Discovering What Animals Symbolize Death: From Cats to Owls

When we think about death, a plethora of things come to mind. But what about animals that symbolize the end of life, what role do they play? Throughout different cultures and beliefs, some animals have been associated or symbolized with death. For instance, the humble butterfly which signifies transformation and rebirth, but also portrays the fleeting nature of life. Together with the moth, these insects are known as the harbingers of death, since in some cultures they are believed to summon the spirits of the departed.

Another animal with a strong connection to death is the owl, which can be attributed to its nocturnal nature and haunting calls. In many cultures, owls are seen as protectors of the underworld, and it is believed that they can communicate with the deceased. The Egyptians saw them as guardians of the dead, leading and accompanying them to the afterlife. Meanwhile, in Greek mythology, the owl is associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who presided over death and rebirth.

Finally, the elusive black cat also carries a long-standing reputation as an omen of death, particularly in Western culture. In medieval times, they were even believed to be the companions of witches and demons, further solidifying their association with the dark arts and death itself. Despite modern beliefs that black cats are unlucky for some, others still revere them as symbols of transformation and spiritual evolution, especially in pagan religions.

In conclusion, animals have had a strong connection to death since the beginning of time, each with its unique representations across different cultures. While some might view these animals as sinister or negative, others appreciate them for their symbolic roles regarding transformation, rebirth, and passing beyond the veil.

Black Cats

One of the most well-known animals that symbolize death is the black cat. Throughout history, black cats have been associated with witches and other supernatural beings. During medieval times, black cats were believed to be the familiar spirits of witches. This belief led to the brutal killing of black cats, as they were seen as a sign of evil.

Today, black cats are still associated with Halloween and other spooky occasions. In fact, many people believe that black cats bring bad luck and avoid crossing their path.

Other animals that symbolize death

  • Owls
  • Ravens and crows
  • Snakes

Symbolism of owls

Owls are often associated with death due to their nocturnal nature and their ability to see through darkness. In many cultures, owls are seen as messengers of death or the souls of the departed. In some Native American cultures, they are believed to be guides to the afterlife.

In Greek mythology, the owl was a symbol of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and was viewed as a protector.

Symbolism of ravens and crows

Ravens and crows are often seen as symbols of death and the afterlife. In Norse mythology, Odin, the god of death and war, had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn who would fly out into the world and return to tell him what they had witnessed.

Animal Symbolism
Owls Messengers of death or guides to the afterlife
Ravens and crows Symbols of death and the afterlife
Snakes Symbol of transformation and rebirth

In many cultures, ravens and crows are seen as spiritual creatures that can bring messages from the other side. They are also associated with magic and the supernatural.

Symbolism of snakes

While snakes are often associated with fear and danger, they are also seen as symbols of transformation and rebirth. In many cultures, snakes are associated with shedding their skin and emerging renewed.

In Egyptian mythology, the snake was a symbol of the goddess Wadjet, who was the protector of lower Egypt.


In many cultures, owls have been associated with death and the afterlife. These mysterious birds have long been regarded as symbols of wisdom and mysticism, but also of danger and darkness. Their nocturnal habits and haunting calls have contributed to their ominous reputation.

  • Many Native American cultures believe that owls are associated with death as they are seen as messengers who are able to move between worlds.
  • In ancient Greece, owls were believed to be associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom and the underworld. The birds were often depicted on coins and other symbols of death, and some people believed that they could predict the future.
  • In some African cultures, owls are believed to be symbols of protection and guidance for the newly deceased as they transition to the afterlife.

Despite their association with death, owls are also seen as symbols of rebirth and renewal in some cultures. The Egyptian goddess Isis was often depicted with an owl, symbolizing her power to bring about new life and transformation.

Owls have also become popular cultural symbols, appearing in literature, movies, and even as mascots for sports teams. In Harry Potter, Hedwig the owl is a beloved companion to the main character, and in Hooters restaurants, the owl is a playful and flirtatious mascot.

Owl Species Country Associated with Death?
Barn Owl Worldwide Yes
Snowy Owl Arctic regions No
Great Horned Owl Americas Yes
Tawny Owl Europe and Asia Yes

Overall, the symbolism of owls and their association with death is complex and multifaceted, varying across cultures and contexts. While they may represent darkness and danger, they also have the power to guide and protect us as we navigate the mysteries of life and death.


