Rosarium Philosophorium (1550)

Dove Symbolism

in Art, Myth, and Religion

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

A hermit is describing the grail castle to Parzifal. The Gral is guarded by the Templars. "I will tell you how they are nourished. They live from a Stone whose essence is most pure. If you have never heard of it I shall name it for you here. It is called 'Lapsit exillis'... On good Friday the hermit continues. A dove flies down from heaven "It brings a small white Wafer to the Stone and leaves it there. The Dove all dazzling white, then flies up to heaven again... from which the Stone receives all that is good on earthe of food and drink of paradisal excellence". — Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzifal: (Penguin p. 239)

The task of the alchemist working through this Rosarium process, is firstly to recognize the elements of the primal material, the lunar and solar streams, and the inner Mercury of the soul forces, then begin to work with these through meditations, bringing them into a new synthesis and making these inner forces a vehicle both for the experience of the Spirit and the mastery of the Physical world. Thus in illustration 2, there is pictured a personification as King and Queen of these solar and lunar forces. The Sun King and Moon Queen, have to be recognized by the alchemist as archetypal polarities within his soul and they must be brought into a new relationship. These polarities meet and touch, though at this initial stage, their encounter is very restrained and distant. As Jung points out in his commentary to these illustrations, they give each other their left hands in union. The left (sinister) being the dark or unconscious side of their being. Thus they are united in the unconscious aspect, in the depths of the lower soul. Their right hands, the more conscious side of their being, proffer two-blossomed flowers to each other, and this meeting in consciousness is thus more restrained and distant. However, from above, from the higher spiritual realm indicated by the Star, a dove descends bearing a further two-blossomed flower and brings a stronger unity into the picture. Thus even at the beginning of the work, the alchemist will have help from the spiritual world. As he tentatively begins the task of uniting the inner polarities, spiritual help will descend to him as a gift, a spiritual grace. For the individual alchemist this will possibly take the form of perceptions, perhaps inspirational dreams, and positive realizations that give him an inner security, a sureness that he is on the right path. (Commentary by Adam McLean)

DOVE— In its religious significance: symbol of the Holy Ghost. In a general sense: symbol of innocence, gentleness, conjugal affection and constancy. As a symbol of the Holy Ghost it originates with the incident attending Christ's baptism, when, according to St. Luke, 'It came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.”' (Luke 3.21-22, Matthew 3.16, Mark 1.10, John 1.32). The symbol was employed in early Christian times, in the catacombs and in mosaics, and it was occasionally represented with the nimbus. During the 11th century, a human figure with a book or scroll took its place; but in the 16th century, the older symbol was revived, and now the dove, as in early Christian times, is universally recognized as symbolizing the Holy Ghost.
    The dove as a symbol of innocence and gentleness is derived from the habits of the bird, which prompted Christ to advise His disciples, when sending them out to teach His gospel to be 'harmless as doves' (Matthew 10.16). And the peacefulness of such a gentle bird's life receives tribute from David when, in the midst of the pain and troubles of old age, he cries: 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest.' (Psalms 55.6).
    From pagan times it has been widely understood as a symbol of conjugal affection and constancy, because of the affectionate mating habits and constancy of the species popularly known as turtle doves. On ancient monuments, gems, and coins of Assyria, Libya, Mycenae, and Phoenicia representations of two doves have been recognized which, according to Goblet D'Alviella, probably had some religious significance 'in the symbolism of the worship paid in Asia Minor to the great goddess of nature, venerated by the Phoenician population under the name of Astarte'. (Migration of Symbols, p. 91) Similar representations can be seen in the catacombs, a particularly good example being where two doves with olive branches stand on either side of a vessel over which is placed the sacred monogram. — Louisa Twining, Symbols of Early Christian Art, p. 183

DOVE WITH OLIVE BRANCH IN ITS BEAK— Symbol of peace and good tidings. The dove, which is a species of pigeon, has been employed as a messenger from the earliest civilizations to the present day. It was trained in that capacity by the Greeks and Romans, and during the Christian era, and was so used in World War I. Its use as a Christian symbol of peace and good tidings originates from the return of the dove to the ark with the olive leaf, which, as a confirmation of the abatement of the flood, delivered Noah from anxiety— 'And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off; so Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth.' (Genesis 8.11)
— Arnold Whittick, Symbols: Signs and their Meaning and Uses in Design (2nd Ed.),
     Charles T. Branford Co., Newton, Massachusetts, 1971, pp. 234-235

