Death Squad: Animals That Allow The Bells To Toll
We all know that the Grim Reaper is a skeleton in a black cloak with a scythe and hourglass. But did you know that there are other animals that symbolize death? You may have seen these animals before and not even known that they are associated with death. If you want to learn more about the creatures that symbolize death, then keep reading! This blog post will explore 15 of these animals, their meaning, and where they can be found.
Throughout history, humans have always lived in close contact with animals, inciting us to develop myths and legends about them. From fierce lions to the deceitful fox, various interpretations can give any animal extraordinary qualities that allow them to play significant roles in our life and our eventual death.
Animals That Represent Death (Top15)
As one of several animals that appear in many myths, this imposing creature can either represent amazing energy or formidable and fearsome strength. Long been regarded as a symbol of fertility, bulls are included in a handful of Greek folklore, associating them with death and destruction. Legend has it that the hero Theseus put a wild bull to death as it was wreaking havoc on farmers’ fields. Still, in thirst for more adventure, he went on and slew the treacherous Minotaur, a half-man half-bull monster that was so attuned to creating chaos.
Bulls are also considered animals that symbolize death because of their close association with bullfighting. In many cultures, it is believed that the matador (the person who fights the bull) dies symbolically in order to be reborn as a better man after killing the animal (see also our post about bull symbolism)
Perhaps because of their eerie croaking call, extremely dark plumage, and a stomach that can accommodate carrion, these majestic creatures are often associated with death and bad omen. Recognized in some cultures as the souls of those murdered that weren’t given a proper Christian burial, theories suggest that ravens obtained such a mythical status by serving as our connection to the spirit world. Often an indication of intuition and prophecy, several stories depict them as a representation of the lost and damned souls.
The Raven is also a symbol for death, and is often seen as an omen. In some cultures, they are considered to be bringers of bad news or messengers from the gods. They reportedly appeared at funerals in Ancient Rome, pecking at bodies before burial.
Ravens have a long history with humans; Edgar Allan Poe wrote that “nevermore” was their only significant word. The Raven’s significance may date back centuries earlier than this though- certain pottery pieces dated back 2400 years ago were found depicting ravens perched on top of skeletons which seem to suggest a connection between these two symbols (death and raven).
While many cultures have long associated rams with determination and leadership, their image, particularly their head, has slowly crept into being connected with death. Packed with such strong characteristics as courage, power, and energy, these huge animals which can tip the scales at more than 300 pounds have been associated with certain deities that featured long horns took a dark turn that eventually linked them to the occult, rituals, and death.
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Interestingly the Ram is the only animal that appears in all three Abrahamic religions. It is often portrayed as a devil or bad omen, but this may be due to its association with judgment day and not because it symbolizes death.
In Islam, for example, “A white ram was sacrificed during Hajj by Ibrahim (Abraham) before Allah allows him to destroy his own son’s life; thus foreshadowing God’s sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ on behalf of mankind so that those who believe will receive eternal life.” In Judaism, “the Lamb which is slain at Passover represents an atonement from sins”. Finally in Christianity “Jesus becomes known as the Lamb of god after he offers himself upon the cross.” Read more about the ram symbolism.
Regarded as the “Guardians of the Night,” their association with vampires (see our vampires post) and other creatures that lurk in the dark has given bats a somewhat fearsome image. Their nocturnal nature as well as their habit of peeing on themselves have associated them with death, demons, and uncleanliness. Known as the only flying mammal, their annoying screeching sounds and their affinity for hunting and hiding in the dark have made them great symbols of uneasiness, death, and the underworld.
Bats are on this list for a reason. Bats are often considered to be harbingers of death. They were thought evil for the longest time, dating back centuries when people used them as symbols in their religions and faiths. In Western culture, they represent a form of darkness, not just because it is typically nighttime but because bats may feed on blood or dark things like insects under trees at dusk (the time between light and dark).
Bats can also carry diseases that lead to human fatalities which would contribute to them being seen this way too. The expression “bats in your belfry” comes from an old English phrase describing insanity: if you hear voices coming from inside your head there might be bats living up there!
