Cassowaries are large flightless birds that roam New Guinea, the Northern regions of Australia, and the surrounding islands. Infamous for their reputation as the most deadly birds around, cassowaries are surprisingly elusive. These massive birds, the second heaviest birds following ostriches, tend to prefer to flee before engaging in confrontations. When threatened, though, the fearsome cassowary uses its dagger-like claws to eviscerate the threat. (1)
As a bird that is both elusive and dangerous, you might expect that humans and cassowaries have had a limited or contentious relationship. This, however, is not the case. Recent research suggests that, long before the domestication of the chicken, humans attempted to domesticate cassowaries. This means that we have an 18,000 year old relationship with these magnificent animals. (2)
It is no wonder, then, that despite their brutal reputation and less-than-social behavior, humans are fascinated by these beautiful creatures. Their resplendent colors, unusual anatomy, and intense gaze give cassowaries an air of mystery and exoticism. For many, there are aspects of the cassowary’s nature that we cannot help but see in ourselves.
Cassowary Symbolism and Meaning
Cassowaries are uncommon and bizarre. It makes sense, then, that when they appear to us in stories, thoughts, or dreams, we seek meaning in that appearance. There are a number of interpretations that can apply to cassowaries in various settings. In many cases, the symbolism of cassowaries is tied to their fierceness.
Cassowaries are often classified as the most deadly of birds, and for good reason. They are capable of killing humans with relative ease due to their immensely powerful legs and intimidating claws. However, there is more to these creatures than raw power.
Cassowaries are elusive creatures that prefer to forage the protected solitude of densely forested areas. They primarily dine on fruit and are more liable to flee an oncoming threat than they are to fight. (3)
Because of this, cassowaries often symbolize introversion. They can also represent an individual who is misjudged by others. A cassowary can be a potent symbol for not “judging a book by its cover.” Although fierceness is not the first instinct of a cassowary, that instinct is still a part of them. So, a cassowary may also represent the immense strength that a person can draw upon when trapped or threatened.
In this way, cassowaries represent standing up for yourself when peacefulness is no longer an option. A cassowary will try to avoid confrontation, but when a certain line is crossed, they will fight to protect themselves.
Although this meaning may tie cassowaries to conflict, their main driving force is peace. A cassowary will do anything to preserve and defend their peaceful existence, even if that means facing conflicts head on.
Cassowary Aboriginal Symbolism
Cassowaries are very significant animals to the indigenous people that live in their native ranges. They are a prized source of food and feature in an Aboriginal “dreamtime story” explaining how the cassowary received its helmet-like protrusion, called a “casque.” (4)
In many ways, the cassowary represents the vanishing rainforests of Northern Australia, New Guinea, and the surrounding islands. Their endangered status is a heartbreaking reminder of the threats that these territories are facing. (5)
Their connection to the identities of the indigenous people that inhabit these rainforest regions, mean that the fading populations of cassowaries also represent the difficult position in which these indigenous populations find themselves. In a sense, the cassowary represents the indigenous way of life for these populations.
Cassowary in Dreams
Have you been dreaming of cassowaries? This is a particularly difficult dream to ignore, and may often be unsettling, due to the ferocious appearance of the cassowary. Fear not, though, because cassowaries in dreams can be a positive guiding symbol.
Dreaming of cassowaries is usually representative of some kind of conflict. This can depend on how the cassowary appears in the context of the dream.
A dream in which you are attacked by a cassowary may represent a deep internal struggle. Cassowaries only attack when they feel trapped or threatened, so a dream in which you are attacked by a cassowary may indicate that you feel trapped by or at odds with your own decisions. You may be in conflict with a part of yourself that is difficult to avoid.
A dream in which a cassowary appears in a more neutral or restful state may indicate uneasiness. You may be sensing danger and feeling uncertain of how to react or proceed. Be sure to listen to your instincts as your subconscious mind might be warning you to defend your peace.
A happy or peaceful dream about a cassowary often represents a sense of belonging. Cassowaries are very uncomfortable in environments that don’t suit their elusive nature. To dream of a cassowary that is content indicates that the environment is facilitating a state of serenity and comfort.
A dream that associates a cassowary with an individual may indicate that you feel protected and secure in that relationship.
Cassowary Encounters and Omens
Outside of New Guinea, Northern Australia, and the surrounding islands, an encounter with a cassowary is quite unlikely. Regardless, we may encounter cassowaries in the form of images, thoughts, or other non-literal encounters.
A face to face encounter with a cassowary is a frightening thing. Although these creatures are strikingly beautiful, they are unsafe to interact with outside of observing them from a very safe distance. An encounter with a cassowary may act as a warning to rethink the path that you’re on. Cassowaries can be an omen of conflict ahead.
A safe encounter with a cassowary may also be an omen of protection. Cassowaries fiercely defend themselves once their peace is disturbed. An encounter with a cassowary may reflect spiritual guidance or the protection of one’s own peace.
Cassowary in Mythology & Folklore
Cassowaries have a relatively limited native range. Because of this, their cultural impact is not wide spread. In spite of this, they are an important part of the mythological traditions of the Indigenous peoples that inhabit the regions of New Guinea, Northern Australia, and the surrounding islands.
