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Promises, promises…

Dove and Flight, SM488

Dove and Flight, SM488

A promise is a promise. In the previous blog, I told you that I would delve into the symbolism of the Dove as the Holy Spirit, and so I shall. But after a fair bit of digging, I confess that the research hasn’t gone quite as I had expected. Yes, the dove is a strong symbol of the Holy Spirit, but its representation as such is hugely variable. I thought I could say, “When the dove looks like our Haitian art piece (photo left) it symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and here are lots of other examples.” Well, that’s just not gonna happen. The Dove as Holy Spirit flies, it hovers, it perches, it sits, it is in profile and it is in full frontal view

Brazilian carving, ca 17th century, artist unknown.

Brazilian carving, ca 17th century, artist unknown.

. In short, it seems that if a dove has a few leaves in it’s beak, it is a Dove of Peace and pretty much EVERY other posture a dove can possibly assume could be interpreted as a symbol for the Holy Spirit.
The origin of this association is found in several instances in the New Testament of the Bible. According to Bible History Daily, dove imagery is noted at the baptism of Jesus in all four of the Gospels.  When John the Baptist brought Jesus up out of the water, “The [Holy] Spirit [of God] came from heaven and descended on him ‘like a dove’  (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). The baptism story built on the pre-existing symbol of the dove as God’s spirit (and its many other meanings) and firmly entrenched it as the preferred representation of the Holy Spirit.”
Italian Renaissance artists took that ball and ran with it, including doves in their renditions of events such as the

Folk Art Cross by Felipe Gonzales, ca 1985.  International Museum of Folk Art

Folk Art Cross by Felipe Gonzales, ca 1985. International Museum of Folk Art

Annunciation of the Virgin, The Baptism, and The Crucifixion.  Latin American artists followed suit and thereafter folk artists used the dove in their depictions of these same

biblical events. (See photos right.) Notably, Andy Warhol added a dove to his 1986 series, “The Last Supper – Dove.” It was a characteristically Warhol interpretation of DaVinci’s epic piece in which the Renaissance Immortal apparently thought no dove was required. (View Warhol’s “Last Supper – Dove” here.)
So there you have it. Doves can represent  Peace and the Holy Spirit, not to mention Motherhood, Purity, Love, Innocence and a host of other attributes. But I’m not going to write any more about doves and their symbolic meaning hence forward. The subject becomes fuzzy very quickly and the challenge for coherent delivery is just too great. I did find some interesting images with peacocks and trees of life together, that could lead to grand adventures in hypothetical correlation and I might even write about them someday, But I’m not making any promises!


Final Installment in a series of two

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

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