Tag Archive for: angels

what does dove mean dove spirit animal

Spirit Animals: DIVINE DOVE

What does dove mean?

The term “dove” actually refers to a whole family of birds that includes both doves and pigeons. There are many species of doves of a variety shades of brown, gray, rose and slate blue. Dove species include mourning doves, rock pigeons, Eurasian collared doves, white winged doves, and band-tailed pigeons. One of the well known species extinctions caused by man was that of the passenger pigeon. Hunting and habitat destruction by European settlers wiped out some 3 to 5 billion birds around the turn of the 20th Century.

The white doves we frequently associate with the name of dove are rare in the wild and are white varieties of normally pigmented rock pigeons or ringneck doves. There is no actual species of white dove or pigeon. White doves are mostly bred and raised in captivity to serve as pets, release doves or racing pigeons.

What does dove mean? Dove spirit animal is most often associated with love, purity, nurturing, spirituality, and peace.

Dove Medicine is Love Medicine

The phrase “lovey-dovey” explains well the unabashed way that dove nibbles at her mate’s neck and erupts into a synchronized dance of beak grasping and head bobbing with him. We have borrowed a lot from dove, saying that lovers “coo” over each other. Male mourning doves are the ones that do the cooing to attract mates.

The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology) is often depicted holding a dove in her hand or surrounded by a flock of white doves. Aphrodite’s seven daughters were called a “flock of doves”. Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love is known to ride a dove.

Dove chooses one mate for life and forms strong pair bonds which contributes to her associations with romantic love.

We tend to downplay the importance of the honeymoon period of relationships, calling the lovey-dovey mood an infatuation that will not last, but dove teaches us that this outward sign of affection strengthens bonds and is critical for a successful relationship. If you find yourself swept up gazing into your lover’s eyes, dove totem animal is in your corner. Dove spirit animal is a great companion as we abandon ourselves to romance.

Dove Nurturing

The love of the doves extends beyond that of romantic love into the excellent care doves give their young. One example is that both mother doves and their mates produce “crop milk” for their young. The milk is secreted from the lining of the dove’s crop (organ in the throat), regurgitated and fed by mouth to the chicks. This is a relatively rare ability in the bird world with only flamingos and a few penguins able to do the same. Dove parents are also very attentive and often raise multiple broods in a year.

When considering what does dove mean, ask what you are nurturing right now? How can you partner with others to be more successful?


Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Purity & Dove Spirit Animal

The color white is symbolic of purity, so it follows that white doves are too. This link between doves and purity goes back to biblical times: “Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold,” – Psalms 68:10. In this passage, we are “my dove”.

St. Teresa of Avila affectionately called the soul a “little dove”. A person who is called a dove, is often seen as innocent, sweet and pure of intention. It is a compliment.

This is an interesting paradox to consider given that white doves are typically a strain of rock pigeon. Rock pigeons are the exact same species of pigeon that lives in cities. These are the pigeons that people call flying rats. It never ceases to amaze me how much power is in a name. Change the color and name and the exact same bird with the exact same habits turns from clean to filthy.

Consider your reputation right now. Are you trying to portray the image of purity? Do you want people to think you are honest and impeccable? Are you having issues with others seeing you as disgraced or dishonorable? Or do you know of your own baseness and you’re trying to hide it? When dove spirit animal comes on the scene, it is time to consider your struggle between beauty and ugliness and realize that we all both. The potential for either good or bad is within us no matter what color we wear.

Dove Spiritual Meaning

In the same way that butterflies are seen by human souls in Japanese mythology, doves are seen as symbols of the spirit in Christian theology. Even further, the dove is representative of the Holy Spirit as seen when a dove descended from heaven during Jesus’s baptism.

The love and strong pair bonding of dove is often used as a metaphor for spiritual devotion and union.

