Dove symbolism has seemingly inexhaustible sources of flavor and dynamism throughout most histories, cultures and myth.
Did you know doves produce their own milk? Yep, it's called "crop milk" or "pigeons milk." It's an oddity in nature for birds to produce their own milk to feed their young. From this unique ability, we can glean symbolism of nurturing. In fact, doves are commonly considered a symbol of motherhood.
Doves often cease their foraging for food just before their babies are born. This temporary starvation insures a pure formulation of milk (otherwise their offspring could not digest bits of solid food in the milk). That's another confirmation about maternal attributes as well as self-sacrifice for the sake of their progeny. Check out my page on mother-bird symbolism for more info.
The dove is even associated with several mother figures in historical dove symbolism. Take the Mother Mary in Christian legend. The dove is commonly seen in Christian art with Mary as a symbol of care, devotion, purity and peace. The dove is a companion of Ishtar too, the Great Mother of Assyrian culture. In this motherly light, the dove elicits a promise of hope and salvation.
A quick keyword run-down of dove symbolism...
Aphrodite (Venus in Roman myth), the voluptuous goddess-mother of love, is often featured with a dove nearby in artistic portrait. Here we get the sense of higher love; a love that is as large as the goddess herself. A kind of love that turns a blind eye to the typical foibles and downfalls of mankind - and sees right into the heart of pure potential that is revealed only by viewing the soul through the lenses of love. As a love symbol, the dove conveys a kind of soulful ascension - a higher admiration for the true value of unconditional love.
Perhaps it's her softly lulling coos that won the dove's position so close to Ishtar's, Mother Marys and Aphrodite's heart. Open your psychic ears at dawn and dusk and become enchanted by their rippling vocalizations. One can't help but become subdued by their gentle love-calls. Sweet churbles and downy wurbles are testimony to a divinely calming presence among us.
And speaking of divine presences, the dove symbolism is often equated to heavenly visitations. John the Baptist even remarked (Matthew 3:16) how the "Spirit of God descended like a dove upon us." Methinks this is more than poetic license. Why? Because, almost unanimously birds (of all kinds) have been viewed as celestial messengers. Doves in particular - with their docile appearance and soft ministrations - can easily be angelic doppelgangers: Angels in the guise of avian benefactors. Hey, anything is possible.
Coming down (just a notch) off of that high-spirited comparison, doves in actuality are kind of fussy. Observe them in groups, and you'll note they can be twitchy and nervous-nellies. I like to think of this as a sign of their highly developed sense of presence. They are intimately aware of their environment (having been hunted for centuries for their tasty breast meat - who can blame their skittishness?).
This kind of high sense of awareness reminds me of Hachiman, a Japanese god of war who claims the dove as a sacred symbol. Amidst clamor, battle and jarring conflict, the dove of Hachiman is a symbol of the peace that will (ideally) ensue after war has ended.
The war-association with dove symbolism inevitably leads us to the concept of death. Well, not death per se - more appropriately, the dove is a symbol of the souls sojourn after physical life has retired. Slavic legend claims the dove is a symbol of the souls release from earth-bound duty. In fact, when a dove is seen, it is a clear sign of the soul's return to celestial realms. Furthermore, the dove's most popular appearance in spiritual consciousness is that of the Holy Spirit in Christian wisdom.
There's tons more information about the symbolism of the dove, and I dig a little deeper into it on my blog page here: Dove Symbolism where I discuss her importance in Native American myth and Celtic views about the dove too.
Don't miss this article on Dove Tattoo Meanings.I hope you have enjoyed this page on dove symbolism and meanings. Check out the links at the end of this page for related topics. Thanks for reading, and dove-blessings!
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!