DOVE— A departed spirit, herald of heavenly news. Amorous delight, constancy, fruitfulness, gentleness, harmlessness, innocence, love, meekness, purity, sacrifice, sincerity, soul, tenderness, timidity, truth, winged aspiration. A good spirit, a loved one. Sexual emblem sacred to love and mother goddesses. As a fertility symbol of Adonis, Aphrodite, Astarte, Atargatis, Dionysis, Ishtar, Juno, Jupiter, Shulamite, Venus, Zeus, etc., often appears with the fish. In nature worship closely associated with rain clouds. Ancients sometimes substituted a dove for a human when offerings were being made to a deity. Dream significance: happy event. In heraldry loving constancy and peace. With an olive branch, harbinger of good news. A constellation in the Southern Sky, known as Columba and Noah's Dove. In China symbolic of good digestion, impartial filial duty, and long life. In Christian tradition the Holy Ghost. A symbol of the annunciation and baptism. Emblem of an apostle or saint divinely inspired. In Christian art identical with the winged disk of pagan art as a symbol of eternity, immortality, soul, spirit, sun. As a soul symbol issues from the mouth of dying martyrs. Sacred bird of ancient Egypt, Greece and Phoenicia. In Greece the equivalent of alpha-omega because the numerical value of the Greek word for dove 801, is the same as the numerical value of AO written backwards. In Hebrew tradition the dove was clean according to Mosaic law and sacrificed in rituals of expiation, especially by the poor. It was a symbol of gentleness, peace, and divine guidance, as in the legend of Noah. Among early Semites sacrificed to Jahveh as an atonement for impurity of childbirth; similar offerings were brought by Virgin Mary to the temple at Jerusalem after the birth of Christ. In Hebraic-Christian tradition, the dove compares with the Buddhist white swan. In Japan a good omen symbolizing tender sentiments. Emblem of the warrior deity Hachiman and of the Minemoto clan. One of the ten animals in the Moslem heaven. In Roman antiquity sacred to Bacchus, Jupiter, and Venus.
Black dove: Widowhood.
Dove of Christ: Salvation.
Dove of David: Peace.
Dove dung: The chick-pea, so called because of its appearance.
    A nourishment for those who cross the desert.
Dove egg: In a medical superstition eaten as a smallpox preventive.
Dove, gold & silver plumed: Treasures of purity and innocence.
Dove and lily: Christian annuciation. Parallels the white swan
    and lotus of Eastern religions.
Dove and Nimbus: Christian Holy Ghost.
Dove and olive branch: Good tidings, peace. In Greek mythology
    emblem of Athena. In middle ages talisman to ensure pilgrims
    hospitality wherever they traveled. In Old Testament renewed
    life; sign which informed Noah he could safely leave the Ark.
Dove, ring around its neck: Christian art: encircling sweetness of the Divine Word.
Holy dove: In Christian art sometimes depicted as a rose.
Seven doves: In Christianity the Holy Spirit in His seven-fold
    manifestations of grace. In Old Teatament the seven gifts of God:
    counsel, fear of God, knowledge, pity, strength, understanding, wisdom.
Twelve doves: Christian apostles.
Two wings of a dove: Love of God, love of man; active and meditative life.
White dove: A health talisman; eaten as an antidote against infection.
White dove with changeable tints: In Christian tradition spirit of chastity
    in conflict with fickle and rebellious passions.
— Gertrude Jobes, Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols
     Scarecrow Press, New York, 1962, Volume 1, pp. 466-467

To convey the idea of the Spirit dwelling on the mountain-tops, the devisers
of the figures A & B below has employed the familiar symbol of the Dove.

The followers of the Holy Spirit were themselves considered to be Doves;
an idea fostered by the injunctions, "Be ye harmless as doves" (Matthew, X.16).
In the Holy Converse between St. Francis and the Lady Poverty, it is
recorded that certain men "all began at once to follow after the blessed
Francis, and whilst with most easy steps they were hastening to the heights,
behold the Lady Poverty standing on the top of that self-same mountain looked
down over the steeps of the hill, and seeing those men so stoutly climbing—
nay, flying up, ['winged' by aspiration]— she wondered greatly, and said:
'Who are thoese who come flying like clouds and like doves to their windows?'
And behold a dove flying heavenward [figure C].
    Related to the Alpha and Omega is the familiar Dove. The Dove
was regarded as a symbol of the Good Spirit because of the circles on its throat,
the colors of which were taken to represent the Seven Spirits of God or rays
of the prism constituted by the Trinity. It was also understood that the soft
and insinuating "voice of the turtle" was an echo on earth of the voice of God.
The Dove was considered to be an equivalent of the Alpha and Omega because
the numerical value of the Greek word for Dove, 801, was the same as
the numerical value of the letters AO written backwards.

