A. Andrew Gonzalez, “Unio Mystica”
1.“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
2. “Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground.”
3.“Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
One of the most important symbols of Pentecost, celebrated today, is the dove, which in Christianity is identified with the Holy Spirit. 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 lust 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, and if you are still following my linguistic meanderings, 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.
Queen Semiramis, legendary founder of Babylon – her name meant “Dove” in the Syrian tongue
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”
I usually write at length about ancient Greek traditions but I was especially charmed by the way the Pueblo Indians honored the dove, as Ted Andrews writes:
“The mournful song of the dove was considered an invocation to water and an indication to men where the water could be found. … Its song would signify waterholes or springs to which the dove must return at dusk to drink.”
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. To sum up by quoting Ted Andrew again:
“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.”
Ted Andrews, Animal Speak
Cassandra Eason, Fabulous Creatures, Mythical Monsters and Animal Power Symbols
Barbara G. Walker, Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets