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

Meadowlark Singing

Meadowlarks are a small group of New World songbirds belonging to the blackbird family. Once thought to be related to the larks of Eurasia and Africa, they were given the name “Meadowlark” before it was discovered that the two groups were actually quite distinct. To learn more about larks on the whole, check out our article here!

Meadowlarks are known for their beautiful songs and are often connected with the morning, springtime, cheer, and hope. The two most recognizable Meadowlarks, the Eastern Meadowlark and the Western Meadowlark, appear to be virtually identical but sing completely different songs and rarely ever hybridize with one another. (1)

Meadowlarks are uplifting birds who have made an especially big impact on American poetry and Native American mythology. In this article, we’ll look at both of these areas as well as many fascinating facts and stories surrounding the Meadowlark.

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

Meadowlark Symbolism and Meaning

Firstly, Meadowlarks represent art and poetry. Their cheerful singing has inspired a wealth of nature-based poetry in the United States. The following poem, by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, describes admiration for the Meadowlark’s ability to sing in spite of difficult times or foul weather. Dunbar was one of the first influential Black poets in the history of American literature, and his work is widely praised for both its skill and poignancy. (2)

“Though the winds be dank,
And the sky be sober,
And the grieving Day
In a mantle gray
Hath let her waiting maiden robe her, —
All the fields along
I can hear the song
Of the meadow lark,
As she flits and flutters,
And laughs at the thunder when it mutters.
O happy bird, of heart most gay
To sing when skies are gray!

When the clouds are full,
And the tempest master
Lets the loud winds sweep
From his bosom deep
Like heralds of some dire disaster,
Then the heart alone
To itself makes moan;
And the songs come slow,
While the tears fall fleeter,
And silence than song by far seems sweeter.
Oh, few are they along the way
Who sing when skies are gray!”

— “The Meadowlark” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (3)
Meadowlark
Image by Jim Black from Pixabay

This next poem was written by Lloyd Mifflin, an accomplished landscape painter who become known as “America’s greatest sonneteer” thanks to his prolific writing resulting in hundreds of sonnets and poems. Mifflin enjoyed studying Shakespeare and had a strong appreciation for beauty. “To the Meadowlark” shows the impact that this incredible bird had on Mifflin. (4)

“Minstrel of melody,
How shall I chaunt of thee,
Floating in meadows athrill with thy song?
Fluting anear my feet,
Plaintive, and wildly sweet, —
O could thy spirit to mortal belong!
Tell me thy secret art,
How thou dost touch the heart,
Hinting of happiness still unpossessed?
Say, doth thy bosom burn
Vainly, as mine, and yearn
Sadly for something that leaves it unblessed?

Doth not that tender tone,
Over the clover blown,
Flow from a sorrow — a longing in vain?
Or is it joy intense,
So like a pang, the sense
Hears in thy sweetest song something of pain?
Others may cleave the steeps,
Soar, and in upper deeps
Sing in the heaven’s blue arches profound;
But thou most lowly thing,
Teach me to keep my wing
Close to the breast of our Mother, the ground!

Soon shall my fleeting lay
Fade from the world away, —
Thine, ever-during, shall thrill thro’ the years;
Love, who once gladdened me,
Surely hath saddened thee, —
Half of thy music is made of his tears.
Long may I list thy note
Soft thro’ the summer float
Far o’er the fields where the wild grasses wave;
Then when my life is done,
Oh, at the set of sun,
Pour out thy spirit anear to my grave!”

— “To the Meadowlark” by Lloyd Mifflin (5)

Clearly, Meadowlarks can be firmly connected with song, poetry, and beauty. Meadowlarks are also connected with homemaking. Meadowlarks build cozy domed nests out of grasses wherein they raise their broods year after year. Male Meadowlarks can be very territorial. So, Meadowlarks may represent domesticity, protection, or defense. (6)

Meadowlark on Fencepost
Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

The Western Meadowlark is the state bird of the states of Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. This makes the Western Meadowlark the second most popular state bird in the United States after the Northern Cardinal. The Meadowlark may represent each of these individual states as well as the natural beauty of the United States on the whole. (7)

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Meadowlark Native American Symbolism

Amongst many Native American tribes, the Meadowlark has been connected with peace, loyalty, and friendship. Some tribes believed that a visit from a Meadowlark signified good luck and meant that no harm would come to the village in the immediate future. (8)

Meadowlark songs have been connected with both beauty and nagging or scolding. Some tribes even believed that the Meadowlark’s call would summon the buffalo, and so the Meadowlark was cherished for bringing a life-giving source of food. Many myths feature the Meadowlark. We will look at a few of those Meadowlark myths in a later section.

Meadowlark Christianity Symbolism

The Meadowlark may be connected to worship by some Christians on account of its singing and its connection with the morning. The morning chorus of the Meadowlark is sometimes likened to a voice raised in song in praise of God.

Meadowlark Celtic Symbolism

Meadowlarks are not present in the Celtic world, however singing Meadowlarks might be connected with Rhiannon. Rhiannon is a Welsh goddess who is associated with queenship, femininity, magic, and fertility. According to some legends, Rhiannon entertains visitors to her otherworldly realm by instructing her choir of birds to sing for them. The birds of Rhiannon are said to be mesmerizingly beautiful singers. (9)

Western Meadowlark
Photo by Rogean James Caleffi on Unsplash

Meadowlark in Dreams

Dreaming of a Meadowlark might indicate hope or perseverance. Dreaming of a Meadowlark may indicate that a storm is on the horizon. A difficult situation might be unfolding on the path ahead of you. Take heart, though, because the Meadowlark reminds you that no matter how fierce the raging storm gets, the sun will always rise again. The Meadowlark reminds you that there will be new joys to sing about in the future, even if today’s sky is gray and gloomy.

