Unveiling the Mystery: What Animals Symbolize Death?

When we think of animals in relation to death, some may immediately conjure up images of black cats or vultures feasting on a carcass. While these creatures are certainly associated with death and the darker side of life, they aren’t the only ones with a connection to the ultimate end. In fact, cultures across the globe have long used various animals to represent death in artistic, spiritual, and even practical ways.

One of the most well-known animals associated with death is the butterfly. This may seem counterintuitive, as butterflies are often seen as symbols of rebirth, transformation, and the beauty of life. However, in many cultures, butterflies are thought to carry the souls of the deceased to the afterlife. In some Native American traditions, for instance, the butterfly is believed to represent the journey of the spirit from this world to the next.

Another animal often used to symbolize death is the owl. Thanks in part to their nocturnal habits and haunting calls, owls have long been associated with darkness, mystery, and mortality. In ancient Greece, the owl was associated with the goddess Athena, who was both a feminine symbol of wisdom and a fierce warrior. Later on, the owl became a common symbol of death in Western cultures, appearing in art, literature, and even architectural ornamentation such as grave markers and mausoleums.

The Crow

The crow is often associated with death and the afterlife in many cultures and belief systems. The bird’s black feathers, piercing eyes, and ominous call have contributed to this reputation throughout history.

In many Native American cultures, the crow is considered a messenger between earth and the spirit world. They are seen as guides for the deceased, helping them find their way to the afterlife. Similarly, in Celtic mythology, the crow is associated with the goddess Morrigan, who was often depicted as a crow or raven.

In Western culture, the crow’s association with death can be traced back to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven.” In the poem, the raven stubbornly repeats the word “nevermore” to the protagonist, who is mourning the loss of his love Lenore. The repetition of this word serves as a reminder that death is final and irreversible.

Symbolism of the Crow

  • Death and the afterlife
  • Magic and mystery
  • Intelligence and cunning

Cultural References to the Crow

The crow has appeared in various forms of media, such as literature and film, as a symbol of death and the macabre. Some notable examples include:

  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “The Crow” comic book series by James O’Barr
  • “The Crow” movie franchise

The Crow in Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, the god Odin is said to have two ravens named Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) who fly around the world and bring back information to him. The ravens are often portrayed as messengers of Odin, carrying information between the living and the dead. The significance of the crow in Norse mythology further supports its association with death and the afterlife.

Culture/Belief SystemCrow Symbolism
Native AmericanMessenger between earth and spirit world
CelticAssociated with goddess Morrigan
WesternSymbol of death and the macabre
NorseMessenger between the living and the dead

In conclusion, the crow has a rich history of symbolism associated with death and the afterlife in many cultures and belief systems. Its appearance in various forms of media further reinforces its association with the macabre. The crow’s intelligence, mystery, and cunning also add to its mystique and fascination as a symbol of death and the unknown.

The Owl

The owl is one of the animals that are widely believed to symbolize death. This nocturnal bird is often associated with death and darkness due to its mysterious nature and haunting hoots. The owl is also known for its silent flight, which makes it seem like a ghostly presence in the night sky. Here’s what the owl symbolizes in different cultures and beliefs:

  • In Greek mythology, the owl is the sacred bird of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and is believed to bring good fortune and protection to people.
  • In Native American cultures, the owl is often considered a symbol of death and is associated with the supernatural and the afterlife. Some tribes even believed that the call of the owl was an omen of impending death.
  • In Hinduism, the owl is a vahana or vehicle of the goddess Lakshmi, who is the deity of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. The owl is believed to bring good fortune and wealth to those who worship Lakshmi.

In many cultures, the owl is also seen as a messenger of death. Its presence is believed to be a warning of impending danger or death, and its hoots are considered to be the calls of spirits or ghosts. The owl’s association with death is also reinforced by its reputation as a hunter of small animals, which is seen as a metaphor for the inevitability of death.

The symbolism of the owl in relation to death is not just limited to cultural beliefs. In literature and art, the owl is often depicted as a harbinger of death or a symbol of the darkness and mystery of death. This can be seen in works such as William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” in which an owl is heard screeching as a murder is being committed.


Overall, the owl’s symbolism of death is largely rooted in its mysterious and elusive nature, as well as its association with the supernatural and the afterlife. While the owl is often seen as a fearsome and ominous presence, its symbolism can also be positive, with many cultures viewing the owl as a symbol of wisdom, protection, and prosperity.

The Bat

Throughout history, bats have been regarded as symbols of death and darkness. Their elusive nature and nocturnal habits have given them an air of mystery that has contributed to their association with supernatural forces and the afterlife.

