Jackdaws are the smallest members of the corvid family. Found throughout Western Europe and the Western portions of Asia and Russia, these birds resemble their crow relatives except for their size, bright white eyes, and charcoal grey plumage. Jackdaws are often forgotten in discussions of the corvid family. This may be due to their more limited range and smaller stature, but it is a fact that Jackdaws are the genetic odd ones out amongst the corvid genus. For this reason, Jackdaws are sometimes placed in their own genus by scientists.
Jackdaws are beautiful, intelligent, and cooperative. If the Jackdaw is an important animal in your life, then read on to discover the mythological traditions connected with the Jackdaw, as well as its meanings in dreams, encounters, and as a spirit animal!
Jackdaw Symbolism and Meaning
Jackdaws, like other corvids, can easily be connected with intellect, sociability, curiosity, and ingenuity.
The eighteenth century poet, William Cowper, wrote this in praise of the Jackdaw:
There is a bird who, by his coat
And by the hoarseness of his note,
Might be supposed a crow;
A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishop-like, he finds a perch,
And dormitory too.
Above the steeple shines a plate,
That turns and turns, to indicate
From what point blows the weather.
Look up — your brains begin to swim,
‘Tis in the clouds — that pleases him,
He chooses it the rather.
Fond of the speculative height,
Thither he wings his airy flight,
And thence securely sees
The bustle and the rareeshow,
That occupy mankind below,
Secure and at his ease.
You think, no doubt, he sits and muses
On future broken bones and bruises,
If he should chance to fall.
No; not a single thought like that
Employs his philosophic pate,
Or troubles it at all.
He sees that this great roundabout,
The world, with all its motley rout,
Church, army, physic, law,
Its customs and its businesses,
Is no concern at all of his,
And says — what says he? — Caw.
Thrice happy bird! I too have seen
Much of the vanities of men;
And, sick of having seen ’em,
Would cheerfully these limbs resign
For such a pair of wings as thine
And such a head between ’em. (1)
Jackdaws are frequently associated with foolishness. In several of Aesop’s fables, the Jackdaw is used as an example of unwise behavior. The Jackdaws of these fables are often overcome with vanity and greed. An old saying believed to have originated in ancient Greece states that “the swans will speak when the Jackdaws are silent.” This phrase means that the wise wait to speak up until the foolish have finished yammering. (2)
This reputation sells short the brainpower of the mighty Jackdaw. Belonging to the corvid family, Jackdaws can claim a genius pedigree which links them to the smartest birds around. Other members of the corvid family, such as the New Caledonian Crow, are considered to have brains that outmatch most other animals on the planet, and that rival even the great apes. (3) Jackdaws may not be able to step into such large shoes as those, however they are known to have complex problem solving skills and excellent memories. (4)
Jackdaws are monogamous and live in cooperative social structures with strong pair and family bonds. One unique thing about Jackdaws is their tendency to give and share. Despite sometimes being associated with greed, Jackdaws are actually remarkably generous. Jackdaws exhibit more gift giving behaviors than most primates do! It is thought that this generosity acts as a mechanism for strengthening cooperation and reciprocity within social structures. (5)
So, although old sayings and stories might connect Jackdaws to foolishness and greed, these traditions greatly misunderstand this pint-sized corvid. Jackdaws, as it turns out, are remarkably intelligent and unusually generous.
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Jackdaw Native American Symbolism
Native American traditions revere crows, ravens, and other corvids for their intelligence. They are common clan animals and are associated with an array of meanings. Because Jackdaws are native to Eurasia and are not found in the Americas, their meaning amongst Native American cultures must be assumed based on the meanings of other corvids.