Ravens and crows have long been associated with death and darkness in various cultures and literature. In many mythologies, they are considered as messengers of death or are connected to the afterlife. The following subtopics will explore different aspects of their symbolism regarding death.

What do Ravens/Crows symbolize in different cultures?

  • In Celtic mythology, the goddess Morrigan was often portrayed as a raven or crow and was associated with death and fate.
  • According to Norse mythology, Odin, the god of knowledge, had two ravens named Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) who would bring him information from the world of the dead.
  • In some Native American cultures, the crow is seen as a messenger between the living and the dead and is believed to have the power to move between the physical and spiritual world.

What is the significance of “Three Crows” in literature?

In literature, the appearance of three crows is often seen as a warning of impending death. This is based on the old English saying “Three crows doth mean death.” The concept has been used in various works of literature, including Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” where three crows appear before the murder of King Duncan.

How are Ravens/Crows depicted in funerary art?

Ravens and crows have also been prominently featured in funerary art throughout history. They are often seen as perched on top of tombstones or depicted in images of the grim reaper. In Victorian times, it was common for people to wear jewelry or carry pocket watches that were adorned with images of ravens or crows as a symbol of mourning and remembrance.

Artwork Description
Raven on tombstone A raven perched on top of a gravestone in a cemetery.
Crow on skull A crow perched on top of a skull, a common motif in Gothic art.

Overall, ravens and crows have a strong association with death and the afterlife in various cultures. Their symbolism in literature and funerary art has helped reinforce these beliefs throughout history.


Scorpions have been associated with death for thousands of years and are often depicted in funeral rites and as symbols of mortality in various cultures. Some believe that scorpions can sense when someone is close to death and will gather around the person, waiting for their inevitable demise. In other cultures, scorpions are seen as protectors of the dead and are thought to guide the souls of the deceased to the afterlife.

  • In ancient Egypt, the scorpion was the symbol of the goddess Serket, who oversaw the funerary rituals and protected the dead on their journey to the afterlife.
  • In Greek mythology, the scorpion was associated with the goddess Artemis, who was said to have sent a giant scorpion to kill the hunter Orion.
  • In some Native American cultures, the scorpion is seen as a symbol of death and is used in healing ceremonies to remove negative energy and promote spiritual transformation.

Scorpions are also frequently depicted in art and literature relating to death and the supernatural. For example, in the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, scorpions are often used as decorations on altars dedicated to the deceased. In many horror movies and novels, scorpions are featured as ominous symbols of impending doom and the inevitability of mortality.

Symbolism Culture/Religion
Protector of the dead Ancient Egypt
Killer of the hunter Greek mythology
Spiritual transformation Some Native American cultures

In modern times, scorpions continue to fascinate and terrify people around the world. Although they are often associated with danger and death, they are also admired for their resilience and ability to survive in harsh environments. Whether viewed as fearsome predators or as guardians of the afterlife, scorpions will likely remain a powerful symbol of mortality for generations to come.


When it comes to symbols of death, vultures are perhaps one of the most recognizable animals. These birds of prey have long been associated with death and decay due to their scavenging habits.

  • In many ancient cultures, vultures were considered sacred birds associated with death and the afterlife.
  • Some Native American tribes believed that vultures were messengers between the living and the dead.
  • In Hindu mythology, the god Vishnu is said to ride a giant vulture named Garuda, who is associated with death and destruction.

However, vultures also play an important role in the natural world. They are essential for keeping ecosystems healthy by cleaning up carrion and other dead animals, which helps to prevent the spread of disease.

Unfortunately, many vulture species are in danger of extinction due to factors such as habitat loss, hunting, and poisoning. In some parts of the world, vultures are intentionally killed because of their association with death and decay.

Vulture Species Status
California Condor Critically Endangered
Griffon Vulture Near Threatened
White-Rumped Vulture Critically Endangered

To prevent further declines in vulture populations, conservation efforts are needed to protect their habitats and reduce threats such as poisoning. By working to protect these birds, we can help to ensure that they continue to play their important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.


