Crane symbolism and meanings include grace, devotion and faithfulness, travel, open-mindedness, aspiration, longevity, immortality, and transformation. There are 15 species of cranes and they live on every continent except South America and Antarctica.1 As a result, these elegant birds appear in the mythology and folklore of many cultures around the world. Plus, the crane spirit animal is an important figure in the spiritual beliefs of people who feel a special kinship with these beautiful birds. In this post, you’ll learn about crane symbols and meanings, including crane spiritual meanings, as well as crane mythology and folklore and more.
Table of Contents
- What does the crane symbolize?
- Detailed Crane Symbols and Meanings
- Crane Spiritual Meanings
- Crane Meaning in Buddhism
- Cranes in Hinduism
- Crane Meaning in the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity
- Crane Mythology and Folklore
- Crane Symbolism in Aboriginal Australia
- Crane Meaning in Japan
- Crane Mythology in China
- Crane Symbolism in India
- Middle East
- Cranes in Egypt
- Crane Symbolism in Africa
- Crane Meaning in Greek Mythology
- Native American Crane Meanings
- Crane Spirit Animal
- Crane Power Animal
- Crane Totem
- Crane Dream Meaning
- Crane Tattoo Meaning
- Organizations that Protect Cranes
What does the crane symbolize?
- Devotion and Faithfulness
- Longevity and Immortality
Detailed Crane Symbols and Meanings
The following are details about what cranes symbolize and what these associations could mean in your life:
Around the world, artists, writers, photographers, and others have been captivated by the beauty and grace of cranes. With their long, elegant necks and legs and their gorgeous plumage, cranes make us believe that nature is divinely inspired and created.
As a symbol of grace, the crane inspires us to pause and reflect. It’s as though they are here to remind us to honor the grace all around us as well as in ourselves.
The crane spirit animal says, “To walk in grace on this Earth is to honor the miracles all around us.”
Devotion and Faithfulness
Perhaps a key to their enduring love is that cranes never stop courting their mates. In fact, they are well-known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve dancing, crooning their necks, and calling out to each other during mating season.
A crane pair will work together to build a nest. And both the male and female crane share in the responsibilities of incubating their eggs and caring for their chicks.
As symbols of devotion and faithfulness, the crane reminds us to never take our mates for granted. Often our romantic life can take a back seat to life’s responsibilities and pressures. The crane reminds us that without romance and devotion to our mates, all of these responsibilities can lose their meaning.
Refreshing Your Relationships
If you are in an established relationship and a crane makes themselves known to you, whether in real life, art, the media, or elsewhere, it can be a sign to renew your commitment to each other. Every relationship needs a refresh from time to time. The crane reminds you to make sure you are taking the time needed to truly care for each other and meet each other’s needs.
If you are single and looking for your soulmate, the crane can be a sign that your mate is out there! Remember that it is the nature of soulmates to want to find each other. While it can be frustrating if you feel like you can’t find your person, now is the perfect time to start manifesting! Work on being the person you want to be when your soulmate arrives. And get a crystal clear picture of the qualities you believe they will have. Then, when you meet in person, you will know.
Crane Meaning: Travel
Some species of cranes travel thousands of miles during migrations, enduring a range of challenging conditions as they do. For instance, the demoiselle crane reaches altitudes of 24,000 feet (7,315 meters) when flying over the Hindu Kush mountain range, west of the Himalayas, in Central and South Asia.2
Because of the distances they cover, cranes are also symbols for traveling and even taking hazardous journeys. The crane reminds us that when nothing is ventured, nothing is gained.
So, if a crane has come into your life, it can be a sign to write down your travel bucket list. Even if circumstances are preventing you from traveling right now, you can still plan your trip. Whether it’s places you haven’t been within your own community or exotic locales in other countries, keep those places in your mind’s eye. The crane spirit animal is here to remind you that it’s experiences that make a life!
Crane Symbolism: Aspiration
The crane’s willingness to take on challenging migrations at high elevations coupled with their notable long legs and necks is why they are also symbols of aspiration. Like elegant jasmine or clematis vines that climb and climb, the crane seems to be reaching for the stars. In fact, the crane is the tallest flying bird, with species such as the sarus crane standing over 6 feet (2 meters) tall.3 Thus, the crane is also a symbol of aspiration.
If a crane has entered your life or you feel that the crane is one of your spirit animals, you are a person who gets fulfillment from dreaming big and going after goals. Even if you are full of doubts, the crane power animal reminds you to believe you can go further and higher than you ever imagined. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you are right.”
