What Does an Ostrich Symbolize: Unpacking the Deep Meanings Behind These Fascinating Birds

When was the last time you heard of someone being called an ostrich? A quick search on Google will reveal that it’s not the kindest of labels to give to anyone. But did you know that the ostrich is actually a symbol of much more than cowardice? These big, flightless birds actually have a rich history of symbolism and represent a variety of different things in cultures around the world.

In ancient Egypt, for example, the ostrich symbolized truth and justice. In fact, the goddess Ma’at was often depicted as wearing an ostrich feather in her headdress to represent the idea of balance and fairness. In other parts of Africa, the ostrich is associated with strength and endurance, due to its ability to run at incredibly high speeds for long distances.

In more modern times, the ostrich has taken on new meanings. In the business world, the phrase “bury your head in the sand like an ostrich” is often used to refer to people who ignore problems or refuse to face reality. But regardless of what it’s come to mean in popular culture, the ostrich is still a fascinating and complex symbol with a lot to teach us.

Ostrich Symbolism in African Culture

In many cultures, the ostrich is a symbol of both good and bad luck – a duality that is also reflected in African culture. African folklore often casts the ostrich as a trickster figure, who uses their speed and cunning to outwit predators and other obstacles.

At the same time, the ostrich is also seen as a symbol of cowardice. This is likely due to the fact that ostriches famously bury their heads in the sand when confronted with danger, a behavior that has become emblematic of avoidance and denial.

Beliefs and Superstitions

  • According to Herero folklore, if a pregnant woman dreams of an ostrich, it signifies that her child will be born with great speed and agility.
  • In Zulu tradition, the ostrich is associated with laziness and deception. This is because of the animal’s tendency to lay its eggs anywhere, without building a proper nest.
  • In many African cultures, ostrich feathers are highly prized as a symbol of status and wealth. They are used in traditional dress, as well as in the creation of headdresses, fans, and other decorative items.

Mythology and Religion

In the ancient mythology of the San people (also known as the Bushmen), the ostrich is a sacred animal that represents the spirit of the sky. According to San tradition, the ostrich is believed to have created the rain and the clouds, and to possess magical powers of healing and protection.

The ostrich also plays a significant role in the mythology of the Maasai people of East Africa. In Maasai tradition, the ostrich is seen as a symbol of the sun and the moon, and is associated with the concept of renewal and rebirth.

Use in Art and Culture

Throughout African history, the ostrich has been a popular subject in art and literature. Depictions of the animal can be found in everything from ancient rock paintings to contemporary paintings and sculptures.

The ostrich is also frequently referenced in African music, with many songs and dances inspired by the animal’s speed and grace. In South Africa, for example, there is a traditional dance called the “Ostrich Dance,” which mimics the movements of the bird.

Country Artist/Song Year
Nigeria Felá Kuti – “Lady” 1972
South Africa Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens – “Ostrich” 1987
Zimbabwe Thomas Mapfumo – “Rova Ngoma” 1992

In conclusion, the ostrich plays a fascinating and multifaceted role in African culture. From mythology and religion to superstition and art, the bird has left an indelible mark on the continent’s history and traditions.

Ostrich as a symbol of speed and agility

The ostrich is well-known for being the fastest bird on land and can reach a whopping speed of 43 miles per hour. Its incredible speed has made it a symbol of swiftness and agility in various cultures across the world. The ostrich’s ability to sprint great distances has also made it a prime target for hunters, which has caused the bird to become even more renowned for its speed and agility as it tries to outrun its prey.

In addition to its speed, the ostrich’s agility is also a significant feature, as it can quickly change its direction while running at full speed. Its long legs enable it to take long strides and cover vast distances, and its wings help to stabilize its body while it runs. The ostrich’s amazing agility and speed have made it an inspiration for athletes and sports teams worldwide, with many adopting the bird as their mascot.

Characteristics that make ostriches fast and agile:

  • Long legs – allow the ostrich to take long strides that cover vast distances
  • Strong muscles – especially in the legs, which make the bird’s movements well coordinated and efficient
  • Light body mass – owing to the fact that the ostrich lacks a keel bone that anchors the muscles of the wings, making it have less weight and increasing its speed

Ostrich racing as a sport

Ostrich racing is a popular sport in parts of Africa, where jockeys mount ostriches and race them on a race track. The sport has gained worldwide attention and has become an attraction for tourists. Ostrich racing provides a fun and unique way to observe these magnificent birds’ speed and agility, and it also points out the incredible bond between humans and animals.