Unfortunately for these winged creatures, the mere color of their plumage has made them a symbol of magic, change, and death. Highly regarded as the spirit messengers of gods, goddesses and demi-gods as well, Blackbirds are considered sacred by shamans and tricksters, providing them with an element of mystery and wisdom.
You might be surprised to find that blackbirds are associated with death, but there’s a good reason for this: they’re often seen as omens of impending doom.
The term “blackbird” is originally from the Anglo-Saxon word blæcbrāda meaning “raven” or “corpse crow.” Another theory about their connection to death comes from the belief that while crows and ravens were symbols of battle in Norse mythology, blackbirds signaled peace at funerals since they don’t sing during daytime hours.
Blackbirds have long been considered unlucky by many cultures; some belief them to be harbingers of bad luck because they look like bats (a symbol of darkness), and others consider them warnings against vanity.
6) Black Cats
Throughout history, these elegant-looking creatures have been picked on because of their fur color. While that may sound unfair, these extremely dark-colored cats are actually considered good luck in some cultures, dispelling the superstition that a black cat crossing your path is absolutely followed by bad luck. Seen by the Germans and Italians in the 16th century to bring certain death, this lovable and sentient feline is probably just misrepresented and misunderstood.
The black cat is considered a harbinger of death and bad luck, though its roots in Western culture are not well known. It was associated with witchcraft in the Middle Ages because it can see things that humans cannot at night. In ancient Egypt, cats were often mummified as offerings to their gods for protection against diseases such as rabies or plague. The Egyptians also believed that when someone died, his or her soul would enter into a cat’s body until they could be born again on earth over 25 years later; this may have been why they honored them so much. Cats were worshipped by many cultures during different periods of history—from Ancient Greece to Rome to Japan—and some even worshiped specific breeds like Angora.
Generally, a symbol of silence, wisdom, and intelligence, these often flat-faced creatures with large eyes are known to strategize their plan during a hunt instead of relying on speed and strength like most other predators. While owls are perceived by some cultures to be shrouded in mysticism and as harbingers of death, their ability to thrive in the dark gave them the distinction of being the creature that accompanies the dead on their journey to the afterlife.
The owl as being nocturnal and having a wide range of vision is often associated with death. It has been claimed that if an owl carries you away your soul will live on forever in the night sky and some cultures believe owls to be harbingers of doom or destruction. In Japan, for example, there are legends about how ogres would turn into giant owls as they died; this may have given rise to stories like “The Boy Who Drew Cats”.
A widespread belief among many Native American tribes is that seeing an owl at night means someone close by will die soon. The Choctaw people believed it was bad luck for pregnant women to see an owl because they reasoned that their unborn baby’s heart would beat too quickly out of fear. Check out our post about owl superstitions as well.
Known to be coy and cautious, birds often blend in with their environment to avoid catching attention. However, these hulking creatures crave to be seen as they often perch themselves in areas where food is abundant. With the corpses of other animals as their main diet, these birds of excellent sight and smell are known to represent death.
The vulture seems to be an obvious choice for animals representing death. These scavenger birds thrive on carrion, meaning they feed on dead animals. They are also known to circle above battlefields and disaster sites looking for their next meal, which is most likely a person or animal who has just died.
In ancient Egypt, vultures were believed to have the power of prophecy because they could see into the world beyond life as humans cannot (though this may be due in part to the fact that they can see at night). Some cultures even believe that when vultures cry out it is an omen signaling someone’s death. If you spot one circling overhead don’t worry, it might not necessarily mean anything bad!
9) The Phoenix
As much as it is an indication of rebirth, immortality, and transformation, the only mythical creature on our list signifies some people’s fear of death. This bird’s obligation to first die for it to be reborn for it to find its full potential is a significant symbolism for Christians.