Snakes are one of the most common animals associated with death due to their association with many mythologies and religions around the world. In some cultures, snakes are seen as symbols of rebirth and transformation, while in others, they represent evil and danger.

  • In Ancient Greece, snakes were associated with the underworld and the god of the underworld, Hades. Snakes were also seen as guardians of the dead, and it was believed that they could transport the souls of the deceased to the underworld.
  • In Hindu mythology, snakes are associated with the god of death, Yama. The snake is seen as a symbol of mortality and the finite nature of life.
  • In Christianity, the snake is often associated with the devil and temptation. In the Bible, the snake is the creature that tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and ultimately leads to the Fall of Man.

When it comes to dream interpretation, snakes are often seen as symbols of transformation and regeneration. They can also represent danger or a fear of the unknown.

In some cultures, the number six is also associated with snakes and death. In Chinese culture, the number six is a homophone for the word “liu,” which means “to flow away.” This is associated with the concept of death and the idea that the soul flows away from the body after death. In numerology, six is associated with balance and harmony, but it can also represent extremes and excess.

Snake Symbolism in Different Cultures Meaning
Ancient Greece Underworld, guardians of the dead
Hindu mythology God of death, mortality
Christianity Devil, temptation

Overall, snakes have a complex symbolism when it comes to death and the afterlife. While they are often associated with danger and evil, they can also represent rebirth and transformation. The number six is a common association with snakes and death, but its meaning can vary depending on the culture or context.


Sharks are one of the most feared creatures in the ocean. With their sharp teeth and powerful jaws, they are often portrayed as the ultimate predator. In some cultures, sharks are also associated with death.

  • In Hawaiian mythology, sharks were considered gods and were believed to protect the islands. However, in death, they were thought to guide the souls of the deceased to the underworld.
  • In some Polynesian cultures, sharks were believed to be messengers of the gods. It was said that if someone saw a shark, it was a sign that death was approaching.
  • Similarly, in some African cultures, sharks were seen as symbols of death and were associated with the afterlife.

Interestingly, in other cultures, sharks have a more positive symbolic meaning. In ancient Japan, for example, the shark was seen as a symbol of good luck and protection.

Below is a table that summarizes some of the symbolism associated with sharks in different cultures:

Culture Symbolism
Hawaiian Protection in life, guidance in death
Polynesian Harbinger of death
African Symbol of death, afterlife
Japanese Symbol of good luck, protection

Sharks may be feared and revered in equal measure, but their symbolism in different cultures is a fascinating subject that sheds light on how we perceive these creatures.


Spiders are creatures that have been associated with death and the supernatural for centuries. They are often viewed as ominous and eerie because of their connection to dark and creepy places. In many cultures, the spider is a symbol of death and danger, and it is believed that they bring bad luck and misfortune.

One reason why spiders are associated with death is because of their deadly venom. Some species of spiders, such as the Black Widow and Brown Recluse, are known for their poisonous bites which can be fatal to humans. This connection between spiders and death has been reflected in literature, movies, and art for centuries.

What Does the Number 8 Mean?

When it comes to spider symbolism, the number 8 is often associated with spiders. This is because most spiders have eight legs, and ancient cultures believed that the number 8 symbolized infinity and the cycle of life and death. In Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered lucky because it is pronounced similarly to the word for prosperity and wealth.

Let’s take a closer look at what the number 8 represents in spider symbolism:

  • Cycle of Life and Death: Spiders are often seen as symbols of the cycle of life and death because they spin webs, which represent the interconnectivity of all things. The number 8 represents this cycle, as it is seen as a symbol of infinity and the never-ending circle of life and death.
  • Balance and Harmony: The number 8 is also associated with balance and harmony. Spiders are creatures of balance, as they delicately weave their webs to catch their prey. The eight legs of a spider represent balance and symmetry, which is essential for survival in the wild.
  • Mystery and the Unknown: The number 8 is also associated with the mysterious and unknown. Spiders have long been associated with the supernatural and the occult, and the number 8 reflects this connection to the unknown and hidden.

Spider Symbolism in Different Cultures

Spiders have been a symbol of death and the supernatural in many cultures throughout history. Here are a few examples:

African Culture: In many cultures in Africa, spiders are associated with death and the afterlife. It is believed that spiders serve as mediators between the living and the dead, and that they are messengers from the spirit world.

