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Loon Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

Loon Drip

Loons are iconic diving birds that are often recognized by their eerily beautiful calls. Loons are common in the northern reaches of the United States and in Canada, and are present in fewer numbers in Western Europe, where they are usually referred to as divers. Similar in build and appearance to grebes, loons were once thought to belong to the grebe family. It is known now, though, that similarities between the two are borne out of the need to develop similar adaptations in order to meet environmental challenges. (1)

Loons are often thought of as symbols of the wild north. The haunting call of the loon is often treated as the ambient music of a beautiful untouched forest landscape. This call, along with the loon’s sharp features and ruby red eyes, has made the Common Loon into one of the most iconic and beloved birds of North America. (2)

On this page
Loon Symbolism and Meaning
Loon Native American Symbolism
Loon in Dreams
Loon Encounters and Omens
Loon Mythology and Folklore
    Native American Mythology:
    Greek Mythology:
Loon Spirit Animal
Loon Totem Animal
Loon Power Animal
Loon Tattoo Meaning

Loon Symbolism and Meaning

Loons are often connected with yearning on account of the almost mournful quality of their calls. In addition, loons may be connected with wildness, placidity, peace, healing, and focus.

The Common Loon migrates just twelve weeks after its chicks are typically hatched. This means that each year, young loons are left behind while their parents migrate for the winter. The young loons form large flocks which then migrate south once they are strong enough. For this reason, loons may be associated with precociousness and independence. (3)

Like grebes, loons are specially adapted for swimming and diving. This means that loons are ill-equipped for land-based activities. Loons are so clumsy and awkward on land, in fact, that well-meaning good Samaritans often try to bring them to vets and rehabilitation centers due to the mistaken belief that they are injured and unable to walk. (4) Loons may represent the strength of being in one’s element as well as the difficult feelings that accompany being a “fish out of water.”

Loon Stretch
Photo by J-Photos on Unsplash

The Common Loon is the state bird of Minnesota and may represent this state as well as the United States’ northern regions in general. (5)

Loons are monogamous and tend to mate for life when possible. They are also attentive parents and may represent love, romance, faithfulness, family, and parenthood. (6)

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Loon Native American Symbolism

The loon is a very important symbol amongst many Native American groups. Loons are sometimes associated with the very creation of our planet. In some tribes, the loon is associated with jealousy, longing, and destruction. (7) In others, the loon is associated healing, helpfulness, motherhood, and springtime. In Algonquin legends, the great hero Glooscap is closely associated with loons. Glooscap taught the loons to make their iconic cry so they could call for him when they needed his help. In return, the loons became his messengers. (8)

Loon in Dreams

If you’ve been dreaming of the loon, this is likely a sign to listen carefully to your feelings. The serene loon reminds us to be thoughtful and to trust or emotional instincts.

Dreaming of the loon’s call is a sign of longing. This sort of dream may indicate that you miss someone dearly or that you have lost a piece of yourself that you need to reclaim. For those who live away from the place that feels the most like home, a loon calling in a dream is a surefire sign of homesickness. Additionally, a loon call may represent a deep desire to reconnect with nature or with a fulfilling hobby or interest.

Dreaming of a group of loons indicates the importance of finding people who understand and accept you. Such a dream can be a poignant reminder to nurture neglected relationships.

Loon Encounters and Omens

A loon encounter is a strong indicator that it is time to look inwards and get to know yourself better. Loons are often associated with calmness and healing. If you have encountered a loon, it is a good sign and indicates an opportunity to heal and grow.

People who are more likely to be positively impacted by a loon encounter are those who feel connected with nature. For such people, the loon offers an opportunity to meditate and breathe in nature’s serenity and beauty. This can be a very potent healing experience.

Loon in Mythology & Folklore

Loons are not represented in the myths and folklore traditions of every region in which they are present. The Common Loon of the American north is, however, an incredibly common and significant character in Native American stories. Outside of the Americas, loon myths are uncommon and limited. Fortunately, the Native American traditions involving loons are so rich and plentiful that there is still more than we can even discuss in this one article.

Native American Mythology:

The loon is a common character in Native American myths which often plays a significant role. There is far too much Native American loon lore to cover in one sections, so we will try to summarize as much as possible. In some traditions, the loon takes on the responsibility of the “earth diver.” The “earth diver” is a character in many Native American creation myths who is brave enough to dive into the depths of the primordial waters that covered the planet and bring up a clump of mud. This mud would then be shaped into the earth’s continents by the creator god. (9)

For several tribes, including the Chippewa, the loon is often used as a clan animal. This means that the loon would represent the clan and its heritage.