  • In many cultures, bats were seen as harbingers of death, as their appearance often coincided with illness or natural disasters.
  • Bats have also been associated with vampires and other mythical creatures that are said to feed on the blood of the living.
  • Some Native American cultures believed that seeing a bat flying at night was a sign that death was near.

Despite these negative associations, bats have also been revered in some cultures for their role as pollinators and insect eaters. In Chinese mythology, for example, bats are considered symbols of good luck and happiness because their name in Chinese sounds like the word for “happiness.”

Here are some interesting facts about bats:

  • There are over 1,300 species of bats worldwide, making up about 20% of all mammal species.
  • Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight, thanks to their wings made of skin stretched over elongated fingers.
  • Some species of bats practice echolocation, using high-pitched sounds to navigate and locate prey in the dark.

Bats are fascinating and misunderstood creatures, and their symbolism has evolved over time to reflect both their darker and more positive aspects.

Death and darknessVarious cultures worldwide
Harbingers of illness or disasterVarious cultures worldwide
Vampires and other supernatural creaturesWestern cultures
Pollinators and insect eatersChinese mythology

While the bat’s reputation as a symbol of death may be unsettling, it is important to remember that symbolism is culturally specific and subject to interpretation. It is possible to appreciate the unique qualities of bats without falling prey to superstition or fear.

The Black Cat

Apart from their association with Halloween, black cats have also been linked to death and superstition. Throughout history, they have been both revered and feared, with some cultures viewing them as a symbol of good luck and prosperity, while others believing they bring misfortune and even death.

  • In ancient Egypt, cats were considered sacred and worshipped as gods. Killing a cat, even accidentally, was a crime punishable by death. The goddess Bastet, often depicted as a woman with a cat’s head, was the patron of cats and had powers of protection, fertility, and the afterlife.
  • During the Middle Ages in Europe, black cats were associated with witchcraft and devil worship. They were believed to be witches’ familiars, demons in disguise that aided them in their evil deeds. Many people would kill or torture black cats as a way to ward off witchcraft and protect themselves from harm.
  • In Scotland, seeing a black cat cross your path was a sign of impending death. This belief was so strong that people would turn back and take a different route to avoid the cat’s curse.

Despite their dark reputation, black cats are simply cats with a specific fur color, and they deserve love and care just like any other animal. In fact, many animal shelters report that black cats are often the last to be adopted, likely due to their association with superstition and bad luck.

What the Black Cat Symbolizes:Examples:
Death and MisfortuneThe black cat crossing your path, the black cat in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat”
Witchcraft and FamiliarsThe black cat in “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, the Salem witch trials
Protection and FertilityThe goddess Bastet in ancient Egypt

If you’re a cat lover, don’t let superstition get in the way of adopting a black cat. They make wonderful pets and can bring joy and companionship into your life. And who knows, maybe they’ll even bring you good luck.

The Scorpion

The Scorpion is an elusive and mysterious creature, often associated with death and darkness. In many cultures, the Scorpion is said to symbolize both protection and danger, making it a complex and intriguing animal to study.

  • 1. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the Scorpion was a powerful protector of the afterlife. They would often use Scorpion amulets in burial rituals to ward off evil spirits and ensure safe passage into the next world.
  • 2. In some Native American traditions, the Scorpion is thought to represent death and transformation. It is said that the venom of the Scorpion can kill and also heal, making it a symbol of both destruction and renewal.
  • 3. The Scorpion is also associated with the astrological sign of Scorpio, which is said to be ruled by the planet Pluto. This sign is often linked to themes of death, rebirth, and transformation.

Despite its reputation as a feared and dangerous creature, the Scorpion also has its place in modern medicine. Researchers are currently studying the venom of the Scorpion as a potential treatment for diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. The venom contains peptides that could help to block the growth of cancer cells and reduce inflammation in the body.

Another interesting fact about the Scorpion is that it has five pairs of legs, for a total of ten. This unique feature has led some cultures to see the Scorpion as a symbol of completeness and balance. The number five is also associated with the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit in some belief systems.

Protection and afterlifeAncient Egyptians
Death and transformationNative American
Rebirth and transformationAstrological sign of Scorpio

Overall, the Scorpion is a fascinating creature that has earned its place in many different cultural beliefs and traditions. Whether viewed as a symbol of protection or danger, death or transformation, the Scorpion is sure to continue to captivate people for generations to come.

The Vulture

The vulture has long been associated with death and decay across cultures all over the world. Known for their scavenging nature, vultures are often seen circling around carrion, waiting for their next meal. However, this image has led to the vulture being seen as an omen of death and decay. In ancient Egypt, the vulture was a symbol of motherhood and was associated with the goddess Isis. They were also seen as protectors of the royal family. However, in modern society, vultures have come to be associated with negative connotations.