The ostrich as a symbol of speed and agility in art and literature

The ostrich has featured in various forms of art and literature, symbolizing swiftness, agility, and speed. This bird has been held in high esteem in African cultures, with some tribes even relating it to hunted game and other symbols of strength. The use of ostrich feathers and eggs has also been of great importance to different cultures worldwide, often used in fashion and decorative arts.

Native American symbolism African symbolism
The Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma perceived the ostrich as a symbol of strength and speed. The Masai tribe perceives the ostrich as a messenger of God.
The Navajo tribe related the ostrich to support, protection, and medicine The Zulu tribe related the bird to courage and hospitality
The Cherokee tribe related the ostrich to power The Kikuyu tribe regarded it as a symbol of the sun and believed it could bring rain when offered an egg.

The ostrich’s speed and agility have made it a symbol of strength, courage, and beauty in art and literature. It has become a metaphor for anything with speed and agility and has been used as a central motif in movies, documentaries, and advertisements worldwide.

Ostrich as a Symbol of Cowardice or Fear

One of the most common associations with ostriches is that they are cowardly animals that bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger. This idea has been perpetuated through media and popular culture, but the reality is that ostriches’ behavior is not related to cowardice or fear.

In fact, ostriches have very keen senses and are able to detect danger from far away. When they feel threatened, they do not bury their heads in the sand. Instead, they often run away or attack their predators with their powerful legs. So why did this myth arise?

  • One theory is that ostriches’ behavior of lying flat on the ground when they sense danger led people to believe that they were hiding their heads in the sand. In reality, this posture allows ostriches to blend in with their surroundings and make themselves less visible to predators.
  • Another theory is that early explorers observed ostriches digging holes in the ground to use as nests for their eggs. These holes, along with other natural depressions in the ground, gave the impression that ostriches were burying their heads in the sand.
  • Finally, some people speculate that the myth arose as a way to discredit ostriches and justify their hunting for their valuable feathers and meat.

Despite the lack of evidence to support the idea that ostriches are cowardly animals, the association persists in popular culture. As a result, ostriches sometimes become a symbol of fear or cowardice.

Animal Symbolism
Lion Courage, strength
Eagle Freedom, power
Ostrich Cowardice, fear

However, it is important to recognize that this association is not based in fact, and to avoid perpetuating false ideas about animals based on myths and misconceptions.

Ostrich as a totem animal in Native American culture

The ostrich is not a traditional totem animal in Native American culture, as the ostrich is native to Africa and is not present in the Americas. However, some Native American communities have adopted the ostrich as a totem animal in modern times due to its symbolism and characteristics.

Symbolism of the ostrich

  • Speed and agility
  • Strength and power
  • Resourcefulness
  • Confidence and fearlessness

Ostrich in Native American mythology

In some Native American stories, the ostrich is seen as a powerful and wise animal. It is believed to have the ability to see far and wide, and to know what is going on in the world. The ostrich is also seen as a symbol of strength, courage, and resilience.

One legend tells of a tribe that was facing starvation due to a drought. The leader of the tribe had a vision of an ostrich, and believed that it had the power to bring rain to the land. The tribe sought out the ostrich, and through their determination and resourcefulness, they were able to capture it and perform a sacred ritual that brought rain to their land.

Ostrich in Native American art

The ostrich has been featured in Native American art, often as a representation of power and strength. Ostrich feathers have been used in headdresses and other ceremonial items, and the bird itself has been depicted in pottery and other art forms.

Ostrich as a modern totem animal

Tribes that have adopted ostrich as a totem animal: Navajo Hopi Cherokee
Reasons for adoption: Symbolism aligned with tribe’s values Strong connection to African culture Adoption from neighboring tribe

While the ostrich may not have a traditional place in Native American culture, its symbolism and characteristics have led some tribes to adopt it as a totem animal. The ostrich represents strength, agility, and resourcefulness – values that align with many Native American cultures.

Ostrich feathers as a symbol of luxury and wealth

For centuries, ostrich feathers have been a symbol of luxury and wealth. This is due to their beauty, rarity, and the amount of work required to collect them. Ostrich feathers were used for decorative purposes in fashion and interior design, and were a popular choice among the elite.