Do you feel the presence of the sacred in your own life? Are you waiting for a visit from your Creator? Dove spirit animal reminds us that communications from Spirit can come in very obvious forms. Do not dismiss a sign just because it is clear as day. If a sign does not come, know that blatant divine favors are not given out like candy. Some of us will only receive an unmistakeable sign once in a lifetime. Dove spirit animal is here to help us maintain our faith no matter how few or far between gifts from God are.

Peace and Pacifism

Dove brought Noah an olive branch to show that the great flood had ended. Since then, images of dove holding an olive branch demonstrate the peace that comes when the flood waters of emotion subside. Water is symbolic of emotion and wars are sparked by an excess of emotion. Where can you extend an olive branch in your life?

Remember that what is in one is in the whole. Whatever feelings of vengeance you harbor are contributing energetically to the larger conflicts between nations. Your forgiveness is needed.

Mourning Dove Symbolism

In the United States, the main species of dove we have is the mourning dove. Mourning doves are also known as “turtle doves,” which we hear about a pair of in the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” song every holiday season. The morning dove’s slow and melodic song eases the pace of the otherwise chaotic and fast-paced birdsong that fills our world. To us the song may seem sorrowful, but for the male bird singing the song it is full of the excitement and anticipation of another year with his beloved. It is a song filled with longing and love.


What is Intention?

In our spiritual work, we so often utilize the words “intention” and “intent”. We set an intent for what we’d like to heal. We carry an intention for something in our lives to change. We decide what we’d like to manifest (such as a new job or a new house) and set an intent around that.

I’ve used the words myself for years and years. I use the words casually. I unconsciously weave them into my inner conversations and my conversations with clients. I never question the merit of or motivation behind setting intent or forming an intention. I simply believe the process has value and assume that the understanding of the concept of intention is universal. However, this belief is now changing in me.

First let’s look at some definitions of the intent, and then we’ll look at how human nature puts intention to use in spiritual practice.

Definition of Intent

“Intent” originates from the Latin word “intentus” which means an extending, attentive to, and strained. It is a past participle of “intendere” which means to direct attention.

The most simple modern day definition of intent is an aim or a purpose.

“Intent on” means to be:

  • Resolved or determined to do something
  • Attentively occupied with
  • Showing earnest and eager attention

In criminal law, intent takes on a deeper meaning which I include here simply as a way to show that this word can be used to describe both a helpful and a harmful state of mind. Understanding that intent is a word strong enough to convict someone of a crime allows us to start unveiling the power behind our intentions.

Intent is a “determined and purposeful state of mind accompanying an act. While motive is usually not a deciding factor in determination of guilt, an intent that designs or manipulates means to achieve a foreseen unlawful end always is. Intent implies inevitability of a consequence, a natural or probable consequence is not considered intent in law.” – http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/intent.html

If you read that correctly, you will understand that intent is more powerful than motive in criminal law because it implies that a person has made up their mind to commit the crime no matter what and that the crime would not happen without their intending it to. Motivation simply says this is something we’d like to do or like to happen, but intent has enough drive behind it to make it “inevitable”.

What is Intention?

Intention has a number of contexts but the most common two are “an act of determining mentally upon some action or result” or “the end or object intended”. Intention is also a medical term used to describe the way a wound or fracture is healing. It is less important to know the exact use of the medical phrase and more fun to see this linguistic connection between intention and healing.

In her work in Medicine for the Earth, Sandra Ingerman discusses how a group of people coming together and setting an intent for healing polluted water can actually cause a change in the chemical makeup of the water – for the better. Her pivotal teaching is spreading across the globe and creating a living web of light with the sole purpose of healing the planet. It is an outstanding body of work that is making great change in the world.

There has been a good deal of research done around intention and how setting a mental intent can affect people’s health and success. The book The Intention Experiment covers a wide range of scientific experiments that show how intention can cause a hastening of healing and aid change in other aspects of the physical world around us. For those who believe in the power of intention, this book gives the precious proof that we are looking for when trying to explain why we value setting an intention.