The Phoenix is a Greek mythical bird that is associated with the sun. It has been described in different ways—sometimes as an eagle-like creature, and other times as having peacock feathers. The Phoenix dies by bursting into flame; then it regenerates itself from its own ashes just like the phoenix of ancient legend.
A lot of cultures have myths about animals that are said to represent death or evil. One such myth comes from China: they believe that scorpions can be seen running around during funerals because their sting brings death and pain without warning—a good analogy for how sudden and ruthless death can be when it arrives unannounced.
As a spirit animal, scorpions remind us about the significance of getting rid of those aspects in our life that no longer serve us well. Whether it is a dead-end job or the need to get rid of certain clutters in your home, the scorpion, being a symbol of death and rebirth, enables us to focus on what’s important and move forward.
Their sting can be fatal, but they also have a symbolic meaning (read more about scorpion symbolism). Their ability to sting and kill things with their tail is considered by some cultures as an omen of death; for example, people from India will not sleep near scorpions because it means that someone in the family will soon die. They are seen as bad luck charms all around the world including in Spain (because of Christopher Columbus), Italy (where they were thought to be harbingers of plague), and China where its name literally translates into “one who points at death”.
A known symbolism of two contrasting ideas, spiders are believed by many as a representation of creativity and destruction. Boasting of their unique ability to be romantic towards their mate, these fascinating creepy-crawlies have long been a symbol of fertility, sex, and creation for their awesome ability to web together both a trapping device and a home, but also of death, war, and destruction for their predatory nature and some of their species’ poison.
Spiders are a long-time symbol of death and are often associated with the Grim Reaper. In ancient India, a spider was seen as an incarnation of Kali or Durga because it is so hard to kill. In Egypt, spiders were symbols of both life and death (see our post on spider symbolism). When building their houses, people would place one on top to represent the goddess Hathor who took care of children’s souls in the afterlife; but they also saw them as bringers of doom because they could be found all over corpses when embalming time came around. Some Native American cultures thought that if you killed a spider near your home then someone in your family would die soon after while others believed that killing spiders offered protection from other dangers like snakes or scorpions.
Courageous, communal, wise, and fast, having the moose as your spirit guide enables you to maintain a balance of when to be firm and kind. Sporting their huge strong antlers, these generally calm and gentle animals attack only when provoked, unwavering until they are certain of their foe’s devastation, making them a great symbol of strength, pride, death, energy, and wisdom.
Not a very obvious choice on this list, but it is a symbolic animal that can be seen in American culture. The moose has always been important to Native Americans, and the first hunted was used as their symbol of power over life and death.
Often serving as our reminder to dig deeper for us to reach our hopes and dreams, rats denote positive meaning such as deliverance and favorable luck. Its association with the plague, unhygienic practices, and the apocalypse has made these taboo creatures a well-known symbol of destruction, sickness, and death.
Long-time sharing houses, ships, and other rodent-infested areas have given the rat a bad reputation. The Romans associated them with the disease after observing that rats would only come out of their holes when people in the area were ill or dying.
In Hinduism, they are seen as omens for death because they eat corpses while alive; however, some believe that these signs mean reincarnation. In Eastern European folklore, it was believed to be unlucky if a black cat crossed your path from right to left—but crossing from left to right was good luck!
The Rat has long been recognized as one of the most prolific carriers of diseases like plague and typhus and is therefore often linked with death in Western culture too. Some cultures even consider this animal an omen of death.
One of the most popular stories that denote snakes as a destructive force is the one that involves Adam and Eve. Dwelling with their bellies directly in contact with the Earth, they are widely considered to possess the perils of the underworld. Their ability to strike and poison both their predators and their prey has made them a renowned indication of death, loss, and the world’s evil.
Lots of people lose their lives every year due to snake bites and hence it does not come as a surprise to find them on this list. The snake is usually a symbol of evil and an omen for death. In the Bible, snakes are often associated with Satan as they tempted Eve to eat from the tree in Eden. Read here about the symbolism of a dead snake you might have found.