  • The feathers were often used to trim clothing and accessories, such as hats and fans. This gave the items a luxurious and exotic feel, and was a way for the wearer to show off their wealth and social status.
  • Interior designers also used ostrich feathers to add a touch of glamour to their spaces. Feather dusters made with ostrich feathers were a popular item for cleaning delicate objects, and feather boas were used as decorative accents in homes and in theaters.
  • The rarity of ostrich feathers also added to their value. Ostriches produce a limited number of feathers each year, and some colors and patterns are harder to find than others. This made ostrich feathers a coveted item among collectors and enthusiasts.

Despite their popularity, the use of ostrich feathers in fashion and design declined in the early 20th century. This was due in part to changing fashion trends and the rise of synthetic materials. However, ostrich feathers continue to be a symbol of luxury and wealth, and are still used in some high-end fashion and interior design projects.

If you’re interested in incorporating ostrich feathers into your own fashion or design projects, it’s important to work with reputable suppliers who source their feathers ethically. Many ostriches are raised for their feathers, and it’s important to make sure that these animals are treated humanely and that their welfare is a top priority.

Color Symbolism
White Purity, innocence, and peace
Black Mystery, power, and elegance
Gray Respect, neutrality, and sophistication
Pink Love, romance, and femininity

Overall, ostrich feathers are a captivating and luxurious symbol of wealth and status. Whether you’re interested in incorporating them into your fashion or interior design projects, or simply appreciate their beauty and rarity, ostrich feathers are a timeless choice that remain popular to this day.

Ostrich Egg Symbolism In Different Cultures: Number 6

Number 6 holds a special significance in many cultures, and ostrich eggs are no exception. From African folklore to Chinese mythology, the number 6 is often associated with unity, balance, and harmony.

In African folklore, the ostrich egg symbolizes life, and the number 6 represents the six days of creation in the Bible. The egg is sometimes used in African fertility rituals, where a woman might drink water from an ostrich eggshell to increase her chances of conceiving.

In Chinese mythology, the number 6 is a powerful number associated with the six senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and intuition). Ostrich eggs play a role in Chinese New Year celebrations, where they are often painted with intricate designs and used as decorative items.

  • In some Native American cultures, the Ostrich egg represents the concept of “as above, so below,” which signifies the unity between the physical and spiritual realms.
  • In Hinduism, the number 6 represents the six chakras or energy centers in the human body, and the ostrich egg can be used as a tool for balancing these energies.
  • In Judaism, the ostrich egg is seen as a symbol of the struggle for survival and the importance of preservation. It is also used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, where it represents the cycle of life and the need for shelter and protection.

While the symbolism of ostrich eggs varies across different cultures, the number 6 is often associated with unity, balance, and harmony. Whether used in ritual practices or as decorative objects, ostrich eggs continue to hold a special place in the cultural traditions of many societies.

Culture Symbolism
African Life, six days of creation
Chinese Six senses
Native American Unity between physical and spiritual realms
Hinduism Six chakras
Judaism Struggle for survival, cycle of life, need for shelter and protection

The symbolism of ostrich eggs in different cultures provides us with a deeper understanding of the diverse meanings behind this unique object. By exploring how different societies interpret the same symbol, we gain insight into the universal themes and values that connect all of humankind.

Ostrich in Mythology and Folklore

The ostrich is a peculiar bird that has fascinated humans for centuries. They are the largest birds on earth and are known for their incredible strength and speed. Due to their impressive physical attributes and unique appearance, ostriches have been featured in various myths and folklore in different cultures around the world.

In the Middle East, the ostrich has been associated with the number 7. The number has been credited with various meanings, including luck and prosperity. Ostriches are believed to symbolize these meanings due to the seven layers of feathers on their wings.

  • Seven is also a number of significant religious importance in various cultures. In Islam, the number 7 represents the seven heavens and the seven virtues that can bring one closer to God. Legend has it that ostriches were once able to fly with their seven wings, but God punished them for their arrogance by taking away their ability to fly, leaving them grounded on earth.
  • In Judaism, the number 7 is associated with the creation of the world and the day of rest. In some cultures, it is believed that ostriches are the only birds that can see the face of God, and they represent the ability to see beyond what is visible to the naked eye.
  • Christianity also associates the number 7 with luck and prosperity. The seven feathers on the wings of the ostrich are believed to bring good fortune to those who carry them.

Beyond the symbolism of the number 7, ostriches are also featured in various African folktales. In these stories, the bird is often depicted as cunning and intelligent and outwitting their predators.

