Sparrow Meaning and Symbolism: An Introduction

The sparrow is a tiny, chirping bird that can be found in almost every environment. They typically measure six inches from head to tail and weigh anywhere between 1/2 an ounce to 3 ounces. In the United States alone there are over 50 species of sparrows, but they all share some common traits: their small size, brownish-gray feathers with white stripes on their wings and back, and a short stubby bill. Although it’s not as well known as other animals like the eagle or deer; the sparrow has been ingrained into human culture for centuries through various meanings and symbolism. All too often we take the little sparrow for granted. The sparrow is small, but it has big meaning and lessons. The first is to enjoy the little things in life, and happily embrace simplicity. Sparrows are also a symbol of protection and joy. Get more about sparrows here.

In this world of ours, the sparrow must live like a hawk if he is to fly at all.

Hayao Miyazaki

The Symbolism behind Sparrows

Their songs can be heard before you see them, the sparrow is small yet strong. Symbolically, sparrows can represent the fact that you don’t have to be large to be heard to make a change; and when they all come together, they are stronger.

Usually found in pairs during the warmer days of the year, in winter and fall, they can be found coming together to bear the extreme weather. In ancient Greece, the sparrow was once believed to be the pet of Aphrodite. However, in old Britain, the Sparrow was believed to be friendly happy spirits of the house. As time progressed, superstition waned and was associated with the lowest of classes.

Sparrow Symbolism

Hard Working Heros

The sparrow could also hold meaning in response to our work ethic. Sparrows are hard-working diligent birds that can inspire us to be productive. Community is another trait that these birds hold since they occupy various responsibilities and roles that benefit the collective, something we can all learn from.

YOU Have the Power

The deepest personal symbolic meaning of the sparrow is that you, yourself, should not underestimate your power since you are powerful in your own right. No matter what size or demeanor you have, you should be aware of your own self-worth and how it relates to others in the world.

Further Sparrow Meanings

  • Found a sparrow resting on a window sill? This most likely symbolizes a secret that is going to be revealed possibly within a group since sparrows are such social creatures.
  • Find one dead Sparrow (check the full meaning here) on the side of the road? You might be at a crossroads in your life and need to address the fact that your innocence or freedom is being confronted.
  • Did the sparrow escape death with only an injury? This most likely symbolizes being able to persevere through the most demanding times in your life.

Spiritual Significance

Look at the sparrows; they do not know what they will do in the next moment. Let us literally live from moment to moment.

Mahatma Gandhi

Spiritually speaking sparrows hold incredible importance. Seeing a sparrow in a dream or during a tarot reading could elicit the social aspect of your life whether you are the impetus of this social activity or not (there are differences when it comes to dreaming of birds). This might appear as people swarming you like a flock of sparrows trying to give you advice and it might seem confused and disorganized. You might be the one having to give positive energy to others soon after viewing a sparrow. Forgiveness might also be in your future and this energy will likely be directed towards your family or chosen family. This forgiveness allows you to help other people, which is the calling of the spiritual sparrow meaning.

Sparrow Spiritual Meaning

Consume Sparrows as Aphrodisiac

Being related to Aphrodite, the sparrow was believed to be an aphrodisiac and would be used as such by men who were experiencing erectile dysfunction. Yes, this means men consumed sparrow flesh specifically to gain the benefits of an increased libido. Another physical-spiritual aspect of sparrows is that, if you are visited by one, it might be time to examine your anxieties around gaining material wealth as sparrows represent freedom. To be a sparrow is to be free and spend time where it is needed rather than wanted.

The sparrow represents personal growth and the ability to allow one’s self to be lost in the world of the spiritual. It is ok to live in your little cluster or ‘family’, It is also your responsibility to creatively adapt to the world around you to better develop the skills needed for spiritual enlightenment. This always starts within from seeing your value and worth to better cultivate self-confidence. Remember, just because sparrows are small, it does not mean they are not heard.

Sparrows in the Bible

The bible mentions sparrows in a few different contexts, and each of these have symbolic meanings. Jeremiah mentions them as one of the many reminders that God provides for his people: “I will give you sparrows to eat instead of your fathers.” (Jeremiah 14) In this verse from the bible, when faced with an oppressive famine, it is clear how having access to food made life livable again. The New Testament also makes use there; Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what they should eat because he would provide material necessities like bread – “And seek first His kingdom and His righteousness ”(Mathew).

Spiritual Meaning in the Bible

Sparrows and some birds during biblical times were thought of as having the protection of god as they would build their nests and homes on and near sacred land and artifacts.

