Spiritual Meaning of Birds, Fowl

That birds signify things rational and intellectual, is evident from the Prophets; as in Isaiah:--

Calling a bird from the east, the man of My counsel from a distant land (Isaiah 46:11).

And in Jeremiah:--

I beheld and lo there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled (Jeremiah 4:25).

In Ezekiel:--

I will plant a shoot of a lofty cedar, and it shall lift up a branch, and shall bear fruit, and be a magnificent cedar; and under it shall dwell every fowl of every wing, in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell (Ezekiel 17:22, 23).

And in Hosea, speaking of a new church, or of a regenerate man:--

And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the wild beast of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the moving thing of the ground (Hosea 2:18).

That wild beast does not signify wild beast, nor bird bird, must be evident to every one, for the Lord is said to make a new covenant with them.

from AC 40

That every fowl after its kind signifies every spiritual truth, flying thing natural truth, and winged thing sensuous truth, is evident from what has been stated and shown before concerning birds (AC 40). The most ancient people likened man's thoughts to birds, because relatively to the things of the will, thoughts are like birds. As mention is made here of fowl, flying thing, and winged thing, and of these in succession, like things intellectual, rational, and sensuous in man, in order that no one may doubt that they signify these things, some passages from the Word may be adduced in confirmation, from which it will also be plain that beasts signify such things as have been stated.

[2] Thus in David:--

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the fields, the fowl of the heaven, and the fish of the sea (Ps. 8:6-8).

This is said of the Lord, whose dominion over man, and over the things pertaining to man, is thus described. Otherwise what would be the dominion over beasts and fowls? Again:--

Fruitful trees and all cedars, the wild animal and every beast, creeping things and flying fowl, let them praise the name of Jehovah (Ps. 148:9, 10, 13).

The fruitful tree denotes the celestial man the cedar, the spiritual man. The wild animal, and beast, and creeping thing, are their goods, as in the history before us; the flying fowl is their truths; from all of which they can praise the name of Jehovah. By no means can the wild animal, the beast, the creeping thing, and the bird do this. In profane writings such things may be said by hyperbolism, but there are no hyperbolisms in the Word of the Lord, but things significative and representative.

[3] In Ezekiel:--

The fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the wild animal of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at My presence (Ezekiel 38:20).

That such things are here signified by beasts and fowls is very manifest; for how would it be to the glory of Jehovah if fishes, birds, and beasts should shake? Can any one suppose that such sayings would be holy if they did not involve holy things? In Jeremiah:--

I beheld, and lo there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled (Jeremiah 4:25),

denoting all good and truth; man also denotes here the good of love. Again:--

They are burned up, so that none passeth through, neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled, they are gone (Jeremiah 9:10),

denoting in like manner that all truth and good have departed.

[4] And again:--

How long shall the land mourn, and the herb of every field wither? for the wickedness of them that dwell therein the beasts are consumed and the birds, because they said, He shall not see our latter end (Jeremiah 12:4).

Here the beasts denote goods, and the birds truths, which perished. In Zephaniah:--

I will consume man and beast, I will consume the fowls of the heaven and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the face of the ground (Zephaniah 1:3).

Here man and beast denote the things which are of love and of its good; the fowls of the heaven and the fishes of the sea, the things which are of the understanding, thus which are of truth. These are called stumbling blocks because goods and truths are stumbling blocks to the wicked, but not beasts and birds; and they are also plainly spoken of man. In David:--

The trees of Jehovah are satisfied, the cedars of Lebanon which He hath planted, where the birds make their nests (Ps. 104:16, 17).

The trees of Jehovah and the cedars of Lebanon denote the spiritual man; the birds his rational or natural truths, which are as nests.

[5] It was moreover a common form of expression that birds would make their nests in the branches, signifying truths, as in Ezekiel:--

In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it, and it shall lift up its bough, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell every bird of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell (Ezekiel 17:23),

denoting the Church of the Gentiles, which was spiritual. This is the goodly cedar; the bird of every wing denotes truths of every kind. Again:--

All the birds of the heavens made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches all the wild animals of the field brought forth, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations (Ezekiel 31:6).

This is said of Asshur, which is the spiritual church and is called a cedar; the birds of the heavens denote its truths; the beasts its goods. In Daniel:--

The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and it was meat for all; the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of heaven dwelt in the branches thereof (Daniel 4:12, 21).

Here the beasts denote goods, the fowls of the heavens truths, as must be evident to every one; for otherwise of what concern is it that the bird and the beasts dwelt there? And it is the same with what the Lord says:--

The kingdom of God is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew, and became a tree, and the birds of the heaven lodged in the branches thereof (Luke 13:19; Matt. 13:31, 32; Mark 4:31, 32).

It is now evident that the fowl signifies spiritual truth, the flying thing natural truth, and the winged thing sensuous truth; and that truths are distinguished in this way. Sensuous truths, which are those of the sight and hearing, are called winged things, because they are outermost; and such is the signification of wing as applied to other things also.

Now as the fowls of the heavens signify truths of the understanding, and thus thoughts, they also signify their opposites, such as phantasies or falsities, which being of man's thought are also called fowls, as for example when it is said that the wicked shall be given for meat to the fowls of heaven and to the wild beasts, meaning phantasies and cupidities (Isa. 18:6; Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20; Ezek. 29:5; 39:4). The Lord Himself also compares phantasies and false persuasions to fowls, where He says:--The seed that fell by the wayside was trodden under foot, and the fowls of heaven came and devoured it (Matt. 13:4; Luke 8:5; Mark 4:4, 15), where the fowls of heaven are nothing else than falsities.

from AC 776-778

In the Word birds signify intellectual things: those which are gentle, useful, and beautiful, signifying intellectual truths; and those which are fierce, useless, and ugly, signifying intellectual falsities, or falsities of reasoning. (That they signify intellectual things may be seen above, (AC 40, 776, 870). From this it is also evident that birds signify reasonings and their falsities. That there may be no doubt let the following passages, in addition to those cited about the raven, (AC 866) serve for confirmation. In Jeremiah:--

I will visit upon them in four kinds, saith Jehovah; the sword to slay, and the dogs to drag, and the fowl of heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and to destroy (Jeremiah 15:3).

In Ezekiel:--

Upon his ruin all the fowls of the heaven shall dwell, and all the wild animals of the field shall be upon his branches (Ezekiel 31:13).

In Daniel:--

At last upon the bird of abominations shall be desolation (Daniel 9:27).

In John:--

Babylon is become a hold of every unclean and hateful bird (Rev. 18:2).

from AC 988