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What does the snake and the bird symbolize?

What does the snake and the bird symbolize?

The snake and the bird are common symbols that appear in myths, legends, fables, dreams, and artworks across many cultures. Though they are very different creatures, snakes and birds can represent similar ideas and concepts. Looking at some of the key symbolic meanings associated with each animal can provide insight into what they may represent when they appear together.

Symbols of Opposites and Duality

One of the most common symbolic representations of the snake and bird together is the theme of opposites or duality. The snake is often associated with characteristics like earthiness, darkness, femininity, passivity, and working through challenges underground or in secret. In contrast, the bird is linked to air, light, masculinity, activity, and soaring to majestic heights. When depicted together, they can represent the reconciliation or integration of opposites.

Change and Transformation

Both snakes and birds represent the ideas of change, renewal, and transformation. Snakes shed their skin while birds molt and replace their feathers periodically. Seeing them together may signify an even greater process of metamorphosis or significant life changes.

Animal Transformative Associations
Snake Death and rebirth, cycles of life, alchemy
Bird Freedom, spiritual evolution, overcoming challenges

In alchemy traditions, images with both birds and snakes reference the magnum opus or great work of obtaining the philosopher’s stone through spiritual purification and self-transformation.

Fear and Desire

Snakes provoke primal feelings of fear or revulsion in many people. They are difficult to categorize as evil or good. Birds often represent hopes, dreams, or transcendent desires. Pictures containing both animals could signify the complicated nature of overcoming fear to obtain what we most long for in life. A bird in a painting may be yearning to break free of limitations just as a snake may be waiting to strike out at a tempting target.

Creation Stories and Fertility

Various creation myths feature key roles for serpents and winged creatures. In some Eastern traditions, a giant snake dissolves into the primal waters of life while a bird lays the cosmic egg from which the universe will emerge. Together, they represent the forces of fertility, sexuality, and new beginnings. In ancient Greek myths, the snake was linked to healing while the bird could signify prophetic wisdom and messages from the gods.

Culture Snake and Bird Symbolism
Chinese Yin and yang, complementary opposites
Mayan Vision serpent with feathers, divinity
Native American Thunderbird and Horned Serpent, spiritual forces

Good and Evil

The snake is portrayed as a villain in the Biblical Garden of Eden story but is revered in ancient Greek mythology as a symbol of medicine and healing. Birds have angelic or divine connotations in many faiths but could represent tricksters or evil omens as well. The two animals together can symbolize the complex dance between moral polarities. A winged serpent may represent the unification of light and shadow elements within the soul.

Psychological Symbols

In dream analysis, birds often represent aspirations, hopes, or transcendence while snakes symbolize danger but also transformation. Seeing both animals together in a dream could indicate facing fears in order to grow in wisdom. Alternatively, a winged snake may appear as a dream image signifying moral struggles or difficulty reconciling desires with ethics.

In Jungian psychology, the snake and bird may represent the archetypal struggle between lower and higher aspects of the self or between the life drive and the death drive. Resolving this inner conflict leads to profound self-realization.

Balance Between Opposites

The snake and bird serve as apt symbols for life’s dualities and the need to discover balance. Just as yin and yang complement each other, these disparate creatures can represent achieving harmony between shadow and light, earth and sky, fear and desire, or other dichotomies. Their symbolic meaning when together often encompasses wholeness, unity, and profound self-discovery through the integration of apparent opposites.


The snake and bird are rich archetypal symbols representing core aspects of human experience. Though their symbolic meanings vary across cultures, viewing them together tends to evoke themes of transformation, desire, fear, morality, and the integration of seeming opposites into a unified whole. Decoding the significance of these two creatures in a particular myth, artwork, dream, or other context requires paying attention to how they interact and complement one another. Like the dance between yin and yang, both light and dark elements cooperatively usher in new life and wisdom.