The protection of these birds extended so far that some were even put to death for having disturbed a nest. These birds were also used in the eastern world as food and still are to this day. Because of this, sparrows were compared to the lowest form of currency and therefore used to explain the value of the human in relation to the sparrow. To those who follow Christianity, the sparrow is a reminder that God will remember all of his creations even the ones that are sold for one cent.

With this in mind, it begs the question: what does this mean for God’s attentiveness with us? If he remembers the small happenings of a finch-like bird, just how much is God concerned with everything that humans do? (See more about the biblical meaning of seeing a blue jay or the Red Cardinal biblical meaning)

Sparrow or Small Songbird in the bible?

Due to the spelling of the Hebrew language, there was only one word for small birds which is repeated time and time again in the Bible. The generic Hebrew name for a sparrow or other small songbird is mentioned and appears over forty times. It is then later translated to mean bird, fowl, or sparrow. It seems that per translation, the editor would translate aimlessly and would place a sparrow where a small brown bird would likely be. To do this, they primarily used the behavior of the different bird species to determine where sparrows would be in the Bible. Critics of this practice have challenged the use of the sparrow since other instances of birds in the Bible were already mentioned as such, birds or fowls.

The surrounding circumstances that involved the use of sparrows were also challenged because they did not align with the actions that sparrows exhibit. For example, to be alone on the roof of a house would not be possible with such social and community-based birds. In this case, a thrush was the bird of choice for critics that oppose the use of the sparrow. On the other hand, the image of the sparrow sad and alone is stark in that it provides the juxtaposition of a bright and social bird doing unusual behaviour, something the author of the passage could have intended.

The Symbolism in Regards to Death

Known Superstitions

Sparrows are intelligent creatures that bring with them messages for us when they need to tell us something. Unfortunately, for some, their relationship to the bird extends beyond the physical. The superstition of sparrows bringing messages of impending death can be traced back to European folklore. The superstition is this: if one finds a sparrow flies into the home, they must kill it before their parents die. Another version mentions that it is the catcher who is in jeopardy of dying if the bird is not killed.

Sparrows and Death: Symbolism

Sparrows in Paranormal Stories

There exists a modern paranormal story of a woman who was visited in various locations by sparrows. These sparrows would do whatever it takes to find her and look at the person who will lose someone close to them. For her mother, it was her grandmother that would pass. For her boyfriend at the time, it was an uncle unexpectedly passing. Eventually, an entire flock seemed to be attacking her house which was frightening for her and her children. Less than a week after this incident, the woman’s mother passes away.

Sometimes, when something is so clear to us, we must surrender to it wholly. Take each omen as a gift to prepare for the worst. Sparrows hold the compassion of allowing us to see that time is precious and we must spend it accordingly without all the entanglements we find ourselves in today.

Sparrows, Death and the Greek

Sparrows are often associated with death in folklore due to their association with the soul. One story goes that a sparrow leads the souls of deceased children back to heaven and has been known as such since ancient Rome. In Greek mythology, it is said that when a family loses its firstborn son, one should kill a white or black dove at the funeral service; if they lose their second child then two doves must be killed, and so on until all children have died, after which time no more birds need be sacrificed because this tradition signals “the end of mourning” (Aristotle).

In a more scientific approach to sparrows and death, sparrows gave scientists a look into the composition of marshland that was slowly becoming contaminated with mercury. Over time, the bioaccumulation of mercury in the birds gave the scientists just enough information to understand how much mercury was contaminating the area and the rate at which the contamination was occurring.

What Does ‘His Eye in the Sparrow’ Stand for?

His eye in the sparrow is a gospel hymn that is referenced in many black churches across the world, however, many might not know the origin of the widely used hymn. It was originally written by Civilla Martin in 1904 after visiting a sick friend who had mentioned a bible verse, the same one about the worth of human life. This forced Civilla to write a poem about her friend enduring sickness and had sent it off to a composer of the time to create the hymn we know today. The bible verse Matthew 10:29-31 reads: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

This quote when applied lets us remember that He will always be with us; our Father above. God exists in everything that you do even the extremely challenging times that might force you to contemplate your unwavering faith. Ethel Waters, a prolific black singer, and actress popularized the hymn even further by titling her autobiography: His Eye Is on the Sparrow and performing it in arenas as large as a football field.

What is 'his eye in the sparrow'?

