The Symbolism of the Parrot

Posted by Sarah Seippel on

The Symbolism of the Parrot

 An Introduction

The Parrot is often portrayed in films as being the sidekick or apprentice.  More common than not the bird is an annoyance who can only perform echoing tricks and eat copious amounts of salted crackers; however, the birds are highly intellectual.  Throughout history, this species of bird has captivated humans with their beauty and personalities.  The marvelous creatures influence legends, myths, religious teachings, literary writings, art, music, ceremonies, and other cultural activities.

 Symbolism in Petroglyphs

The depictions of parrots in the petroglyphs are indications of the extent that people traveled between native cultures of the American Southwest, most likely due to trade routes.  It is common to find illustrations of species of parrots in places where they are not indigenous.  For example, the image below is from rock art somewhere in Southwest America; however, this parrot from the picture is a species that is not indigenous to this area.  They are related to Meso-America, so this shows that the birds were imported from the jungles of a southern country.  This may seem like a minuscule detail, but it links cultures together.



A Theme in Cultures

Additionally, the parrot plays a reoccurring theme in historic civilizations.  In one Mayan myth, there was only Tepeu and Gucumatz.  Think of them as God, except there is two of them.  Whatever they imagined, they created.  They thought about tall, rocky hills.  Mountains came into existence.  They imagined nature, so the trees and the sky were formed.  The landscape was not enough to fulfill their desires, so they created objects.  First the objects were made from clay, but they were destroyed with water, so next they created objects with wood.   Still, the formation of objects was not successful, so they created a flood to clean their slate and start over.  To fashion better ideas, the two Gods created four more Gods out of a Mountain Lion, Coyote, Cow, and Parrot.

Species of the parrot are integrated in Indian mythology and folktales, specifically the Indian parakeet.  The parrot is associated with Kama, the God of love.  This is because the green and red colors are associated with fertility. The red beak represents the red earth, the foundation, and the green feathers represent the color of the earth after it has been watered and fed.  In life, red represents an unfilled desire, while green represents fulfillment.

Spiritual Significance

Spiritually, the parrot is regarded as a wise teacher, knowing when to use words and when to speak with silence.  When quiet, the bird is seen as thoughtful, using the mind to dominate decision making.  When using words, the parrot is honored as truthful and only speaking from the center of the heart.  This is because the parrot speaks back the words it has heard, so you are hearing your own words without a filter.  This is a powerful form of self-actualization because you can recognize the truth and discord of your own thoughts and words.

Our Photograph 

The man is dressed in a three-piece suit with a matching overcoat and hat, and while the weather appears to be quite sunny, his face is partially obscured by the dark shadows behind him. His calm energy seems to have a positive effect on his parrots, as they continue to rest on his hands and look entirely undisturbed. The parrot on the man's right hand stares into the background, while the one on his right faces straight ahead. Additionally, the parrot on the left has much longer, lighter feathers than its companion. The dark shadows in combination with the exotic birds creates a very odd, mysterious ambiance in this photograph.

From the collection of Fred Bodin of Gloucester MA. Fred was a long time resident and well-known photographer of Gloucester and had one of the best private collections of New England nautical photographs in private hands. Fred was a photojournalist having graduated with this degree from Syracuse University and worked for Yankee Magazine. Fred passed away in 2016 and HIP purchased his collection from his estate. 



"Parrot Symbolism"- Universe of Symbolism

"Parrots in Culture"- Parrot Encyclopedia 


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