Egret meanings and symbolism include grace, purity, peacefulness, travel, transformation, and divinity.
There are 11 species of egrets and they belong to the same family of birds as herons, which is family Ardeidae. Today, egrets can be found around the world, from the U.S. to Central and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. So, these graceful birds appear in the mythology and folklore of many cultures.
In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of egret symbolism and meanings, including egret spiritual meaning and the egret spirit animal, plus egret mythology, and more.
Table of Contents
- What does an egret symbolize?
- Egret Mythology
- Egret Symbolism in Japan
- The Egret in China
- Kōtuku in Māori Culture
- The Egret in Native American Cultures
- The Egret in Ancient Egypt
- Egrets in Greek Mythology
- Celtic Mythology
- Egret Symbolism in Buddhism
- Egrets in the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity
- 3 Egret Spiritual Meanings
- Egret Spirit Animal
- Egret Power Animal and Totem
- Egret Dream Meaning
- Egret Tattoo Meaning
- How You Can Help Egrets
What does an egret symbolize?
The following are details about what egrets symbolize and what these associations could mean in your life:
With their long, elegant necks, often snowy-colored plumage and delicate black legs, egrets are beloved to photographers, artists, and bird enthusiasts alike. As a symbol of grace, the egret is a reminder that gentleness and beauty exist in an otherwise very chaotic world.
If an egret makes themselves known to you, it can be a sign to pause, take a deep breath, and to try to tap into a state of grace. It does exist – sometimes we just have to take the time to let it in.
Egret Meaning: Purity
Most egret species are snowy white. For this reason, the egret is a symbol of purity, clarity, and simplicity.
Life can become messy and complicated at times. The white egret is a reminder to keep things simple. Sometimes when things get overwhelming, it helps to re-start with a blank page. Get back to the basics.
Those who practice meditation might suggest coming back to your breath. Just breathe.
In fact, some Native American tribes, including the Cherokee, depicts an egret’s outstretched wings as a symbol for peace.1
Like cranes, some egret species migrate thousands of miles every year.
Because of the distances they cover, the egret also symbolizes travel. They remind us that one of the best ways we can enrich our lives is by experiencing other places and cultures.
So, if an egret makes themselves known to you, it can be a sign to plan that trip you’ve been thinking about or to experience something beyond your usual neighborhood.
If circumstances are preventing you from traveling right now, you can still create your bucket list or start planning on your vision board.
The egret says – It’s experiences, not things, that make a life!
Egret Symbolism: Transformation
Many egrets are aquatic birds who make their nests in wetlands, marshes, estuaries, lagoons, or in trees near water.
Because they are born near water and then mature to fly great distances, the egret is a symbol of transformation.
Like a lotus flower that sprouts in the mud and then grows through the water to bloom above the surface, the egret shows us that no matter where we start in life, we all have the potential to transform into something greater.
By focusing on who we want to be, whether it’s our physical, mental, or emotional state or our spiritual selves, we can work towards making that vision a reality.
On a personal note: I have a particular fondness for these lovely birds because I get to see great egrets and snowy egrets on a daily basis where I live in Sausalito, California. However, it was back when I was in college that I first fell in love with these beautiful birds.
I was taking a biogeography class and we made a trip to the Audubon Canyon Ranch in Stinson Beach. The egret chicks were still in their nests, and their parents were flying back and forth to Tomales Bay to bring them food.
What I especially loved seeing was the chicks learning to fly. However, it was a little nerve wracking to watch because they were so clumsy! They would jump off a tree branch and fly in wobbly circles before grabbing onto another branch. But it didn’t take much time for them to catch on.
What I realized is that adult birds make flying look easy. And they all experience a learning curve when they’re just starting out.
So, as a symbol of transformation, the egret is a reminder that transformations rarely happen overnight. First, we need the courage to take that initial leap off the branch. Then once we do, we need to be willing to be awkward and even afraid. But with courage and practice, we all have the capacity to fly with the big birds.
