Among birds, there are those that seem to have had a distinct impact on human cultures; birds that have infiltrated our language, our symbols, and our hearts. Like the peaceful dove, the trickster jay, or the proud peacock, these birds tend to evoke a strong sense of meaning in people. Through idioms, fables, or myths, we know what these birds mean when they appear to us. Among these uniquely meaningful birds, the stork stands out. Instantaneously, we conjure images of birth and family, of babies delivered to the arms of their joyful parents. But why do storks represent these things to us, and what else can be learned from these beautiful birds?
The name “stork” refers to a family of large wading birds known as “Ciconiidae.” They are characteristically large, long-legged birds with long necks and large stout bills. They have been a common presence in folklore and literature for thousands of years, even appearing in Aesop’s fables numerous times. Their most common association is with birth, due to the ubiquitous image of the stork delivering a new addition to the family. This image appears in Disney films, on greeting cards, and seems to date as far back as Ancient Greece. (1) If this iconic bird is your spirit animal, birth and rejuvenation may be just one of many symbolic meanings that storks may have for you.
Symbolism and Meaning
The symbolic meaning of storks varies from culture to culture, with the most frequent connotation being birth and renewal. There are, however, an array of different legends, myths, and symbols attached to storks. Storks are often connected to the family. Although birth is the primary manifestation of this connection, they are also symbolic of fidelity and romance. (2)
Because storks are serial monogamists, and will in some cases return to the same mate year after year, they are seen as birds that represent the intimate bond of a romantic partnership. Their tendency to construct massive nests in which they rear their young together symbolizes the special intimacy of the romantic relationship between parents.
Storks are largely silent birds. They do not possess a fully functioning syrinx, the avian equivalent of a larynx with vocal chords. (3) The sounds that they make are limited to hissing and clacking. Because of this, storks are sometimes connected to mutism, isolation, or introversion.
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What Do Storks Symbolize?
One of the interesting things about storks is that, with a few exceptions, their symbolic meanings across cultures are largely the same. They are positive, lucky, protective, and represent the bonds of the family. This is true in so many cultures that one has to wonder if the storks themselves radiate positive intent.
Stork Native American Symbolism
The stork in Native American traditions is representative of insight and spiritual guidance. Additionally, as in many other cultures, there are Native American legends in which the stork delivers babies.
Stork Christian Symbolism
In the Greek tradition, storks were often described as enemies of snakes. They were considered predators to snakes, with Aristotle describing their significance as follows:
“There are reports that in Thessaly live snakes are born in such quantities that if they were not eaten by storks the people would have to leave their homes. Storks are therefore highly valued and it is unlawful to kill them. If anyone does so it is treated as a capital offense, just like murder.” (4)
So, for Christians, storks represent protection from evil, as the serpent is often depicted as a source of evil and lies. This, combined with their (usually) white feathers and nesting habits, also connects them with purity.
Additionally, the Romans perceived storks as uniquely caring towards the elderly, especially elderly parents. A law mandating that adult children be responsible for the care of their elderly parents was known as a “stork law.” (5)
Stork Egyptian Symbolism
In Egyptian traditions, the stork represents the eternal spirit of the human soul. This may be related to the fact that the saddle-billed stork has a marking on its chest that resembles a heart. (6)
Storks in Dreams
Have you had a recent dream featuring a stork? The obvious meaning of such a dream is a symbol of birth, however there may be more to your dream than just this.
There is a significant difference between the meaning of a stork in a positive dream and the appearance of a stork in a negative dream or nightmare.
Negative dreams about storks are representative of anxiety. Because storks are not vocal, a stork nightmare may indicate a struggle to communicate. Frustration resulting from the feeling that you are not being heard is a possible source of such a dream.
Because storks are representative of the home and the family, it is possible that a negative dream featuring storks is symbolic of tension in the home environment. This can refer to anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the future, the desire to form a more stable home, or an underlying turmoil in your family relationships.
Storks are especially symbolic of the relationship between parents and children. This is not just true in the context of infants. Storks often represent the reversal of roles that occurs when elderly parents must rely on their adult children for care. Discomfort in the relationship between a parent and child may result in negative dreams about storks.
Positive dreams about storks immediately evoke images of a growing family. They can symbolize luck and success for couples looking to conceive. A positive dream about storks is, more generally, a sign that the dreamer is optimistic about the future.
Additionally, because storks are said to prey on serpents, the stork can represent triumph over adversity and the purification of one’s life from evil spirits or negative influences.
Stork Encounters and Omens
Encounters with storks are usually auspicious occasions. Storks are said to land on the roofs of individuals who are soon to welcome a new baby into the family.
It is especially lucky if a stork visits your home. Storks are a purifying force that repels negative intentions. A stork visiting the home represents a harmonious home life, free of discord and evil energy.
