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Symbolic Meaning of Hawks

Hawks are strong, powerful birds, known for having the best eyesight in all of the animal world. Their ability to see clearly is eight times more powerful than that of humans. This is how the term “hawk-eyed” came about, which can either be used to call someone who has a very clear vision, or to describe a person who has very good insights and an acute sense of awareness.

Coupled with wide, impressive-looking wings, the hawk is easily seen as a symbol of wisdom, intuition, strength and might in the skies.

Meaning and Symbolism of Hawks


Classified as raptors or birds of prey, hawks have very strong hunting instincts.  They have sharp talons, which they use to attack and kill their quarry, keen eyesight for spotting their prey, and powerful wings that carry them swiftly across the skies. Here’s what they represent:

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  • Clear Vision – The sharpness and accuracy of this predator’s vision is unparalleled.  Not only does it have extremely clear eyesight, but it also has the ability to see farther than other animals and humans.
  • Power and stamina – Hawks are very effective predators.  They have remarkable energy and endurance and can travel as far as thousands of miles in distance during their migration.
  • Speed and Aggression – When hunting for their prey, hawks can be very fast.  They are capable of flying at more than 300 kilometers per hour when speed diving to catch their prey.
  • Intelligence and Intuition – As a predator, this noble bird has excellent hearing and a keen awareness of any threat that may lurk nearby, enabling it to escape or protect itself from sudden enemy attacks.
  • Loyalty and Companionship – Hawks mate for life and are also very territorial. They are protective of their dwelling and will aggressively attack trespassers.  With a strong attachment to their nesting place, hawks keep coming back to the same place every season after migration. 

The Hawk as a Spirit Animal

The power, sharpness, and agility exhibited by the hawk in its natural habitat also translates to its depiction as a Spirit Animal.

Physically, it is an intimidating creature. With its piercing eyes, proud physique, razor-like claws, and wings that can stretch as long as 3 feet wide when in flight, it is a symbol of strength and might. As a predator, the hawk has very keen senses and an acute awareness of danger, which in spirit form translates to intuitiveness, intelligence, high discernment, and strategic skills.

Hawk in Dreams

Typically, the appearance of a hawk in your dream represents visual acuity, mental enlightenment, or an epiphany.  It is showing you the way, whether to get yourself out of a situation, or an alternative route that you can take.

However, it could also be an indication of an impending danger or threat.  To identify the meaning of the hawk’s presence, take a look at what it was doing or how it looked like in the dream.

  • The Hawk in flight is a sign of change.  It is pushing you to move forward and keep on going, because what you are aiming for is within your reach.
  • A hawk landing on your arm signifies that you are in an equal relationship with someone you were initially being wary of.  The hawk is telling you to dispel your doubts and trust this person.
  • An attacking hawk shows aggressiveness and represents a threat that stands in your way.  It can be person of authority in your life such as your parents, boss, or spouse.  But it can also be yourself, as your doubts create an inner battle within your consciousness and can lead to your self-destruction.
  • A caged hawk indicates a feeling of helplessness. Your suppressed emotions are being bottled up, and you are feeling stifled and constrained by circumstances.
  • An injured hawk hints at a bruised ego. You have lost confidence in yourself and have found yourself at a stalemate, unable to move forward yet also not able to let go.
  • A dead hawk represents hopelessness and giving up. You may have made a decision that went against what your heart wanted. The weight of this decision has stayed in your subconscious and presented itself in your dream.

Hawks in Different Cultures

norse myth hawk
Illustration showing Veðrfölnir the hawk atop an eagle atop Yggdrasil. Public Domain.

There are several mentions of the hawk in mythology and stories different cultures.  A common theme among these different versions is the hawk as a sacred bird of the gods, or as a representation of strength and power.

Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, the hawk is recognized as the chosen animal of Freyja, the goddess of love and beauty.  It was believed that Freyja possessed a feather-like magical robe that allowed her to transform into a hawk during her travels.

In stories mentioning the sacred tree Yggdrasil, it is said that on its branches there sat a very wise eagle, and sitting between the eyes of the eagle was a hawk named Veðrfölnir.  While there was no clear explanation about this depiction, its position on the glabella hints that the wisdom of this famous eagle was actually coming from the hawk.

Nordic folktales also tell the story about Valkyries who turning themselves into Hawks to guide the souls of warriors as they travel to the afterlife.

Native American Mythology

The hawk is believed to be a link to Native American ancestors.  As such, some tribes such as

Chippewa, Menominee, Hopi, Huron, and the Iroquois tribes used it to represent their clans. Its image is often seen used as a crest or carved on totem poles.

There are also deeper association of the hawk, such as the Aztecs who firmly believed that the hawks were the messenger of the gods. Another is the Cheyenne tribe who believed that hawks represent defense and protection, as it warns them of upcoming dangers and threats from their enemies.

As Native American mythology depicts the hawk as a symbol of power, there are also many mentions of the hawk in different folklore such as:

  • “The Girl who Climbed to the Sky”, a story from the Alapaho tribe about how a woman who was abducted by spirits was able to return home with the help of the hawk
  •  A Cheyenne tale called “How the Buffalo Hunt began”, which talks about the Magpie and the Hawk, and how they earned the right to eat Buffalos
  • The story about the hawk’s origin as told by the Arawak tribe, called “Hariwali and the wonderful tree”.

Greek and Roman Mythology

In Greek and Roman mythology, the hawk is the sacred bird of Apollo, the sun god, and Hermes, the herald of the gods.

Wrapping Up

Across many cultures and throughout the ages, the hawk represents power, intelligence, and intuition. When faced with a challenge or when you are finding it difficult to make a decision, let the hawk guide you with its strong instincts.

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Rose Mulu
Rose Mulu

With a keen interest in understanding why life was and is as it is, Rose has been studying religion, culture, and history for over fifteen years. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and uses this, together with her knack for literature, to share her knowledge and insight with the world.