Hawk symbolism and meanings includes intelligence, independence, adaptability, messages, clairvoyance, and spiritual awareness. Hawks inhabit every continent on Earth except Antarctica. So, hawks appear in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. In addition, the hawk spirit animal is sacred to those who feel a kinship with these majestic birds. In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of hawk symbolism and meanings, including hawk spiritual meaning, hawk mythology, and more.
Table of Contents
- What does a hawk symbolize?
- Hawks Mythology and Folklore
- Native American Hawk Meaning
- Hawk Meaning in Mesoamerica and South America
- Hawks in Aboriginal Australian Culture
- Buddhist Hawk Symbolism
- Hawks in Hindu Mythology
- Hawk Symbolism in Africa
- Hawks in Greek Mythology
- Hawk Meaning in Ancient Egypt
- Hawks in Islam
- Celtic Hawk Mythology
- Hawks in Norse Mythology
- Hawks in the Bible
- Hawk Spiritual Meanings
- Hawk Spirit Animal
- Hawk Power Animal
- Hawk Totem Animal
- Hawk Dream Meaning
- Hawk Tattoo Meaning
- How You Can Help Hawks
What does a hawk symbolize?
Here are some qualities that are associated with the hawk. We’ll go into more detail on these below.
- Spiritual Awareness
Hawk Meaning: Intelligence
Biologists put hawks in the same class as ravens, crows, and eagles as some of the world’s most intelligent birds. For one, they use tools to get what they want. In addition, they exhibit the ability to plan and strategize.
If a hawk crosses your path whether by flying above you or perching nearby, you are being reminded to use your intellect to solve a problem or guide you to achieve your goals. You have been blessed with a combination of intelligence and emotions. Both of these can be powerful sources of fuel to take action. Yet the discerning hawk reminds you not to let emotions cloud your intellect. Learning to compartmentalize your emotions and look at situations with a rational, logical mind can help you to create successful outcomes.
Hawks are monogamous birds who mate for life. Yet unlike crows, who enjoy congregating with hundreds of other crows, hawks like their own company or just that of their mate. A pair of hawks will come together year after year to mate. They will build a nest together and care for their young. However, after the chicks are raised, the two hawks exert their independence once again, flying and hunting on their own.
If you see two hawks together, it is a rare event. For those who are in a committed relationship, two hawks can be a sign to cherish your relationship with your significant other and to not take them for granted. If you are single, it can be a sign that your romantic soulmate exists. Keep the faith as you try to find each other.
Seeing a single hawk can be a reminder to guard your independence. Always know that you can rely on yourself. And in any kind of relationship, the spirit of the hawk encourages you to maintain your sense of self and to respect that quality in your partner. It’s vitally important that you have the confidence in your relationship to allow each other to soar, knowing that you will eventually return to each other.
Hawks thrive in big, open spaces where they can soar, yet they are also highly adaptable. They can thrive in urban settings, where they perform a valuable job of keeping rat, mice, squirrel, and pigeon populations under control.1 While hawks are clearly carnivores, one of their keys to survival is that they are willing to eat a variety of prey.
Hawks also like to move around. Migrating hawks travel thousands of miles every year. In addition, they are extremely powerful flyers, achieving speeds of over 150 miles per hour when diving.2
When the hawk is your spirit animal, you can find opportunities in any environment or situation. Even if you’re going through an experience that is not your ideal situation, the hawk reminds you that every experience can be used as a launching pad to get closer to your objectives.
Like the hawk, you are equipped with a unique set of strengths, life skills, and experiences that you can use to your advantage. The hawk also reminds you that you have the wherewithal to get up and leave if a situation doesn’t suit you. Seizing every opportunity you have right now will help to propel you faster to where you want to be in the future.
Hawks Mythology and Folklore
There are over 270 species of hawks, which are carnivorous birds who belong to the order Falconiformes.3 Hawks are also referred to as raptors, which are birds of prey. Because hawks can be found on every continent except Antarctica, they are the subject of legends and folklore throughout the world. Here are some of those stories.
Native American Hawk Meaning
Every Native American tribe has their own distinct set of traditions and beliefs, so hawk symbolism and meanings can vary from tribe to tribe. But overall, Native Americans view the hawk as a protector and a spiritual messenger.
Native Americans have a clan system that is organized around family groups, which are based on the maternal line. Clans serve as a system of community organization and division of labor. Each clan has an animal that is associated with it, such as the bear, crow, fox, hummingbird, snake, and others.
A number of tribes also have hawk clans. These include the Hopi, Pueblo, Chippewa, Menominee, Huron, and Iroquois.4
Hopi Hawk Legend
The Hopi tell the story of a kind-hearted hawk. A long time ago in a Hopi village, there lived a mother and son. The mother doted on her son and dressed him in colorful shirts and exquisite beaded moccasins. One day, the curious little boy went wandering away from his village. When he was walking in an open field, a band of fierce Navajo warriors rode by. They grabbed him and brought him back to their camp.
