Meaning of Birds on Tarot Cards

What is the meaning of birds on Tarot cards? What’s the significance behind the bird symbolism of the Tarot? What are the Tarot cards with bird symbols and their meanings? 

Birds frequently make an appearance on the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, and their meanings are significant. Learning how to interpret birds means that you can easily fall back on bird symbolism. If you get stuck remembering the card meanings, just refer to the symbols. 

Meaning of Birds on Tarot Cards

Below, you can find my outline of the meaning of the birds on Tarot cards. Birds appear on the following cards:

SymbolsCardMeaning
BirdsSwords Cour CardsElement of Air
DoveAce of CupsLove, peace, femininity
Eagle Wheel of Fortune & The WorldFate, heaven, destiny
HawkNine of PentaclesRestricted freedom
IbisThe StarMagic, manifestation, insight

Birds Meaning: Swords Suit 

In Tarot, birds make an appearance on multiple cards, including the Queen of Swords, King of Swords, Knight of Swords, and Page of Swords. These birds don’t appear to be any particular breed of bird, and therefore probably reflect the general symbolic meanings of birds, not one specific to any given type. 

Birds generally have two main meanings in the context of Tarot. On the one hand, they represent the element of air; on the other, they symbolize freedom.

You will notice on The Rider-Waite deck how all the Sword Courts have birds; this is because birds are the mascot of the element of air (obviously due to their ability to fly). It’s quite comical how, once you notice the birds in the background of these cards, you’ll be hyper-aware of how empty the sky looks on the other cards in the pack! 

In divination, birds can also symbolize freedom and a lack of restrictions; this interpretation gives an extra layer of meaning to the Sword Courts. Unlike the other Court cards, the Swords have a reputation for making logical, brain-driven decisions free from emotional entanglement. Therefore, in this case, the birds symbolize an ability to deal with facts and not be limited by other factors.

Dove Meaning: Ace of Cups

A dove makes an appearance on the Ace of Cups. The Ace of Cups is obviously a card of love, peace, and femininity. Doves are also signals of these things. The Ace of Cups is often also interpreted as being a very spiritual card, given that it’s the first in the Cups suit (which is a suit aligned with the water element, reflecting intuition, emotions, and psychic ability). 

Sometimes, I interpret the Ace of Cups to predict a sign from spirit, God, or the universe. Coincidently, doves are associated with signs and messages from God; in the story of Noah, for example, Noah sent out a dove to determine how far he and his family were from land. 

Doves often appear in Christian art to signal the presence of the Holy Spirit. You’ll notice that the Virgin Mary is often depicted with a dove or holding a dove. Therefore, not only is the dove a sign of spirituality, but just like the Ace of Cups, is also a card of women and the feminine aspects of the divine. There’s a belief that the Ace of Cups predicts the birth of a girl, and that the Ace of Wands foretells the birth of a boy.

Eagle Meaning: The Wheel of Fortune & The World

An eagle appears on The Wheel of Fortune and The World Tarot cards. While this bird is not meant to represent an actual eagle (it’s supposed to be a tetramorph), there are some similarities between The Wheel of Fortune, The World, and eagle symbolism. 

In Greek mythology, the eagle is a symbol of Zeus, and Zeus is often depicted with an eagle companion in both art and myth. Obviously, Zeus is the king of the gods and of heaven. 

Both the Wheel of Fortune and The World cards are heavily associated with heaven, fate, and destiny. Some Tarot readers even say that they represent the will of God. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the eagle is on both cards symbolizing God’s presence.

Meanings of Birds on Tarot Cards_ The Star and Ace of Cups

Falcon/Hawk Meaning: Nine of Pentacles

The falcon or hawk on the Nine of Pentacles is a rather strange addition. In symbolism, falcons have pretty much the same interpretations as eagles do. However, this is not the purpose of the bird on the Nine of Pentacles.  

Like all birds, falcons can represent freedom. To see a restrained or caged bird in a dream, on a Tarot card, or in another form of divination symbolizes a lack of freedom and an inability to fly.

The figure on the Nine of Pentacles card is content with what she has achieved. She is very much a woman of the house. In some cases, the Nine of Pentacles can represent someone who has all their financial needs taken care of. But, they are trapped in a prison of their own making. The bird represents the fact that this woman is content, but still tied down to her responsibilities and held back, in a way, because of the lifestyle she has created and now must maintain.

Ibis Meaning: The Star

Finally, an ibis appears in the tree on The Star card. The ibis is associated with the Egyptian God Thoth, the god of wisdom, magic, writing, and insight. This interpretation fits in nicely with that of The Star, as it too is a card of magic, manifestation, and the future being revealed. 

Closing Thoughts for the Meaning of Birds on Tarot Cards

That’s all for the meanings of the birds on Tarot cards! As you can see, birds feature heavily on Tarot cards. By learning how to read birds, you are one step closing to digesting Tarot card meanings.

How do you feel about the birds on Tarot cards? If you have any questions or if you would like to share your thoughts, feel free to share in the comments section. You can find the comments at the bottom of this post.

Posts Related to the Meaning of Birds on Tarot Cards

You’re probably aware that there are a lot of animals on the Rider-Waite Tarot deck – too many to put into one post. Therefore, there are three posts in this series: 

Part I: The Meanings of Animal Symbols on Tarot Cards

Part III: The Meanings of Mythological Creatures on Tarot Cards

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