In one story, an ostrich outwits a hyena by convincing it to eat a chili pepper, making it thirst and ultimately giving the ostrich the chance to run away. In another tale, an ostrich outsmarts a lion by pretending to hide, making the lion believe it has escaped, allowing the ostrich to make a run for it. In these tales, the ostrich represents survival, quick thinking, and resourcefulness.

Region Mythological Belief
Islam The bird used to fly with its seven wings, but was punished by God for its arrogance
Judaism The ostrich can see the face of God, representing seeing beyond what is visible
Christianity Seven feathers on the wings of the ostrich bring luck and prosperity

Overall, the ostrich has played a significant role in mythological and folklore traditions across the world. Through its association with the number 7 and its portrayal as a clever and resourceful bird that outwits its predators, it has come to symbolize luck, prosperity, strength, and intelligence.

Ostrich in heraldry and coat of arms

The ostrich has long been an important symbol in heraldry and coat of arms, representing various qualities and traits. Here are some depictions and meanings of the ostrich in heraldry and coat of arms:

  • Fleetness and Swiftness: Because of its ability to run at great speeds, the ostrich is often depicted in heraldry and coat of arms as a symbol of agility and fleetness. In some cases, the ostrich is shown with arrows in its beak, further emphasizing its swift nature.
  • Vigilance and Alertness: Another trait associated with the ostrich is its keen sense of vision and vigilance, which is why it is sometimes depicted as holding a key or a pair of keys in its beak, symbolizing watchfulness and ever-vigilant guardianship.
  • Humility: Despite its speed and size, the ostrich is often portrayed in heraldry and coat of arms as a symbol of humility, with its head lowered and its feathers drooping. This humble posture represents the idea that even the mightiest of creatures should remain humble and avoid displaying too much pride or arrogance.
  • Strong Digestive System: The ostrich’s reputation for being able to digest almost anything it eats is another reason why it has been used as a symbol in heraldry and coat of arms. In some depictions, the ostrich is shown with a horseshoe or a horseshoe nail in its beak, symbolizing its ability to digest even the toughest of substances.

Below is a table of some examples of ostrich depictions in heraldry and coat of arms:

Coat of Arms Description
City of Bloemfontein, South Africa The ostrich is depicted with a horseshoe in its beak, symbolizing the city’s reputation as a center of horse trading.
South African Police Service The ostrich is shown with an open book in its beak, symbolizing the idea of knowledge and wisdom being the foundation of justice.
Bolivia The Bolivian coat of arms features an ostrich on the left side, with a staff and a Phrygian cap in its beak, symbolizing freedom and sovereignty.

As you can see, the ostrich has played an important role in heraldry and coat of arms, representing a variety of qualities and traits that people have admired for centuries.

Ostrich as a symbol of survival and adaptability

The ostrich is a fascinating animal that has been revered and admired for centuries. It is the largest and heaviest bird in the world and can run at speeds of up to 43 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest animals on land. The ostrich has become a symbol of survival and adaptability in many cultures, and for good reason.

Here are some of the ways in which the ostrich represents survival and adaptability:

  • Speed: As we mentioned earlier, the ostrich can run at incredibly high speeds. This is a testament to its ability to outrun predators and escape danger when necessary. The ostrich’s speed is a symbol of its adaptability and ability to survive in difficult situations.
  • Longevity: Ostriches have a long lifespan, with some birds living up to 50 years in captivity. This longevity is a testament to their resilience and ability to adapt to changing environments and conditions.
  • Ability to thrive in harsh environments: Ostriches are capable of living in some of the harshest environments on Earth, including deserts and savannas. Their ability to find food and water in these environments is yet another testament to their adaptability and survival skills.

One of the most impressive aspects of the ostrich’s survival and adaptability is their ability to thrive in a range of different habitats. Ostriches can be found in nearly every country in Africa, from the arid deserts of northern Africa to the lush grasslands of South Africa. This adaptability has made them an important part of many different cultures and mythologies across the continent.

To emphasize the importance of the ostrich as a symbol of survival and adaptability, let us look at the table below:

Country Habitat Importance in Culture
South Africa Open grasslands and forests The ostrich is the national bird of South Africa and is featured prominently in many of the country’s coat of arms and flags.
Kenya Savannas and grasslands The Maasai tribe of Kenya use ostrich feathers in their traditional clothing and ceremonies.
Nigeria Forests and savannas In Nigerian mythology, the ostrich is regarded as a symbol of strength and agility.