For an older individual, encountering a stork may represent the need to rely on the care of younger family members. The stork’s appearance may be telling you to trust in your loved ones to care for you.
For younger people, an encounter with a stork may be a sign that the time is right to begin building your home. Storks construct large impressive nests in which to raise their young. An encounter with a stork may signal that it’s time to begin building a nest of your own!
For individuals who are not so family-oriented, the stork may simply represent rejuvenation. They have been connected with the appearance of spring and the spirit of renewal.
Storks in Mythology & Folklore
The common folklore about storks delivering babies is far older through might think. The Ancient Greeks connected the stork to fertility and motherliness via the goddess, Hera. This connection persisted throughout Europe, and was prevalent in Slavic and Germanic folklore. Hans Christian Andersen, author of The Little Mermaid, even wrote a short story about these baby-bearing storks, appropriately titled: Storks. (7)
Storks in Native American Mythology
There is a Sioux Legend about a heroic boy named White Plume who is an expert marksman. White Plume has three special arrows with which he hunts. He uses these to hunt three evil witch spirits that plague a nearby village. White Plume is connected to storks because his story begins when, as an infant, a stork delivers him to his parents. Throughout the story of White Plume, natural wit, talent, and divine guidance lead him to victory over the trickster Spider. (8)
Storks in Egyptian Mythology
In Egyptian myth, the “Ba” is one of three parts of the soul. This “Ba” is depicted as a stork. As previously stated, some believe that this is because of the heart-like markings on the chest of the saddle-billed stork.
Storks in Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, storks are connected to the goddess Hera. Hera is associated with marriage, royalty, childbirth, fertility, and motherhood.
In one story, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a young woman named Antigone claims that her hair is more beautiful than Hera’s. Enraged by this claim, Hera turns Antigone’s hair into snakes. Pitying her, another god transforms Antigone into a stork. This story connects neatly to the claim by Aristotle that storks are a valued animal because they prey upon snakes.
Storks also appear in a few of Aesop’s fables. The most significant fable involving storks is a lesson on choosing one’s friends wisely. (9)
Stork Spirit Animal
If the stork is your spirit animal, you are an individual with family at the heart of your being. Storks are known for the intense bonds that they form between pairs and between parents and their offspring. These relationships are essential the individual with the stork spirit animal.
People with the stork spirit animal are often empathetic and emotional. One flaw to be aware of is that this emotional nature can lend itself to codependency and may make the individual more vulnerable to draining or one-sided relationships.
Because they are empathetic, people with the stork as their spirit animal are born nurturers. They tend to be the “mom friend” in their platonic relationships.
People with the stork spirit animal may struggle with communication. Self-expression may not be natural to them, and as such, they may find introspection to be a much more comfortable route towards self-exploration. The combination of this tendency and the nurturing nature of the stork means that they may find it challenging to stand up for themselves or set and enforce appropriate boundaries.
Stork Totem Animal
A person who has the stork as their totem animal will possess a lot of the same traits as the above mentioned stork spirit animal. Additionally, individuals with the stork totem are extremely honest.
In fact, the stork totem cannot tolerate deceit. People with this totem have an uncanny ability to sense trickery and lies, and will weed out deceivers with single-minded determination.
In spite of the hostility that people with the stork totem often feel towards dishonest people, they may struggle to articulate the lies that they can intuitively sense. It is important for loved ones to learn to trust in the instincts of the stork totem, because they cannot always express their observations clearly.
Stork Power Animal
As stated above, the stork grants individuals the power to sense lies.
In addition to this, the power of the stork is best described as intuition. Individuals with the stork power animal often possess an almost supernatural sense for danger, both physical and spiritual.
Because they are associated so strongly with purity and vanquishing evil, the stork is a powerful source of protection. This protection is especially potent with regards to protecting the home and family.
Stork Tattoo Meaning
A stork tattoo is usually a symbol of family. It may represent gratitude for the family that a person has, or a person’s ambition to grow their family. People with this tattoo may be expressing their dedication to the next generation.
A stork tattoo may also represent personal triumphs over negative forces, especially negative forces which deceive or take advantage of kindness.
For most of us, the stork is a symbol of joy; of a bright future on the horizon. Although the meaning of the stork is not always the same, it is telling of the nature of these beautiful birds that they are so consistently associated with happy things to come.
This association is unique among positive symbols. Storks remind us, specifically, that the future will bring joy. They promise us a life of serenity, peace, and protection. In essence, the most important thing that a stork represents is hope. After all, what is a new baby if not an investment in a blissful future; a seed sown in hope and watered with love.
As deliverers and guardians of this happy future, storks hold a special place in the hearts and imaginations of mankind.
More Spirit Animal Symbolism to Read About:
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