Jealous of the boy’s beautiful clothes, the women in the village took them and gave them to the chief’s son. They also made the boy a slave to do their bidding. The boy eventually grew thin and sickly from lack of food and being overworked.
The Observant Hawk
Nearby, a hawk perched on a tree and watched the goings on in the village. Taking pity on the boy, one day, the hawk swooped down. At first the boy was terrified, but then the hawk said to him, “Get on my back. I will take you away from here.” The hawk carried the boy to a high bluff and placed him there.
The Navajo villagers saw this and became enraged. But this didn’t deter the hawk. He flew back down to the village and with his sharp talons, snatched the colorful shirt and moccasins from the chief’s son and brought them back to the boy. Once the boy was back in his own clothes, the hawk flew him to his village to his overjoyed mother.5
Pueblo Legend: The Hawk and the Crow
The Pueblo tell the story of a crow who laid eggs in her nest but was careless about keeping the eggs warm. She would disappear for days on end, leaving her eggs unattended. Noticing the unattended nest, a hawk swooped down and warmed the eggs. Eventually, the eggs hatched and the hawk worked vigorously to feed the baby birds. Then, once they were old enough, the hawk taught them to fly.
One day, the crow returned to her nest and saw the hawk teaching the baby crows how to find food. “Those are my children, not yours,” said the crow. The hawk replied, “If they are yours, call them and they will come to you.” So, the crow called to the young crows, but the crows replied, “You are not our mother. Hawk is our mother.”
Incensed, the crow went to the eagle, who was the chief of all birds, and asked him to intervene. The eagle asked the young crows, “Who is your mother?” And the young crows replied, “Hawk because she cared for us and taught us to fly.” And the eagle said, “That settles it. The hawk is your real mother.”6
Hawk Meaning in Mesoamerica and South America
The Arawak were an Indigenous People who lived in South America and the Caribbean. And the hawk was a sacred bird to them. They believed that red-tailed hawks traveled between the material and spirit worlds, and that the Creator used them to send messages to the people.7
The Moche People
For the Moche People of Peru, hawks symbolized brave warriors. The Moche would often pair a hawk with a hummingbird in their artwork. They depicted both birds carrying weapons, believing them to bring good luck to warriors in battle. In other cases, the presented hawks as transformed hummingbirds once they were ready for battle.8
Hawks in Aboriginal Australian Culture
The Fire Hawk
The Aboriginal Australians tell a creation story about a fire hawk who brought fire to the people and helped them hunt. While some may believe this is nothing more than a fanciful campfire tale, modern-day wildlife biologists have discovered there is truth to the legend.
Hawks and other birds of prey actively hunt near wildfires because they have plentiful opportunities to catch insects, small mammals, and snakes as they come out of their hiding places to escape the flames.
Biologists, along with the ancient Aborigines, have witnessed these cunning birds take things a step further. Just as crows and ravens use tools, hawks have been seen grabbing burning branches from wildfires and cooking fires and using them to set fire in new places in order to flush out prey.9 Thus, the legend of the Fire Hawk has merit.
Buddhist Hawk Symbolism
In Buddhist teachings about mindfulness, there is a story about a hawk and a quail. When the quail wanders away from a place of concealment, the hawk catches her. The quail laments that she should not have wandered out of her range. The hawk boasts that she would have caught her anyway. So, the quail convinces her to put her back under some bushes and to try again. When the hawk dives again to catch the quail, she crashes into the bush.10
For Buddhists, this story represents how easy it is for all of us to let mara set into our thoughts, which is desire, aversion, and delusion. Even the highly skilled and confident hawk is vulnerable to mara setting in.
Hawks in Hindu Mythology
In the Vedas, the religious texts that are foundational to the Hindu faith, there is a story of Shyena, a divine messenger who is a hawk. Shyena is also associated with the Hindu fire deity Agni. In the texts, Shyena ascends to Heaven and brings a divine nectar, or soma, back to the Earth, which serves to rejuvenate all life.11
Hawk Symbolism in Africa
Throughout southern Africa, the hawk is a symbol of faith. They are also seen as symbols of courage and fighting for a noble cause. Some southern Africa tribes believe that if you dream of a hawk, it means you are being called to an initiation of some kind and that you will soon have to make an important decision.12
Hawks in Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, hawks are identified with Apollo, who was a sun god as well as the ruler of prophecy, music, and dance.