Native American cultures often treat corvids as wise and intelligent guardian spirits. Some myths even credit the crow with bringing fire to mankind. This myth demonstrates the selflessness of the crow, which sacrifices itself by allowing its rainbow plumage to burn black. (6)
Jackdaw Celtic Symbolism
In Welsh traditions, the Jackdaw is a sacred bird. Jackdaws are known to nest in crevices, and have frequently been found in the steeples, rafters, and assorted nooks and crannies of church buildings in Wales. For this reason, it is said that the Jackdaw is a holy bird. Jackdaws are thought of as church guardians, as pious birds, and as enemies of Satan. (7)
Additionally, Jackdaws may be connected with chaos, war, or the supernatural. This is because of the Morrigan. This Celtic goddess often takes the form of a corvid; usually this is a crow, but Jackdaws and crows are close enough relatives. The Morrigan is connected with fate, discord, and otherworldly magics. In old Celtic tales, she is often at the heart of conflicts, driving events towards their fated conclusions.
Jackdaw Christianity Symbolism
For the above reasons, the Jackdaw can be considered a Christian emblem of the church and its role as a spiritual home for believers.
Jackdaw in Dreams
If a Jackdaw appears to you in a dream then this may indicate a chance to correct your path and avoid making an irreversible mistake. Jackdaws are fantastic at building and maintaining strong social bonds. A Jackdaw dream may point to a relationship in your life that requires your attention.
Jackdaws know the value of communication and generosity. If you’ve dreamt of a Jackdaw, it may mean that in order to overcome an upcoming conflict, you must listen and be as understanding as possible. Jackdaws remind us to share what we have with one another in order to grow and strengthen our bonds. Acts of kindness and generosity have a way of spreading and multiplying.
A Jackdaw dream may also hold religious significance for people who belong to the Christian faith. Because Jackdaws often nest in churches, a Jackdaw dream may be a reminder to come home to God.
Jackdaw Encounters and Omens
Encountering a Jackdaw may indicate the need to remember something important. Jackdaws are known for their ability to remember information in impressive detail. A Jackdaw encounter may be a reminder of something you have forgotten.
In addition, Jackdaws are capable of turning nooks and crevices into cozy homes for their offspring. A Jackdaw encounter may occur due to homesickness. Jackdaws can appear as reminders that home doesn’t have to be perfect. Home can be anywhere, so long as the ones that you love are there.
Jackdaw in Mythology & Folklore
Jackdaws appear in Greek traditions via the myth of Arne of Siphnos as well as several of Aesop’s fables. They have a limited native range, and don’t appear in many mythological traditions worldwide, however, their corvid relatives are featured in many more mythologies and folktales. Read more about those here!
Jackdaws are the subject of several fascinating tidbits of Greek myth and folklore. In most examples, Jackdaws seem to represent the flaws of human nature. Greed, arrogance, and foolishness are common Greek themes associated with the Jackdaw.
The story of Princess Arne of the island of Siphnos describes a beautiful young princess who is ruined by her own greed. In this story, Arne is offered a bribe by the legendary King Minos of Crete to betray the people of her island. Unable to resist the bribe, Arne relinquishes the island to Minos. Immediately, Minos and the army of Crete conquer Siphnos. Seeing her actions and disgusted by her avaricious betrayal, the gods decide to punish Arne. The punishment chosen is to turn her into a Jackdaw. In this form, Arne is forevermore condemned to chase after gold; her greed is translated into a Jackdaw’s fascination with shiny objects. (8)
Jackdaws are also the subject of several of Aesop’s fables. In one such fable, a Jackdaw flies over a king’s garden. There, the Jackdaw sees a gathering of peacocks. Dazzled by their brilliant colors and regal mannerisms, the somewhat drab and uncouth Jackdaw develops a plan. In order to join the peacocks, the Jackdaw gathers some peacock feathers and fastens them to himself. Certain that they will acknowledge him as one of their own, the Jackdaw struts with his borrowed feathers into the peacocks’ garden. The peacocks, however, are angry at his attempt to deceive his way into their midst. They chase and peck at the Jackdaw until he is forced to flee. Disheartened, the Jackdaw returns to his own kind. The other Jackdaws, though, had felt slighted by his haughty behavior. They drive him off as well. The moral of this story is that “borrowed feathers do not make fine birds.” (9)
