Tim Truzy is a minister in a Christian church, and he has participated in other religions.
Christian Views on Birds
There are two outlooks on plants and animals, including birds, derived from the Bible. Primarily, mankind is seen as guardians of all of nature, and therefore, we must act thoughtfully when dealing with animals, such as birds, or other life forms. Humanity is responsible for managing the resources provided by God with wisdom and care. By contrast, the other perspective pertains to the need to conquer all aspects of nature. Several consequences arise because of these almost contrary perspectives. People either choose to protect all wildlife, or they simply do not consider the outcomes of their actions which may impact birds and other animals and plants. A middle-ground may be in conservation efforts, monitored agriculture, and forest preservation. Without question, more awareness by practitioners of the religion takes animals such as birds into consideration.
Below are Bible verses which pertain to how birds are viewed in the Christian faith. These are merely examples of the many verses in the Bible on birds, but these scriptures are in almost every translation of the text:
Thirteen Bible Verses about Birds with Explanations for Each
- Dove and Raven: Genesis 8:6-7 and Genesis 8:9-11–In this biblical account of the great flood, Noah sends forth a raven to find out if the waters had receded, and it did not return. Later, he sent forth a dove for several trips, and it eventually returned with an “olive branch,” according to some versions of the story. The dove let Noah know that there was land available for him to rest his ark and begin rebuilding humanity. Some scholars suggest the returning dove symbolizes the coming of Jesus Christ, who offers mankind an olive branch, symbolizing an opportunity to have peace with God. On the other hand, this story probably contributed to the negative perceptions about ravens in western culture over time.
- Dove: Mathew 3:16–In this Bible verse, Jesus is baptized. The Spirit of God descends upon him. This event is compared to the landing of a “dove” upon Jesus. Jesus Christ is often referred to as the “Dove” in Christian literature. Some scholars trace the association of doves and love back to the Hindu faith.
- Sparrows and Swallows: Psalms 84:3, Luke 12:6 and Mathew 10:29-31–In these Bible verses, the reader is informed that God is observant of all His Creations. We are reminded, in God’s eyes, humanity is more valuable than all animals, including sparrows and swallows. However, the Bible makes readers aware of the idea that because of His love, all creatures have a home and a purpose. Whereas the sparrow represents the idea of the omnipresent and all-knowing God, the swallow symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ because every spring, it reappears.
- Eagles: Exodus 19:4 and Hosea 8:1–In Exodus, eagles represent strength and the ability to bear heavy burdens. The verse is referring to deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian oppression. This bird symbolizes the might of God as well, such as is found in Hosea 8:1. In this verse, an eagle is above the House of the Lord because the Covenant has been broken. The power and grace of the eagle suggests believers can always find rescue from troubles if they follow God’s Commandments
Birds in Newer Religions
Like Christianity, modern and ancient religions value birds as symbols. For instance, religions of Asia and the Middle East frequently relate birds to the concept of immortality. In fact, some spiritual belief systems even associate birds with the souls of departed individuals in Asia and Native American tribes. Likewise, older African religions equate birds with divinity. Perhaps, many of these recent and old religions suppose birds can communicate more directly with God because they sing and can soar to the “heavens.
Presently, several recently established religions still continue the tradition of using birds as symbols in representing or emphasizing some aspect of their faith. Below are a few of these religions. Although this is not a complete compilation of all of the more recent spiritual belief systems to evolve, it underscores the significance mankind places on the noble winged creatures with regard to understanding the eternal and our place as human beings. These two religions are active today, and growing with followers:
Two Modern Religions views on Birds
- The Bahá'í Faith: People who participate in this faith recognize a progression of revelation. This means prophets came to Earth to bring the message of God to humanity over time. They believe their prophet, Bahaullah, was the last one of these “manifestations” of God to do so. He is sometimes referred to as the “nightingale” by believers. Men and women are equal, like wings of a bird which must work together for success, followers believe. Established in 1863, worshipers in The Bahá'í faith believe in one God, the unity of mankind, and all the religions of the world are fundamentally the same. People who participate in the faith have a deep respect for all nature, including birds.
- Wicca: Wicca honors nature and recognizes the “polarity of divinity.” This means the supernatural has both a male and female representation. Established around the 1950’s, the Wicca religion is relatively young, embracing druid, Egyptian, and other pagan faiths. Wiccans may practice magic and create spells; some believing they can transform into animals. They read warnings from such birds as crows, but let their personal experience and wisdom act as a guide. According to European legends, the dove is the only animal which a person practicing one area of the Wiccan faith cannot become.
Two Older religions’ Perspectives on Birds
The phenomenon of incorporating birds into religion has a long history in the cultures of mankind. In fact, a very popular bird was the phoenix – it symbolized long life, good fortune, and creation from destruction in myths. Also, classic Greek mythology portrays the goddess of wisdom, Athena, as an owl. In India, the Dravidians perceive the peacock as a symbol of “Mother Earth.” In addition, the ibis is seen as a representation of the god Thoth in an old Egyptian faith. Indeed, many pagan gods and goddesses were depicted as fowl by many cultures and belief systems before the time of Christ.
One such faith is Buddhism, which is similar to Hinduism in its perspectives toward animals such as birds. (A picture of a Buddhist temple is provided above.) These religions are still prospering today. This is only a few of these older religions which have spread from their place of origin, migrating to other parts of the globe:
Two Religions before the Time of Christ which Have Bird Symbolism
- Hinduism: Hinduism recognizes animals as sacred and is against the breeding of birds for food. Coincidentally, fowls are an essential part of the faith because of what they mean to worshipers. For instance, Vishnu, the second god of the Hindu triumvirate, is believed to ride an eagle. Vishnu is responsible for restoring balance between evil and good on this planet, and he is believed to have been reincarnated nine times. Also, Kamadeva-the, another god in the faith, rides a dove. He is recognized as the god of love. Having a history dating back to about a thousand years before Christ, Hinduism is a major world religion with no definite founder.
- Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism was established around the 6th-century B.C. in present-day Iran by its founder, Zoroaster. Followers of this faith worship one god, recognizing a Heaven and a Hell. Many of the spiritual concepts in other religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) can be traced back to existing in this faith. People in this religion have a sacred duty to protect the environment, but they are placed in “towers of silence” when death occurs, allowing vultures and other birds of prey to consume the corpse. These towers can still be found, in places like India, where the worshipers in this faith are called “Parsis.”
Blue, D. (2014). Consider the birds: A provocative guide to birds of the bible. Place of publication not identified: Abingdon.
Houlihan, P. F., & Goodman, S. M. (1988). The birds of ancient Egypt. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
Iyer, K. K. (2010). The role of animals and birds in the Hindu mythology: 105 episodes from Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Maha Bhagavatam, and Puranas. Tirupati: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.
Kynes, S. (2016). Bird magic: Wisdom of the ancient goddess for pagans & wiccans. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.