Egret Meaning: Divinity
Like a white lily flower or lotus, the egret embodies the idea of something that rises above the profane to exist in a more exalted state.
So, in addition to transformation, the egret symbolizes divinity. They embody the idea of aspiring to connect with something higher and greater than we are on our own.
And because they’re so beautiful, the egret, like the butterfly, makes it easy for us to see that divine energy manifests in all living things.
Furthermore, as many egrets are white, they are associated with the sixth chakra, or the energy center in your body that’s located at the crown of your head.
Because egrets live in so many parts of the world, they are subjects in the mythologies and folklore of many cultures. Here are some of those stories:
Egret Symbolism in Japan
In Japan, egrets, like cranes, are beloved. For example, the Japanese believe that an egret, or white heron, can ward off bad luck.
The Egret in China
For the Chinese, the egret symbolizes transformation. For this reason, they are regularly depicted in artwork alongside lotus flowers.
In addition, in Chinese mythology, an egrets (or white heron) is said to carry the soul of a person who had died to Heaven.3
Kōtuku in Māori Culture
Both cattle egrets and little egrets spend time in New Zealand. Thus, these birds have made their way into local folklore.
For example, egrets are sacred birds to the Māori People of New Zealand. They call them Kōtuku.
There is a Māori saying that goes, “‘te kōtuku rerenga tahi’,” which translates to a white heron of a single flight. It’s a special compliment that the Māori give to distinguished guests.4
Like the Japanese, the Māori also believe that egrets carry the souls of those who have died into the afterlife.5
The Egret in Native American Cultures
In Native American cultures, egrets symbolize abundance, prosperity, and good luck. This is most likely because they are associated with bountiful fishing, particularly among west coast tribes in the U.S.6 Generally, where there are egrets, local hunters can find fish.
As the story goes, the two birds entered a race to win all of the fish in the rivers and lakes. The hummingbird was confident about their flying speed, so they stopped often, even sleeping at night. The slower egret, knowing they weren’t as fast, was consistent in their pursuit.
In the end, the egret prevailed and won the race. That’s why today herons get to eat fish while hummingbirds have to rely on nectar from flowers.8
The Egret in Ancient Egypt
In ancient Egypt, certain deities were associated with egrets (or herons and cranes.)
For example, the god Thoth was depicted with the head of a bird and the body of a man. Thoth was the god 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 egret or ibis.
The Egyptians also associated their god Osiris with these birds. Osiris was the god of the Underworld and the judge of the dead. The Egyptians believed that the egret carried messages for souls between the physical world and the afterlife.
The egret is also sometimes associated with the Egyptian avian deity, Bennu. According to Egyptian legends, Bennu was a creator deity.
As the stories go, he flew over the waters of Nun, which were the waters of total chaos, and landed on a rock. Upon landing on the rock, Bennu let out a primordial cry, which marked the beginning of the end of the chaos.9
Egrets in Greek Mythology
In ancient Greece, the egret (as well as the blue heron) was seen as a messenger for the gods. They are associated with Apollo, a solar god and the ruler of music, prophecy, and archery. In addition, they’re associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom, as well as Aphrodite, the goddess of love who was born from the sea.
The little egret and the cattle egret can be found in Ireland and the UK. Thus, they also appear in Celtic mythology. (Though historians say it can be difficult to determine if the stories are about egrets, herons, or cranes.)
According to some tales, seeing an egret was a sign that bad weather was going to come. They said this because egrets like to hunt for fish if there’s a flood.
According to other superstitions, if an egret few over a house it meant that someone in the house was about to die.10]
Egret Symbolism in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the egret symbolizes purity, transformation, and the wisdom of the Buddha.
As a bird who transcends elements – earth, water, and air – the egret also symbolizes the expansion of awareness and the ubiquity of consciousness.