Dreaming of a singing Meadowlark might indicate something to do with one’s home. Meadowlarks sing to establish and defend their territories. Dreaming of a Meadowlark in song might mean that you feel drawn to claim a space for yourself. Make sure that you draw boundaries with others and defend your privacy and peace as needed.

Meadowlark Encounters and Omens

A visit from a Meadowlark may signify good luck or protection from harm. In Native American traditions, a Meadowlark in the village was seen as a sign that peace would prevail. Encountering a Meadowlark might indicate that a period of struggle and strife is ending and giving way to a future of ease and comfort.

Encountering a Meadowlark nest might refer to secrets or hidden things. Meadowlark nests are hidden in domes of grasses in order to keep them safe. Encountering such a nest might be a reminder to closely guard the things which you hold dear and reveal them only to those whom you trust entirely.

A Meadowlark encounter may also represent the opening of a new chapter, whether positive or negative. Meadowlarks are often connected with the morning, so encountering one might indicate that a new chapter will soon open in one’s life.

Meadowlark in Mythology & Folklore

The following are just a few Native American Meadowlark myths.

Native American Mythology:

Mewok Native Americans believe that the Meadowlark is responsible for the fact that all humans must one day die. According to Mewuk myth, the first humans were made without any hands to grasp things. It was thanks to the Little Lizard and Black Lizard that humans were granted hands. When the first human died, the creator apologized to him and tried to bring him back to life, however the Meadowlark swooped in and said “humans are no good! Humans smell!” Because of this, nobody is able to come back after death. (10)

The Wi-pa have a similar myth wherein all people were descended from birds. The chief of these birds was a falcon who murdered his wife, the goose, in a fit of jealousy. Each day, however, his dead wife would rise to feed their children. Seeing her risen from the grave, the falcon felt remorse and love for her, so he carried her back to his lodge to heal her and bring her back to life. The Meadowlark saw them coming and said “I smell a dead body.” When he said this, the goose woman disappeared and all of the birds were doomed such that nobody could come back to life if they died. (11)

A Sanpoils tribal myth states that Meadowlark and Chipmunk were siblings. One day, Chipmunk and Meadowlark went into the woods. Their grandmother told them to be careful, because a hairy monster lived in those woods. The children ignored her until they came face to face with the monster which scratched to long scratches down Chipmunk’s back. The children fled to their grandmother’s house, and Chipmunk hid in a basket beneath a blanket. Meadowlark landed on a pole and told the monster where Chipmunk was hiding. Before anyone could be hurt by the monster, though, their grandmother poured hot pitch over the monster which killed it. (12)

Meadowlark Spirit Animal

If your spirit animal is the Meadowlark then you are likely to be an expressive and creative soul who enjoys the outdoors and sunshine. People with the Meadowlark spirit animal tend to be optimistic and outgoing. Difficult situations are unlikely to phase them too much and Meadowlark spirits can always find a bright side to celebrate even on a dark day.

Meadowlark in Tree
Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

People with the Meadowlark as their spirit animal tend to be outgoing and competitive. While they don’t get discouraged easily, the Meadowlark spirit is prone to getting too caught up in competition and will sometimes place too high of a value on winning.

People with the Meadowlark spirit animal are sociable, but they feel safest when they have their own solitary space to which they can safely retreat. Privacy and quiet time are as important to the Meadowlark spirit as socialization and celebration.

Meadowlark Totem Animal

The Meadowlark totem animal is connected with peace and serenity. People with this totem animal may feel an extra connection with the natural world and may be naturally drawn towards mindfulness-related activities and hobbies such as meditation and yoga.

The Meadowlark totem animal is a big fan of song and music, however they also treasure the serenity of quiet spaces. True silence is rare and the Meadowlark makes a habit of treasuring silence wherever they can find it.

The Meadowlark totem likes to dive deep into its own thoughts and, as such, can be very spiritually aware. The Meadowlark totem is great at thinking through problems and healing old wounds through patient concentration.

Meadowlark Power Animal

The Meadowlark power animal is connected with art and inspiration. From music to poetry to visual arts, the Meadowlark acts as a muse which allows artists to express themselves and create masterpieces brimming with personality and creativity.

People with the Meadowlark as their power animal tend to be very creative and may feel drawn towards the arts as a career path. The Meadowlark power animal is often found in perfectionists who want nothing more than to better themselves as an artist.

Meadowlark Tattoo Meaning

A Meadowlark tattoo may represent poetry, inspiration, music, hope, optimism, or expression.

Someone from one of the several states with the Western Meadowlark as their state bird may also choose this bird to represent as a tattoo for the sake of expressing love for one’s state.

Conclusion

The Meadowlark may not have the Shakespearian legacy that European lark species do, but this brilliant bird has had an undeniable impact on the culture of the Americas. Beautiful, bold, and brimming with hope and joy, the Meadowlark offers consolation to the weary heart with its delightful song that promises sunny days ahead.

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