Pelican: Spiritual Meaning, Dream Meaning, Symbolism & More

Last Updated on September 18, 2023

The pelican is perhaps most recognized for its long beak and large bill. With which it swoops down from up high to capture fish from the waters below.  If you’ve ever seen one in person or on a nature documentary, you will know they are magnificent birds and a sight to behold. 

Incredibly, there is fossil evidence of pelican species as far back as thirty million years ago! Thus, it’s no surprise that over the years of human development, many cultures have attributed significance to the pelican through their beliefs and traditions. 

This means that there is a varied history of the pelicans’ relationship with humans. More so, a fascinatingly diverse array of myths, legend, and symbolism attached to these majestic birds. 

To understand these captivating traditions, first, we must seek to understand a little about pelicans themselves. What is their character like? Do they seek strength in numbers or the path of the lone wolf?

These characteristics and practices might give some insight into the meaning and symbolism attached to pelicans through the ages.

We will also examine their meaning in cultures ranging from Ancient Egypt to the Caribbean. Also from Christianity to modern organizations such as Universities and the NBA! 

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Pelicans In Their Natural Habitat 

Social animals, they live by the policy of strength in numbers, as they travel in flocks. They also work together by hunting cooperatively and breeding as part of massive pelican colonies.

Pelicans feed primarily on fish, which they catch with their long beaks and large bills. Their lower mandible (the lower part of their jaw) effectively acts as a frame for their bills (the large pouch under their beak), which they can expand at will to catch fish with great precision. 

There are pelican populations across the globe, usually in warmer climates, though there are species living in most environments.  The only locations they cannot be found are inland South America away from the coastline, and the polar regions.

Pelican Species – What’s The Difference?

Eight living species of pelican live in various locations around the world. These are generally divided into two groups, those that nest in the ground and those that nest in trees. 

However, discovery revealed that some species from each group are more closely related to those in the other. Despite, of course, of their differing nesting techniques. 

Those that nest on the ground and typically have a mostly white plumage are the great white, American white, Dalmatian, and Australian pelicans.

The species nesting in trees that have a gray or brown plumage includes the brown, spot-billed, and pink-backed pelicans.

The Peruvian pelican nests on sea rocks, a unique practice amongst the different species of pelican. 

The Pelican as a Spirit, Totem & Power Animal

Pelican Spirit Animal 

Those with the pelican as their spirit animal focuses on their dreams yet patient in their approach to life. In the wild they cover vast distances, they are expert navigators with a strong sense of direction.

Those guided by the pelican spirit will seek new opportunities, travel far and wide, and have a thirst for self-development. These people can be a source of security and support for others around them. This is due to the pelican spirits representing protection and cooperation.  

These individuals will look to inspire and engage their communities, recognizing that the best progress is made together. They are passionate and compassionate, giving everything they have to improve the lives of others around them. 

Pelican Totem

A totem is a name given to a spirit, sacred object, or symbol of a tribe, clan, family, or individual.  There is a belief that the totem animal will remain with you through life and into the afterlife. 

The pelican totem represents the sense of family and togetherness they display in their flocks and colonies. 

The totem will visit to remind you to reconnect with your loved ones, despite some hesitations you may feel. The time apart hasn’t lessened the strength of your connections. 

The pelican totem can also represent a reminder that you must work hard to achieve your goals. There is no such thing as luck. 

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Pelican Power Animal

Some knew power animals as tutelary spirits, meaning a spirit or deity who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a person, place, culture, nation, or lineage. Further, there is a belief that some people will have a power animal with them for their whole life, whilst others might arrive to help in times of need. 

In addition, the pelicans’ role as a protector of souls in Ancient Egypt signifies its powerful place as a power animal. Offering protection from outside influences, especially in times of conflict and when you must make tough decisions.

Spiritual Meaning & Symbolism Across Cultures

Ancient Egypt 

In Ancient Egypt, pelicans were symbolic of death and passage to the underworld. Official documents related to the passing of individuals often depicts them, as well as the walls of tombs.