— Harold Bayley, The Lost Language of Symbolism, London, 1912 (1st edition)
     Citadel Press Book, New York, reprint 1951, pp. 39-40, p. 73

The life spirit; the soul; the passing from one state or world to another;
the spirit of light; chastity (but in some traditions lasciviousness); innocence;
gentleness; peace. Doves are sacred to all Great Mothers and Queens of Heaven
and depict femininity and maternity; often two doves accompany the Mother Goddess.
The dove with an olive branch is a symbol of peace, also of renewal of life;
it is an emblem of Athene. Doves drinking from a bowl depict the Spirit drinking
the waters of life. Sacred doves are associated with funerary cults.
Chinese: Longevity; faithfulness; orderliness; filial piety; Spring;
lasciviousness; also associated with the Earth Mother.
Christian: The Holy Spirit; purity; inspired thought; peace; baptism;
the Annunciation; the waters of creation. Seven doves denote the seven gifts
of the spirit; a flock of doves is the faithful; a dove with an olive branch is peace, forgiveness and deliverance; as the dove of Noah's Ark brought back the olive branch of peace between God and man, and as it found no resting place outside the Ark, so the Christian finds no safety outside the Church. The dove with the palm branch is victory over death. A white dove is the saved soul, the purified soul as opposed to the black raven of sin. Doves in a vine are the faithful seeking refuge in Christ. Two doves together are conjugal affection and love. A dove on Joseph's staff depicts the husband of a pure virgin. The dove is the emblem of the Knights of the Grail and of SS Benedict, Gregory, Scolastica. In Nicolas Poussin's Annunciation (1657) at the National Gallery, London, the dove hovering over the Virgin's head simultaneously symbolizes the fecunding Spirit, the bird sacred to the Great Mother and Queen of Heaven, and Mary's submissive innocence.
Egyptian: Innocence. The dove sits in the branches of the Tree of Life and
appears with the fruit of the tree and vases of the waters of life.
Graeco-Roman: Love; renewal of life; an attribute of Zeus who was fed by doves.
The dove with an olive branch is an emblem of Athene as renewal of life. The dove
is sacred to Adonis and to Bacchus as the First Begotten of Love also to Venus as
voluptuousness. A dove with a star is an emblem of Venus Mylitta.
Hebrew: White doves, a purity, were offerings at the Temple for purification.
A symbol of Israel. In the Old Testament the dove represents simplicity; harmlessness,
innocence; meekness; guilelessness; incubation. Embodies the soul of the dead.
Hindu: Yama, god of the dead, has owls and doves or pigeons as messengers
Islamic: The three Holy Virgins are represented by stones,
or pillars surrounded by doves.
Japanese: Longevity; deference; sacred to Hachiman, go of war, but a dove
bearing a sword, announces the end of a war.
Manichean: In Christian Manichean iconography the third person
of the Trinity is sometimes depicted as a white dove.
Minoan: Associated in Minoan art with the Great Mother;
doves and snakes symbolizing the air and earth, were her attributes.
Parsee: The Supreme Being.
Sumero-Semitic: Divine power; sacred to Astarte and an attribute of Ishtar
as the Great Mother. A dove was sent forth from the Babylonian Ark on
the seventh day of the deluge.
— J. C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols
     Thames & Hudson, London, 1978, pp. 54-55.

An emblem of purity, aspiration, and gentleness, or the active principle animating the higher nature which descends into the lower nature in order to rise therefrom.
    "And Noah sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated
    from off the face of the ground; but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot,
    and she returned unto him into the ark." (Genesis, VIII.8-9)

And from the Individuality or Self in the soul, is sent forth an aspiration of a loving and
pure nature, and a tender thought, to discover the secret of Truth behnind the prevailing
illusions of the lower mind; but the aspiration at this stage found no lodgement in
the lower consciousness, so by the law of its nature it returned to the Self again.
    "The dove is that spirit of gentleness and peace which appears
    more boldly now as heaven opens to us." (A. Jukes, Types of Genesis, p. 120)
    "The dove was the bird sacred to Istar." (A. H. Sayce, Religious Babylon, p. 271)
    "Istar" is a symbol of Wisdom— the Holy Spirit (Esther)
    "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding on Him,
    this is He which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost." (John, I.33)
    "By means of the dove we are taught that this is He; and dost thou think that thou art
    baptised by his authority by whose ministration thou art baptized? If thou thinkest this,
    thou art not as yet in the body of the dove; and if thou are not in the body of the dove,
    it is not to be wondered at that thou hast not simplicity; for by means of the dove,
    simplicity is chiefly designated." (Augustine, Gospel of John, Vol. I, p. 63)