In the story of Daedalion, Apollo, along with Hermes and other gods, was obsessed with Daedalion’s lovely daughter, Chione. With all of the attention, Chione grew overly confident and boasted that she was even more beautiful than the goddess Artemis.
Enraged by this audacity, Artemis shot Chione with her bow and arrow and killed her. Overcome with grief at losing his beloved daughter, Daedalion ran up to the top of Mount Parnassus and hurled himself off the mountainside. But at the last moment, Apollo intervened and turned him into a hawk.13
Another Greek deity, Hermes, is connected with snakes and hawks. In addition to being the ruler of healing and medicine, Hermes was viewed as the messenger for all of the gods. He was also the protector of orators and travelers.14
Hawk Meaning in Ancient Egypt
For the ancient Egyptians, the hawk was a royal bird. They connected hawks with the Egyptian gods Ra and Horus and others. Both Ra and Horus (who are sometimes merged into one god) were creator gods. Ra is often depicted with a hawk (or falcon) head and the body of a man. Horus is depicted as a hawk wearing a crown.
For the ancient Egyptians, Ra ruled the world, including the sky, the sun, the Earth, and the underworld. Horus, whose name is loosely translated as meaning “the distant one,” was also connected with the sun and sky, as well as the moon. In addition, he was the protector of Egyptian royalty and brought good fortune in battle.
Hawks in Islam
Hawks are powerful figures in Arabic culture, where they are seen as symbols of heroism and virtue. The desert hawk is associated with the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and his tribe, the Quraysh People. The Hawk of Quraish (also depicted as a falcon) can be seen on the coats of arms of countries in the Arab League.15
Celtic Hawk Mythology
The Celts viewed hawks as messengers from the spirit world. The Celts believed that if a hawk called to you or crossed your path, it meant that something monumental was about to happen. Thus, you should prepare for the unexpected. This could mean good fortune or something more ominous. The Celts also believed that a visit from a hawk meant you should evaluate your life and areas that should be changed.
Hawks in Norse Mythology
The Vikings viewed hawks as intelligent messengers. Nordic artwork depicts an eagle who is perched on top of the World Tree Yggdrasil. This magical tree connects the world of humans with that of the gods. Sitting between the eyes of the eagle is a hawk named Veðrfölnir.
Some Norse scholars surmise that the hawk represented the wisdom and knowledge of the eagle. Just as Odin’s ravens flew to distant lands and brought back messages about the world, so Veðrfölnir brought messages to the eagle, whose name is unknown.16
In other Norse stories, the goddess Freya is associated with hawks (or falcons.) According to Norse legends, Freya possessed a cloak made with hawk feathers. When she donned the cloak, she gained the power of flight and could transform into a giant hawk.17
Hawks in the Bible
In the Bible, the hawk, like other animals, is seen as God’s creation. in Job 39:26, God says to Job, “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings towards the south?”18
Biblical scholars theorize that God is asking a rhetorical question. He is saying that the hawk’s instincts are governed by the laws of nature, which are divinely pre-ordained.
Hawk Spiritual Meanings
As they soar above us with effortless grace, hawks remind us of our connection to the spiritual realm. Here are some of the hawk’s spiritual meanings:
The hawk is viewed as a spiritual messenger because they fly high in the sky yet have keen eyesight that observes what’s going on below them. When a hawk makes themself known to you, it’s a sign to take stock of your patterns of thinking. All of us have thought patterns that cycle through our minds throughout the day, and day after day. Some of these thoughts do nothing to serve us.
The hawk reminds you to fly above and beyond your day-to-day thoughts and to observe them from a birds’ eye view. Quieting the mind and detaching from your thought patterns puts you in a better position to take in messages from your angels, or spirit guides. Your spirit guides are standing by, waiting to help and guide you. The spirit of the hawk reminds you to effortlessly soar above the noise and take in guidance from the spirit realm.
Clairvoyance and Spiritual Awareness
The visual acuity of hawks is eight-times that of humans. They can see prey from 100 miles away, and unlike many other animals, they also see in color.19
Because hawks can fly to dizzying heights, yet still see clearly what is happening on Earth, they symbolize a link between the material and spiritual worlds.
Thus, the hawk symbolizes the ability to tap into the spirit world and to channel what you learn into ideas that you can manifest in the material world. For this reason, hawks are also symbols of clairvoyance or psychic abilities.
The hawk also reminds you to infuse your actions in the world, whether in your work or interactions with people, animals, and life on Earth with spiritual awareness and enlightenment. You have the ability to stay firmly rooted in the real world, while still exploring the upper echelons of consciousness.
Kundalini Energy and Spiritual Awakening
Hawks, in particular, the red-tailed hawk, are also associated with kundalini energy. Kundalini is a Hindu concept that describes the energy that is released in your body as you undergo a spiritual awakening.