Another fable describes the folly of a Jackdaw who forgets the limits of his own abilities. In this tale, a Jackdaw watches in awe as a fearsome eagle dives down from the sky and carries off a fat lamb for her dinner. Amazed that a bird could carry off such a large animal, the Jackdaw begins to wonder if he could do the same thing. Forgetting the fact that the eagle was much larger than he, the silly Jackdaw decides to try and carry off a sheep of his own. Feeling quite hungry, the Jackdaw selects the biggest ram in the field. As soon as he sinks his claws into the ram’s back, the Jackdaw begins trying to lift it into the sky. To his dismay, the ram hardly notices the Jackdaws efforts. In all of that struggling, all the jackdaw has managed to do is entangle his feet in the ram’s wool. When the shepherd who had been observing this whole event approaches the Jackdaw, the poor bird is unable to escape. The shepherd catches the Jackdaw and brings it home to be his children’s new pet. Delighted by the funny bird that their father has brought, the shepherd’s children ask him what it is called. To this the shepherd responds “He is called a Jackdaw, but if you asked him what he is, he would tell you he’s an eagle.” (10)
Jackdaw Spirit Animal
If the Jackdaw is your spirit animal, then you are likely an empathetic person who enjoys making friends and solving tricky problems. The Jackdaw spirit animal is extroverted and intelligent with an insatiable curiosity which extends to the hearts of others. People with the Jackdaw spirit animal don’t simply want to befriend people, they want to truly know others.
People with the Jackdaw spirit animal are devoted to their families and unlikely to commit acts of disloyalty or faithlessness. The life’s work of an individual with the Jackdaw spirit animal is the family. They will do anything to see their family grow and prosper.
People with the Jackdaw as their spirit animal express their love through gift-giving. They are inherently generous and see gifts as a thoughtful way to connect. Others might misrepresent this behavior as materialistic, but the Jackdaw spirit animal knows that it’s the thought and not the price tag that makes a good gift.
Jackdaw Totem Animal
The Jackdaw totem animal is associated with protection and gratitude. Jackdaws, like many other corvids, are known to be able to remember human faces. Humans who have mistreated them are remembered as untrustworthy whilst humans who have been kind are remembered as safe. For people with the Jackdaw totem animal, this translates to a keen and vigilant eye for danger as well as an awareness and gratitude for blessings.
People with the Jackdaw totem animal rarely take for granted the people who positively impact their lives. Using their sixth sense for negativity and danger, people with this totem animal show their gratitude by extending their protection to those whom they truly trust.
Jackdaw Power Animal
The Jackdaw power animal is associated with resourcefulness. People with the Jackdaw as their power animal are excellent at finding joy in even the humblest of circumstances, and utility in even the humblest of materials.
People with the Jackdaw power animal have a talent for making and mending useful things. They are very thrifty and don’t like leaving anything to waste. Because the Jackdaw is so generous, people with this power animal see wasted materials as wasted opportunities to make someone smile with a heartfelt gift.
Jackdaw Tattoo Meaning
A Jackdaw tattoo may be chosen as a sign of generosity and appreciation. It may also represent a misunderstood or overlooked person.
A Jackdaw tattoo may also be a reminder of home; no matter what home looks like, a Jackdaw tattoo may help you feel as though home is always with you.
Jackdaws may not get the attention that other members of the corvid family do, however these miniature corvids are just as special as any crow or raven. In fact, despite their cultural connections with avarice and foolishness, Jackdaws stand out amongst corvids as being particularly smart, sociable, and generous. What Jackdaws lack in glamour, they more than make up for in virtue. After all, to slightly paraphrase one of Aesop’s fables, “fine feathers do not make a fine bird!”