In addition to being a symbol for travel, the crane also symbolizes open-mindedness. Case in point: the crane will eat almost anything. As an omnivore, they are known to eat grains, berries, insects, fish, frogs, small rodents, and even other birds’ eggs.4
Thus, crane people are the types who enjoy exploring new places, trying new activities, and even sampling exotic cuisine. They are very much “When in Rome, do what the Romans do” kind of people.
If you feel that you are stuck in some way in your life, the crane can be a helpful totem to encourage you to try something that you never have before, whether it’s a new physical activity, studying a new language, or traveling to an exotic locale. The crane reminds you that variety is the spice of life!
Crane Meanings: Longevity and Immortality
In Asian cultures, the crane is a symbol of longevity and immortality. In fact, some cranes, such as the snowy white Siberian crane and the black-necked crane of Bhutan, can live for up to 80 years.5
In Bhutan, the life expectancy is around 72 years old. However, black-necked cranes, which are native to the Tibetan Plateau and which migrate to Bhutan, can outlive humans by a decade. Thus, for many, they are aspirational symbols of longevity.6
Because of this, cranes are helpful symbols to remind us to be young at heart. We’ll get into more detail on the crane as a symbol of longevity and immortality in the mythology section below.
Many crane species are shorebirds, making their nests in wetlands and bogs. As they are born near water and then mature to fly great distances at high elevations, the crane is also a symbol of transformation. Like a lotus flower that sprouts in the mud, growing through the water to rise above the surface, the crane shows us that no matter where we start in life, we all have the potential to transform. By focusing on who we want to be, whether it’s our physical, mental, or emotional state or even our spiritual selves, we can work towards making that vision a reality.
Crane Spiritual Meanings
Cranes have important spiritual meanings to people of different faiths. For many, they symbolize our ability to evolve spiritually and to aspire to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
Crane Meaning in Buddhism
In Buddhism, cranes symbolize longevity and reincarnation, as well as bodhisattvas.
The migration of cranes have important symbolic and spiritual meanings to many Buddhists. As cranes leave and then return during migrations, they remind Buddhists of bodhisattvas.7 In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a soul who has already reached spiritual enlightenment, or nirvana, but who chooses to reincarnate and return to Earth to help others achieve enlightenment.8
In one Buddhist story, a young Prince Siddhartha found an injured crane (or swan) on the palace grounds, which had been shot with a poisoned arrow by his cousin Devadatta.
With sympathy for the bird, Siddhartha removed the arrow and nursed the bird back to health. Realizing the bird lived, Devadatta claimed that it was his and that he wanted it back. However, Siddhartha argued that the bird did not belong to anyone but should remain with the person who rescued and cared for it instead of the one who wanted to take its life.9
Cranes in Hinduism
In Hinduism, the crane is considered a sacred bird. They are associated with devotion as well as marital harmony and commitment. In fact, cranes are held in such high regard that some sacred texts say that it is taboo to eat crane meat.10
Crane Meaning in the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity
The crane, or a close ancestor, is reference in the Bible in both the Books of Isaiah and Jeremiah.
“Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.”11
“Yea, the stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle-dove and the swallow and the crane observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the law of Jehovah.”12
Purity, Humbleness, and Devotion to God
In the Bible, cranes symbolized humbleness, purity, and a devotion to God’s teachings. For one, cranes eat animals that were associated with mud or the underground, such as snakes, snails, and frogs, which were therefore associated with Satan. Thus, cranes were viewed as devourers of evil. In addition, in Christianity, shorebirds, like cranes, were associated with cleanliness and baptism.
Cranes also fly in organized formations, taking turns to lead the group and take up the rear. In addition, the more vulnerable of the flock, such as the chicks and the elderly, fly in the middle where they are more protected. Thus, for some Christians, cranes symbolize the way that must help each other and care for the vulnerable in our communities.
Crane Mythology and Folklore
Because cranes live on nearly every continent, they are subjects in the mythologies and folklore of many cultures around the world. Here are some of those stories:
Crane Symbolism in Aboriginal Australia
The ancient Aboriginal People of Australia were inspired by the circular movements that cranes made with their necks and bodies during courtship and while defending their territory. It reminded them of the seasonal movements of the sun. Thus, for them, the crane is a solar bird. They represent fertility and the cycles of life. The crane is also viewed as a courageous bird who protects their territory.13
The Aboriginal People perform an intricate crane dance in honor of cranes and what they represent to them. You can watch them perform the crane dance in this video:
Crane Meaning in Japan
In Japan, the crane is a sacred bird that symbolizes longevity, purity, happiness, and peace. Giving a gift that portrays a crane with a turtle means that you wish for someone to have a long, healthy, and happy life. In addition, because they mate for life, cranes are symbols of marital happiness in Japan. Furthermore, when children are learning origami (the art of paper folding), their first creation is often a crane.
