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What is the spiritual meaning of a dove?

Why a Dove?

There doesn’t seem to be a generally accepted explanation for the use of the dove as representing the Holy Spirit. We are dealing with a question of interpreting a symbol that is not common in the Bible.

In the ancient Near East, doves sometimes represented pagan goddesses. In Egypt the “soul” of the deceased took the form of a bird, usually a dove, as it departed to the heavens. This symbolism is totally foreign to the Old Testament; doves are never a symbol of God.

However, an examination of the symbolic usages of the dove in the Old Testament could be of help in understanding its symbolic function at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16).

1. Symbol of Mourning: The low and soft cooing of the dove gave the impression to the hearers that it was lamenting or mourning, and it became a symbol for that human experience. During Hezekiah’s illness he said, “I moaned like a mourning dove” (Isa. 38:14).* Those who survive the attack of Babylon “will be . . . moaning like doves of the valleys” (Eze. 7:16). The prophet writes, “We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves” (Isa. 59:11).

2. Symbol of Vacillation: The dove flies to and fro, giving the impression that it is disoriented or vacillating with respect to its destiny. This characteristic of the bird became a fitting symbol for the indecisiveness of Israel, its lack of commitment to the Lord: “Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless—now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria” (Hosea 7:11).

3. Symbol of Love: The dove’s beauty and its traditional faithfulness to its mate were taken by the ancients to be a symbol of human love and beauty. This is particularly the case in the Song of Songs: “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice” (2:14); “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove” (5:2; cf. 1:15; 4:1). Christ commanded the disciples to express in their lives the love and gentleness of the dove (Matt. 10:16).

4. Symbol of Deliverance: The rapid flight of the dove became a symbol of deliverance from one’s enemies or from threatening circumstances. The psalmist writes: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (55:6). The Israelites returning from the Exile are described as those “that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests” (Isa. 60:8; cf. Hosea 11:11). Probably the most important symbol of deliverance was the dove sent by Noah from the ark that came back with an olive branch in its beak (Gen. 8:10-12). It was a sign of peace; the storm was over.

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Which of those meanings is expressed through the symbolic use of the dove at the baptism of Jesus? We can easily eliminate the first two because they express the negative side of the symbol. It is also clear that according to Matthew 3:16 the dove is a visible expression of the anointing presence of the Spirit.

But why the dove? The words spoken by God at that moment help us to understand the symbolism. He said, “This is my Son, whom I love” (verse 17). The symbol of love, the dove, and the word of love merged in the experience of the baptism of Jesus. God’s love was flowing down to His Son as a member of the human race. In Christ a channel was found through which God’s love could reach us; He was anointed to function as the only means through which God’s grace is available to us.

One could also argue that the dove is, in this particular case, a symbol of deliverance. The dove as a symbol of the love of God appeared, telling us that, as with the Flood, the storm of sin is not powerful enough to keep us permanently separated from the Father. Our planet is now connected with heaven through Christ. In accepting His Son, God signifies to us that we are also accepted in the Beloved through faith in the provision He made on our behalf.

*Scripture references are from the New International Version.

Mourning Dove Meaning and Symbolism

mourning dove meaning

mourning dove meaning

Because a pair of doves will mate for life, they are often a symbol of love, loyalty, fertility, and devotion. Adopted as the symbol for the First International Peace Conference in Paris (1949), doves are most often seen as a symbol of hope, love, and peace. All doves make a cooing sound many people associate with sadness and loss, where the mourning dove gets its name. It is sometimes called the morning dove or turtle dove. Despite the sometimes sad symbolism associated with doves, around the world, many people see all doves as a harbinger of love, light, and hope. Let’s look at a few of the most common beliefs about these beautiful birds.

What is the difference between a mourning dove and a white dove?

mourning doves sitting together

So much of the artwork depicting doves shows a white dove with no markings, sometimes carrying an olive branch in its beak. While the mourning dove is often a symbol of sorrow and mourning, symbolically, the mourning dove and white dove are interchangeable. The all-white dove is sometimes referred to as the Sacred White Dove or the White Dove. A white mutation of the ringneck dove, white feathered doves, only exists as a domesticated bird. If you happen to see a dove with all white feathers in North America, it is likely an escaped pet. Some keepers will allow their domesticated white doves to fly freely during the day. In this case, the bird will be banded to identify who they belong to. Despite not being as instantly recognizable as the all-white mutation favored by artists, the grey mourning dove is still regarded as a spiritual symbol of peace, love, and faith the world over.

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Is a mourning dove a good omen?

a single mourning dove

In many cultural and spiritual beliefs, the dove is not exclusively a good or bad omen. When the mourning dove arrives and who sees it affects the message they bring more than anything. In medieval Europe, the first dove call of the year was said to indicate good luck or bad luck. A dove cooing from high above signified prosperity and good luck. If the call came from beneath or below, bad luck and despair were believed to be imminent. The symbolic meaning depends on the emotional state of the person the dove visits. For someone who is happy in their daily life and following their dreams, a mourning dove is said to be a sign from above that everything is on the right path. When a person has experienced a recent loss or is grieving, a dove brings comfort and spiritual connection.

What does a mourning dove mean in Christianity?

