Even though they are similar to pigeons, doves are seen in vastly different lights. In comparison, pigeons are often seen as a nuisance, especially in big cities, while doves are seen as pure and lovely.
There is a strong presence of doves in many cultures worldwide, as these birds are associated with positive symbolism due to their appearance.
Doves have pearly white feathers, a stark contrast to other types of birds, which come in various colorful palettes. Because the white dove is present as a symbol in many cultures and religions, it has a variety of meanings attached to it.
So, what does a white dove symbolize? Let’s discover!
White doves symbolize: peace, freedom, love, purity, innocence, faith, remembrance, and hope.
Table of Contents
- What Does a White Dove Symbolize?
- White Doves and Spirituality
- Cultural and Religious White Dove Symbolism
- White Doves in Art
- Literature and Doves
What Does a White Dove Symbolize?
Doves most often symbolize peace, freedom, love, purity, innocence, and faith. The white dove appears as a symbol in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religions, in ancient mythology and pagan practices. White dove imagery is also present in many art and literary works.
White Doves and Freedom
However, white doves are most associated with freedom. After all, even though they can settle wherever they want, they make their nests close to humans. The ability to choose is perhaps the ultimate form of freedom.
A peace symbol
There is no person today that has not heard of a white dove as a peace symbol. The white dove symbolizes peace all around the world. It is hard to pinpoint when this association between peace and pigeons started in human history.
However, it is known that humans began domesticating doves and pigeons approximately 10,000 years ago due to the gentle nature of these birds compared to others.
The gentleness of doves, along with their appearance, in contrast with birds of prey like hawks, is likely why they became associated with peace.
The white dove can be a spiritual symbol of purity. A white dove is a sign that you are on the correct path toward achieving your ultimate life goals and that your intentions are sincere.
White doves are a spiritual depiction of balance in your life and a symbol of harmony. The appearance of a white dove serves as a warning to guard against harmful influences and be true to oneself.
Often a white dove represents someone’s innocence. A white dove’s appearance signifies that your intentions are pure, and you are urged to continue on your current course while listening to your intuition.
White dove as a spirit animal
In spirituality, it is believed that when a dove shows up as your spirit animal, it means that you are undergoing a period of spiritual rejuvenation.
When someone has a dove as their spirit animal, it is believed that they are a lovely, serene, and upbeat person. They are trustworthy life partners that you can put your trust in.
Regardless of your gender, you will have strong maternal instincts if a dove is your spirit animal.
Sign of remembrance
Sometimes, a dove is released at funerals or memorial services to ease mourning. Releasing the dove symbolizes letting go of the loved one and honoring their memory.
Doves in memorial services serve to ease the pain of the mourners and remind them to get back to normal life despite the loss.
White Doves and Spirituality
White doves have various spiritual implications. Spiritual people think of doves as the ultimate positive sign during joyous times and in times of grief and anguish. Seeing a white dove is believed to be a sign that brings comfort and reassurance.
Symbol of everlasting love
White doves are highly associated with love and monogamy, which is why they are often incorporated into wedding ceremonies. Since ancient times, a white dove has been associated with love in countless nations and traditions.
The bird is frequently present in the ultimate celebration of love, weddings. White doves are usually released during weddings after the couple says their vows.
A dove appearing at a wedding ceremony is traditionally considered a sign, indicating that the newlyweds will have a long life together and a happy household filled with commitment, hope, and honesty.
The white dove as a symbol of love is so prevalent throughout human history that during medieval times a dove’s heart was an integral part of love potions.
Cultural and Religious White Dove Symbolism
Native American mythology
White doves, like many other birds and animals, play a significant role in the beliefs of various Native American tribes.
Native American tribes think that the dove represents the Great Spirit, who grants them pardon and deliverance. For several Native American tribes, it serves as a sacred symbol.
Every Native American tribe has a different meaning for the dove. They view it as an omen in addition to being used as an amulet. It sends a message of passing away.
Other tribes see it as a representation of ignorance and folly. As a result, they frequently offer the defenseless white bird as a sacrifice.
Native American customs and religious beliefs heavily rely on doves and pigeons. They serve as clan animals for some tribes. 
- The Cherokee Indians associate doves’ cooing cry with acorns. It resembles the acorn-sounding Cherokee term. The Cherokee Indians also have a sacred Pigeon Dance.
- Californian Indian tribes – For these tribes, doves represent naivete and folly to these people.
- Blackfoot tribe – In order to assure their protection and safe return from battle, this tribe’s war chiefs wear dove feathers as talismans.
- The Eastern Algonquian tribe views doves as a sign of impending death.
Similar to a spirit animal is a totem animal. It is a sacred item that represents the essence of a tribe, clan, family, or particular person.
According to Native American custom, each person can have up to nine different totem animals serve as their lifelong spirit guardians.
