Hawk Meaning and Symbolism Spirit Animal Guide

Swainson's hawk in flight
Swainson’s hawk in flight. Photo: Stuart Itoga, California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hawks inhabit every continent on Earth except Antarctica, thus, hawk meanings and symbolism can be found in the folklore of cultures all over the world. Hawks exist of their own accord. They are not here for us. Yet, they have much to teach us. Soaring above us with effortless grace, hawks inspire us with their skill and majesty.

In this post, you’ll find details on meanings applied to hawks in both ancient and modern times, as well what that hawk symbolizes in different cultures around the world. You’ll also learn about the hawk as a spirit guide. To go directly to a specific section in this post, simply click the jump links in the table of contents below.

Hawk Symbolism and Meanings

  • Intelligence

  • Independence

  • Adaptability

  • Messages

  • Clairvoyance

  • Spiritual Awareness

Table of Contents

Hawk Spirit Animal
Detailed Hawk Symbolism and Meanings
Native American Hawk Meanings
The Moche People
Aboriginal Australian Fire Hawk
Hawks in Hinduism
Hawk Meaning in Ancient Egypt
Hawk Symbolism in Africa
Greek Mythology
Hawks in Arabic Cultures
Celtic Mythology
Hawks in Norse Mythology
Hawks in the Bible
Organizations that Protect Hawks

Hawk Spirit Animal

Red Tailed Hawk Phoenix
“Red Tailed Hawk Phoenix” Artwork: Joanna Read, Expressions by Joanna.

Hawks are considered to be powerful beings in cultures all over the world. According to Native American traditions, your spirit animals will come to you in a vision quest, a dream, or another powerful experience that affects the course or your life. Thus, you don’t necessarily choose your spirit animals. Rather, they choose you. For some of us, we simple have a deep connection with a certain species of animal, or we have a profound experience with one that tells us there’s a spiritual kinship.

If a hawk makes himself or herself known to you, whether by flying in front of you or perching nearby, in a way that rivets your attention – be mindful, there are no coincidences. Sometimes you may hear a hawk’s call as if they are communicating directly with you, or you might have an unusual experience with a hawk, as I did, that tells you they have a special significance in your life.

I have written a number of articles about spirit animals, and all animals are dear to me, but I will share 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 animals. What I do know is that hawks have given me a heightened awareness about why I am her on Earth 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, which you can read here.

How do you know if the hawk is your spirit animal?

You’re probably on this page because you’re interested in hawks. If you’re wondering whether the hawk is one of your spirit animals, consider the questions below. And as you read this post, you’ll learn more about hawk folklore and meanings in cultured around the world, so it may become even more clear to you.

If you already feel that the hawks is one of your power animals, you may learn some new things in this post that further guide you in your life. There is always more we can learn from these majestic beings. And if you’re curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take a spirit animal test in UniGuide’s post about spirit animals.

Questions to consider:

  • Were you especially interested in hawks when you were a child?
  • Has a hawk made himself or herself known to you, whether by flying directly in front of you, perching nearby, or in some other way that captured your attention?
  • Has a hawk riveted your attention in the media or art?
  • Do you feel a connection to hawks, and do you experience a feeling of wonder when you see them or hear about them?
  • Has a hawk entered your dreams?
  • Do you tend to have clear insights into matters before other people do?
  • Has anyone ever described you as psychic?
  • Do you consider yourself to be extremely spiritual but also very rooted in the material world?

If you answered yes to a number of these questions, you may very well be a hawk person!

Only you can truly know if the hawk is one of your spirit animals. You may have been intrigued with hawks your whole life, or perhaps you never thought much about them until one suddenly appeared in your life and captured your attention. Either way, if the hawk spirit has made an impact on you, by all means explore what these intelligent beings can to teach you!

Detailed Hawks Symbolism and Meanings

Harris' Hawk
Harris’ hawk.

Intelligence

Hawks are considered to be among the smartest birds. Like ravens and crows, they are known to use tools to get what they want and they have exhibited planning behavior. When the hawk is your spirit animal, you are being reminded to use your intellect to solve problems and achieve your goals. Emotions can be powerful sources of fuel but the discerning hawk reminds you to compartmentalize your emotions and look at situations or challenges with a rational, logical mind worthy of Dr. Spock.

Independence

Hawks are monogamous birds who are known to mate for life. And 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 might remain together year after year, while others will work together to build a nest and care for their young before heading out on their own until next breeding season, when they’ll be together again.

The hawk spirit reminds you to guard your independence. Remember that the very best person you can rely on is yourself. And if you’re in a committed relationship, the hawk spirit 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.

Adaptability

Red-shouldered hawk
Red-shouldered hawk.

Hawks thrive in big, open spaces where they can soar, yet they are also highly adaptable. Hawks can thrive in urban settings, where they perform a valuable job of keeping rat, mice, squirrel, and pigeon populations under control. While hawks are clearly carnivores, one of their keys to survival is that they eat a variety of prey.

Hawks are also known 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.

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 spirit 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 experience that you can use to your advantage. Seizing every opportunity you have right now will help to propel your faster to where you want to be in the future.

Messages

The hawk is known as a messenger in cultures around the world, which you can read more about later in this post. When a hawk makes himself or herself known to you, take stock of your normal patterns of thinking. Like it or not, all of us have routine patterns of thinking that cycle through our minds day after day. Some of these thoughts do nothing to serve us.

The hawk messenger says to fly above and beyond your thoughts and observe them from a birds’ eye view. When you do so, you are in a better position to take in messages from your superconscious and your angels. When we quiet the chatter or our over-worked minds, we can gain new insights that help us make life better for ourselves and others.

Clairvoyance and Spiritual Awareness

Red-tailed hawk
Red-tailed hawk in flight.

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.