  • In Native American culture, the vulture is seen as a symbol of purification and transformation. They believed that the vulture was a powerful symbol of letting go of the old and making way for the new.
  • In Ancient Greece, the vulture was associated with the god Apollo, who was often depicted with a vulture on his shoulder. They were also believed to be messengers of the gods and were seen as a symbol of prophecy.
  • In Hindu mythology, the vulture represents the goddess Kali’s transformative power. She is often depicted with a vulture perched on her arm, representing death and renewal.

However, in many cultures, the vulture is still seen as a harbinger of death and is associated with funerals and dying. This is because vultures are often seen circling over burial grounds, waiting for their next meal. In some African cultures, vultures are even feared and seen as evil spirits that will consume the soul of the deceased.

Ancient EgyptProtectors of the royal family
Native AmericanPurification and transformation
Ancient GreeceMessengers of the gods and prophecy
Hindu mythologyTransformative power

While the vulture may be seen as a dark and ominous symbol in modern society, it is important to remember that it has held many positive meanings throughout history. Whether representing transformation, prophecy, or spiritual protection, the vulture has played an important role in the mythology of many cultures around the world.

The Spider

The spider is often associated with death due to its dark and mysterious nature. This arachnid is depicted as a symbol of the unknown and the fearsome, making it the perfect representation for the fear of death.

What Does the Number 7 Symbolize in Spider Mythology?

  • In some cultures, the spider has seven legs, which is a number commonly associated with mystery, intuition, and hidden knowledge. Therefore, the spider is seen as a symbol of the unknown and the unexplained.
  • Additionally, in some Native American cultures, spider webs are perceived as dream catchers, trapping the bad dreams and letting the good ones pass through. This represents the idea of controlling the unknown and using intuition to overcome fear and uncertainty.
  • The number 7 is also significant in some religious traditions, as it symbolizes completeness and perfection. Thus, the spider becomes a representation of the cycle of life and death, and the idea that death is a natural and necessary part of the greater spiritual journey.

Spider Symbolism in Different Cultures

In many cultures around the world, the spider is associated with death and the afterlife. For example:

  • American Indian tribes believe that spider webs represent the interconnectedness of all things, including death and the spirit world.
  • In ancient Egyptian mythology, the spider is a symbol of the goddess Neith, who is associated with weaving and fate. She guides the souls of the dead to the afterlife, just as a spider weaves its web to catch its prey.
  • In Chinese culture, the spider is believed to be a messenger of the underworld and is associated with dark magic and death.

The Spider and the Cycle of Life and Death

Ultimately, the spider symbolizes the natural cycle of life and death, and the idea that we all must face this transition at some point in our lives. The spider’s web represents the interconnectedness of all things, and the impermanence of life. From this perspective, the spider can be seen not only as a symbol of death, but also as a reminder of the preciousness of life and the importance of living each moment to the fullest.

Spider Symbolism in Different CulturesSignificance
American Indian TribesRepresents interconnectedness of all things, including death and the spirit world.
Ancient Egyptian mythologySymbol of the goddess Neith, who guides the souls of the dead to the afterlife
Chinese cultureBelieved to be a messenger of the underworld, associated with dark magic and death

In conclusion, the spider is a powerful symbol of death that has been used by cultures around the world for centuries. It represents the unknown, the unexplained, and the natural cycle of life and death. Whether we fear it or embrace it, the spider reminds us of the preciousness of life and the interconnectedness of all things.

The Snake

In many cultures, the snake is a symbol of death and rebirth, due to its ability to shed its skin and emerge anew. However, some belief systems specifically associate the snake with the afterlife. One such example is in the Kongo culture of Central Africa, where the deity of death is often depicted as a snake. Another example is in ancient Greek mythology, where serpents were believed to be guides of the underworld.

What does the number 8 have to do with snakes and death?

  • In Chinese culture, the number 8 is associated with good luck and prosperity. However, when it comes to the concept of death, the number 8 takes on a different meaning. The word for “eight” in Chinese sounds very similar to the word for “death,” and so it is often considered an unlucky number in this context.
  • One superstition related to snakes and the number 8 is that if a snake is seen crossing the road, it is considered bad luck to cross the snake’s path a total of eight times. Doing so is believed to usher in death and misfortune.
  • Similarly, some people believe that if a snake bites someone eight times, it is a sign that the victim will soon pass away.

Other beliefs surrounding snakes and death

In addition to the above beliefs, there are a few other death-related superstitions involving snakes:

  • Some Native American cultures believe that snakes are guides to the afterlife, and that they can lead the spirits of the deceased to the other side.
  • In ancient Egyptian mythology, the serpent god Apep was believed to represent chaos and destruction, and was associated with the underworld.
  • Finally, in many cultures, the presence of a snake in a dream is considered a sign of impending death or danger.

