The finch is a sturdy little songbird that often possesses a stout bill and can come in a variety of dazzling colors. Finches are common in most regions of the world and are often kept as pets.
Often associated with domesticity, cheerfulness, and wealth, the finch is an excellent example of a bird that has been important to human culture dating back to ancient times. (1)
One particularly important connection between mankind and finches can actually be credited to a different species of songbird. Darwin’s finches are a group of songbirds endemic to the Galapagos Islands that have played an essential role in the formation of the theory of evolution by natural selection. These so-called finches are actually tanagers, but they are called finches to this day. (2) Charles Darwin studied the ways that the individual species in this group differ based on their diets and habitats, most notably, the differences in the shapes of their bills depending on their preferred diets. Through this study, and other studies regarding the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, Darwin developed his theory that through natural selection, animals adapt to their circumstances over many generations. This theory is still considered to be the best explanation for the evolution of Earth’s incredible array of diverse plants and animals.
As pets and companions, finches have accompanied mankind for centuries. As bright warbling ambassadors of the beauty of nature, they have never failed to uplift those who encounter them. People who feel especially connected to finches may be drawn to the vibrant colors or cheerful songs for which these birds are known. In this article, we’ll explore the spiritual, mythological, and symbolic significance of the humble yet impactful finch.
Finch Symbolism and Meaning
Symbolically, finches have many interesting meanings depending on culture and context. Many traditional wisdoms and sayings associate finches with rainfall and premonition.
The canary, a beloved species of finch often kept as a pet, is often associated with forewarning; the proverbial “canary in the coalmine” warns against invisible danger due to its sensitivity. To read more about canaries specifically, check out our article on the canary’s symbolism, mythology, and meaning.
Due to their popularity as pets, finches are often associated with captivity as well as freedom. The expression “a caged bird doesn’t sing,” is often interpreted as referring to a finch or canary. While this expression refers to the futility of attempting to capture nature’s beauty, the wild beauty of a singing bird is often associated with freedom. In this way, finches are simultaneously associated with the ecstatic joy of true freedom and the stifling nature of captivity and possession.
Additionally, the evolutionary adaptations of Darwin’s finches connect them to adaptability and biodiversity.
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Finch Native American Symbolism
In Native American traditions, finches are often associated with celebration and joy. They were regarded as Omens of good things to come. Additionally, the bright yellow feathers of the American Goldfinch we’re associated with the might and spiritual power of the sun.
Finch Christianity Symbolism
The European Goldfinch has a bright crimson patch on its head. There is a Christian legend that associates this bird with Christ’s passion. In this version of Christ’s death, the European Goldfinch attempts to remove the crown of thorn from Jesus’ head. In doing so, the bird is stained with the blood of Christ. This legend posits that this is where the crimson plumage on the European Goldfinch’s head comes from. (3)
Thus, in Christian symbolism, the finch is a bird that can be connected with Christ, compassion, benevolence, and sacrifice.
Finch Celtic Symbolism
Celtic traditions associate finches with predestination, good fortune, and spiritual guidance.
Finch in Dreams
What does it mean to dream of finches? While the true meaning may be completely different depending on the individual and circumstances: the finch is a bird that is overflowing with spiritual and symbolic meanings that can guide the knowledgeable dreamer.
Because finches are often associated with their pet status, dreaming of a finch is often connected to the home. A finch in a cage, or an otherwise unwell finch may refer to a difficult or stifling situation at home. On the flip side, a singing finch refers to a harmonious and nourishing home environment.
Finches are so vocal that they may at times be connected with communication. A dream featuring a silent finch may refer to a deficit in confidence or a general failure to express oneself.
Dreaming of a finch that is dead, seriously injured, may indicate that there is a source of danger in the dreamer’s life that he/she has failed to recognize. It is wise to interpret such a dream symbol as a warning.
Finch Encounters and Omens
Encountering a finch is a joyful experience. Finches are regular visitors at feeders, especially when their favorite thistle seeds are on the menu. They are adaptable and often thrive in urban environments. Urban finches add a splash of color and a trill of song to our manmade concrete jungles.
If you’ve encountered a finch, you may wonder whether this bird has any guidance to offer. The principal wisdom to gain from a finch encounter is the importance of appreciating the beauty of nature. Even in starkly urban environments nature’s beauty persists. Finches embody this by adding music and vibrancy to the lives of humans who, generally, hardly notice these birds at all.
A finch encounter may also act as a reminder to follow your joy wherever it may take you. Finches flutter through the sky proclaiming their joy through song. Encountering a finch may be a reminder to seek out the paths in your life that fill you with a sense of freedom, opportunity, and happiness.