Masaru Emoto’s work in The Hidden Messages in Water is overflowing with images of how our intentions can affect the formation of water crystals. As you flip through the pages, beautiful photos of water crystals labeled “love” and “peace” demonstrate the power of words. Reading his book is like standing in a snow storm and making out the snowflakes on your glove. The melting of the snowflakes mirrors the disappointment of learning how our hurtful words create ugly, malformed crystals. Here, we see how intention is a two way street.

Intent and Prayer

I think just about everyone of us has had someone say to us at some point in our lives, “I will pray for your healing.” How did that make you feel?  The inner response can range from gratitude to resistance depending on a person’s feelings about religion and spirituality. An atheist may very well may resist and distaste the offering, possibly seeing it as an outright offense. A devout Christian may be deeply appreciative of the gesture, feeling it as the greatest gift. An independent spiritual seeker may get a bit defensive or brush off the prayer, worried that the prayer is an attempt to convert them.

Outside of religious communities the word “prayer” has fallen into disuse. This has happened for a number of reasons, and most of them have to do with the counter-movement to organized religion. There are a number of dissenters who left the church and what they felt as an oppressive, restrictive belief system. In leaving the church, they left the language behind. There are also people that never found the source of grace they longed for in a temple, so they never picked up the language in the first place.

Regardless, I am proposing that despite the loss of the use of the word prayer, that the concept has still found its way into many spiritual circles disguised as “intention”. Now instead of praying for our own healing, we are intending for it. Psychologically, spiritually, and energetically it looks strikingly similar. Set a book on the power of prayer next to the power of intention, and you see that the logic, the stories, and the evidence are nearly interchangeable.

The main difference that prayer has an implicit spiritual context and intent is not necessarily attached to spirituality. By involving angels and spirit guides as well as conversations about metaphysics and energy in our intention setting, we have linked the two and, thus, brought intent much closer to prayer.

Continue Reading about this topic in my next article on How to: Setting Intentions

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

meaning of red-tailed hawk symbolism


Red-tails adapt easily to life with and around humans and, in general, are more in service to humanity than other hawk species. There is a famous red-tailed hawk that has nested on the side of a skyscraper on the edge of New York City’s Central Park for over twenty years. The male hawk, known as “Pale Male”, has an entire film documentary about him, his various mates, and his young.

It seems that the spirits prefer to send red-tails as messengers because of their gregarious and more approachable nature. In a sense, they are the labrador retrievers of the hawk world and both in spirit and in the flesh they can be our loyal best friends. The are also very conspicuous, found throughout North America in nearly every type of open or semi-open habitat. Seeing red-tailed hawks is such a common occurrence that one may miss the significance of red-tailed hawk symbolism all together, but just because a host of angels are sent to the skies above you doesn’t mean you should ignore them.

Symbolism of Red-Tailed Hawk Feathers

The red tail feathers of this hawk are extremely significant as they bring strong power in relation to the first chakra, otherwise known as the root chakra. The first chakra relates to situations and circumstances around family, friends, and community. Here is where our insecurities around being abandoned, outcast, and left alone are held. Here are our worries about being humiliated. To have red feathers at this chakra that is characterized by the color red amplifies the power of this message and demonstrates how integral these hawks can be in helping us work through healing wounds around our sense of belonging in tribes.

Red as a color relates to love, anger, and passion, matters we’d typically associate with the heart, but this is the personal heart, the one that ties us intimately with those we come into contact with on a daily basis.

If you look closely at the tail of a red-tail, you will see a thin black horizontal line running across the base of the feathers with each feather tipped by white. Red-tails are divine messengers meant to bring guidance from the heavens and ground the guidance out in the physical world. In grounding out the guidance (black line) the realms of spirit (white tip) are available even in the lowest, most mundane places. Many of a red-tail’s feathers are “barred” with multiple dark lines. This is a common feature of hawk feathers and speaks to how they are able to navigate multiple altitudes and embody many layers of understanding.

