A. Andrew Gonzalez, “Unio Mystica”
1. “In the myths of Babylonia and Judaism, a dive circles the subsiding waters of the primal flood and returns with the olive branch, sign of renewal after inundation.”
“The Book of Symbols”
2.“Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
The symbolism of the dove goes back a long way and over many geographical locations. In ancient Greece, it was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite, who the Romans called Venus Columba (Venus-the-Dove). In India it was perceived as a symbol of desire and the equivalent of the yoni. As Barbara G. Walker puts it, “Joined to her consort the phallic serpent, the Dove-goddess stood for sexual union and Life.” Interestingly, the Semitic word for ‘dove’ – ione, is related not only to ‘yoni’ but also to the Roman name of the goddess Hera – Juno. “Juno” also meant a woman genius, so the Dove/Holy Spirit is in its essence an expression of the higher mind of the deity, i.e. Sophia –an emanation of divine wisdom. In Gnosticism, Sophia was a feminine figure, identified with the soul. In Christianity, the dove is the emblem of the Holy Spirit, which impregnates the Virgin Mary. Great mother goddesses such as Ishtar, Atargatis or Aphrodite were perceived as doves in their dual nature of being earthy and celestial at the same time.
Queen Semiramis, legendary founder of Babylon – her name meant “Dove” in the Syrian tongue
Further, the dove is a longstanding symbol of the soul. In ancient Rome, Aphrodite’s catacombs were called “columbaria” (dovecotes), which, according to Barbara G. Walker, gave rise to the belief that the soul returns to the Goddess after death as a dove.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “Venus with Doves”
As an interesting parallel, during canonization ceremonies in the Catholic Church white doves are released as symbols of the souls of saints.
In Christian iconography, the dove is sometimes shown with seven rays emanating from her, which further connects her to the Goddess, specifically to the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, whose name in Greek meant “a flock of doves.”
Pleiades as doves, image via http://corinazone.deviantart.com/art/Pleiades-The-doves-66096424
Ted Andrews identifies the dove with “feminine energies of peace, maternity and prophecy.” Cassandra Eason wrote that “the cooing of sacred doves in the oracular groves dedicated to the Ancient Greek Sky god Zeus at Dodona was used for prophecy by the priestesses.” This ancient shrine was second only to Delphi in its oracular significance and it was dedicated to a Mother Goddess. The prophetesses residing there were called “peleiades” (doves). According to a legend retold by Herodotus, the oracle was established by former foreign female slaves at a place where a black dove settled on an oak tree:
“I expect that these women were called ‘doves’ by the people of Dodona because they spoke a strange language, and the people thought it like the cries of birds; then the woman spoke what they could understand, and that is why they say that the dove uttered human speech; as long as she spoke in a foreign tongue, they thought her voice was like the voice of a bird. For how could a dove utter the speech of men? The tale that the dove was black signifies that the woman was Egyptian.” (quote after Wikipedia)
John William Waterhouse, “Consulting the Oracle”
The cooing of the white dove is one of the most beautiful sounds one can hear. Ted Andrews says the song of the dove (especially the mourning dove) is “the rain song,” which “invokes new waters of life.” It is the most distinct and audible at liminal temporal spaces, i.e. the dawn and the dusk. At these times the veil between matter and spirit is the thinnest, the past opens the gate to the future and the Holy Spirit descends. Ted Andrew adds:
“The song of this totem tells you to mourn what has passed, but awaken to the promise of the future. It is a bird of prophecy and can help you to see what you can give birth to in your life.”
The dove is an emblem of good tidings and of peace. It is monogamous by nature and “has been associated with the mystic, erotic attraction and devotion that bring things into fertile union,” says the entry Dove in The Book of Symbols. The dove is a soulful image that “transcends the violence of our polarities,” adds the same book.
Ted Andrews, Animal Speak
Cassandra Eason, Fabulous Creatures, Mythical Monsters and Animal Power Symbols
Barbara G. Walker, Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, ARAS, ed. Ami Ronnberg