Pelican in Egyptian is henet, a word which was noted in the Pyramid Texts as “the mother of the king”. This means the pelican represents a goddess with the ability to create royal life. 

Ancient Peru 

Between the first and seventh century AD, the Moche people of northern Peru worshiped nature and all its creatures, with the pelican prominent amongst its art.  


The pelican is an important but lesser-known symbol in Christianity.  They were representative of protection. Medieval Europe believed they are especially protective of their young.

Moreover, religious artworks and displayed in spectacular stained-glass windows in Churches regularly illustrated pelicans.

In these images, the mother pelican is typically shown pecking their breast in times of famine in order to nourish her young with her blood.  Thus, the pelican became Symbolic of the Passion of Jesus and the Eucharist, otherwise known as Holy Communion or the Holy Super. 

In the hymn “Adore te devote”, which is Latin for “Humbly We Adore Thee”, Saint Thomas Aquinas refers to Christ as the divine loving pelican, who can save the world and nourish his children with his blood. 

As A National Emblem

The Caribbean nations of Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Sint Maarten all feature the brown pelican as their national bird. On the other hand, the great white pelican is the national bird of the European nation of Romania. 

The pelican is also the state bird of Louisiana, often known as the Pelican State. In addition, a pelican is featured on the state seal, state flag, and on the seal of Louisiana State University.

Furthermore, their sports teams join in on the action, with the NBA team being the New Orleans Pelicans and an ice hockey team named the Lahti Pelicans. 

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Ancient Alchemy 

Ancient Alchemists were the chemists of the day, sprinkled with a dash of mysticism and religious faith. 

They sought to challenge the will of God and bend reality to their will, with some on a quest for gold and wealth, whilst others sought a mystical elixir.

These alchemists sought the Philosopher’s Stone, to gift them eternal life.  This name is perhaps most associated with the books and movies of Harry Potter in modern times. 

Birds were typically used to symbolize the various stages of alchemy, with the ancient symbol of the pelican feeding her young with her own blood representing the ‘cibation’ process.

This is described as ‘the process of feeding the alchemical crucible with fresh material during the course of an operation.’ This symbolism shows the pelican’s significance amongst those seeking the esoteric mysteries of the universe. 

Alcatraz Island

The infamous prison used to play host to vast flocks of brown pelicans that nested on and around the rocks of the island.

Its name is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese term “Alcatraces” which refers to pelicans that inhabited the island. 

Pelicans In Dreams

What are Dreams?

There are several ideas and theories about what dreams are and why we have them. Are they subconscious creations, do they serve a higher purpose, or is it simply your body and mind processing the vast streams of data consumed during waking hours?

Dreams can take you to states and places of wonder, magical and surreal journeys, and experiences that often perplex and confuse you. 

What Does it Mean to See a Pelican in Your Dreams?

Pelicans can appear in various different scenarios in your dreams, each meaning something entirely different.

As such, it’s important to look at what some of these scenarios, settings, or interactions might be and what they might mean for you.

The ancient myth of the pelican cutting itself to feed its own young represents sacrifice and generosity. A willingness to put others before themselves is reflective of a need to do so yourself. 

As they live and work as a team, hunting, and breeding amongst large colonies, they represent teamwork, cooperation, and community. They symbolize working together and may well be a reminder to work more peacefully with others. 

Water is symbolic of peace and tranquility, a pelican floating on a body of water symbolizes that you are currently in a good place in your life. This is a time of contentment and to be appreciative of those around you. 

A pelican swallowing a fish may be symbolic of the need to be aware of the temptations and persuasiveness of those around you. Be careful, thoughtful, and patient with your actions and decision-making.

Many believed that seeing a pelican soaring through the sky in flight represent feelings of anxiety and being conscious of an outside threat. Remain composed and with your eye on the target and your mind focused on the task in front of you. 

