hang on gentlemen, it doesn't have to be thoughts of physical birth. The rabbit talks to us about conception, conceiving new ideas and holding them in our fertile minds and hearts until they are ready to give birth in their own perfect timing (just as the moon would have it). And rabbits produce new life in such a humble way. There is no drama, rather there is a quaint, simple, calming way the rabbit goes about offering her new offspring. We can offer our new life (in all its hues) with trust, faith and assurance too. Get tons more symbolic rabbit meanings here.
Pheasant (Ogham = Heather)
If pheasants were jewels, they would be the rubies, sapphires and emeralds of the grasslands. Just close your eyes and envision these birds brilliantly bounding through brown grasses, what a sight! Pheasants are all about glam and a showy display of Technicolor brilliance. As Celtic animal symbols, the pheasant speaks to us of wooing our mates by playing up to our redeeming qualities. When the pheasant flashes himself to you, it's time to play to your own strengths. It also means that romance is in the air!
Dove (Ogham = Aspen Tree)
Soft-soul'ed and supple-hearted, the dove coos to the softest sides of our awareness. When she comes to pay us a visit, it's time for us to settle into the soft down of her energy and take refuge in her feathery wings of comfort. Doves often come after a time of suffering because she recognizes our need for sanctuary. The Celts recognized the tenderness of the dove, and so can we. Look to the dove for healing, grace, kindness and peace. She carries all of these attributes and promises safekeeping form the storms of life.
You can use these Celtic Animal Symbols as a neat augury. Make some oracle cards depicting each animal, or create your own stones (like runes). You can paint Ogham marks (to delineate each animal) on your stones, or paint pictures of the animals. Shake your stones, toss them out, and let the messages fly. You can always refer back here to these Celtic animal symbol meanings for additional messages.
I did this for a creative/meditation workshop I held last year. We made Celtic animal runes, and had a high time receiving messages from the Celtic animals that chose to surface in our runes. Not to mention, making our Celtic animal oracle was uber-fun. Try it for yourself! It's a great project for kids too!I hope you have enjoyed this page on Celtic animal symbols. You may also want to check out my page on Celtic Animal symbols of the lunar zodiac here.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!