— G. A. Gaskell, Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths
     Julian Press, New York, 1969, pp. 229-230

Aphrodite's totem, the bird of sexual passion, symbolically equivalent to the yoni. In India, too, the dove was paravata, the symbol of lust. Joined to her consort the phallic serpent, the Dove-goddess stood for sexual union and "Life".
    The phrase attributed to Jesus, "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10.16), was no random metaphor but a traditional invocation of the Syrian God and Goddess [Franz Cumont, Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism (1956), 118]. The Oriental meaning was remembered by the gypsies, whose folk tales said the souls of ancestors lived inside magic hollow mountains, the men having been changed into serpents and the women into doves. [Elwood B. Trigg, Gypsy Demons and Divinities (1973) 196]
    Christians adopted the feminine dove as a symbol of the Holy Ghost, originally the Goddess Sophia, representing God's "Wisdom" as the Goddess Metis represented the "Wisdom" of Zeus. Gnostic Christians said Sophia was incarnate in the dove that impregnated the virgin Mary, the same dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism to impregnate his mind (Matthew 3.16). Pious admirers of Pope Gregory the Great made him even more saintly than Jesus by reporting that the Holy Ghost in dove shape descended on him not once but many times. [Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (1941) 188] All this was copied from Roman iconography which showed the human soul as a dove that descended from the Dove-goddess's oversoul to animate the body. [Eugenia Sellers Strong, Apotheosis and After Life (1969) 136]
    Aphrodite as a bringer of death, or "peace", sometimes bore the name of Irene, Dove of Peace. Another of her death-goddess names was Epitymbria, "She of the Tombs". Romans called her Venus Columba, Venus-the-Dove. Her catacombs, mausoleums, and necropoli were known as columaria, "dovecotes". Thus the soul returning to the Goddess after death was again envisioned as a dove. From this image, Christians copied their belief that the souls of saints became white doves that flew out of their mouths at the moment of death. In the Catholic ceremony of canonization, white doves are released from cages at the crucial moment of the ritual.
    Christian iconography showed seven rays emanating from the dove of the Holy Ghost: an image that went back to some of the most primitive manifestations of the Goddess. In the Orient, the mystic seven were the Pleiades or "Seven Sisters", whose Greek name meant "a flock of doves". They were daughters or "rays" of Aphrodite under her title of Pleione, Queen of the Sea. Herodotus said seven holy women known as Doves founded the oracles of Dodona, Epirus, and Theban Amon. They were worshipped in the Middle East as Seven Sages or Seven Pillars of Wisdom: the seven woman-shaped pillars that had been upholding temples of the Goddess since the third millenium B.C. [Theodor Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament (1969) 804] Arabs still revere the Seven Sages, and some remember that they were women, or "doves". [Robert Briffault, The Mothers (1927), Vol. 1, 377] The Semitic word for "dove", ione, was a cognate on "yoni" and related to the Goddess Uni, who later became Iune, or Juno.
    The cult of the Doves used to incorporate primitive rites of castration and its modification, circumcision. India called the seven Sisters "razors" or "cutters" who judged and "critically" wounded men, the Krittikas, "Seven Mothers of the World," root of the Greek Kritikos, "judge". They killed and gave rebirth to gods who were Semiramis, legendary founder of Babylon, also meant "Dove" in the Syrian tongue. She was said to have castrated all her consorts.
    When circumcision replaced castration, the doves were involved in that too. Even Christian symbolism made the connection. The official symbol of the Festival of the Circumcision of Christ was a dove, holding in its beak a ring representing the Holy Prepuce. "Christ's fructifying blood" was linked with the similar emblem of Pentecost, which showed the descending dove on a background of blood red, officially described as a representation of the church fertilized by the blood of Christ and the martyrs.
    A certain "maiden martyr" called St. Columa (Holy Dove) was widely revered, especially in France, although she never existed as a human being. [Donald Attwater, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints (1965), 92] Another curious survival may have been invented to explain the doves appearing on ancient coins as symbols of Aphrodite and Astarte. [Goblet d'Alviella, Migration of Symbols (1960) 91-92]
— Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
     Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1983, pp. 252-254