A table of snake-related death symbols

SerpentKongoDeity of Death
SerpentGreekGuide of the Underworld
Snake crossing pathChineseBad luck and death
Snake biteVarious culturesSign of impending death

As you can see, there are many different beliefs and superstitions surrounding snakes and their connection to death. Whether or not you believe in these ideas, one thing is for sure: the snake has been an enduring symbol of death and rebirth throughout history.

The Shark

The shark is a powerful and feared creature in the ocean, and its association with death is no surprise. In many cultures, the shark is considered a symbol of death, often due to its formidable hunting abilities and the fear it inspires in humans.

  • Throughout history, many sailors and fishermen have reported encounters with sharks that have ended in tragedy. The shark’s ability to attack with lightning speed and deadly force is a reminder of the unpredictability of the ocean and the hazards it holds.
  • In some cultures, such as Native American mythology, the shark is seen as a symbol of the afterlife and the journey that the soul takes after death.
  • The shark is also often portrayed in popular culture as a dangerous and relentless predator, reinforcing its association with death and danger.

Despite its terrifying reputation, many people are fascinated by the shark and its role in the ecosystem. Its ability to maintain the balance of the ocean and keep prey populations in check is a reminder of the delicate interplay between life and death in the natural world.

For those who are interested in learning more about the shark and its symbolism, there are many resources available, from documentaries and books to museums and aquarium exhibits.

PowerThe shark’s strength and hunting abilities are seen as a symbol of power and dominance.
DangerThe shark’s reputation as a deadly predator reinforces its association with danger and death.
AfterlifeIn some cultures, the shark is seen as a symbol of the journey that the soul takes after death.

Overall, the shark is a complex and fascinating creature that holds a prominent place in the symbolism of death and the natural world.

The Wolf

According to many Native American and Inuit cultures, wolves are often seen as symbols of death. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that wolves are viewed negatively in these cultures. Many groups also see wolves as symbols of power, protection, and wisdom.

  • In some cultures, individuals who die are believed to be transformed into wolves, with the howling of wolves said to be the voices of the dead.
  • In other cultures, wolves are believed to guide the souls of the dead to the afterlife.
  • The Norse god Odin was said to have two wolves, Geri and Freki, who accompanied him on his journeys to the world of the dead.

In many ways, wolves have become a symbol of the liminal space between life and death, serving as a reminder of our own mortality. Wolves are often associated with the winter months as well, with the cold and darkness of winter mirroring the symbolism of death.

Interestingly, even the behavior of wolves can be seen as symbolic of death. Wolves are pack animals, and when a member of the pack becomes sick or injured, the other wolves may turn on them. They see the injured wolf as a liability and a threat to the overall survival of the pack, and they will often isolate or even kill the injured wolf. In a similar way, humans have historically isolated or abandoned sick individuals out of fear of spreading disease and death.

DeathA reminder of our own mortality
PowerStrength and resilience
ProtectionGuardianship and loyalty
WisdomInsight and intuition

Despite their symbolic association with death, wolves are still revered in many cultures as powerful, mysterious creatures who hold great importance in the natural world.

FAQs about What Animals Symbolize Death

1. What animal is commonly associated with death?

In many cultures, the black cat is often associated with death. This is due to its mysterious and elusive nature, as well as its close association with witchcraft.

2. What do ravens and crows symbolize in relation to death?

Ravens and crows are often associated with death due to their role in scavenging the remains of dead animals. Many cultures also view these birds as messengers between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

3. What animal is associated with death in ancient Egyptian culture?

In ancient Egyptian culture, the scarab beetle was often viewed as a symbol of death and rebirth. This was due to its association with the god Khepri, who was considered a symbol of creation and renewal.

4. What do vultures represent in relation to death?

Vultures are often viewed as harbingers of death, as they are often the first to arrive at the scene of a dead animal. In some cultures, vultures are also seen as symbols of rebirth and purification.

5. What animal symbolizes death and transformation in Native American culture?

The butterfly is often viewed as a symbol of death and transformation in Native American cultures. This is due to its life cycle, which involves a period of transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

6. What animal is associated with death in Chinese culture?

The bat is often associated with death in Chinese culture, as its name is pronounced similarly to the word for “happiness” in Chinese. This has led to the belief that bats bring bad luck and are associated with death.

7. What animal is commonly associated with death in Western culture?

The Grim Reaper, a figure often depicted as a skeleton carrying a scythe, is perhaps the most well-known symbol of death in Western culture.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading! We hope you found this article informative and enlightening. Remember, the symbolism associated with animals and death varies greatly across cultures and throughout history. We encourage you to continue learning about the fascinating world of animal symbolism and to visit our site again for more articles on this topic.