There is an Aboriginal “dreamtime” story about the cassowary that describes how the cassowary received its helmet, or “casque.”
This story describes the ways that all of the other animals of the forest made fun of the cassowary for being flightless. To avoid the other animals’ teasing, the cassowary avoided the watering hole where the other creatures swam. One day, the cassowary was spotted at the watering hole, and ridiculed. The cassowary was so distraught that he fled until he ran headlong into a rock. The rock splintered and part of it lodged itself in the cassowary’s head. After receiving comforting advice from a seahawk, the cassowary heard screams coming from the watering hole. When the cassowary approached the watering hole, he saw that the seahawk had been attacked by snakes. The snakes began to ridicule the cassowary for his small wings. The cassowary became so angry that he used the rock lodged in his head to destroy all of the snakes. After that, the cassowary earned the respect of all of the other animals. (6)
So, in Aboriginal mythology, the cassowary is driven to violence by a desire to defend his friend, and by the frustration of the other animals’ constant derision. The cassowary’s fierce nature only appears once he has been provoked to his limits.
Cassowary Spirit Animal
Is the mighty cassowary your spirit animal? If so, then you may be an individual with a powerful sense of justice. Although your nature is likely conflict avoidant, if the cassowary is your spirit animal, then injustice never fails to trigger your wrath. Individuals with the cassowary spirit animal are intensely defensive of their loved ones, or anyone that they perceive as innocent.
Although people with the cassowary spirit animal are capable of serious rage on the behalf of others, they may struggle to apply that sense of justice to themselves. If you have the cassowary spirit animal, make sure to defend and protect your own peace as passionately as you do others.
People with the cassowary spirit animal are usually very introverted. It is essential to the cassowary spirit animal that their environment is suitably secure and peaceful. Individuals with the cassowary spirit animal cannot thrive without an established home, and do not tend to enjoy prolonged travel.
Cassowary Totem Animal
The cassowary totem animal is a potent protective force. Like the cassowary spirit animal, people with the cassowary totem tend to have fiercely protective natures.
Additionally, the cassowary totem often grants individuals the ability to hide their true feelings. Although this can certainly be a strength, it is important that people with the cassowary totem animal practice opening up and expressing themselves.
Individuals with the cassowary totem animal may struggle with stubbornness. Cassowaries tend to be territorial and are usually uncomfortable with being challenged. For someone with the cassowary totem animal, this can mean losing sight of what’s important. For a cassowary totem who is an unrelenting protective force, it is vital that they understand that not every struggle is a true threat.
In the same vein, individuals with the cassowary totem animal may run into issues with letting their loved ones fight their own battles. People with the cassowary totem are so protective, that they may need to be reminded that loved ones must struggle sometimes in order to grow.
Cassowary Power Animal
The cassowary as a power animal is, of course, fiercely protective. Within this protective tendency, though, there is an unexpected tenderness. The cassowary power animal is naturally connected to individuals who are introverted and thoughtful, and may connect with the empathy inherent to a protective spirit.
So, if the cassowary is your power animal, listen to your intuition and try to be open with others. You may find that observation and perceptiveness are often far greater strengths than the fierceness for which cassowaries are notorious.
Cassowary Tattoo Meaning
A cassowary tattoo represents the well of strength that the bearer possesses. Cassowary tattoos may act as physical reminders to stand up for oneself and not give in under threat.
Because cassowaries have such a dangerous reputation, a cassowary tattoo is often connected with fierceness. An individual with a cassowary tattoo may pride themselves on their ability to protect themself and others.
Because cassowaries are such unique animals, with such interesting features, a cassowary tattoo may also relate to individuality and expression.
A cassowary tattoo may also be a cultural choice. For an individual with heritage that draws from the cassowary’s native range, a cassowary tattoo may be extremely culturally significant. It may act as a reminder of the struggles that these populations face, or simply as a reminder of the bearers heritage.
Finally, due to their endangered status, a cassowary tattoo may be a symbol of conservation efforts and the vital importance of respecting the natural world and preserving biodiversity. (7)
Despite their deadly reputation, cassowaries are multi-faceted animals with interesting insights to impart upon us. As, perhaps, the first attempted domestic birds, cassowaries and humans have long been connected. For certain cultures, the ongoing struggle to conserve the endangered cassowary represents the struggle to preserve their very culture. (8)
The intimidating nature of the cassowary is a natural side effect of their evidently massive strength and power. For individuals that feel especially connected to cassowaries, that power is a source of inspiration and comfort. Cassowaries connect us to our inner strength and remind us that it’s okay to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
When studying cassowaries, it’s difficult not to notice how misunderstood these beautiful animals are. Of course, their notoriousness as birds with the ability to kill is earned. There is certainly no shortage of truth to the association of cassowaries with deadliness. In spite all of that, though, there is a serenity to these unusual birds. Perhaps this is due to their reclusive nature, or their tendency to flee from danger. Regardless, as with those who find the cassowary to be a source of power, there is more to the cassowary than meets the eye.