Dove: Doves represented the Great Goddess in Asia Minor, under several of her names such as Aphrodite and Astarte. They were raised in her temples, carved on her stelae, depicted on her jewels and coins. According to Homer, it was the Goddess's doves who brought Heavenly Father Zeus the ambrosia that kept him immortal. According to Herodotus, seven women called Doves founded the great oracles of Dodona and Thebes. The image of the dove reborn from the mouth of a dolphin (or delpos, "womb") seems to have represented the Goddess's Virgin aspect renewed out of the devouring Crone. Biblical writers masculinized the image as Jonah, who name means "Dove". The word ionah or ione may have descended from yoni, for the dove was a primary symbol of female sexuality. In India, the name of the Dove-goddess meant "lust".
    So vital was the dove symbol that patriarchal cults were constrained to absorb it, in many different ways. The holy Seven Sisters called Pleiades, or "Doves", were originally born from Pleione: Aphrodite as "Queen of the Sea". They were assimilated by the Christian image of the Holy Ghost, a dove with seven rays proceeding from it. Seven was the number of the Goddess Sophia, the original Gnostic conception of the female Holy Ghost who descended on Jesus at his baptism and on Mary at her impregnation. Sophia was blatantly masculanized early in the Christian era but her dove,and all doves, were always called "she" even in Christian writings. Christian souls of saints flying to heaven were represented by white doves in the canonization ceremony. Among the Slavs it is still claimed that the souls of the dead turn into doves. This corresponds with the ancient belief that the essence of every soul is female.
    The Gypsies claimed that only the souls of women can fly, as doves, in and out of the magic mountain where the dead dwell— like the ba-soul of an Egyptian flying in and out of the burial mound. Men's souls are transformed into snakes, so they cannot fly. This vision of female and male soul, or Goddess and God, as dove and serpent, respectively, goes back to an ancient iconography. Even Jesus referred to it metaphorically: "Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16), though with a bias toward the male already perceptible. The idea that all souls were doves lived on in the Roman term for catacombs, Colmbaria, "dovecotes", sacred to the Goddess as Venus Columba, or "Holy Doves", who was much revered in France although she was only one of the church's saintly fictions. Both dove and olive branch originally meant "the peace of the Goddess".
    In the same way that pork became taboo in the Jews, the meat of doves or pigeons was declared taboo in the Russian church, because it was viewed as an embodiment of the Holy Ghost, or at least of soul-stuff. Alchemists often used the symbol of a white dove enclosed in lead (the Saturn metal) to represent soul or spirit enclosed in matter. In such ways the signs of female sexuality, as an expression of Goddess energy, was transformed into a sign of disembodied, purified, ethereal spirituality. (pp. 399-400)
Flowering Rod: In selecting the husband for the Virgin Mary, all the candidates laid their rods on the altar. Only Joseph's budded and bloomed. Not only that, but the sacred dove of the Goddess came down from heaven and perched on it, just as she later appeared at Jesus' baptism. (p. 29)
Stars of the Seven Sisters: The heavenly Seven Sisters were guardians of the axis mundi; they were either the seven bright stars of the pole-encircling Ursa Major, or the Pleiades, whose name is Greek for "a flock of doves". (p. 76)
Omphalos: This interpretation of the omphalos is further supported by its frequent appearance on ancient coins and bas-reliefs flanked by two doves. Despite its later Christianized transformation into a symbol of the Holy Ghost, the dove formerly represented the specifically sexual aspect of the Goddess. It was the bird sacred to Aphrodite and often associated with female genitalia. Without much strain of the imagination, one can see the omphalos between two doves as a clitoris between "feathery" labiae, as a female Mystery once expounded to maidens upon their initiation into the secrets of the Goddess's temple. (p. 100)
Tomb: Roman tombs were called columbaria, "dovecotes", dedicated to the Goddess Venus Columba, whose symbol the Holy Dove was later taken over by Christianity and renamed the Holy Ghost, just as tombs in general were Christianized. (p. 108)
Hokmah/Holy Ghost: The triumphant dove having been the most common symbol of the Goddess's spirit brooding over the waters of creation, this became a representation of Hokmah-Sophia-Sapientia just as it also represented Aphrodite and Venus. Early in the Christian era, it was understood that God's inner spirit or soul was female and embodied in the image of the dove. From her he received his i-deas, "goddesses-within", and the souls even of gods were considered feminine (anima, psyche, pneuma, alma, and similar words for "soul" were always feminine). Later, the Holy Ghost was masculinized, God's Wisdom was no longer personified as a Goddess, and editors of the scriptures did their best to remove all hints of the earlier meanings of Hokmah. (p. 206)
Introduction to Animals: Heavenly animals still dwell in the zodiac ("circle of animals") and elsewhere in the sky: Aquila the eagle, Draco the dragon, Lepus the hare, Serpens the snake Delphinus the dolphin, Corvus the crow, Hydra the sea serpent, Cygnus the swan, Cetus the whale, Monoceros the unicorn, Columba the dove, Ursa Magor and Minor the bears, and Canis Major and Minor the dogs. The Moslems placed ten famous animals in heaven among the stars: Abraham's ram, Balaam's ass, Balkis's lapwing, Jonah's whale, Mohammed's Alborak, Moses's ox, Noah's dove, Saleh's camel, Solomon's ant, and the dog of the Seven Sleepers. Juno's peacock is there too, and the winged horse of the Muses. (p. 361)
Columbine: The columbine was named after columba, the Dove, once a universally recognized symbol of the Goddess Aphrodite or Venus. It retained a reputation for magical properties. Medieval doctors believed that columbine was a universal antitoxin. When powdered in a drink, it "driveth away all poisons", as one of their medical texts said. (p. 424)
Olive: The olive was often associated with the dove, both symbolizing the Peace of the Goddess. An icon combining the two may have been the origin of Noah's dove, returning to the ark with an olive leaf in her beak as a sign that the flood-causing God had "made peace" with the world (Genesis 8:11). Still, the magic of the olive could be used in aggression. Odysseus put out the eye of the Cyclops with a bar of olive wood. Olive crowns were awarded to Roman soldiers for bravery in batle. (p. 490)
— Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects
     HarperSanFrancisco, HarperCollins, New York, 1988