Whitney Houston (and others) later covered the song to be used for a film, however, she unfortunately passed and the song was released four months later. The story of Whitney’s passing reminds us that time is precious yet again and to spend time where is needed and not wanted. Sparrows are some of the most intriguing birds and deserve to be recognized for their significance in the lives of us humans.

Sparrows are strong birds that will stop at nothing to deliver necessary messages since we have lost the ability to connect with the divine. They allow us to get closer to the divine by giving us permission to exist in freedom without the nuisance of material things. Whether they appear on your window sill, attack your roof, or try to make eye contact with you, listen to them. Listen to the message that was gifted to you from nature itself. Usually, these messages come when we least expect it but when we need solace or guidance. These birds are more than just sparrows, they are mirrors into our own spirituality and our deeper intended selves.

Sparrow Symbolism in Different Cultures

Europe

In European folklore, sparrows are a symbol of love. They represent the idea that even in times of war and strife there can be peace within one’s heart as long as one remembers their loved ones. In this sense, it is seen as protection from unhappy thoughts and to bring about good memories with those who have passed on.

Native American

In Native American culture, the sparrow is seen as a messenger of peace. They are often depicted in paintings and drawings, with their message being one of hope for others. In some legends they were given messages from different gods to unite people against the demons that would attack them.

The Native American culture used symbolic meaning behind many aspects of life including animals, colors, plants, and more. The symbolism associated with birds was not an exception – just like other creatures such as deer or buffalo held meanings about fertility and abundance respectively, so did sparrows hold significance about peace through communication between humans. One story told by Haida Indians tells how two deities sent out groups of birds bearing similar messages but who could only understand each other’s language if there were also human speakers.

Asia

In Chinese culture, Sparrows are often associated with happiness and good fortune. One of the reasons for this is because, in ancient times, people would release Sparrow during weddings as a symbol of love and peace (Sparrow Meaning). Another reason why they’re considered to be lucky birds is that Chinese culture has traditionally celebrated four occasions: New Year’s Day, Lantern Festival, Qingming or Tomb-sweeping Festival, and Mid-autumn Festival by releasing pigeons or sparrows into the sky to bring their ancestors joy.

In Tibetan culture it is said that taking care of feeder birds such as sparrows will produce lots of rice (or grain) for their human counterparts who live below them – therefore these animals have come to represent prosperity and abundance.”

In Japanese culture, Sparrows represent country life – simplicity and refinement; In contrast to Owls which have come to signify wisdom that comes from an inner reflection on one’s own mortality (such as death), but also supernatural powers.

In Indian culture, Sparrows are considered to be a symbol of love and affection. The Indian sparrow is the national bird, as it represents patriotism. Sparrows are often seen on both Hindu and Muslim wedding cards between newlyweds which signifies everlasting attachment or matrimony.

If there were no sparrows among us God would not know what goodness was.

Persian proverb

[Video] Seeing Sparrows Everywhere

Here a nice lady talks about the meaning of coming across a sparrow.

Bonus: What Are Sparrows?

Sparrows are common in the world’s avifauna and are some of the hardest birds to identify as most of them are just little brown birds. The variety of sparrows you will find is incredibly diverse with fifty species being able to be found in the United States. Found on every continent outside of Antarctica, sparrows come in two distinct families.

The two families are old world sparrows and new world sparrows. The old world sparrows are mostly located in the eastern hemisphere in Europe, Asia, and some parts of Africa. The house sparrow is even said to be so pervasive that they have become invasive species. The new world sparrows inhabit the western hemisphere in North and South America and among them lives the popular American tree sparrow. And just like all birds, sparrows are geniuses!

Both of these families have evolved to fill different roles in their respective environments. These environments can range from arid deserts to lush forests. All sparrows fall under the designation of being songbirds and have enough similarity to be identified as sparrows. Sparrows tend to be fairly small birds with their size usually in the five to the seven-inch range while outliers can grow as short as four inches and as long as eight. The plumage of sparrows is brown and or mottled, usually mottled with stripes of color across the head. Their bills are best used as seed crackers, an important food source, hence the conical shape of their bill.

The intrigue of sparrows comes from their behaviour more than their looks. With the spring and summer months, sparrows can be found in family units or pairs until fall comes when they flock together with various other species of sparrow. To feed, sparrows go low to the ground, too low trees, or to bushes. You can find them during feeding if you pay attention to the sound of their feet shuffling; a little dance as they eat. Easily startled, Sparrows can fly quickly from food source to food source readily. Sparrows might not look breathtakingly stunning, however, they are some of the most adaptable birds in the air.

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