Relationship to the Tribe

Each red-tailed hawk has a unique plumage (coat of feathers), so despite the fact that they are literally one in a million of their kind, each is a unique individual with an important story to tell. In my book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks I tell the story written on the breast of my best friend, Graccia the female red-tailed hawk I worked with in a raptor education program:

I stood memorizing every single feather on her body. Each was as unique as a snowflake. Then, like peering through a looking glass, noticed a figure on one of the contour feathers among those in her belly. It was in the shape of a spirit, much like that of an angel. The spirit’s arms were straight out and it wore a long flowing robe that extended across the tip of Graccia’s feather. I took a step back and widened my focus. Before me stood a gathering of angels spanning the width of her breast. As I absorbed the entire picture I was without breath. Below the feathers painted with spirits were feathers hatched with horizontal lines. In reading the story written there, I saw that these markings represented the earth. The earth lines rose to form a fleet of spirits that looked like robed angels with arms outstretched. The spirit fleet then morphed into vertical lines, beings of light, shooting into the heavens. The pattern was so plainly written at this moment outside time. The story told on her breast was that of enlightened beings that are born of the earth and then merged with the heavens.

The fact that these stories are demonstrated on the hawk’s chests like a “shield” harkens back to family and tribal shields or coats of armor. If you had to draw the coat of armor for your family or your current tribe, what would it look like? If you are yearning for a new tribe, draw that coat of armor. Imagine what it would look like painted in cream and brown in the feathers of a hawk. Know that “your” people are out there.

The path may be to grow your own self-esteem so that you have the courage to be vulnerable with those around you. Graccia helped me open up and connect with those around me in a profound way, helping me see my tribe wherever I go now. Another opportunity may be to go out and risk making new friends and trying new things. With the image of your tribe to guide you, you will know your people when you meet them.


Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.


Divine Messengers

An overabundance of red-tailed hawk spirit animals in our lives can mean that our prayers are being answered… the answers are being brought to us on hawk’s wings. What are you wishing for right now? What are your dreams? Are you able to recognize the gifts being brought to you and the doors open before you?

If you are not able to see the gifts coming your way the red-tails may be coming to assist you and to CALL your attention to them. They can help you identify who in your tribe is granting and fostering these gifts. The hawks may be calling your attention to old habits, patterns, or defenses that are getting in the way of you relating to your fellow humans. Listen and be willing to let your guard down. Trust your reputation into the talons of the red-tail and you will be rewarded.

Red-tailed hawks typically hunt by either using the power of the wind to hold them aloft while they soar or by roosting on a high perch. Aloft or perched, they wait quietly and watch carefully. Once they see a mouse move below them they swoop down on their prey in a slow, controlled dive. The message here is to not waste your energy tirelessly trying to stir up the answer, but to find a high vantage and to take in the whole picture.

With red-tailed hawk symbolism, it’s time to become the observer and see things from a mystical perspective. This is not about being “better than” your tribe-mates, but about seeing things away from your ties to worry about what others will think of you. From this wide-angle view, wait to see a glimmer of movement and use your sharp, keen vision to focus in on what caught your attention. Then you can confidently dive down and grasp hold of the knowing.

Hawk spirit animals in general are about vision and the ability to shift from a wide view to a microscopic focus. It may be time for you to review your life to get in touch with a larger vision and purpose while at the same time checking in to make sure that you are focusing on key relationships. Look for the gifts of your tribe, revel in the gifts of your life, and give thanks to divine messengers. You can release your gratitude to the red-tails and they will carry the memo back to the heavens on your behalf.

gracious wild book by stacey couch

barn owl gracious wild

“Letting Go” from Gracious Wild

Gracious Wild is primarily about my relationship to two spectacular hawks, but other animals including one defiant barn owl contributed to the story as well. This excerpt from the book Gracious Wild tells about how “Papa Rhett” taught about letting go. I would also say, behind the scenes, that this owl taught me a lot about not caring what other people think. When you have supernatural hearing and sight like he did the truth is always there with you. Why bother trying to figure out another person’s version of the story? He was relentless in stomping out my self-consciousness. I loved this quirky beast and am happy to report that he is still alive and well and representing his kind in front of many audiences a year. Now on to the story…

For days on end there was this unnerving tension between us. I waffled back and forth between my desire for companionship and my complete distrust that anyone would ever want to accompany me along my path of discovery.