Dove— (1) In the Near East, the dove was associated with the fertility goddess Ishtar; in Phoenicia, it was associated with the Astarte cult. In Greece, the dove was sacred to Aphrodite. * In India, and to some extent in ancient Germany as well, a dark dove was regarded as a bird of the spirit, yet also of death and misfortune. * Islam sees it as a sacred bird because it supposedly protected Mohammed during his flight. * In the Bible, Noah lets out three doves after the Flood, one of which returns with an olive branch; it is a sign of reconciliation with God and has since then been a symbol of simplicity and purity and, especially in Christian art, a symbol of the Holy Spirit; yet it can also occasionally be a symbol of a baptized Christian, of a martyr (with a laurel or a martyr's crown in its beak), or of the soul in a state of heavenly peace (for example, when it is perched on the tree of life or on a vessel bearing the water of life). * In conjunction with the four cardinal virtues, the dove symbolizes temperance. * A white dove pair is a popular love symbol. (2) "Eucharist dove"— a tabernacle in the form of a dove that hangs over the altar and has a tray for the consecrated host; first mentioned in the 7th century.
— Udo Becker, The Element Encyclopedia of Symbols
     Element Books, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK, 1994, pp. 86-87

The peridexion tree grows in India. Doves gather in the tree because they like the sweet fruit, and because there they are safe from the dragon. The dragon hates the doves and would harm them if it could, but it fears the shadow of the peridexion tree and stays on the unshaded side of it. The doves that stay in the shadow are safe, but any who leave it are caught and eaten by the dragon. The illustration at left is from the British Library. The Aberdeen Bestiary gloss: " Take the tree as God, the shadow as his son... Take the fruit to be the wisdom of God, that is, the Holy Spirit."

Salutations, O gently moaning Turtle-dove! You went out contented and returned with a sad heart to a prison as narrow as Jonah's. O you who wander here and there like a fish, can you languish in ill-will? Cut off the head of this fish so that you may preen yourself on the summit of the moon.
    Salutations, O Pigeon! Intone your notes so that I may scatter round you seven plates of pearls. Since the collar of faith encircles your neck it would not become you to be unfaithful. When you enter into the way of understanding, Khizr will bring you the water of life.
Farid ud-Din Attar (1142-1220)
The Conference of the Birds
Rendered into English by C.S. Nott
from French translation of Garcin de Tassy
Shambhala, Boston, 1993, p. 9