In Christianity, the dove is primarily a symbol of peace. The mourning dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit and a connection between God and His followers. It is believed a dove appeared at Noah’s ark with an olive branch to let Noah know the flood was over. Mourning doves are believed to comfort families grieving lost loved ones. On their wings, they bring the peace and love of the Holy Spirit to all they visit. The dove is also referenced in the Bible several times. When Jesus was baptized, it is said the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus “like a dove.” Different denominations of Christians hold varied opinions on whether the dove in this instance was literal or figurative, but all agree doves have deep spiritual meaning for Christians.

What does a mourning dove mean in Native American Culture?

While Native American Cultural beliefs vary from tribe to tribe, the mourning dove is a common spirit animal among North American tribes. Mourning and white doves symbolize power, wisdom, strength, honor, and freedom. Doves are believed to be connected to the Creator, who sends the gray and white feathers from the sky as gifts. The feather’s owner is said to share a deep connection with the Creator and the dove’s spirit. Several tribes, including the Blackfoot peoples, associate all doves with protection and safe return from hunting and battle. Tribe leaders often carried dove feathers as talismans to help bring their people back to safety. While the exact meaning varies between tribes, it’s clear that doves and their feathers are deeply revered and hold special significance to many Native Americans. The mourning dove is so revered among Native American peoples Christine Quintasket chose the name Mourning Dove as her penname. Her books filled with tribal legends and stories were instrumental in preserving some of her people’s cultural heritage.

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Does a mourning dove represent sadness?

Mourning doves get their name from the long, mournful coo sound they make when they sing. Because of this, mourning doves are often associated with sadness. Whether a mourning dove appearing means sadness, hope, or joy depends entirely on the person. If you are grieving, many cultures and faiths believe the dove spirit has come to hold space with you and provide comfort during difficult times. If a dove appears when you’re making a big decision or considering the path you’re on, a mourning dove comes to let you know you’ve made the right choice. If a dove visits you in a dream, whatever grief or struggle you’ve been under will soon be relieved. Seeing mourning doves in your dreams is also a sign that your friends and loved ones are loyal and can be counted on through your most challenging times. When the dove is being released from a cage by someone specific, it’s a sign that person loves and cares for you more than you may realize. While many people associate the mournful call of the mourning dove with sadness and loss, their symbolism the world over is tied to hope, love and prosperity. From the legends told in African nations to Greek and Roman mythology and modern-day beliefs, mourning doves are universally seen as a sign of good luck and new beginnings. Whether you’re looking for answers or missing a lost loved one, a visit from a mourning dove is a message of comfort and love. No matter what you believe, a mourning dove appearing is a remarkable sight to see.

Tara Summerville Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma’s house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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What is the spiritual meaning of a dove?


White doves are symbolic of new beginnings, peace, fidelity, love, luck and prosperity. Their release is a tradition that has been making ceremonies, rituals and celebrations more powerful and meaningful for thousands of years.

Releasing doves uplifts the eyes, signifies new beginnings and true celebrations in flight.

The symbol of the pure white dove transcends all cultures and traditions.

“As I sit I see a dove and think of our deep, dear true love”

Seeing a Pure White Doves Symbolizes

A Happy Home
Long Life
The Holy Spirit
The Soul
Peace in the next life


More symbolism tales of «the messengers».

I f you see a dove on your wedding day, a happy home is assured.

D oves have long been a symbol for eternal peace.

G od chose the white dove to portray the holy spirit.

D oves are wonderful parents and work together equally to raise their young, one reason they are the sign of love, faithfulness and fertility.

D oves mate for life, are incredibly loyal to each other and work together to build their nest and raise their young. Because they tend to nest in areas that humans can watch, people picked up quickly on the idea that doves were dedicated, honorable and peaceful.

D oves have been chosen by God to be the messengers of the day.

T he 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.

T he dove is said to be so pure that it is the one form into which Satan cannot transform himself.

L uke 3:22 states: “The heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove.

T he dove is commonly seen in Christian art with Mary as a symbol or care, devotion, purity and peace.

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N oah sent a dove knowing the dove would always return. Which she did with an olive branch in her mouth, a sign of land and the waters receding.

A nd the dove came in to him in the evening; and, see, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

T he Gospel narratives describe a dove descending upon Jesus at his baptism.

I n Scripture, doves are more numerous than all other species.

B eginning with the Egyptians, the dove was as symbol of quiet innocence. The Chinese felt the dove was a symbol of peace and long life. To early Greeks and Romans, doves represented love and devotion, and care for a family. The dove also symbolized the peaceful soul for many cultures.

T he dove is also seen as representing love. I t was the sacred animal of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess and of Venus, her Roman counterpart. Two goddesses of love and friendship. Lovers are said to “bill and coo” like doves. The dove is a monogamous bird, which is the source of its connection with romantic and eternal love.

T he goddesses Atargatis, Inanna, and Astarte are all depicted with doves. The legendary queen Semiramis was raised by doves, connecting her to the goddesses. In the Epic of Gilgamesh the dove was released to search for the end of the deluge.

T he 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.

T he 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.

I n 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 .

D oves and pigeons were the only birds suitable for sacrifice by the Hebrews, as stated in Leviticus 1:14.

D oves appear in the symbolism of Judaism, Christianity, and Paganism, and of both military and pacifist groups.

T he dove is even associated with several mother figures in historical dove symbolism.

T oday the dove is a symbol of peace, often portrayed with an olive branch in its mouth.

Still interested.

D oves call you to regain your serenity. The dove reminds you to take a deep breath and release all your tension and stress.

A dove may encourage you to wipe the slate clean and start again. 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.

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