Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What you didn't know about the birds and the bees (and butterflies)

As you may have gathered, I like birds, and other winged creatures, including mythical winged creatures, besides the ideal of free expression. So I felt I might be remiss if I didn’t offer some interesting bits of information on a few of the winged wonders.

Birds: have a positive symbolism in most traditions, although in some instances, they can be harbingers of tragedy or death. St. Hildegard, a German writer and Christian mystic, felt that birds symbolized the power that helps people think out things better so that they may speak more reflectively before they act. As a bird’s feathers help it to fly and stay in the air, the soul is “elevated by thought and spreads its wings everywhere.” Birds are representative of the human desire to escape the bonds of gravity in order to reach the angels, symbolizing the human soul, freed from the restrictions of its human form. I feel a sigh coming on as I picture a bird flying high in the sky, reaching to the heavens.

In many fairy tales, animals have special powers and thus is was with birds. To be able to understand the language of the birds gave a person special knowledge and people also were also transformed into birds, sometimes symbolic of the metamorphosis of a lover. I think it would be really cool to speak to the birds, don’t you?

Birds symbolize thought and imagination, transcendence, divinity, and freedom from materialism. Birds traditionally are enemies with serpents and tortoises.For Example This beautiful poem by John Keats.

As from the darkening gloom a silver dove
Upsoars, and darts into the Eastern light,
On pinions that naught moves but pure delight,
So fled thy soul into the realms above,
Regions of peace and everlasting love:
Where happy spirits, crown’d with circlets bright
Of starry beam, and gloriously bedight,
Taste the high joy none but the blest can prove.
There thou or joinest the immortal quire
In melodies that even Heaven fair
Fill with superior bliss, or, at desire
Of the omnipotent Father, cleavest the air
On holy message sent—What pleasures higher?
Wherefore does any grief our joy impair? (Keats)

Butterflies: Everyone loves the beauty and grace of a butterfly and is the most common metaphor for transformation and metamorphosis, going from a wriggling ugly caterpillar to a beautiful, glistening, colorful winged creature that can soar above the treetops. This symbol is widely known across many cultures represents hope, rebirth, resurrection, the triumph of the spirit and the soul over the physical prison and the material world. In the ancient world, it was a symbol of the soul and of the subconscious pull that light has on it.

In Nathanial Hawthorne’s Artist of the Beautiful, the character, Owen Warland, achieves success through the redemptive and creative powers of his art by creating a mechanical butterfly (Donaval, 2014).

Bees: Are symbolic of industry as well as materialism, but more as an artistic, positive endeavor and not as a symbol of the gloom of a factory. They work in their hives, buzzing away, happily creating a home for their young, to ensure the survival of their fellow bees as well as their queen. Their collective work ethic symbolizes both the vital principal as well as the soul; the collective and the individual, the material as well as the spiritual. In the artistic world, the bee symbolizes eloquence, poetry, and the mind.

It’s no wonder then that we love these symbols of freedom, of love, of redemption. They stir something deep within our psyche, right to the soul, and in them, we find our wings.


Donavel, David. (2014). Hawthorne In Salem. Alienation in "The Artist of the Beautiful": Introduction. (2014) retrieved on February 19, 2014 from:

Keats, John. (1891). The Selected Poems of John Keats. As From The Darkening Gloom A Silver Dove. Pg. 13

Chevalier, J., Gheerbrant, A. (1994). The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin Books. London, England. Penguin Group. Pgs. 79, 87-90, 140-141


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