Wing symbolism is diverse, but most commonly wings signify:
These symbols, and others explored below, are often used in tattoos and body art.
In dreams, there are several other meanings, most prominent among them being:
- A message from god.
- You have lofty aspirations.
- You need to look at the big picture.
In this article I’ll outline the 11 top wing symbols and what they might mean to you.
What do Wings Symbolize?
The most obvious symbol of wings is freedom. If we had wings, we would be able to fly to wherever we want. We could cross rivers and oceans and fly over mountains. For people who get wings tattoos, they will often get them as a symbol of their desire for freedom.
Commonly, the freedom wings symbol is also associated with birds flying into sunset – which has the dual meaning of using the symbolism of wings (to signify freedom) and of sunset (which can also signify freedom).
> Read Also: Freedom Metaphors
For people who are imprisoned, wings can also have the additional symbolic meaning of being able to fly over the walls of the prison to escape.
One of the most quintessential examples of this is Icarus, a character in Greek mythology. Icarus used his wings to escape the island of Crete. Before leaving, he was warned not to fly too close to the sun or else he will burn. This was a metaphor for hubris and a warning against it. Icarus did fly too close to the sun and the wax on his wings melted. He fell to his death and drowned.
3. Purity and Innocence
Winged animals are often seen to be pure. The most quintessential of these is the dove. The dove’s purity comes both from the fact it has wings and also that many breeds are pure white.
Similarly, angels have wings, and are considered by many to be sinless. They are messengers of god, and often pictured clad in white cloth to further signify their innocence.
4. Refuge and Support
The saying ‘take you under my wing’ is used to refer to the idea that you are giving someone refuge and support. It’s also a way of saying that you’ll train them and show them the correct path in their lives. This is often the case with a big brother or mento who feels it is their responsibility to look after you.
Often, an outstretched wing that looks like it could cover something will be pointing toward this symbolic idea.
5. A Savior
Many fictional saviors are often represented as arriving with wings. This can hark back to the idea that wings offer a path to freedom and escape. The savior has arrived with special powers (the power of flight) to help take your burdens off you and take you to a promised land.
6. Showing Off
Many animals with beautiful wings use those wings to show off, especially to potential mates. Butterflies are a big example of this. They will shoot out their beautiful colored wings and you might look at them and say “wow, you’re showing off!”
Another example is the bird of paradise, who uses its wings in a mating dance. It literally shows off to try to attract female mates who might be impressed by their big beautiful wings. Here’s a great video from National Geographic showing birds of paradise showing off.
Griffins are winged animals of legend that have features of both lions and eagles. These animals are often pictured as stone statues on houses or on the front gate of a house. Their purpose is to lend protection to the people inside.
This winged creature may be the origins of the idea that winged creatures can offer protection. Unlike other winged creatures who symbolize purity and innocence, winged creatures designed to protect you are often menacing – like vultures – protecting people who are their masters but menacing others.
Symbolism of Wings in Dreams
8. A Message from God
Many people who believe they have been contacted by God say that they he came to them in dreams. Regularly, it’s either God or an Angel who are said to come to you in their dreams and hovers over your bed to give you a message. Interestingly, often the messenger does not speak.
Interestingly, there is no evidence that angels in the Bible had wings. Nonetheless, it’s a common trope because they are thought to have flown down from heaven.
9. Aspiring Accomplishments
If you dream of wings, you might see them as a signal of your aspirations for achieving great accomplishments. If you had wings, you would be able to get to those accomplishments faster. Or, to read it another way, you aspire to be so powerful that you may as well have wings. The winged animal has that power that you really want in your life.
This is a good sign that you’re a person with inner drive and aspirations.
10. New Directions
It can also be seen that a winged animal is coming to you in your dreams to tell you it is time to try a new direction in your life. The bird or angel has come to you to tell you that there’s an opportunity to take another path and that this path might be a good idea to follow. People who believe this to be true might want to wake up and have a think about what opportunities are facing them right now and take a good hard look at each one of them.
11. Look at the Big Picture
If you have wings in your dream and you are flying up into the sky and looking down at earth, the message may be that you need to look at the big picture. When you have wings you will be able to zoom out and take stock of your environment. Without wings, you’re stuck with your low-down perspective that may not get the whole picture.
A dream of this sort might prompt you to wake up and think about things from a new perspective. Is there something obvious that you’ve not thought about that might help you out of a predicament? Can you try to think about the big picture or long-term situation to make better decisions in the now?
Wings can symbolize many things, and you often need to think about the context of the symbol to get a good grasp of what they mean to you. They can mean innocence and God’s message in some situations. But they may also have menacing meanings, such as if winged animals are circling above.
But the most common of all symbols of wings are freedom and escape. This is particularly true when you see animals flying off into the sunset.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.