"[Aphrodite] To drive thy rapid two-yoked car of gold." — Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite
"Cytherea [Aphrodite] was riding in her dainty chariot, winged by her swans, across the middle air making for Cyprus, when she heard afar Adonis' dying groans, and thither turned her snowy birds." — Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.708
"Aphrodite carried by her doves across the sky, reached the Laurentian coast."
— Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.597
"Aphrodite raised her starry limbs, and passing the proud threshold of her chamber called to the reign her Amyklaian doves. Amor [Eros, love] harnesses them, and seated on the jewelled car bears his mother rejoicing through the clouds." — Statius, Silvae 1.2.51
"Venus ordered her carriage to be prepared; Vulcanus [Hephaistos] had lovingly applied the finishing touches to it with elaborate workmanship, and had given it to her as a wedding-present before her initiation into marriage. The thinning motion of his file had made the metal gleam; the coach's value was measured by the gold it had lost. Four white doves emerged from the large herd stabled close to their mistress's chamber. As they strutted gaily forward, turning their dappled necks from side to side. They submitted to the jewelled yoke. They took their mistress aboard and delightedly mounted upwards. Sparrows sported with the combined din of their chatter as they escorted the carriage of the goddess, and the other birds, habitually sweet songsters, announced the goddess's approach with the pleasurable sound of their honeyed tunes. The clouds parted, and Caelus (Heaven) [Ouranos] admitted his daughter; the topmost region delightedly welcomed the goddess, and the tuneful retinue of mighty Venus had no fear of encounter with eagles or of plundering hawks." — Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6.6
In ancient Greek vase-painting the chariot of Aphrodite was sometimes depicted drawn by a pair of Erotes (winged Love-Gods).
"White Turtle-doves are often to be seen. These, they say, are sacred to Aphrodite and Demeter." — Aelian, On Animals 10.33
"Into the Euphrates River an egg of wonderful size is said to have fallen, which the fish rolled to the bank. Doves sat on it, and when it was heated, it hatched out Venus, who was later called the Syrian goddess. Since she excelled the rest in justice and uprightness, by a favour granted by Jove [Zeus], the fish were put among the number of the stars, and because of this the Syrians do not eat fish or doves, considering them as gods." — Hyginus, Fabulae 197
Greek Mythology: Estate & Attributes of Aphrodite

