Symbolism of the Doves


single white doveThe 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 anddrawing of dove and olive branch 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 white dove and snake paintingbearing 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.