Widely known to represent intelligence, flexibility, and mystery, these marvelous creatures of black feathers, eyes, and plumage have been associated by some with death and bad luck. Believed to have the ability to carry the souls of those who suffered a tragic death to the underworld, crows are widely considered as one of those rare messengers that can cross over our world and the spirit realm.
Dark, sinister, and mysterious, crows are often associated with death. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the bird was a messenger for Apollo, god of life and light, while to Native Americans they symbolize protection from evil spirits.
Crows have long been considered harbingers of doom in many cultures around the world because people think that when groups of crows gather together it is usually an omen for something bad in its ways—like war or natural disasters like earthquakes. In Japan beliefs about crows go back centuries: legend has it if you come across one at night time then this predestines your death soon after; some say if you see three, two will die while one lives on as a ghostly spirit guide.
Which Animals Symbolize Evil?
Throughout history, man has associated animals with heinous and wicked traits. From the snake in the Garden of Eden to a wolf that craves children in a red hood, such diabolical creatures have been extensively represented as pure evil.
Here’s a short list of the animals that are associated with evil:
Often regarded as a symbol of fertility and lust, these “horny” creatures are known to symbolize immortality, cruelty, and deceit. Read more about the symbolism of the goat or the goat in a dream in our posts.
Carrier of certain viruses, diseases, and otherworldly stomachaches, these menacing creatures are revered as a symbol of corruption, annoyance, and evil.
Seen in most cultures as a symbol of cruelty, greed (read more about the symbolism for greed), and dishonesty, their deceitful nature plus their habit of howling at the moon denote nothing but pure evil. We have a post about the deadliest of the wolves here, the werewolf.
Animals That Symbolize The Death Of A Loved One
When the people most dear to us pass, many traditions believe that their spirit’s main concern is to send us signals that they are still watching over us. Whether it is that familiar-looking moth resting constantly on the same spot or an unexpected visit from a strange bird, we have always looked for indications of our loved ones’ presence. Consists mainly of birds, we take a quick look at the animals that tell us of the passing of a loved one.
Having long been a symbol of beauty amid darkness and sorrow, the presence of this gorgeous creature may be our reminder to take heed and to prepare ourselves for a coming tragedy. Read more about the Cardinal symbolism here.
Friendly and highly social, these birds are never shy to come into our presence to remind us about the importance of simplicity and belongingness. While they are popular for being persistent, caring, and hardworking, Sparrows may also indicate the end of our loved one’s life journey.
Noticeable for the distinct cries, they are known to annoy other birds for their loud calls, which at times serve as a warning for on-coming predators as well. Such a trait has given most people the notion that they too could foretell the demise of a human. Read more about the Blue Jay symbolism.
Acknowledgment ceremonies, visiting gravesites, and the offering of prayers are only some of the practices that we do to remember and honor those who have gone ahead of us. While there may be a shortlist of the symbolic elements that we incorporate into these traditions, animals, from locusts (read our post about the dead locust meaning here) to those giant fluffy pandas (read here about the panda spirit animal), have been indications of trouble and death to mankind.
If you are looking for a way to be more knowledgeable about death, symbolism, and animals in our culture then this post is for you. There’s so much interesting information about how cultures around the world view different species of animals as symbols of death or life-giving forces that it can get overwhelming at times.
So we’ve narrowed down some of these key points into answers to the common questions below. We hope it will help you learn something new! Have any other animal-related questions? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll see what we can find out for you!
Since death is a topic so paramount there are not just animals but also flowers representing death, check them out!
Check our series of posts about animal symbolism: “animals that represent…”:
- Animals That Represent Wisdom
- Top 9 Animals That Represent Family
- 10 Animals That Represent Freedom
- Top 11 Animals That Represent Peace
- 10 Adorable Animals That Represent Love
- Top 10 Animals That Represent Strength
- Top 15 Animals that Symbolize Death
- What Animal Symbolizes Growth And Progress
- Animals That Represent Fire
- Animals That Represent Hope
- Animals That Kill For Fun
- Top 10 Animals That Symbolize Protection