A number of different strands have contributed to the folklore and symbolism of the dove, and so various themes are involved. this is understandable when we consider that the folklore concerns more than one species and that different aspects of the bird's behavior have caught the attention of people in various communities. In most ancient writings the bird referred to is commonly the domestic Columa livia but species are not always clearly differentiated; when the allusion is to migratory species the turtle dove Turtur communis is concerned, or in Asia Minor Turtur risorius.
    The domestication of the dove (or pigeon) dates from remote times, as early Egyptian tomb paintings testify. there was a "pigeon post" in Babylon and according to Pausanias, the Greek traveller and geographer of the 2nd century AD, a winner at the Olympic Games sent news of his success to his father by homing pigeon. The Saracens also used pigeons during the Crusades to maintain communications. But in the Middle East as well as in Europe, dove cotes were built and the breeding birds were often exploited for food. Such dove cotes dating from the Middle Ages may still be seen in the English countryside.
    Although the flesh of doves has been found appetizing by many peoples and pigeon pie was a popular dish in England, there were inhibitions among the Semites against eating it; this was probably because of the birds' associations with divine beings. At Hierapolis in Syria, one of the chief centres of the worship of Atargatis, a deity similar to Astarte and Ishtar, the statue of the goddess was surmounted by a golden dove. The birds were regarded as so holy that a man who was impious enough to touch one was regarded as defiled for a whole day.
    The Greeks explained in a myth how the dove became associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The goddess and her son Eros were playfully competing in picking flowers and as Aphrodite was winning because she had the help of a nymph named Peristera (Dove), so Eros turned the nymph into a dove and henceforth she remained under the protection of Aphrodite. A Greek writer mentions that as Adonis had been honored by Aphrodite, the Cyrians cast doves into a pyre to him. The mythology of the goddess, whose names Aphrodite Anadyomene signify Sea Foam, Rising from the Sea, and especially the story that she was born from an egg brooded by a dove and pushed ashore by a fish, suggest that her cult came from across the sea to Greece.
    Like a number of other birds with religious associations the dove came to be regarded as oracular. According to Virgil, two doves guilded Aeneas to the gloomy valley where the Golden Bough grew on a holm oak. There was a tradition at Dodona in Greece that the oracle was founded by a dove, and the oracle in the oasis of Siwa (Ammon) which Alexander the Great sought out was similarly reputed to have owed its origin to a dove. The Romans sacrificed doves to Venus, goddess of love, whom Ovid represented as riding in a dove-drawn chariot. The miniature at left "Venus comes to the rescue in a chariot drawn by six white doves" (British Library) is from the Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. Illustrated by Master of the Prayerbooks (circa 1495).
    The Roman worship of Venus was to a large extent derived from a Phoenician sanctuary (Eryx), where the dove was revered as the companions of Astarte. Thus European beliefs concerning doves were mainly derived from Asia. It may be that the association in the Middle East between doves and goddesses of fertility arose from the conspicuous courtship and prolific breeding of birds.
    The use of the dove as a symbol of peace, in which role it commonly appears today in cartoons is derived from the reference in Genesis (chapter 8), describing the return of the dove to the Ark. On being sent out the second time, the bird reappeared with an olive leaf in its beak 'so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from off the earth'. Thus the dove became associated with future prosperity and tranquillity, and hence with peace.
Symbol of the Holy Spirit
The importance of the dove in Christian symbolism is derived from the account of the appearance of the bird at Christ's baptism (Matthew, chapter 3; Mark, chapter 1). From the time of the early Church to the present day it has been the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and from the 5th century the dove was shown in pictures of the Annunciation. It also appears in representations of the Creation as the spirit of God 'moving over the face of the waters'. The white dove has long been an emblem of purity and doves were offered in the Jewish rite of purification (Luke, chapter 2). In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, as the Holy Spirit appears to Lancelot, a dove carrying a tiny golden censer in its beak enters by the window, impressing the Knights of the Round Table with the purity of the castle of Pellas in which they are assembled. The incident is represented in Wagner's opera Parsifal.
    Doves feature in the biographies of Saints and Christian personalities down the centuries. In the 3rd century the election of Fabian as Pope was regarded as divinely indicated by a dove alighting on his head, and when Clovis was consecrated on Christmas Day, 496, a pure white dove was said to have brought a vial filled with chrism (anointing oil). Probably because of its association with the Virgin Mary, the dove became an emblem of innocence.
The Mourning Dove
For some North American Indians, though, it was an emblem of improvidence or incompetence. California and Great Basin tribes tell many proverbial fables about Dove's inability to build a sound nest, or to profit by the teaching of the thrush.
    The voices of doves have contributed to their folklore— which, in America, seems often to have been transferred from the English cuckoo. In Georgia, a girl hearing the calls of the returning doves in spring performs a ritual derived from an English cuckoo ritual. After taking some steps she looks in her right shoe for a hair which will match the color of the hair of the man she will marry. Rual lore also says that the dove's call (like the cuckoo's) predicts rain. Unlike the cuckoo, a constant call of a dove is an omen of death.
    Doves have been widely associated with death and mourning, probably due to the soul-bird belief— which is shared by many North American Indian tribes. An English folk belief suggest kepping a live pigeon or dove in the bedroom of a dying man, to prolong his life till the family gathers, apparently because the soul, with an affinity for the bird, might thus be made to linger. But in the United States the bird is also a health bringer: turtle doves nesting near a house keep off rheumatism, and a dead dove placed on the chest cures pneumonia.
Further Reading: E. Ingersoll, Birds in Legend, Fable and Folklore (Singing Tree Press, 1968);
Darcy Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds (Oxford University Press, London, 1936)
— Richard Cavendish (Ed.), Man, Myth & Magic
     Marshall Cavendish, New York, 1985, pp. 680-682


Web Links:
Origins: Female Form as Allegory
Glossary of Lady Liberty Props
Wikipedia: Columbia
Wikipedia: Columbia Pictures
Wikipedia: Statue of Freedom
Statue of Freedom: U.S. Capitol
Statue of Freedom by Thomas Crawford
Capitol Construction History
Freedom Statue Medallion
Columbia Statue, Hawaii
Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma
Liberty Statue above Speaker's Chair, House of Representatives
Initiation In The Pyramid Of The Dove
Dove in Alchemy & Arthurina Legends
Celtic Christianity: Saint Columba
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Columba
Patron Saints: St. Columba
Saint Columba (521-597)
Wikipedia: St. Columba
Knights of Columbus
Saint Columba of Iona
Linda Hampton Schiffer's Review of Barbara Walker's Book (1988)

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P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: peter(at) (1-16-2006)