Finch in Mythology & Folklore
Most mythological and folkloric traditions involving finches act as “origin stories” for the bright plumage of the finch. Like the Christian legend featured in this article, these stories often feature the finch performing an act of kindness that results in the previously plain bird earning its impressive coloration. These stories are excellent reminders that true beauty begins within us and radiates out with each act of kindness.
Native American Mythology:
In one Iroquois legend, goldfinches were originally a drab black or grey color. Dissatisfied with their plumage, these finches finally earned their gold coloration through an act of selfless kindness. As the story goes, a fox took a nap beneath a pine tree. As he did this, the sap dropped into his eyes and sealed them shut. He begged for help and the drab grey finches agreed to help him. They worked in shifts pecking at the sap until the fox could open his eyes again. The fox offered them a reward of their choice for their help. When they asked him for brighter colors, the fox pressed yellow flowers into paint and painted the finches with his tail as a brush. The finches were so pleased with their new plumage that they began to flutter, dance, and sing. This is the reason that finches still flutter while they fly and sing such cheerful songs! (4)
In Greek mythology, the finch appears in the myth of a woman named Acanthis. Ancanthis was the daughter of Autonous and Hippodamia, and sister to Anthus, Erodius, and Schoenous. When Acanthis’s brother, Anthus, is killed by their father’s horses, she is consumed with grief. The gods, pitying Acanthis, transform her into a finch to free her from the anguish of her grief. (5)
In this way, Greek mythology reinforces the association of the finch with freedom and sacrifice.
Finch Spirit Animal
Is your spirit animal the cheerful finch? If this is the case then it’s likely that you are a creative, compassionate, and sensitive soul. Individuals who have the finch as their spirit animal are often deeply empathetic and willing to sacrifice for the happiness of others.
People with the finch spirit animal, like Darwin’s finches, are adaptable and influenced by their environments. A negative environment can take a serious toll on the finch spirit. In an enriching environment, though, people with the finch as their spirit animal will radiate happiness and positivity and easily infect others with their joy.
Similarly, people with the finch spirit animal wear their hearts on their sleeves. Incapable of deception or of masking their emotions, people with this spirit animal are exceptionally easy to read. When they are happy, they cannot help but express it through creative means. When they are sad, their faces and bodies seem to crumble under the weight of their emotions.
Finch Totem Animal
The finch totem animal is chiefly associated with freedom. Finches dart across the skies, tumbling and wheeling with reckless abandon. Though domestic finches have been bred to thrive in captivity, the true beauty of finches lies in watching them rejoice in their own freedom overhead.
For people with the finch totem animal, feeling trapped or confined is unbearable. Like a caged bird, people with this totem animal are prone to completely shutting down when they feel stifled. The creative outlets that these individuals use to communicate will go silent until they can be free again.
Because of their devotion to freedom, people with the finch totem animal have a tendency to be somewhat flighty and impulsive. They may struggle with serious commitments for fear of losing the freedom that they covet.
Finch Power Animal
The power of the finch is sacrifice. In so many legends, the finch earns its colors through an act of selfless compassion. So, if the finch is your power animal, you may have an intense need to alleviate the suffering of others, even at the cost of your own well-being. This power, although it is certainly an asset, must be managed with care to avoid falling into self-destructive patterns of behavior.
Self-sacrifice is admirable and denotes an individual with a deep well of empathy and compassion in their heart. However, people with the finch power animal should beware. You can only sacrifice so much of yourself before you have nothing left to give. It is important that people with this power animal recognize the importance of prioritizing their own needs and turning their compassion inwards.
Finch Tattoo Meaning
A finch tattoo can symbolize many different things.
For those who are aware of the story of Darwin’s finches, such a tattoo may represent adaptability and the ways in which the bearer has been shaped by their environment.
A finch tattoo may also represent kindness, freedom, or joy.
For a religious individual, a tattoo of a European Goldfinch could be a reminder of the passion of Christ.
For individuals who are proud of escaping stifling, abusive, or unhappy situations, the finch can represent the joy of hard-earned freedom.
From Darwin’s so-called “finches,” to the all-consuming grief of Acanthis, the finch has held many meanings over the course of its immeasurably long relationship with humankind.
These days this relationship looks a bit different. Instead of a cloud of gold overhead, most people will interact with finches as little brown birds that visit feeders and steal crumbs from outdoor cafes. Even those with bright plumage are often overlooked for their familiarity.
I think this is a grave wrong. I think the most beautiful thing about finches is the fact they have persisted. They have carved out an impossibly narrow niche in our cities and suburbs. Though they are familiar now, they still dazzle those who take the time to notice them. In concrete mazes of skyscrapers and endless sidewalks a little streak of gold occasionally breaks up the monotonous grey.
In a way, all finches are caged now. There is almost nowhere on this earth they can flee to escape humanity. I believe, considering this, that one of the great wonders of the world is that they still have the heart to sing for us at all.