With his body language, Rhett seemed to mirror the same experience. One moment he would glare at me and chatter some rubbish, as if to say, “How dare you think you can talk to an owl like me?” The next moment he would take to delicately preening a long flight feather on the end of his wing. His head would gracefully twist sideways as his beak carefully zipped and caressed the barbs of the feather into place. I was swept away in the ballet of the moment until he noticed himself, turned to glare at me, and stomped his foot on the glove.

“Oh yes, that’s right, Rhett, how dare I fall in love with you,” I’d adoringly chuckle. And I did—fall in love with him, that is.

Over time I learned when to sidestep his grumpiness and when to meet it head on. We spent hours in the corridor of green grass that lay between the cages on the property. There he’d fly from my glove to the perch stationed at the far end of the lawn. I’ve been told that owls, for reasons I have yet to speculate on, prefer to fly from the glove to the perch, while hawks prefer the opposite routine. This reversal of roles was healing for me. I had to learn how to communicate to the owl that I was ready. I’ve been told that owls, for reasons I have yet to speculate on, prefer to fly from the glove to the perch, while hawks prefer the opposite routine. This reversal of roles was healing for me. I had to learn how to communicate to the owl that I was ready to let go, rather than beg him and bait him with food to come to me.

This letting go part was easier said than done. It took me weeks of standing with him on the glove, staring at the perch and waiting. The antics I went through to try and convince him to fly were, I’m sure, absolutely hysterical to onlookers. He seemed to gather the most pleasure out of watching me dance, cajole, coax, and whine. Certainly, there must be some key movement or cue that I’m just not doing right or at all, I convinced myself, and continued on with the arm waving and gibberish talking. It’s hard to tell what spirits I cursed or conjured or plain offended, but I just couldn’t get that sticky owl off my glove. This, keep in mind, was the same owl who apparently despised stepping onto my glove at the beginning of every session.

Eventually, though, my persistence paid off and, paradoxically, I was able to let go. Letting go didn’t just entail that I release his leash, point, and say “perch,” because I’d done that dozens of times before with no results. This was an entirely different way of working in the world. Like magic, as I turned to face the perch on this occasion I felt the cells in my body relax and tingle. As I opened my fingers to release my hold on his tether I felt energy lift up through my hand. As I raised my right hand to point to the perch I felt my intent and focus carry me to the perch, and without hesitation Rhett’s stare locked in on his destination and he lifted off. I stood, jaw dropped, and watched him glide like an angel inches above the blades of grass. Then with a whimsical flutter of the tips of his wings he lifted up and lighted quietly on the perch. Every time he left my glove from that moment forward, I had the same transcendental experience. In this way, my friend by default supported me in holding on to the lessons Thalia had brought me. By teaching me how to let go, Papa Rhett was teaching me how to consistently embrace the unknown and live in the moment.

Click here to learn more about Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks

barn owl gracious wild

"Ghostly Messenger" from Gracious Wild

This is an excerpt from my book: Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks

Another spirit I’d known in this life began calling on me regularly since I’d come to the island. The woman who was my babysitter when I was a child was a grandmother to me. She first appeared randomly in my dreams, but then her visits began to take on meaning. I hadn’t seen her during the last few years of her life and always regretted never saying goodbye.