Like the Aboriginal People of Australian, the Ainu People, who are Indigenous People in Japan, also perform a crane dance. Ainu women open and close their shawls as though they are wings. The Ainu dance, sing, and pray to be closer to and to communicate with their gods.
Koreans also perform a crane dance. And, as with other Asian cultures, cranes symbolize eternal youth and peace. In fact, the DMZ between North and South Korea serves as a sanctuary for the red crowned crane. Many Koreans view their shared love of the cranes a symbol that someday North and South Korea will unite.14
Crane Mythology in China
For the Chinese, cranes symbolize eternal youth and immortality. In fact, in some Chinese traditions, the crane is said to carry the souls of people who have passed to Heaven.
According to one Chinese myth, old pines trees transform into cranes since both live for a long time.
In another legend, a disciple of Confucius, Tseng Ts’ang, saved the life of a wounded crane. Once healed, the crane flew away. Tseng Ts’ang was saddened to see the crane leave, however he respected that he was a wild creature. But soon after he flew away, the crane returned with his mate. Both were carrying precious pearls in their mouths, which they presented to Tseng Ts’ang to show their gratitude.15
Crane Symbolism in India
In India, the native sarus crane gets their name from the word sarasa, which means “bird of the lake.” Sarus cranes are honored in India where they symbolize unconditional love, good fortune, and marital faithfulness. In fact, in India, some believe that crane pairs are soulmates and if one dies, the other will soon follow them in death.16
In the Middle East, and other cultures, the crane is often compared to the mythical birds the phoenix or the simurgh. All symbolize immortality and transformation. In addition, underscoring the reverence people of the Middle East have for cranes, Allah’s daughters, the goddesses Allat, Uzza, and Manat, are sometimes referred to as the “three exalted cranes.”17
Cranes in Egypt
In ancient Egypt, the god Thoth was associated with the ibis and the crane. In fact, he is depicted with the head of bird and the body of a man. Thoth was the good of mathematics, science, magic, and knowledge. According to some historians, he was inspired to invent the written language, hieroglyphics, by the flying patterns of the crane or ibis. Furthermore, the Egyptians believed that cranes transported smaller birds on their backs who could not travel the great distances they were capable of.18
Crane Symbolism in Africa
In Africa, the crane is also highly regarded. The blue crane is the national bird of South Africa, where they are said to help bring peace and order to the land. And Zulu chiefs where crane feathers in their head pieces as a sign of honor.
One African legend tells the tale of how cranes got their beautiful crown feathers. According to the tale, a king was out hunting when he became lost. He wandered and wandered but could not find his way back to his palace. As he grew weak from dehydration, he begged passing animals to show him the way back to his home. All of the animals refused because he had hunted their family members.
Eventually, a flock of cranes flew overhead and the king called out to them. They descended and showed him where there was an oasis where he could get water. Once the kind had quenched his thirst, the cranes flew slowly, allowing him to follow them as they led him back to his palace.
To thank them, the king had his goldsmith weld beautiful golden crowns for each crane. The cranes graciously took the crowns and flew away. However, the next day they returned to the palace without their crowns. They told the king the other animals were so jealous of their golden crowns that they stole them and then destroyed them. So, the king called for the court magician. The magician waved his wand over each crane’s head and, as he did, a beautiful tuft of feathers grew. The king said, “Now you have beautiful crowns on your heads that no one can take.”19
Crane Meaning in Greek Mythology
The ancient Greeks were also enamored with cranes. According to one myth, Gerana, the queen of the Pygmies (who were a tribe of small people) claimed that she was more beautiful than the goddess Hera. In punishment for this hubris, Hera turned Gerana into a crane.20
In another version of the tale, cranes drove the Pygmies out of their homes, which were caves in the city of Geranea. Thus, the Pygmies and the cranes engaged in a long, unending war.
Ibycus and the Cranes
In another Greek myth, a poet named Ibycus was attacked by a group of thieves. As he lay dying, he saw a flock of cranes flying overhead, and he vowed out loud that the cranes would avenge him.
When the thieves were in the marketplace, intending to spend the money they had stolen, one looked up and saw the cranes flying overhead. Horrified, he screamed, “Behold the cranes of Ibycus!”
Upon hearing the name Ibycus, the authorities immediately knew who had committed the crime of robbing and killing the poet.21
The Greeks also associated cranes with their solar god, Apollo, who was the god of prophecy. In fact, both the Greeks and Romans would watch cranes and try to decipher what the future held by the cranes’ behavior and flight patterns.