In addition, the flight of the egret embodies the liberation from attachment to one’s thoughts and outcomes.
Egrets in the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity
Egrets are not mentioned directly in the Bible. Though herons are, but only in terms of being “unclean” animals who shouldn’t be eaten.12
However, from a modern-day viewpoint, the egret symbolizes the purity of the Holy Spirit and unwavering faith in God. In addition, as they are symbols of transformation, they are associated with Jesus’ Christ’s evolution from mortal man to enlightened being.
3 Egret Spiritual Meanings
In conjunction with what has been written above, here are some spiritual meanings of egrets:
- Transformation and Spiritual Enlightenment – The egret symbolizes the idea that we are all spiritual beings who are undergoing a transformation as we learn here on Earth. Ultimately, we will become more enlightened souls.
- Grace – The quiet grace of the egret symbolizes the spiritual value of forgiveness. It also means raising your vibration, despite what is happening in the outside world, and striving to be the highest version of yourself.
- Divine Energy – In addition, the elegant beauty of the egret and their ability to move from water to air symbolizes the potential for divine energy to move through all living things, including ourselves.
Egret Spirit Animal
When the egret is your spirit animal, you have a graceful guardian on your side.
Egret people are often spiritual seekers. You are curious and you aspire to have a greater understanding of who you are and why you’re here. You are the type of person who is willing to travel and learn about different people’s views on spirituality to expand your own understanding.
The egret spirit animal should also inspire you to seek new experiences and broaden your horizons. Life is living!
Furthermore, when the egret is your spirit animal, you are a person who can rise above the chaos of life and handle challenging situations and people with grace.
In addition to the egret, if you are curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal test and read more about them in my overview post on spirit animals.
Egret Power Animal and Totem
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. In addition, an animal totem encapsulates the protective powers of the animal they represent.
Thus, you can meditate on the egret power animal in situations where you:
- Want to create more peacefulness and grace in your life.
- Would like to broaden your horizons in some way, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually.
- Aspire to transform an area of your life and to do so with happiness and peacefulness.
Egret Dream Meaning
What does it mean if you dream of an egret or a flock of egrets? 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 feel in your dreams can provide insights. In addition, your personal perceptions about egrets can help you to understand what your dream is telling you.
For example, egrets are very ethereal birds. So, they are often associated with angels. Thus, dreaming of an egret can be a sign that you have connected with one of your angels – a loved one who has passed or a spirit guide.
Your egret dream might also mean that it’s time for you to get out of your normal routine and explore something or some place that is new.
Your egret dream can also be a gentle reminder that you are surrounded by divine energy and to apply that type of godliness into everything you say and do.
Egrets are graceful birds with deep cultural and spiritual meanings. Hopefully understanding more about egret symbolism and meanings can bring insights into what your dream is trying to tell you.
Egret Tattoo Meaning
An egret tattoo is a lovely symbol that shows the world that you are a gentle and peaceful soul. It can also mean that you are undergoing or have undergone a personal transformation of some kind. It can also mean that you have faith in and are connected with divine energy. Or it may simply mean that you honor the graceful beauty of egrets!
Tattoos are extremely personal for the person whose skin they adorn. But hopefully understanding more about the symbolism and mythology of egrets can bring even deeper meaning to your tattoo.
How You Can Help Egrets
The great egret nearly went extinct in the U.S. in the 19th century because they were heavily hunted for their beautiful plumage. Conservation efforts helped to bring the population back. However, today, various species of egrets, from the cattle egret to the snowy egret, the little egret, reddish egret, slaty egret, and others, face threats. Some of these include habitat loss and degradation to human development as well as increased predation. If you care about egrets, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working on egret protection and conservation:
You might like these other articles on UniGuide:
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- When God Sends a Cardinal
- Eagle Meaning
- Dove Meaning
- White Butterfly Meaning
- White Pigeon Meaning
- 1111 Angel Number Meaning