One brief tale which is sometimes referenced with regards to the changing of the seasons features a bereaved mother loon. In this story, a mother loon is preparing to migrate for the winter. Before long, though, the mother loon notices that her child is not strong enough to make the journey south. Tearfully, she makes the difficult decision to leave him behind, not knowing if she’ll ever see him again. In spring, though, the mother loon is overjoyed to find her child waiting for her in the freshly thawed lake where she had left him. So, it is said that spring is the season when the mother loon’s lonely mourning comes to an end. (10)

Loon Exchange
Photo by Ralph Katieb on Unsplash

Other stories describe loons as messengers who serve the gods, benevolent spirits which heal people, and helpers which aid fishermen. Several tales feature loons which heal the blind by dunking them into the water repeatedly. Further stories even suggest that the loon’s iconic voice is the inspiration for traditional Native American musical instruments or styles. (11)

One traditional Native American story which has been passed down through multiple tribes is that of the “Loon Woman.” Loon Woman is the daughter of a man and a woman who have several sons. Their eldest child, Loon Woman’s older brother, was so beautiful at birth that their parents hid him away. Little did anyone know, however, that each day the boy would sneak out to bathe in the river. One day, Loon Woman was fetching water from the river when she found a long black hair. She grew curious about the person to whom this hair belonged. (12)

Common Loon
Photo by Jeremy Hynes on Unsplash

The next day, Loon Woman was sent on a journey. Her mother told her to take one of her brothers along with her. One by one, Loon Woman measured the hair against each of her brothers. Each time the hair did not match, Loon Woman refused to bring them. Finally, her mother revealed her final brother, the one which had been kept hidden. His hair matched Loon Woman’s hair perfectly, so she brought him along. (13)

On their journey together, Loon Woman tried to trick her brother into sleeping in her arms. While she slept, he placed a log in her arms and escaped into the night. Fleeing back to their family home, the brother told the family what had happened and they formed a plan to hide in the sky where Loon Woman would not find them. When Loon Woman found her family gone, she began to fly, chasing the sun from the sky as she chased down her brother. At the last second, the family fell from the sky and their hearts were scattered throughout the earth. Desperately, Loon Woman began collecting the hearts, but could not find the heart of the brother she had pursued. This is because her brother had come back to life through the remains of his heart and had found a loving wife. After several years, he became a father to two young boys who loved to hunt. One day, these two boys shot down a loon. When they brought its body to their father he recognized it as his sister, Loon Woman, and discovered the hearts of his parents on a cord around her neck. From these hearts he brought his family back to life and set everything right once more. (14)

Greek Mythology:

The loon is not a common subject of myths outside of North America, however loons are still sometimes associated with Zeus. This is due to the story of Munichus and his children. Munichus, a prophet, had four children: three sons and a daughter named Hyperippe. One day, a group of raiders attacked the family. Valiantly, Munichus and his family fought the invaders by throwing all manner of household objects at them. Zeus, who was fond of Munichus and his family, saw their bitter struggle and pitied the group. He did not feel that such brave humans should die so miserably. So, Zeus transformed each member of the family into birds. Munichus became a buzzard, his wife became a woodpecker, and Hyperippe became a loon. In their new fetahered forms, the family made their escape with Zeus’s blessing. (15)

Loon Spirit Animal

If the loon is your spirit animal, this indicates that you are an introverted individual who forms a deep connection with your environment as well as a limited number of close loved ones. People with the loon spirit animal treat their homes like loved one themselves and will always have a special connection with the places they have lived.

The loon spirit animal tends to be found in people who are shy and private. People with the loon spirit animal would rather be alone with their own thoughts than bombarded by the social contributions of people they don’t know well. When they do connect with people, loon spirits often do so through their art. People with the loon spirit animal are creative and sensitive and find it easier to express themselves using art and music.

Loon Totem Animal

The loon totem animal is associated with healing and endurance. People with the loon totem are thoughtful and sensitive, but much much stronger than they seem. Like the young loons which migrate on their own during their first year of life, people with the loon totem are very independent and capable.

Loon Wings
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

The loon totem animal allows for strong empathy and introspection. People with this totem make excellent teachers, parents, and nurturers of all kinds because they intuitively understand the emotions of others. People with this totem often use art and creativity as vehicles for soothing and healing themselves and others.

Loon Power Animal

The loon power animal is associated with self knowledge and self actualization. People who use the loon’s power become in tune with their emotions. Feeling in control of one’s self is an excellent confidence booster and contributes to level-headed decision making and careful preparedness.

People with the loon power animal have a strong sense of what they want their futures to look like. They are great at visualizing their goals and analyzing their behaviors in order to properly achieve them.

Loon Tattoo Meaning

A loon tattoo may seem like a melancholy choice, but such a tattoo can be a joyful symbol of home, nature, family, or healing.

A loon tattoo may be chosen for its connection with America’s northern regions. A Minnesotan may choose this tattoo out of affection for their home state and its state bird.

A loon tattoo may also be chosen for its spiritual significance in Native American circles.

Conclusion

Loons have inspired artists, musicians, and storytellers for centuries. Their peaceful beauty has become symbolic of the more gentle aspects of the wilderness. While nature’s rugged influence has given many animals teeth, claws, and armor, it has given the loon a song which echoes through the forests of North America and tugs at the hearts of mankind.

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