I was in a dimly lit living room with the shades drawn. Pauline sat low on an old sofa with green and gold floral print. She was plump like I remembered her in one of her big, soft housedresses. The room was smokey with rays of light coming in through the cracks in the curtains. I knew she was dying.

“You should get going to class,” she encouraged. She was right; it was nearly time for my college courses to start.

“I don’t want to leave you,” I shyly admitted.

“All will be well,” she comforted, “come here and give me a hug.”

I approached her and bent over to wrap my arms around the round woman now on in years. She felt frail under my arms. The sweet scent of her housedress rubbed my chin. Her tight, gray curls tickled my cheek. Her arms engulfed me. I leaned into her and whispered, “goodbye grandma.”

I felt myself lifting up with her spirit as it left her body. For a moment, I held the embrace and revealed in the weightlessness. I felt so free. Then, self-conscious, I pulled back into my own body. I stood aside and watched her spirit ascend.

My wrist-watch alarm woke me from my otherworldly dream hours before dawn. I ate breakfast staring at three black windows and packed carefully for a cross-island trip. A setting three quarter moon surrounded by haunting, wispy clouds loomed ahead as I climbed Manzanita Hill. The scene was the perfect backdrop for a horror movie, and after my strange dream it felt as if I was walking the land of the dead. What was I doing here? In answer, a shrill, blood-curdling scream erupted from the darkness around me. I stopped, my muscles surging in anguish against the anxiety. I spun to face the tormenting barn owl that had released his shriek. I let out a madwoman’s scream of my own. Hearing my voice so similar to his raised my courage. His ghostly white figure glowing in the moonlight stealthily disappeared into the night sky. Just then my grandmother’s house came to mind. She had owl figures and pictures decorating her entire house. This was becoming way too real.

immature red tailed hawk spirit animal


Before I completely lose the sensation of summer, I wanted to honor a message I received recently from a young hawk. One afternoon I was out orienting a new volunteer at the horse rescue when I was approached by another volunteer. “Hey bird lady, there’s a hawk with a broken wing out in the east pasture. Can you go check it out?”

So, new volunteer in tow, I rounded up a pair of gloves, a towel and a rubbermaid tub. We traipsed all the way out there, through the weeds, and along the fence lines. No hawk. I must admit, I was relieved. It is a paradox to receive a message from the spirit world carried on the back of a suffering animal. I feel humbled in the gift and smacked with my ignorance, not to mention the heartache of my empathy for the animal. Somehow I always wonder, “did I not hear the message the first time?”

I figured, wrongly, that the hawk had wandered onto the neighbor’s property to die in peace in the brush. The next morning I was approached again, “Hey bird lady…”

I drove out into the pasture in the golf cart with a pair of adult red-tails swirling and screaming overhead. There was the small beast standing stoic in the shade of the horse shelter. He had no fight left and the terrible stench of rotting flesh about him. His right wing was fractured. The dead, black bone stuck out an inch. A marble-sized colony of maggots had laid waste to the wound.

Immature red-tail feathers. I know them so well. An old friend of mine was in that plummage for most of the year we spent together. My dear Graccia often had that same determined look in her eye. There was no taking her off course.

“Just give up the ghost,” I said to the injured hawk as it stood in the box staring at me. There was no flesh left on his body. All the energy he had remaining was put to standing there, staring at me.

He died later that afternoon and my husband buried him under the old cottonwood.

So… the message? The active principle (right side wing) was broken, long dead, in my life. The effort that I had put forth into the world (the pair of hawks fledging a young hawk) had failed at its moment of glory. I had been stubbornly sitting on this failure too long (rotting wound). Put in plain terms, my inability to live in the season of summer, live in the fruition of my dreams, had become a systemic problem that had grounded me for way too long and that threatened to destroy my entire way of life.

Sounds dramatic, I know, but, wow, this hawk gave his life. We often hope for angels, miracles, and beams of light from heaven. We think divine messages come on wings, and, guess what? They actually do.


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