If you are a big fan of Egyptian mythology like I am, you are probably familiar with the special attention some animals enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians. These animals represented various gods, and they were often sacrificed in an attempt to appease the gods.
One such animal was the ibis. Ibis was highly revered in Ancient Egypt, but it also carried a special symbolism in other cultures, so keep reading this article to learn more about the ibis symbolism!
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Interesting Facts About Ibises
Ibises are long-legged birds with unique appearance and behavior. These things contributed to the symbolism behind this interesting bird.
Ibises inhabit forests, plains, shores, marshes, and wetlands all around the world, especially in the south-temperate regions. They are most numerous in North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and even Florida.
Ibises have long legs and curved beaks facing downwards. Their plumage color ranges from white to grey, green, orange, brown, reddish, black, and even blue.
Some of the ibis species have featherless heads, while others have heads covered in feathers. Male ibises are usually larger than their female counterparts.
Some ibis species are monogamous, which means they will mate with only one partner their whole lives. On the other hand, some ibis species remain faithful to their partner only during that mating season.
They usually nest in large colonies that can count up to 10.000 nests. During the mating season, ibises’ heads can change the color of their skins in order to attract a partner. Females lay eggs once a year. When the younglings hatch, they will be fed and protected by their mothers for the first month of their lives.
Other Ibis Facts
Archaeologists estimate the oldest ibis fossils to be 60 million years old. Ibises have long bills so that they can easily forage their food in water and mud.
Ibises are social birds, and they do everything in flocks. When they fly, they take a “V” formation, which has been proven to reduce air resistance. When the flock leader gets tired, he moves to the back of the formation, and another bird takes his place.
Orange and red ibises sometimes get their color when they eat a lot of algae and small crustaceans, which are rich in carotenoid pigments.
Ibises are mostly silent, but they become vocal during the breeding season when they can be heard making wheezing and squeaking noises.
Symbolic Meaning Of Ibis
There is something about the ibis that compelled so many cultures to make it into a sacred bird. Ibis represents ancient and secret wisdom, healing, art, and magic, but it predominantly symbolizes the human soul, especially in the context of the afterlife.
It represents the transit and connection between the worlds of dead and living, and it can also represent purity, cooperation, socialization, religion, mystery, faith, as well as some negative traits, such as thievery.
If we had to pick only one place where the ibis was highly revered as a sacred creature, it would be Ancient Egypt. Egyptians believed that the human soul was made out of three parts, Ka, Ba, and Akh. Ba was Egyptian ibis that could freely travel between the worlds of the living and dead.
Ibis was a manifestation of the Egyptian god Thoth, god of wisdom, who was associated with learning, magic, the moon, and science. Thoth was sometimes depicted in hieroglyphs as the ibis bird, but more often, he was depicted as a human with the head of an ibis.
When Osiris was murdered, it was Thoth who gave the phrase necessary for raising the dead to Osiris’ wife. He also tricked an evil lion goddess named Sekhmet, who wanted to devour humankind.
He filled the Nile with grenadine and beer and tricked the goddess into thinking it was human blood. She drank the mixture and became so drunk that she was no longer a threat to humankind.
Thoth, and consequently ibis, represented a lord of hidden knowledge, healing, medicine, and justice. Thoth was the scribe for Osiris when he decided the fate of dead human souls. This is why ibis eggs could be found on multiple burial grounds in Egypt.
Native American Culture
Native Americans connected ibis birds with storms and claimed that when a hurricane approaches, ibises will be the last ones to seek shelter.
Australian white ibises are one of three ibis species that are native to Australia. However, they started dwelling in the urban areas only in the last few decades, so there is a common but false myth about their origin.
According to the myth, these birds only exist in Australia after they escaped an Egyptian zoo and managed to fly all the way to the Australian continent. However, this myth was debunked long ago.
Australian farmers appreciate ibises due to their important role in keeping various pests away from farms. In this context, ibises symbolize healing, purity, medicine, and harmonious relationships between humans and animals.
During the Hellenistic period, when Greeks and Egyptians interacted more than ever before, some similarities between their religions were noticed. The Egyptian god Thoth was the most similar to the Greek god Hermes.
As a result, ibis birds became symbols of the god Hermes. In this context, ibis symbolized travel, news, messengers, thieves, and swiftness and conducted souls into the afterlife.
Japan’s Love-Hate Relationship With Ibis Birds
Crested ibis is a species of ibis that had a vast ritual significance in ancient Japan. A legendary sword Sugari no Ontachi had to be wrapped in created ibis feathers whenever it was used by priests in various ceremonies.
However, although sacred, this bird was also seen as an annoying pest by many people until it went extinct in Japan in 2003. It was only through considerable conservation efforts that this bird was reintroduced to Japan and slowly repopulated.
This interesting story symbolizes that no matter how revered something is, it can become a nuisance once it becomes too common.
Ibis Symbolism In Other Cultures
In China, the ibis was a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. Hinduists believed that the ibis brought enlightenment and purity. Ancient Romans saw the ibis as a symbol of prudence and foresight.
Ibis Symbolism In the Modern Age
In today’s age, this long-legged bird represents wisdom and ancient knowledge. It is a symbol of old historical times, which makes it a great reminder that we need to learn from our past unless we want to repeat the same mistakes as our ancestors.
Also, ibis represents new beginnings, harmony, fertility, ideals, adaptability, personal development, hope, renewal, new possibilities, and an optimistic outlook even in the most challenging times.
Although ibises are not vocal birds unless they are in the middle of their mating season, their silence is full of powerful magic and symbolizes silent prayer, meditation, and self-reflection.
Ibis Spirits And Their Significance
Ibis Power Animal: If your power animal is the ibis, you have a strong memory and the tendency to keep a record of everything. You are always trying to fix things that are broken, and you are annoyed by injustice.
Ibis Spirit Animal: Ibis spirit animal will guide you if you are intellectual by nature and enjoy uncovering the mysteries of life.
You are extroverted, and you crave other’s people presence, although you might appear as eccentric from time to time. However, true friends will appreciate your authentic self, and you shouldn’t change who you are just to fit in.
Ibis Totem Animal: When your totem animal is the ibis, you will be naturally inclined to truth and justice, and you will feel repulsed by any sort of insincerity and treason.
Still, your judgment can become clouded by your emotions, and you need to acknowledge that before you become what you hate the most. Also, keep in mind that it is not your responsibility to fix every injustice in the world.
The Symbolism Behind Ibis Tattoos
In tattoos, the ibis can represent a variety of things, including grace, poise, wisdom, intelligence, and purity. It also represents medicine, community, and justice.
Even if your only motive for getting an ibis tattoo is your love of Ancient Egypt and history in general, that’s completely fine. It is good sometimes to take a look into the past to be better prepared for the future.
What Does It Mean To Dream Of Ibis Birds?
Ibis dream can symbolize that there is a wound you need to heal, either physical or on your soul. This dream can also mean that your deceased loved ones are watching over you. Dreaming about a flock of ibis can be a sign that you need to surround yourself with people.
Finally, dreaming about ibis can mean that you are too harsh when judging others or that your judgment is impartial and clouded by your feelings.
Although this bird is mostly associated with Ancient Egypt, the ibis symbolism is relevant even today, and it can help us find the answers to our past, present, and future.
Ibis symbolizes knowledge, science, magic, justice, wisdom, purity, grace, and mystery, but it also teaches us the power of friendship, family, and cooperation with other people in general.
Now that we analyzed the ibis symbolism, do you feel any connection or common ground to this sacred bird? Write in the comments!