While some people may have various totem animals throughout their lifetimes, you only have one. Your protector spirit is this animal’s totem, and you have a unique bond with this animal.
According to Native American stories, appreciate having a dove as your totem animal. It implies that the universe is watching out for you. You receive love and peace because of your connection to heaven.
Doves represent purity and elegance. One’s power animal is the same as their totem. It provides you the fortitude to meet life’s obstacles head-on.
Having a dove as your power animal denotes profound spiritual strength. It means that you exude love, purity, and tranquility. You are a kind and sympathetic person.
In Aztec mythology, the white dove is associated with the goddess of love and fertility, Xochiquetzal. According to the myths of the ancient Aztecs, the goddess Xochiquetzal is an integral part of the earth‘s creation.
In the stories, Xochiquetzal returned to earth in the form of a dove after an apocalyptic flood.
The ancient Greeks also associated their goddess of fertility and love, Aphrodite, with white doves. Aphrodite’s myth was partly inspired by the Mesopotamian goddess of love, Ishtar. Both goddesses are described as being surrounded by doves.
Besides symbolizing love, the dove in Greek mythology also symbolized renewal and immortality. As an example of the association with immortality, it was doves that brought ambrosia (the gods’ food) to them.
In Celtic mythology, the dove was considered an oracle bird like the raven. The Celts would watch doves and follow their behavior and flight patterns for signs to interpret. This means doves were considered messengers by the Celts.
White doves are described in the Old Testament as God‘s messengers of hope to Noah on the ark. The devastating flood is said to have lasted for 40 days. In order to check if the flood had fallen back, Noah twice sent out a dove.
When the dove returned with an olive leaf in its beak, Noah knew that the land had dried up and it was safe for them to return on land and repopulate the world.
According to Vilna Gaon, the Jewish Talmudist, halakhist, and kabbalist, the dove symbolizes the human soul. 
In Christianity, when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, Matthew and Luke described the white dove that appeared as the Spirit of God. Mark and John also refer to the white dove as the Spirit of God coming down upon Jesus Christ. In Christianity, the white dove is also a revered emblem.
According to the gospel account, John was baptized in the Jordan River when Jesus visited him. According to John’s testimony, when he baptized Jesus, he witnessed the spirit descend like a dove and rest upon him, along with a voice from heaven announcing that he was the son of God.
In this way, the Christian dove symbolizes a divine representation. Early Christians adopted the custom of representing baptism with the picture of a dove holding an olive branch because of the Old Testament tale of Noah.
Doves are revered in Islam because it is said that they helped the last prophet, Muhammad, divert his adversaries outside the cave of Thaw’r during the great Hijra. Doves are symbolic of peace and nonviolence in secular society and heraldry.
According to the story, as the prophet took refuge in the cave, a pair of doves and a spider were sent to settle at its opening. The spider created a web, while the doves made a nest and laid eggs in it. When the pursuers saw the sight of an undisturbed web and a nest, they did not check the cave.
In Hinduism, the dove is a symbol of the goddess Parvati. She is a benevolent goddess representing power, fertility, harmony, and devotion. However, she is not the only goddess in Hinduism that is associated with doves. Yama, the Hindu god of death, also carries doves whose only purpose is to be messengers.
White Doves in Art
The imagery of white doves is present in many religious and secular art pieces. The meaning of the white dove in art is the same as in religion and cultural context, and the bird represents peace and hope.
However, Pablo Picasso’s lithograph, La Colombe (The Dove), is the most famous art piece centered around a white dove.  Pablo Picasso created the piece in 1949, and the lithograph features a white dove on a black background.
The dove quickly became a symbol of peace, with the image gracing the poster at the 1949 Paris Peace Congress. La Colombe is considered one of the most iconic art pieces post World War II and is often referred to as “The dove of peace.”
Literature and Doves
When we look into literature for dove symbolism, we can find it in the earliest discovered human literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic is one of the closest Mesopotamian analogies to the Bible.
The story also deals with the motif of a world-ending flood in which a raven and a dove play integral parts. In the Epic, the god of water, Enki, warns the character Utnapishtim that the gods will create a massive flood. Then Enki tells him to build a giant boat to save all the living beings from the tumultuous storm.
The flood lasts for seven days, and once the storm passes, Enki tells Utnapishtim to send out a dove and a raven to determine whether the flood waters have subsided for them to return to dry land.
Utnapishtim first releases the dove, which circles and returns to the boat. Then he releases the raven, which flies away and does not return, meaning it finds dry land.
What does a white dove symbolize? Well, the most general answers include peace, love, hope, freedom, purity, and innocence. Moreover, the dove as a symbol can be found in ancient civilizations and mythologies to modern religions.
The dove as a bird with a distinct appearance is not surprising that it has become so heavily intertwined in many cultures in similar ways.
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