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.

When the hawk is one of your power animals, you have the ability to tap into your superconscious and 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 reminds you to infuse your actions on Earth, whether they be your work or interactions with other Earthlings, 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.

Hawk Meanings in Ancient Cultures

There are over 270 species of hawks, which includes carnivorous birds of the order Falconiformes. 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 folklores in cultures around the world. Here are some of the cultural meanings applied to hawks.

Native American Hawk Meanings

Red-tail hawk and Native American elder
“Red-tailed Hawk Elder” Artwork: Cait Irwin, Irwin Artworks.

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, the hawk is considered to be a protector and a spiritual messenger to Native Americans.

Hawk Clans

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. These clans have animals that are associated with them, 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.

Hopi Hawk Legend

Juvenile Cooper's hawk
Juvenile Cooper’s hawk. Photo: Patrick Doheny.

The Hopi tell a 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 beautiful 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, grabbed him, and brought him back to their camp.

Jealous of the boy’s beautiful clothes, the squaws in the village took them and gave them to the chief’s son. They also made boy work like a slave. The boy eventually grew thin and sickly from lack of food and being overworked.

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, “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.

Pueblo Legend: the Hawk and the Crow

The Pueblo tell a 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. 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 their real mother.”

Arawak People

The Arawak People were an Indigenous People who in lived in South America and the Caribbean. Today, they are descended by the Lokono People, who live in the coastal areas of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

The hawk was a sacred bird to the Arawak. They believed that red-tailed hawks traveled between the Earth and the spirit worlds, and that the Creator used them to send messages to people on Earth.

The Moche People

For the ancient Moche People of Peru, hawks symbolized brave warriors. The Moche would often pair a hawk with a hummingbird in their artwork. Both birds were depicted carrying weapons and bringing good luck to warriors in battle. In other cases, hawks were presented as transformed hummingbirds once they were ready for battle.

The Fire Hawk in Aboriginal Australian Culture

Fire Hawk

The Aboriginal Australians have a creation legend about a fire hawk who brings fire to the people and helps them hunt. While some may believe this is nothing more than fanciful campfire tale, modern-day wildlife biologists have discovered there is truth to the legend.

Hawks and other birds of prey are known to actively hunt near wildfires because they have plentiful opportunities as insects, small mammals, and snakes 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 are known to use tools, hawks have been seeing stealing burning branches wildfires and even cooking fires and using them to set fire in new places in order to flush out their prey. Thus, hawks are closely associated with fire and are even symbols of fire for the Aborigines.

Hawk Meaning in Hinduism

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 associated with the Hindu fire god 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 on Earth.

Hawk Meaning in Ancient Egypt

Statue of the god Horus
Statue of the god Horus wearing the double crown of Egypt, 27th dynasty (525–404 BC.) State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich, Germany. Photo: Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin.

For the ancient Egyptians, the hawk was considered a royal bird. Hawks were associated with the Egyptian gods Ra and Horus, as well as 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 on the body of a man. And Horus 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 associated with the sun and sky, as well as the moon. He was considered to be a protector of the Egyptian royalty and brought good fortune in battle.

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 tribes of southern Africa 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.

Hawks in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, hawks are associated with the god Apollo, who was a sun god as well as the god of prophecy, music, and dance.

In the story of Daedalion, Apollo, along with Hermes and other gods, were obsessed with Daedalion’s beautiful 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 beautiful 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.

The god Hermes, who is associated with snakes, is also associated with hawks. In addition to being the god of healing and medicine, Hermes was also viewed as the messenger for all of the gods. He was also known as the protector of orators and travelers.

Hawks in Arabic Cultures

Hawks have powerful meanings in Arabic cultures, 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.

Hawks in Celtic Mythology

As with other cultures, the ancient 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 might be good fortune or something more ominous. The Celts also believed that a visit from a hawk meant you should evaluate your life and consider areas that should be changed.

Hawks in Norse Legends

Veðrfölnir, the hawk
Veðrfölnir, the hawk, sitting on top of the eagle on the Yggdrasill tree. Icelandic manuscript from the 17th century, Árni Magnússon Institute of Iceland.

In ancient Nordic cultures, hawks were viewed as intelligent messengers. Nordic artwork depicts an eagle who is perched on top of the World Tree Yggdrasill. 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 represent the wisdom and knowledge of the eagle. Just as Odin’s ravens fly to distant lands and bring back messages about the world to Odin, so Veðrfölnir brings messages to this eagle, whose name is unknown.

In other Norse stories, the goddess Freya is also associated with hawks (or falcons.) According to Norse legend, Freya possessed a cloak made with hawk feathers. When she donned the cloak, she gained the power of flight and would transform into a giant hawk.

Hawks in the Bible

The Bible is known for its stories that use animals as symbols, both in negative and positive terms. For instance, wolves and snakes get a lot of negative publicity in the Bible. In fact, some biblical scholars and wildlife biologists believe that negative depictions of animals in the Bible have played a role in humans feeling disconnected from and even contemptuous of the animal kingdom.

Mercifully, the hawk is presented in a neutral way in the Good Book. In Job 39:26, God says to Job, “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings towards the south?” Biblical scholars theorize that God is asking a rhetorical question. He is saying that the hawk’s instincts are governed by the laws of natures, which are divinely pre-ordained.

Resources and Organizations that Protect Hawks

American kestrel
American kestrel (Falco sparverius). Photo: Cathy Nowak, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

You might live in an area where you see hawks on a regular basis. Where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s not uncommon to hear and see Cooper’s hawks and red-tailed hawks. I see them sitting on telephone poles in the city or flying overhead during hikes. However, like so many wild animals today, hawks are vulnerable, and in some cases endangered.

The publication Mongabay provides a list of raptor species that are endangered. 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.

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