Native American Crane Meanings
Traditionally, cranes were an important source of food for many Native American tribes who also used their bones to make tools, such as awls for leather work. In fact, archaeologists discovered crane bones that had been polished and used by the Anasazi People of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico that were over 1,000 years old. The Crow and Cheyenne People use crane bones to make whistles that were used in battle. And the Navajo use the skulls and beaks of sandhill cranes to make medicine spoons.22
Cranes are considered sacred birds to many tribes who use crane feathers in spiritual ceremonies. As with eagle feathers, federal law allows Native Americans to use crane feathers in their religious ceremonies.
Most Native American tribes are based around a clan system, which is a form of community organization that is rooted in the maternal family line. And each clan is associated with a specific animal who serves as a guardian and protector of the members of the clan.
Examples of clan animals include the bear, mountain lion, fox, hummingbird, wolf, otter, and others. Tribes who have crane clans include the Chippewa, Menominee, Hopi, Zuni, and other Pueblo tribes. Furthermore, like the Aboriginal People of Australia, tribes including the Creeks and Chumash perform crane dances.23
Native American Crane Mythology
Some tribes have legends about a mythical creature called Grandfather Crane who used his long legs to create a bridge so people could cross rivers.24
Interestingly, like the Greeks, the Crow Native Americans have legends about small birds who ride on the backs of cranes. The small bird served as a messenger, showing the Crow when it was time to head into battle. Tribes of the Pacific Northwest said that humans could ride on the backs of cranes as well.25
In general, cranes are viewed positively in Native American culture, symbolizing good luck, persistence, and peace.
Crane Spirit Animal
When the crane is your spirit animal, you have a graceful guardian on your side. Crane people are old souls who manage to stay young at heart. They are also spiritual seekers. You most likely have deep bonds with people you have known for a very long time and you cherish those relationships. After all, these people are your soulmates.
The crane spirit animal should inspire you to continually learn and broaden your horizons. Life is for experiencing and living!
In addition to the crane, if you are curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal quiz and read more about them in my overview post on spirit animals.
Crane Power Animal
As the name implies, a power animal can inspire you with their most dynamic traits. Thus, if you want to transform an area of your life, consider the attributes that the power animal represents. For example, you can mediate on the crane power animal in situations when you:
- Hope for a romantic relationship or other partnership to endure the test of time.
- Aspire to transform an area of your life and want the positive changes to last.
- Would like to broaden your horizons in some way, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually.
- Want to create more grace and elegance in your life.
An animal totem encapsulates the protective powers of the animal they represent. Thus, the crane totem is a helpful symbol when you want to create something that lasts. This could be in the form of a relationship, a partnership, or even a business or creative endeavor. In addition, the crane is a helpful symbol for healing and for feeling young at heart. Furthermore, the crane totem is a good luck talisman for bringing more peace, grace, and happiness into your life.
Crane Dream Meaning
What does it mean if you dream of a crane or flock of cranes? Dreams and dream interpretations are uniquely personal, so there is never one cut and dry answer. However, delving into the emotions you felt in the dream and your feelings when you awoke can shed light on what the dream meant.
Analyzing the emotions you felt in your dream and how you perceive cranes can help you to understand what your dream is telling you. For instance, birds are often associated with angels. Thus, dreaming of a bird, such as a crane, can be a sign that you have connected with one of your angels, a loved one who has passed, or a spirit guide.
Cranes are graceful yet hardy birds with deep cultural and spiritual meanings. Hopefully understanding more about crane symbolism and meanings can bring insights into what your dream is trying to tell you.
Crane Tattoo Meaning
A crane tattoo is a lovely symbol that shows you are an old soul but also a person who is committed to lifelong learning and transformation, which keeps you young at heart. It can also symbolize that you believe in the afterlife and that the soul is eternal. Or it may simply mean that you honor the graceful beauty of cranes. Of course, tattoos are extremely personal for the person whose skin they adorn. However, as you can see by the number of cultures that revere cranes, a crane tattoo can have deep symbolic meanings.
Organizations that Protect Cranes
Eleven of the 15 species of the world’s cranes are threatened with extinction, making them among the most endangered families of birds in the world. Cranes face a range of threats, including human development, notably near wetlands in coastal areas, and other impacts to their natural habitats, as well as hunting, poaching, poisoning, and predation by other animals. If you care about cranes, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that focus on crane conservation:
- International Crane Foundation
- Audubon Society
- National Wildlife Federation
- Royal Society for the Protection of Nature
- Bush Heritage Australia