Pelicans live and travel in large flocks, they share a strong sense of togetherness and community within their colonies. Seeing a whole flock of pelicans shows that you should have faith in yourself and your ideas. Those around you believe in you and support your decisions. 

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Visualizing a pelican with many other species of birds may be your unconscious reminding you to accept others despite their differences. Have faith in those with shared causes, and learn to compromise to help others. 

The pelican doesn’t use its large bill only for hunting, but also as an incredibly convenient place to store food and water. This allows them to travel vast distances and makes them sturdy enough to withstand difficult conditions. 

A visualization of the pelican’s bill can show your well-preparedness for the road ahead.  You are organized and you can overcome any upcoming physical or mental challenges that may be on the horizon. 

Visualizing a pelican defending its young or other birds from its colony is symbolic of protection. It might indicate that you’re conscious of a need to step up and help someone close to you, though it may come from feelings of needing a strong presence in your life. 

Some believe that dreaming of catching a pelican is a negative omen regarding some unfortunate upcoming news. It signifies that you have to overcome disappointment and frustration. Believe in yourself to overcome a temporary disappointment.

If, in your dream, you happen to kill a pelican, this is symbolic of you being steadfast in your beliefs and represents your will to commit to important choices you have made.  Although you are strong-minded, remember compromise and cooperation create the best results.  

If the shoe is on the other foot and the pelican happens to attack you in your dream, it represents conflict in your life.

You may have been living unconsciously, disorientated, and unsettled, therefore not noticing you recently crossed a line with someone. Swallow your pride like the pelican swallows a fish and make peace with the individual you let down. 

Pelican Tattoo Meaning

People often choose to have a pelican tattoo due to its fascinating and diverse symbolism in different cultures. 

The mysterious association with death and the afterlife from Ancient Egypt encourages many to adorn their body with a pelican.

The medieval and Christian representations of sacrifice are a strong source of inspiration for pelican tattoos.  Many like to have a variation on the traditional Christian art of the pelican mother pecking at her own flesh to feed her young with her blood.

The strong association with Christ allows people to wear a Christian symbol on their body in a more discreet fashion than more traditional symbols such as the cross.  

A tattoo of a pelican flying can represent flying to new and exciting heights, leaving behind past troubles, and letting go of negative energy from your life. Almost like the phoenix who returns from the dead, another symbolic representation of reincarnation and the continuation of life. 

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Astrological Significance & Zodiac 

Primal astrology is a practice that is believed to allow individuals to venture deeper into the soul than in conventional astrology.  A primal astrological sign is found by combining somebody’s Western and Eastern astrological signs of the zodiac. 

Those who are Libra in the Western zodiac and the Rooster in the Eastern zodiac have the primal sign of the pelican.

These individuals have a natural tendency for negotiation and resolving conflicts. Confident and passionate, their self-belief drives them forward to overcome challenges and achieve their ambitions.

Despite this confidence, they can be sensitive to the opinions of others, so may seek reassurance from those around them.

Finding balance is the most challenging aspect of those in the pelican zodiac. Their drive and willingness to work hard can alienate others and put a strain on relationships.

Striking a chord between work and play is essential for these individuals. Opening up to the ideas of others will see these individuals succeed. 

Final Thoughts 

The pelican is a truly majestic bird, a beautiful creature that’s not only survived for millions of years of life on Earth, but flourished. 

Its long and storied symbolism and significant meaning through the eyes of many cultures offer an interesting insight into the minds of people from different places and different times. 

The pelican has developed a varied and powerful range of meaning and symbolism over time. Seeing one of them in your dreams may signify all kinds of introspective and insightful processes in your subconscious. 

Try keeping a dream journal in which you can make note of the strong visualizations, imagery, and symbolism that you see.  Then you are well on your way to gaining a deeper understanding of your dreams and a deeper insight into the depths of your mind.

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