What do the birds on Tarot cards mean? What is the significance behind the bird symbolism of the Tarot? What are the Tarot cards with bird symbols and their meanings?
Birds frequently make an appearance on the Rider Waite Smith Tarot deck, and their meanings are significant. Learning how to interpret birds means that you can easily fall back on bird symbolism if you get stuck remembering the card meanings.
You’re probably aware that there are a lot of animals on the Rider Waite Smith Tarot deck, too many to put into one post. Therefore, there are 3 posts in this series:
Part II: The Meanings of Bird Symbols on Tarot Cards (This Post)
In Tarot, birds make an appearance on multiple cards including the Queen of Swords, King of Swords, Knight of Swords and Page of Swords. These birds don’t appear to be any particular breed of bird and, therefore, they probably just reflect the general symbolic meanings of birds not one specific to any given type.
Birds generally have two main meanings in the context of Tarot. On one hand, they represent the element of air, on the other, they symbolize freedom.
You will notice on The Rider Waite Smith deck how all of the Sword Courts have birds; this is because birds are the mascot of the element of air (obviously due to their ability to fly). It is quite comical how, once you notice the birds in the background of these cards, you’ll be hyper aware of how empty the sky looks on the other cards in the pack!
In divination, birds can also symbolize freedom and a lack of restrictions: this interpretation gives an extra layer of meaning to the Sword Courts. Unlike the other Court cards, the Swords have a reputation for making logical, brain driven decisions, free from emotional entanglement. Therefore, in this case the birds symbolize an ability to deal in facts and not be limited by other factors
A dove bird makes an appearance on the Ace of Cups. The Ace of Cups obviously is a card of love, peace and femininity and doves are often signals of these things. Also, the Ace of Cups is often interpreted as being a very spiritual card, seen as it is the first in the Cups suit (which is a suit aligned with the water element reflecting intuition, emotions and psychic ability).
Sometimes, I interpret the Ace of Cups to predict the seeker will receive a sign from spirit, God or the universe. Coincidently, doves are associated with signs and messages from God; in the story of Noah, Noah sent out a dove to determine how far he and his family were from land.
Doves often appear in Christian art to signal the presence of the holy spirit. You’ll notice that the Virgin Mary is often depicted with a dove or holding a dove. Therefore, not only is the dove a sign of spirituality but, just like the Ace of Cups, it is a card of females and the feminine aspects of the divine. There is a belief that The Ace of Cups predicts the bird of a girl, and the Ace of Wands foretells of the birth of a boy.
An eagle appears on The Wheel of Fortune and The World Tarot cards. While this bird is not meant to represent an actual eagle (it is supposed to be a tetramorph) but are some similarities between The Wheel of Fortune, The World and eagle symbolism.
In Greek mythology, the eagle is a symbol of Zeus and Zeus is often depicted with an eagle companion in both art and myth. Obviously, Zeus is the king of the Gods and of heaven.
Both the Wheel of Fortune and The World cards are cards heavily associated with heaven, fate and destiny. Some Tarot readers even say that they represent the will of God. Therefore, it is not surprising that the eagle is on both cards symbolizing God’s presence.
The falcon or hawk on the 9 of Pentacles is a rather strange addition. In symbolism, falcons have pretty much the same interpretations as eagles do. However, this is not the purpose of the bird on the 9 of Pentacles.
Like all birds, falcons can represent freedom. To see a restrained or caged bird in a dream, on a Tarot card or another form of divination obviously symbolizes a lack of freedom and an inability to fly (this is something I cover in The Wild Diviner Masterclass).
The figure on the 9 of Pentacles card is content with what she has achieved financially but she is very much a women of the house. In some cases, the 9 of Pentacles can represent someone who has all of their financial needs taken care of but is trapped in the prison of their own making. The bird represents the fact that this women is content but she is still tied down to her responsibilities and held back, in a way, because of the lifestyle she has created and now must maintain.
Finally, an ibis bird appears in the tree on The Star card. The ibis is associated with the Egyptian God Thoth, the God of wisdom, magic, writing and insight. This interpretation fits in nicely with that of The Star, as it too is a card of magic, manifestation and the future being revealed.
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Cards used in this post are The Rider Waite Tarot deck.