Native American Culture: In Native American culture, spiders are seen as symbols of creativity and the power of the feminine spirit. The Navajo believe that spiders help humans to connect with the spirit world and that they are keepers of the wisdom of the ancestors.

Japanese Culture: In Japan, spiders are often seen as symbols of good luck and prosperity. The Golden Orb Weaver Spider is considered to be a sacred creature in Japanese culture and is believed to bring good fortune and wealth to those who see it.


Spiders are fascinating creatures with a complex symbolism that has been interpreted in different ways by various cultures throughout history. While they are often associated with death and the supernatural, they also symbolize balance, creativity, and wisdom. The number 8 represents a connection to the cycle of life and death, balance and harmony, and the mysterious and unknown.

Spider Species Symbolism
Black Widow Death and danger
Brown Recluse Death and danger
Orb Weaver Balance and harmony
Jumping Spider Agility and creativity

Despite their ominous reputation, spiders are fascinating and important creatures that play a vital role in our ecosystem. Whether you view them as symbols of death or as keepers of wisdom, there is no denying the impact that spiders have had on human culture and mythology throughout history.


Wolves have been associated with death and deceased spirits in many cultures. In Norse mythology, Fenrir, a giant wolf, is a harbinger of the end of the world. In Native American folklore, wolves are seen as spirit guides that lead the dead to the afterlife.

  • Number 9
  • Black color
  • Snarling and howling

The number 9 is often linked to wolves as a symbol of death. This is because, according to some cultures, nine is the number of spirit, transformation, and endings. In many mythologies, wolves are depicted as fierce predators that hunt in packs and possess incredible strength and agility. They also have a strong connection to the moon, which waxes and wanes in cycles of 9 days.

The color black is also associated with wolves as a symbol of death. Black represents darkness, the unknown, and the mystery of death. Wolves, with their sleek, black coats, are often seen as creatures of the night, lurking in shadows and only emerging under the cover of darkness.

Finally, the snarling and howling of wolves are also linked to death. In many cultures, the howl of a wolf is considered to be an omen of death, signaling the arrival of the Grim Reaper or other spirits of the dead. The snarling and growling of wolves are also seen as warning signs, signaling danger and the approach of death.

Symbol Meaning
Number 9 Spirit, transformation, and endings
Black color Death, darkness, and mystery
Snarling and howling Omen of death and warning signs

In conclusion, wolves are a powerful symbol of death and dying in many cultures. Their connection to the moon, their sleek black coats, and their fierce persona make them one of the most recognizable and enduring symbols of the afterlife. Whether depicted as spirit guides or harbingers of doom, the wolf remains an important figure in the mythology of death and dying.


Bats have long been associated with death and the afterlife in Western cultures. Due to their nocturnal habits, they were often seen as creatures of the dark and associated with the supernatural. In many cultures, bats are believed to be messengers or guides that help the souls of the dead journey to the afterlife.

  • In Chinese mythology, bats represent longevity and happiness, but they can also symbolize death and misfortune.
  • In Native American cultures, the bat is associated with communication, rebirth, and initiation.
  • In European folklore, bats were often seen as sinister creatures that could transform into vampires and suck the blood of humans.

Despite their association with death, bats are also important pollinators and essential to many ecosystems. In recent years, their populations have been in decline due to habitat loss, disease, and other factors. Efforts to protect bats and their habitats are crucial to preserving these important animals for future generations.

Bat Symbolism in Different Cultures:
Chinese Longevity and happiness, but can also symbolize death and misfortune.
Native American Communication, rebirth, and initiation.
European Folklore Bats were often seen as sinister creatures that could transform into vampires and suck the blood of humans.

Bats are a complex and multifaceted symbol that can represent both death and rebirth. While their image has often been portrayed negatively in Western cultures, it is important to recognize their important role in many ecosystems and work towards conservation efforts to protect their populations.

That’s All Folks!

We have come to the end of this interesting topic. It is important to note that animals symbolize death differently in diverse cultures and environments. However, irrespective of their representation, we should always respect and appreciate these creatures for the significant roles they play in our ecosystems. Thank you for reading, and remember to visit again later for more fascinating articles.