As you can see, the ostrich has played an important role in many different cultures and societies around the world. Whether as a symbol of strength, adaptability, or survival, this incredible bird serves as a reminder of the amazing power of nature and its ability to thrive in even the harshest environments.

Ostrich in Contemporary Art and Popular Culture

The ostrich is a symbol that has found its way into contemporary art and popular culture. This regal and majestic bird has captured the imagination of many artists and creatives, who have used its image to convey a variety of meanings and messages. Here are some of the ways in which the ostrich has been featured in contemporary art and popular culture:

  • Wall Art: Large-scale murals featuring ostriches have become increasingly popular in recent years. These murals often depict the bird in motion, with its long neck stretched out, wings outstretched, and feathers flowing in the wind. These murals add a sense of movement and drama to urban landscapes, bringing a touch of the exotic to city streets.
  • Fashion: The ostrich’s feathers have been used in fashion for centuries, adding a luxurious touch to clothing, accessories, and home decor. Recently, designers have been incorporating images of the bird into their designs, creating patterns and prints that capture the grace and beauty of the ostrich.
  • Advertising: The ostrich is a popular choice for advertisers looking to create a memorable image. Ads featuring ostriches often play on the bird’s size and strength, portraying it as a symbol of power and resilience.

In addition to its use in contemporary art and popular culture, the ostrich has also been a recurring symbol in various cultures throughout history. Here is a look at some of the historical and cultural meanings associated with the ostrich:

African folklore: In many African cultures, the ostrich is a symbol of purity and innocence. It is said that the bird’s white feathers represent the purity of spirit, and that its inability to fly is a sign of its reliance on the earth and its connection to nature.

Egyptian mythology: The ostrich was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the bird was a symbol of truth and justice. The god Ma’at was often depicted with the feathers of an ostrich, representing the balance and order of the universe.

Christian symbolism: In Christian art, the ostrich is often used as a symbol of the Resurrection. According to legend, the ostrich lays its eggs in a shallow hole and then abandons them to the sun, which hatches them. This legend became associated with the Resurrection of Christ, who rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

Symbolism Meaning
Purity and innocence African folklore
Truth and justice Egyptian mythology
Resurrection Christian symbolism

Through these various sources of symbolism, the ostrich has become a powerful and multifaceted symbol in contemporary art and popular culture. Its beauty, strength, and grace have captured the imagination of artists and creatives throughout the ages, and its rich history and cultural associations continue to give it meaning and significance today.

What Does an Ostrich Symbolize? FAQs

Q: What does an ostrich symbolize in African cultures?
A: In African cultures, the ostrich is often seen as a symbol of strength, courage, and dignity. It is also associated with wisdom and is considered a messenger of divine knowledge.

Q: What does an ostrich symbolize in Christianity?
A: In Christianity, the ostrich represents the sin of pride. This comes from the belief that the ostrich, in trying to avoid danger, sticks its head in the sand and becomes vulnerable to attack. This is seen as a metaphor for prideful behavior.

Q: What does an ostrich feather symbolize?
A: Ostrich feathers have traditionally been seen as a symbol of luxury and status. In some cultures, they are also associated with spirituality and divine knowledge.

Q: What does it mean to dream about an ostrich?
A: Dreaming about an ostrich can have different meanings depending on the context of the dream. It can represent feelings of vulnerability or avoidance, or it can symbolize the need to stand tall and face challenges head-on.

Q: What does it mean if an ostrich crosses your path?
A: In some cultures, encountering an ostrich is seen as a sign of good luck and a reminder to take action and move forward with confidence. It can also indicate the need to face reality rather than avoiding it.

Q: What does an ostrich egg symbolize?
A: Ostrich eggs are often seen as a symbol of fertility and rebirth, as well as abundance and prosperity. They are also associated with creativity and new beginnings.

Q: What does an ostrich tattoo symbolize?
A: An ostrich tattoo can have various meanings depending on the individual’s interpretation. It can represent strength, power, and resilience, or it can be a reminder to face challenges with courage and confidence.

The Final Word

Now that you know what an ostrich symbolizes, you may see these majestic birds in a new light. Whether encountering an ostrich in real life or in a dream, there are many different meanings and interpretations to explore. Thank you for reading and we hope you found this information insightful. Be sure to visit us again for more fascinating articles.