Ted Andrews, the author of one of the most famous books on spirit animals, Animal Speak, describes kundalini as “the seat of your primal life force.” He says that those for whom the red-tail hawk is their totem animal, or when the red-tail hawk makes themselves known to them, will begin to move toward their soul purpose more dynamically.
He also notes that hawks are often harassed by other birds because other birds feel threatened by them. This is also a lesson for the person for whom the hawk is their spirit animal. As you are going through your spiritual awakening, other people could feel threatened by it. Indeed, from my perspective, this is usually because they realize they are not living up to their own potential and it can make them very uncomfortable to realize this as they watch someone else who is working to live up to their own. The hawk says, “Keep soaring high in the direction of your goals.”
Hawk Spirit Animal
You may already know that the hawk is your spirit animal. Or one may have suddenly made themselves known to you – whether by flying in front of you, shrieking, or perching nearby – in a way that riveted your attention. In either case, it’s important to learn everything you can about these majestic beings because they have much to teach you.
Tap into the Power of the Hawk
When the hawk is your spirit animal, you have a powerful guide on your side who reminds you that you can let your imagination soar while not losing touch with reality. Hawk people have the ability to connect to the spirit world and manifest what they learn to make life better on Earth. When the hawk is your spirit animal, the meanings and symbols applied to hawks are the qualities that you can manifest to achieve successful outcomes.
A personal note on the hawk spirit animal:
I have written a number of articles about spirit animals, and all animals are dear to me. But I will share with you here that the hawk is one of my spirit animals. I do wonder at times how it is that a bird of prey turned out to be a vegan’s spirit animal, but as the Native Americans say, you don’t always choose your spirit animal; they choose you. What I do know is that hawks have given me a heightened awareness about why I am here and what I’m supposed to be doing while I’m here. I wrote about two experiences I had with hawks that led me to this understanding. If you are curious, you can read more about them here.
Hawk Power Animal
As the name implies, a power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, meditate on the attributes that the power animal represents. For example, you can summon the hawk power animal when you:
- Want to gain more autonomy for yourself, whether it’s in a relationship, your career, or a creative endeavor.
- Are facing a challenge and having trouble getting out of it. Thinking about how the hawk views the world: seeing things from a broad perspective and then zeroing in on their goal. The hawk gathers information and then focuses on results.
- Have a creative idea and want to see it materialize and be successful in real life.
- Want to sharpen your intuition and have a stronger connection to your spirit guides.
Hawk Totem Animal
The hawk totem is a symbol that represents the protective powers of this intelligent bird of prey. Thus, the hawk totem serves as a helpful symbol for manifesting sharper intuitive insights in your life and for strengthening yourself as an individual. In addition, the hawk totem can bring you good luck in making your dreams a reality so that you can soar in your life.
Hawk Dream Meaning
If you dream of a hawk and wonder what the dream means, it’s important to first analyze the emotions you felt in your dream. For example, fear and anxiety can mean you have to address a situation that you may be avoiding when you are awake. This can also be the meaning behind a dream of a hawk screeching: Your subconscious mind is trying to grab your attention. Essentially, startling emotions in a dream can serve as a wake-up call to address something you may be avoiding or ignoring in your conscious state.
Hawks symbolize freedom and independence, so dreaming of a hawk in flight can mean that you need to exert more freedom and independence in your own life. In addition, flying dreams can mean that your soul is temporarily leaving your body. These dreams are often exhilarating and can serve as a reminder that we are more than our physical bodies.
Dreams are personal to each dreamer, so a hawk dream for one person may be interpreted very differently from one that another person has. However, delving into the emotions you felt in the dream in context to what a hawk symbolizes can hopefully provide better insights into what your subconscious or super conscious are trying to tell you.
Hawk Tattoo Meaning
A hawk tattoo can be a beautiful symbol that tells the world that you are a person who imagines and who turns your dreams into reality. It also demonstrates that you honor your independence. In addition, a hawk tattoo conveys that you are a person who is connected to the spirit realm. Tattoos are personal to each individual, but hopefully understanding hawk symbols and mythology can bring even deeper meaning to your tattoo.
How You Can Help Hawks
You might live in an area where you see hawks on a regular basis. However, like so many wild animals today, hawks are vulnerable, and in some cases endangered.20
Threats to these birds include conflicts with humans, habitat loss (and therefore starvation), as well as the illegal wildlife and pet trades. If you care about hawks, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working to protect hawks and other birds of prey:
- American Bird Conservancy
- Bird of Prey Foundation
- Audubon Society
- The Raptor Trust
- Defenders of Wildlife
- GlobalRaptors.org lists a variety of organizations that protect birds of prey.
- The publication Mongabay provides a list of raptor species that are endangered.